This week I got in touch with Renay Richardson, an independent producer in London who worked at some big audio companies before going solo just over a year ago. She has produced the UK hits About Race (with the author Reni Eddo-Lodge) and The Receipts on 1Xtra (more on that here). Here, she talks about her decision to found her own production company and the prejudice she’s faced as a person of colour in the podcast industry.
Hot Pod: Tell me about your current situation.
Renay Richardson: I’m a freelance podcast producer, finishing up on a STEM podcast series called Nevertheless and an experimental LGBTQ+ series called Qmmunity that launched last week.
My main focus is bringing my company, Broccoli Content, to life. Broccoli Content is basically my punch in the face to an industry that has been pretty consistent in its desire to silence minority voices in front and behind the mic. I learned the term “broccoli” when I was pitching a series that I later made independently. The series was About Race with Reni Eddo-Lodge, and while pitching it, before Reni’s bestselling book Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race was published, I was told the idea was “broccoli,” meaning “it’s good for you but no one wants to eat it.” I was also told that it would have to be geared toward a white audience.
This kind of thing happens all the time and it’s exhausting having to fight for your voice constantly, so when I made the decision not to work full time for anyone again (unless I’m the boss) I threw all my energy into working on shows I believe in and trying to wedge the industry door open so more people like me can get in. I’ve not been producing long and I definitely have a lot to learn, but I love how it is possible to carve out your own space.
If you hear a rumour that I’m difficult, that’s OK — I’m fine with it. It’s most likely because I didn’t take someone’s BS.
HP: What does your career arc thus far look like?
Richardson: Before I became a podcast producer, I spent about 9 or 10 years working at two talent agencies in London. Then I went into a production company, working for the executive producer of Billy Elliot, Peaky Blinders, and lots of other things. I was at that company right from the beginning when there was just three of us. After a couple of years, I wanted to give TV production a go so I worked on a big period drama, one of those Christmas special type things and then 24 because I’m a big Jack Bauer fan. It was when I was finishing up on 24 that the Acast job spec arrived in my inbox.
I’ll be honest: I didn’t know much about podcasting. I always wanted to work in TV and film, but it sounded interesting so I went for the coffee and then ended up getting the job. At that stage Acast was made up of ex-Spotify and TV people. Once I knew what a podcast was, it was about finding the shows that were for me, so I listened to all the usual suspects: This American Life, Radiolab, Planet Money, Answer Me This, No Such Thing as a Fish. They were all great, but a bit too white for me, and then I found The Read. Now, it’s not the best produced show in the world, but it featured voices I could connect to and it’s hilarious. So at that point I got lost in the POC podcast world and was able to discover loads of shows that seemed to be for people like me. There was definitely a lack UK POC podcasts though so that’s when, while I was at Acast, I started reaching out to POC podcasters in the US and bloggers/influencers in the UK to try and get them to start their own podcasts. No one cared because Acast wasn’t a thing people knew but around this time I came across Berry from Podcasts in Colour and chatted to Joymarie from Joblogues and let them know I was about this POC podcast life and they also introduced me to more podcasts.
From reading this, you can probably tell that things didn’t work out well for me in audio companies, so after Acast I went to Audible, from there to Panoply and now FREEDOM! Between Acast and Audible, I had a short contract at Columbia Records which has been a great source of relationships and contacts.
HP: What does “career” mean to you?
Richardson: For me, a career is a journey you get paid to go on. I’m pretty goal-orientated so I just set goals and then find ways to get there. I try not to restrict my opportunities and am pretty open to anything that seems interesting even if it seems off the ‘career’ path I’m on.
HP: When you first started out being a human, what did you think you wanted to do?
Richardson: Like every kid, I wanted to be a famous actor. So I was a child actor, but then pretty early on realised I was terrible at it and there was no way I would survive as a human if acting was meant to pay my bills and buy me food. I remember seeing an interview with Will Smith and he was like ‘everyone thinks they want to be famous but really you just want to be rich’ and that was my truth, I had no real desire to be famous. But I’m glad I tried the acting thing, It’s good to know what you’re bad at early on.
HP: What are you listening to right now?
Richardson: I never miss an episode of The Read, I love The Friend Zone, Scene on Radio’s Men series, Stance, and The Receipts. I started season three of Serial but the line about “it doesn’t hurt to be white and it doesn’t help to be black” going unchallenged kind of bothered me, so I’ll get back to the series when I’m on holiday.
HP: What’s the most unusual thing working in audio has lead you to?
Richardson: I didn’t think my dog would have played such a big part in my podcasting. Ronnie (my dog) has met so many people, because I record at home a lot of the time. He relaxes people when they’re interviewing, he’s sometimes adds sound effects, he’s show mascots, he’s basically made everything about him. . . I didn’t see that coming.