“We hope [it] adds meaningful context to music in a time when it feels the most disposable.”
In the ever-growing music streaming space, a new player has emerged — and it’s putting a philanthropic spin on the old formula.
SingleServ, a first-of-its-kind streaming service that lets artists use their music to benefit causes they care about, officially launched in Apple’s App Store on Wendesday (Aug. 14). Co-founded by music producer Kyle Woods, user-experience strategist and consultant Jojo Yang and A&R executive Clayton Blaha, the service will donate $.012 to a charity of an artist’s choosing each time someone streams a song on the platform.
“While there are some amazing ways for independent musicians to earn money through different channels like digital distribution, et cetera, there hasn’t been a platform that directly connects artists’ music to charitable causes,” says Woods, who cooked up the idea following the shootings of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling in the summer of 2016. Determined to do something, Woods set to work creating a song for Black Lives Matter — only to realize there were no viable platforms available to support his mission.
“Halfway through the creation of this song, I began thinking about how I would host and promote this campaign,” says Woods. “And I honestly wasn’t satisfied with my options.”
Inspired, Woods turned to friends Yang and Blaha for help: Yang for her 15-plus years of technical expertise, Blaha for his extensive background in music business and marketing. After three years — during which time Blaha also pulled in the company’s lead engineer Pat Aubin (currently working as an iOS developer at Apple) — SingleServ has materialized as the first streaming platform that serves up exclusive content to promote and support charitable causes. And at least for now, it’s free to use.
“We really wanted to first introduce the idea of cause-based streaming to our audience, so the experience is totally free,” says Yang, who notes they plan on moving to a subscription model “down the line.”
Using music to support charitable causes is nothing new, of course. In the 1980s, star-studded singles like “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” and “We Are the World” donated millions in proceeds to non-profits, while similar one-off efforts have sprung up in the streaming age. Earlier this year, rapper Lil Dicky donated all proceeds from his single “Earth” to the environmentally-focused Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, while in 2017 Beyonce donated earnings from her remix of the blockbuster J Balvin and Willy Williams song “Mi Gente” to earthquake and hurricane relief for Puerto Rico. But SingleServ is the first streaming service fully dedicated to a charitable model.
“There are crowdfunding companies and there have been artists who have hosted campaigns, donating proceeds of their streams to causes,” says Blaha. “But SingleServ is the first cause-based steaming platform which we hope adds meaningful context to music in a time when it feels the most disposable.”
The company’s first campaign comes courtesy of Los Angeles and Seattle-based band The Flavr Blue, led by artist and activist (and Woods’ longtime friend) Hollis Wong-Wear. Every stream of the group’s song “Little Blue” goes to support the non-profit Cage-Free Cannabis, which helps consumers and the cannabis industry repair societal harm done by the war on drugs.
“[Hollis has] known 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 to be involved.”
To finance the initial launch, Woods, Yang and Blaha secured a round of seed funding, though the long-term goal is to move to an ad-based revenue model that will also leverage brand partnerships to fund donations (the company says it will not receive a commission from streams). Notably, the $.012 per-stream figure is one of the higher payouts in the streaming space — considerably more than Spotify’s reported $0.00437 average and similar to Tidal’s relatively generous $.0125.
“From the beginning, we wanted SingleServ to be among the platforms that pay higher per-stream,” says Yang. “And we thankfully have the ability to achieve that since we’re curating the exclusive content featured on our app.”
Going forward, SingleServ will be serving up exclusive content on a weekly basis, with upcoming campaigns from artists including Baltimore hip-hop artist Trey RX and L.A.-based singer-songwriter VIAA.
“We’ve thankfully been getting a lot of great feedback and interest when approaching artists,” says Woods, “so we’re excited to have artists who share our mission on board.”