In the growing music streaming space, a new player has emerged – and he’s putting a philanthropic spin on the old formula.
SingleServ, a one-of-a-kind streaming service that lets artists use their music to benefit causes they care about, officially launched on the Apple App Store on Wednesday, August 14. Co-founded by a music producer Kyle Wood, strategist and user experience consultant jojo yang and A&R framework Clayton Blaha, the service will donate $0.012 to an artist’s chosen charity each time someone streams a song on the platform.
“While there are amazing ways for independent musicians to make money through different channels like digital distribution etc., there hasn’t been a platform that directly connects artists’ music to charitable causes,” says Woods, who concocted the idea following the shootings of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling in the summer of 2016. Determined to do something about it, Woods got to work creating a song for Black Lives Matter – only to realize that there were no viable platforms available to support his mission.
“Halfway through creating this song, I started thinking about how I would organize and promote this campaign,” Woods says. “And honestly, I wasn’t happy with my options.”
Inspired, Woods turned to his friends Yang and Blaha for help: Yang for his 15+ years of technical expertise, Blaha for his extensive music and marketing experience. After three years – during which Blaha also recruited the company’s principal engineer Pat Aubin — SingleServ has materialized as the first streaming platform that offers exclusive content to promote and support charitable causes. And at least for now, it’s free to use.
“We really wanted to introduce the idea of cause-based streaming to our audience first, so the experience is totally free,” says Yang, who notes that they plan to move to a subscription model “over all line”.
Using music to support charitable causes is of course nothing new. In the 1980s, star-studded singles like “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” and “We Are the World” has donated millions of dollars to nonprofits, while similar one-off efforts have sprung up in the streaming era. Earlier this year, rapper Lil Dicky donated all proceeds from his single “Earth” to the environment-focused Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, while in 2017 Beyonce donated proceeds from her remix of the J Balvin and Willy Williams hit song “Mi Gente” to earthquake and hurricane relief for Puerto Rico. But SingleServ is the first streaming service entirely dedicated to a charity model.
“There are crowdfunding companies and there have been artists who have run campaigns, donating proceeds from their streams to causes,” Blaha explains. “But SingleServ is the first cause-based streaming platform that we hope adds meaningful context to music at a time when it feels most disposable.”
The company’s first campaign comes courtesy of Los Angeles and Seattle-based group The Flavr Blue, led by artist and activist (and longtime Woods friend) Hollis Wong-Wear. Every stream of the band’s song “Little Things” supports the non-profit organization Cage-Free Cannabis, which helps consumers and the cannabis industry repair the societal damage caused by the War on Drugs.
“[Hollis has] knew about SingleServ from the very beginning,” says Woods. “She’s an incredibly talented person who wears many hats – artist, activist, writer, so I always knew I wanted her and The Flavr Blue involved.”
To fund the initial launch, Woods, Yang and Blaha secured seed funding, although the long-term goal is to transition to an advertising-based revenue model that will also leverage brand partnerships to fund donations. (the company says it won’t receive a commission from the streams). Notably, the $0.012 per stream figure is one of the highest payouts in the streaming space – considerably more than Spotify’s reported average of $0.00437 and similar to the relatively generous $0.0125. by Tidal.
“From the start, we wanted SingleServ to be among the platforms that paid the most per stream,” Yang explains. “And fortunately we have the ability to do that since we curate the exclusive content featured on our app.”
Going forward, SingleServ will feature exclusive content on a weekly basis, with upcoming campaigns from artists including Baltimore hip-hop artist Trey RX and Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter VIAA.
“We’ve thankfully received a lot of feedback and interest when reaching out to artists,” says Woods, “so we’re thrilled to have artists who share our mission on board.”
Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly identified The Flavr Blue’s song title as “Little Blue”. The correct title is “Little Things”.