Spotify launches the Google Docs of podcasting

With things like audio editing that's as simple as rearranging phrases in a transcript, Spotify's Soundtrap for Storytellers wants to democratize podcasting.

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Joan E. Solsman
3 min read

Soundtrap, a music-making program that Spotify bought in 2017, is releasing a new version of its software designed for podcasters. 


Next up in Spotify's podcasting binge: A program that makes mixing and mastering a podcast easier than putting together a Powerpoint presentation. 

Soundtrap for Storytellers, launching today globaly, is an online program meant to make podcasting accessible for anyone who believes they everything it takes to be a top podcaster except any sort of audio-engineering skills. One of its slickest tricks is interactive transcripts that synch with your audio recording, allowing you to edit the spoken-word audio file as you would in a text document. 

The program has a two-week free trial and offers access to many of its tools, with limitations, free. To unlock the full suite, a monthly subscription is $15 a month. Paying upfront for an annual plan breaks down to $12 a month. You can also sign up for a $18-a-month bundle that includes Storytellers and all of Soundtrap's music-making tools. 

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Spotify acquired Soundtrap at the end of 2017. Sometimes called the Google Docs of music, Soundtrap focused on a music-making program designed to let normal humans record and mix tunes without being an audio engineer. Or, as Soundtrap cofounder and managing director Per Emanuelsson put it last week, you shouldn't need to know how to use software that "looks like the cockpit of an airplane."

"So many people are trying to be creative but they didn't think they could do it themselves," Emanuelsson said last week in an interview after presenting the Storytellers product to a group of professional podcasters. Soundtrap's music-creation tool was designed in the hope of democratizing recorded music production. 

"That's what we hope we'll see here in the podcasting space as well," he said.   

Spotify itself is on a serious podcast binge, as it looks for ways to lure in new and different listeners. Earlier this year, the company bought podcast companies Gimlet and Anchor, part of a $400 million to $500 million podcast investment effort this year. Podcast users spend almost twice the time on Spotify, CEO Daniel Ek has said. "By having unique programming, people who previously thought Spotify was not right for them will give it a try."

Watch this: Spotify buys Gimlet and Anchor on its march to rule podcasts

And as music culture has shifted to streaming, Spotify and Apple Music have emerged as the leaders in the race to dominate subscription tunes. Spotify remains the biggest streaming service by both subscribers and those who listen for free by far. But Apple Music has been growing quickly, and its iTunes service remains the world's de facto place to find and download podcasts

People who create their podcasts on Soundtrap for Storytellers aren't locked into Spotify for any kind of publishing exclusive. The tool has a tool to publish quickly and easily on Spotify, but podcasters are free to download their final mixes and publish them anywhere they like. 

The program also has a a pseudo-Skype inside the program itself to record interviews with remote guests, and because it's cloud-based, multiple people can work on the same podcast even if they're scattered around the world. It also has a big library of free sound effects and built-in instruments and looping tools to make your own jingles. 

The program lets you publish your podcast transcript to make it easier for people to find it on search engines. 

Some caveats about the transcripts: A paid Storytellers subscription gives you 8 hours of interactive transcripts a month. During the free trial, you get 30 minutes of interactive transcripts, and the free version of the software doesn't include it at all. The Storytellers program is available to use globally, but the interactive transcripts are only available for English. The company said other languages are coming but didn't specify a timeline. 

The free version of the programs also lacks features like remote-interview recording, the ability to download a high-quality file of what you've created, publishing directly to Spotify or saving a library of your own loops.

But the podcasters present for Emanuelsson's demo last week were intrigued by the tool. 

"Most podcasters are not music makers," Alex Ikhehedu of the Need to Know podcast said in an interview. But aspiring podcasters are often faced with professional programs made by Adobe or music-geared software like Garage Band with "crazy confusing presents that no one knows how to use," he said.  

"It's really interesting to get something all in one place, all in one shot," he said. "It makes it simple ... for a user, especially for people who are new to the industry."