Spotify, the world's largest streaming platform, has announced plans to expand its NextGen partnership with Spelman College to support students who aspire to work in the audio industry. This semester, Spelman became the first HBCU to offer NextGen programs joining the University of Southern California, the University of Pennsylvania, and New York University. 

The NextGen initiative is supported by Spotify’s Creator Equity Fund (CEF), which is committed to showcasing and uplifting creators who have historically been underrepresented in the podcast space.

During the inaugural NextGen Creator Day held at Spelman today, Spotify announced several initiatives aimed to amplify the voices of Black creators. The Spotify NextGen Scholarship Program is a multi-year scholarship for five first-year Spelman students who are pursuing careers in audio media. Each student will receive a $10,000 scholarship during their sophomore, junior, and senior years. 

Additionally, the Spotify Labs Creator Program is a weeklong incubator program where student podcasters will receive training from the Spotify for Podcasters team to launch a new podcast. Co-created with Dr. Michelle Hite, Associate Professor of English at Spelman College and Spotify’s SoundUp team, Spelman will offer a custom, audio-first curriculum that will teach students how to design an audio newsroom, edit content, and produce a final podcast.

“We have more than 50 students who have reported having already created their own podcasts and more than double that number who have indicated an early interest in a career in the audio industry,” Dr. Hite said. “These numbers weren’t surprising to me because Spelman students have routinely indicated a sophisticated understanding of the importance of storytelling as a needed companion to their investment in social justice. Our students value storytelling as an instrument for expanding how people confront the possibilities for how Black lives can be imagined and considered. This partnership with Spotify gives them an opportunity to learn how to enhance and professionalize their interests.”

Congresswoman Nikema Williams was on hand for the event and praised Spotify and Spelman for the innovative collaboration.

“I'm so grateful to this partnership at Spotify for uplifting students and continuing to highlight more Black excellence in this country," said Williams. "Spotify is coming in at a time when a lot of people are saying they want to support HBCUs, but they are stepping up and doing it.”

Also in attendance were Ricky Thompson and Denzel Dion, hosts of the popular We Said What We Said podcast, who shared their excitement about working with the students of Spelman.

"We're so excited to be on campus here at Spelman! It feels very surreal to be talking to the students, and we're excited to share our experience as content creators. Hopefully, we can inspire someone to just stop overthinking, use their voice and start a podcast. Amazing ideas are only as good as your ability to take action to make them a reality," the duo told EBONY.

"Spotify really did push us to be good storytellers; they encouraged us to be more descriptive with our storytelling. I normally feel private about my life because, with social media, everything’s so public. But a podcast feels like a safe space. If you really want to know us, the podcast is the real us," added Dion. "I like how the podcast is growing, and we're seeing more people like us. This [podcasting] space is becoming more inclusive.”

Thompson advised the up-and-coming podcasters to stay true to themselves as Black content creators.

“Be yourself, y’all, and just do it. And be consistent,” he shared.