From your background in audio drama, what inspired you to launch an event in 2018? Turning an idea into a first-time podcast festival in Brooklyn must have been a wild ride.
I’m a firm believer that people who create community-focused products or services are often seeking community. At least, that’s why I created Afros & Audio, I wanted to find a space of support and resources to continue developing audio dramas.
However, audio dramas written, directed, or produced by Black creatives wasn’t the market that it is today. So I decided to pivot the brand into an event that would become the first two-day podcast conference for and by Black Creatives and Audio Professionals, and yes, it was a wild ride.
How has your vision for Afros & Audio changed over the past three years of growth?
The vision really hasn’t changed but it has expanded. When I first started the conference, I had three goals at the forefront. First, to organize and convince our community of creatives that we, the content creators, are powerful enough to shape an industry that is becoming what it will or won’t be in real time and can’t exist without our content.
Second, Afros & Audio is committed to community and collaboration. The day after the event, where attendees remain connected and continue to support each other, is more important than the event itself. Lastly, I wanted to show podcast creatives how valuable our contribution is to this industry by providing an annual space that added value for them.
Tell me about the Afros & Audio team that’s come together since you started solo. What has it been like to share that trust and experience with other creatives?
I knew from the beginning that this “BHAG” wasn’t a solo endeavor and that I would need people early on to help see this vision to reality. 90% of our current staff are podcasters or audio professionals, which was always the goal #FUBU (For Us, By Us).
Armand A.J. Jennings, an audio engineer, has been with me since our inaugural festival. Latrice Sampson-Richards, host of Unicorn Talks podcast, Lead Event Consultant, and Jerry the 3rd, host of Point Noir podcast, Lead Skills Trainer, began in our second year. This year, Nicole Walker, host of WinHers United podcast, signed on as Sponsorship Manager; Bri Moore, host of Power Not Pity, became our Accessibility Consultant, and we’ve just added Skorpyen November, host of Smart Mouth Skorpyo, as our Clubhouse Manager. We’re a team who cares about podcasting and each other which is important for sustainability in any industry.
This year’s lineup represents a wide spectrum of podcasting leadership, with speakers like Twila Dang (Matriarch Digital Media) and Demetrius Bagley (The Black Podcasting Awards). Which topics are you most excited to explore onstage?
I’m excited to explore our global opportunities across the diaspora with “Africa X Podcasting,” “Changing African Perceptions through Podcasting,” and “Connecting the Diaspora” Interactive Lunch sessions. Audio Drama as my own personal passion will be center stage on Sunday with “Creating Black Audio Dramas,” “Sound Design for Scripted Shows,” and a Lunch & Listen audio screening of three new audio dramas.
The Afros & Audio Podcast Festival was created for aspiring, new, and established independent podcasters. There will be a topic covered for every level of podcaster, from learning how to use SEO, content repurposing, and of course, monetization opportunities, including Demetrius Bagley’s “Wisdom from Successful Crowdfunding.” Twila Dang, Matriarch Digital Media; Gary Coichy, Pod Digital Media; and Danielle Desir, WOC Podcasters, will contribute to our final session, “State of Black Podcasts,” which we always consider a meaningful discussion in critical times.
This festival has the best lunch session we’ve ever heard of — an interactive cooking show! How does the blend of podcasting and cooking strengthen the community?
It was a hard decision to pivot to a virtual conference because it wasn’t aligned with my vision to bring people together in a physical space. As I thought about ways to create a virtual event where we would feel like we had been somewhere, together.
I reached out to Yorm Ackuaku, host of Item 13: An African Food Podcast, with a crazy idea to host a live cooking show, where attendees could cook, exchange stories, and eat together which is our tradition across the diaspora. Yorm answered the call and with the help of Chef Adé Carrena, owner of Dounou Cuisine, we created an awesome experience and we’re doing it again this year.
This year’s event has support from Libsyn, SquadCast, Heil Sound, and many other companies across the audio space. What has your experience been growing sponsor relationships for the event’s third year?
I think our third year has shown potential partners that we are committed to the community of creatives we’re serving. It’s important to Afros & Audio that podcast creatives have access to and knowledge of the opportunities in the industry; each of our partners are aligned with our mission to support creatives wherever they are in their podcasting journey. This is our second year hiring a Sponsorship Manager to help secure funding, and this year we have been the most successful at meeting our sponsorship goals.
Do you have any words of wisdom for podcasters looking to secure sponsors or start their own independent events?
First, don’t measure your success based on how many sponsors partner with you. It’s a challenging process even for the most experienced creatives or event planners. I would suggest refining your approach, growing your visibility, and never giving up.
The festival is right around the corner, November 13-14. What ticket options do attendees have? Are they able to attend just Saturday or Sunday if need be?
Attendees can get single-day tickets and have two options for attending both days, which matters if someone is interested in the festival replay.
Afros & Audio has events throughout the year in addition to the main festival. What should podcasters know about them, and how can they stay updated?
Our events throughout the year are workshops and panels geared toward skills training, content/IP protection, and community building. We are committed to being a source of year-round support and resources through collaborative experiences.
How can podcasters and companies show support for the community? Who should potential sponsors reach out to?
Podcasters and companies can show their support for the community by attending our conference, sharing our events and community with people they think can benefit, and partnering with us to create unique opportunities specific to our community. If a company would like to sponsor they can reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org, and if they’d like to learn more about this year’s festival and other ways to get involved, visit linktr.ee/afrosandaudio.