Earth (yes, the planet) will now receive streaming royalties when you listen to nature sounds on Spotify, Apple Music

An iPhone with a screenshot of a Spotify playlist including songs that feature NATURE

At the end of the year, when your streaming platform of choice aggregates all your data to tell you who your most-listened to artist is, you might be surprised to see Mother Earth herself on the top of the charts.

Well, more specifically, NATURE

The Museum for the United Nations — UN Live has just announced the launch of Sounds Right, a global music initiative that enables nature to earn money from its own sounds.

A billboard in a bustling city reads "Feat. Nature Playlists Out Now." and "Nature. Now officially an artist."
Photo courtesy of Sounds Right/UN Live

What does that mean, exactly?

Classic sounds like ocean waves, wind, rainstorms, birdsong, and more will now be recognized under an official artist — NATURE — on all major streaming platforms. 

NATURE will have her own profile, and just by listening to music that features sounds of the natural world, music lovers and environmentalists alike will be able to fund conservation and restoration projects worldwide.

Gabriel Smales, the global program director of Sounds Right says this project has been in the making since 2019, when UN Live brought together a diverse group of over 40 musicians and environmentalists in Colombia to discuss creative ways to engage people in nature conservation.

This led to the formation of VozTerra, a music collective that works with Indigenous groups, sound artists, and the general public, to portray the importance of ecosystems throughout the Amazon, recording various natural soundscapes.

“It was through conversations around the projects in Colombia that the idea of green music was born,” Smales told Good Good Good.

“And later, the idea of directing royalties for nature sounds back to the environment.”

What is the ‘Feat. NATURE’ playlist?

The launch of Sounds Right includes the support of even more global artists, who will release new tracks — or have remixed their hits — to feature NATURE. 

As of today, all tracks can be enjoyed on the “Feat. NATURE” playlist on Spotify, with all tracks available on major music streaming platforms.

A grid of album covers for artists who are part of the "Feat. Nature" playlist on Spotify
Photo courtesy of Sounds Right/UN Live

The artists include David Bowie x Brian Eno, Ellie Goulding, AURORA, UMI with V of BTS, Anuv Jain, MØ, London Grammar, Bomba Estéreo, Cosmo Sheldrake, Louis VI, Tom Walker, Aterciopelados, Blinky Bill, Navicula x Endah N Rhesa, and Los Amigos Invisibles.

“Throughout my life I’ve wondered, how can I return something to the places I’ve taken ideas from,” Eno said in a statement. “Music started out as the sounds of the natural world, and Sounds Right creates a system to give back to nature, helping to preserve the planet, so that it can continue to inspire us for years to come.”

Eno’s collaboration with Bowie’s “Get Real” will feature the harsh cries of hyenas, rooks, and wild pigs. 

Brian Eno
Brian Eno. Photo courtesy of Cecily Eno

Goulding’s “Brightest Blue — Nature Remix” uses sounds from the lush rainforests of Colombia.

Louis VI collaborated with an acoustic ecologist to create a track focused on the environmental destruction of forest fires, featuring sounds from the Borneo rainforest.

Ellie Goulding stands in a spotlight with her hands above her head
Ellie Goulding. Photo courtesy of Maddison Phipps

“Our first hope is… that fans resonate with music featuring NATURE and become fans of NATURE,” Smales said. “We have 15 amazing artists from around the world who are releasing new or remixed tracks that are enhanced by sounds of the natural world.”

Fans can also relax with ambient nature sounds by enjoying ecosystem recordings from The Listening Planet and VozTerra. 

How does ‘Feat. NATURE’ benefit the environment?

NATURE’s royalties and donations to Sounds Right will be collected by UK and U.S. registered charity EarthPercent, which will then be directed to biodiversity conservation and restoration projects in threatened ecosystems around the world. 

At least 50% of recording royalties from tracks by artists that feature NATURE will go towards the cause, and 63% of recording royalties from ambient nature tracks will do the same.

Photo courtesy of Sounds Right/UN Live

Funds will be distributed under the guidance of the Sounds Right Expert Advisory Panel, a group of world-leading biologists, environmental activists, representatives of Indigenous Peoples, and experts in conservation funding. 

“What would nature spend her money on? First, she’d prioritize conserving and restoring ecosystems with the greatest levels of biodiversity and endemism,” Smales said. 

The advisory panel has already identified “Key Biodiversity Areas” that will be supported in the following regions:  Madagascar and the Indian Ocean Islands; Indo-Burma, India, and Myanmar; Sundaland; Philippines; Tropical Andes; and, the Atlantic Forest.

“Second, she’d want the money to be spent in the most effective and ethical way,” Smales continued, sharing that only rights-based projects with proven models of impact would be funded.

Lastly, he said, “in the absence of being able to speak for herself, she’d want to be represented by  Indigenous Peoples who are some of her most critical guardians (who carry the biggest burden in protecting our natural world) as well as leading conservation scientists and practitioners.” 

A green tree frog sits atop a rock. Beside it reads the text "Nature. Now officially an artist."
Photo courtesy of Sounds Right/UN Live

To make this happen, Smales explained, NATURE’s representatives will mostly “be from the Global South, since that is where most of the landscapes we hope to support are based.”

Mindahi Bastida is part of the Sounds Right advisory panel and is an Otomi-Toltec Leader.

“Biocultural heritage will greatly benefit from music royalties and donations,” he said. “In a way, it is about paying back to life systems that have inspired the human spirit through the magic of sound. The time has come to live in permanent reciprocity.”

While the initial Sounds Right action plan is already finalized, Smales said that in 2025, there will be an open call for any organization to apply for conservation funding, “so long as they meet our soon-to-be published criteria.” 

While it takes a little while for royalties to accrue, Sounds Right and its project partners estimate that the project will generate over $40 million for conservation, with over 600 million listeners in its first four years.

How can I support this project?

In the meantime, everyday listeners can do their part by just tuning in to all NATURE has to offer. Fans will also be encouraged to take follow-up actions to conserve nature, like recording morning birdsong for biomonitoring, or opting for small changes to live a more sustainable lifestyle.

But Smales said there’s an even bigger opportunity in giving NATURE her own platform.

Photo courtesy of Sounds Right/UN Live

“To spark conversations about how nature can — and should — be valued in our society and economic model,” he said. 

“More often than not, we have a purely extractive relationship with the environment. Sounds Right partners have created a simple mechanism that goes some way to properly valuing nature for its creative contributions to music.”

Katja Iversen, the CEO of UN Live, believes that pop culture and music have the power to engage millions in positive change.

“In a world where empathy is declining and many people often feel that their actions hardly matter, Sounds Right and UN Live meet people where they already are — on their screens and in their earbuds — with stories and formats they can relate to, and actions that matter to them,” she said in a statement.

“Recognizing nature as the valuable artist it truly is will be a game changer.”

Header image courtesy of Sounds Right/UN Live

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April 18, 2024 3:00 AM
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