Since beginning in the early 2000s, podcasting has expanded globally to over 460 million listeners who tune in to explore new content or enjoy the sites and sounds of some of their most beloved leaders. In the US this number has grown to an estimated of over 120 million listeners with forecasts of reaching around 160 million in 2023. And with the forum growing in reach, it has created unlimited opportunities for a wide variety of podcasts, covering the insights of niche populations, to thrive.
Within the US, one podcast has created space for listeners interested in learning more about the journeys of leaders within the African diaspora whose stories to create change have been lesser told. From podcasts and promo visuals covering the descendants of W.E.B. DuBois and Booker T. Washington to actors from movies like Black Panther and Star Wars, entrepreneurs, and more, The Blackstage Podcast has not shied away from sharing a leaders’ brilliance while also asking transparent questions that highlight the complexity of the spaces they and their families have navigated. This podcast, led by an inspiring team of creatives is redefining what it means to transparently hold space for the complexities of the historical and current voices of our time.
As one of the podcast’s lead creatives, Adrianna Cornish shares more on what her experience has been like being a part of the scaling podcast and wisdom for those who desire to serve as content innovators and creators in the podcast space.
From Hobby To Podcast Moving Masses
Like many projects, Cornish shares that Blackstage started in 2020 as a hobby to take listeners’ minds off all that was happening in the world at the time of the pandemic. And with the podcast’s desire to solely showcase positivity in a time when there were many racial tensions in the world, the podcast’s creative team including executive producer Karl McIntyre didn’t know how quickly its listening base would grow. To date, the podcast has reached over 1 million audience members spanning 11 countries over the course of five seasons. And as time has continued, the Blackstage team has found listeners still eagerly await each episode’s release to engage in exploring untapped aspects of the journeys of people who dared to inspire change.
In addition to the podcast’s growth, expansive opportunities for its content team have also grown. This has enabled Cornish who joined the team in March of 2022 to help with social media and marketing efforts–that significantly increased the visibility of the podcast—to grow to oversee all operations including social media, scheduling, and production management.
When reflecting on the evolution of her role supporting The Blackstage Podcast, Cornish has found the following sums up her experience: “In life, doubt will exist; it is inevitable, however, understand that walking boldly and confidently in your gifts and talents will defeat doubt, and open the door to one’s destiny.”
Engaging in Transparent Storytelling
As a creative in the podcast space, Cornish has found it important to encourage others with the charge of “owning the space they’re in.” This has been most reflective in her life and the lives of her mentees. This too has been the same energy she and The Blackstage Podcast team have brought to holding space for guests on the podcast. “We often want guests to share ‘how they made it’ or ‘got from point A to point B’ with steadfast conviction navigating and uncovering various truths in the spaces they’re in,” shares Cornish.
The Blackstage team too has approached these conversations keeping in mind that each interviewee is trying to figure things out on this journey called life. “Whether you’re just graduating from college or are a top CEO at a company, we continue to hear from listeners who say, ‘this conversation really helped me,’ or ‘this changed my life’ which rests at the intersection of some of the inspirational truths that The Blackstage Podcast aims to continue to unearth.”
Revealing the complexity of leaders’ truths has led to some memorable moments for Blackstage. Two in particular that touched Cornish were: “in Season 5 hearing from Dr. Lonise Bias, the mother of basketball legend Len Bias who tragically passed two days after being drafted by the NBA and overseeing the production of our reimagination trailer of A Different World for the Season 5 promo that pulled at viewers nostalgic heart strings were great reminders of our why.”
The Podcast’s Longterm Goal
At the end of 2022, Spotify notified the Blackstage team that the podcast was in the top 25% of most shared podcasts in the world. “In knowing that, I think Blackstage is important because it is truly a stage built for people of the African diaspora to stand on, celebrate themselves, and center storytelling in a way you won’t hear anywhere else,” shares Cornish. With over four million podcasts on platforms like Spotify and a variety of content on the internet, Blackstage’s north star–to explore past & present cultural moments with the top voices of our time–has enabled the podcast to make a positive impact and have fun while doing it.
Cornish expresses the podcast’s creative team is innovatively thinking outside the box to create opportunities to elevate great stories. “Since Season 2 of Blackstage, we have done multiple promo visuals that continue to garner mass attention, we launched a Black History Month fund in 2021 and raised thousands to support Black-led organizations, and partnered with Pharrell Williams and his Black Ambition Initiative in Season 3 to highlight entrepreneurs,” she expands. Blackstage’s long-term vision is continuing to grow the platform, create space to try new things, and listen to its audience to learn what they want more of.
Cornish’s Tips for Podcast Creatives & Teams
As Cornish has reflected on her experiences in the podcast space, the following three pieces of wisdom have stood out to her:
- Embrace the moment: “One of the reasons The Blackstage Podcast has been able to thrive is because when we’ve felt led to we’ve leaned into sharing more in the moments that it has mattered most to our listeners. Leaning into this and being consistent with our work has created the opportunity for the podcast to scale.”
- Be open to change: “Enjoying the pivot can move mountains. It’s what has led some of the most memorable leaders of our time to engage in change that has moved communities far and wide. Millions are grateful for their example, but some times we can overlook that we too each have that unique power within us.”
- Follow your creative instincts: “Creating the A Different World promo was fun, but there’s always the risk when considering how our creativity will land with viewers. We were reminded that creative joy never comes from opportunities we don’t take or lean into, so lean in.”
Lastly, Cornish closes sharing: “Life is so short so if there is something that is creatively scratching at you don’t be afraid to try it. Also, remember that there is more than enough room on the stage so be willing to share the spotlight. Look to the left and to the right and build with your peers, you never know where it will lead you.”