Radiotopia’s Prison-Produced Podcast Tops 1.5 Million Downloads in Its Debut Month

Headshot of Corinne Grinapol

“You really think people want to know what it’s like in prison?” artist Nigel Poor asks her fellow podcast team members Earlonne Woods and Antwan Williams in the promo to Ear Hustle, a podcast that is recorded and produced inside of San Quentin State Prison.

“Hell yeah, of course,” is the reply from Woods and Williams, both inmates at the prison.

The numbers bear it out. A little over a month after its debut on June 14, Ear Hustle, produced by PRX podcasting network Radiotopia, has passed the 1.5 million download mark on iTunes.

The podcast’s origins began in a Radiotopia contest conducted last year. The contest garnered 1,537 submissions, and Ear Hustle was chosen as the winner.

“We believed in Ear Hustle from the first moment we heard it and knew we needed to find a way to bring it to a wider audience,” said Radiotopia executive producer Julie Shapiro in a statement. “I am in awe of the team behind it–Earlonne, Antwan and Nigel. There is a so much thoughtfulness, candor, creativity and pure genius that goes into their storytelling. We are very proud to support this type of storytelling and hope to create more shows like this in our future.”

The download numbers aren’t the only interesting thing about the podcast’s inaugural month. It started out with two launch sponsors, Bombas and Mailchimp, but will be getting two more for its second half, thanks to interest that followed its debut.