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Spotify’s hottest new artist: nature itself

Words: Liz Hynes

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For every stream of songs by Brian Eno, David Bowie and Ellie Goulding that interweave nature sounds, half the royalties go to nature conservation.

Chatting with a charity representative on the street. Picking up litter in the woods. Opting for the train over the plane. If you’re committed to incorporating nature conservation efforts into your daily life, you might have gotten started via one of these familiar avenues. 

Now, there’s an even easier path: you can support nature simply by listening to her music. 

For the first time, nature itself is officially registered as an artist on music streaming platforms, starting with Spotify. Users can access the “Feat. Nature” playlist on Spotify – the first streamer to officially highlight the campaign – to enjoy both ambient nature tracks, as well as songs whose musicians have sampled the sounds of nature in their work. Collaborators include David Bowie (via a 1995 track remixed by Brian Eno), AURORA, Ellie Goulding, Umi and many more.

Recognizing nature’s contribution

The project, called Sounds Right, is being driven by UN Live, an organization that taps into culture to pursue the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. It grew out of a project in Colombia during Covid lockdown, where people recorded nature sounds from their windows, which artists then worked into their compositions.

The simplicity of the scheme – empowering people to donate by doing nothing more than popping in their headphones – belies a much more radical perspective. In an age of rapid deforestation and mass extinction, recognizing the rights of nature is not just an idealistic goal, but a legitimate jurisprudence gaining traction. To date, at least six countries – Bolivia, Ecuador, New Zealand, Spain, Panama, and Uganda – have codified some baseline of legal rights or even personhood for their ecosystems. Other nations, including Aruba, Ireland, and Panama, might not be far behind.

Even in the United States, where an already threadbare Environmental Protection Agency is under constant threat, conservationists have successfully upheld the rights of species in court. Last year, the Sauk-Suiattle tribe of Seattle successfully sued their city, compelling them to prioritize a migration path for salmon around hydroelectric dams on the Skagit River. The case represented a rare victory for the original caretakers of a land too often injured by its pillagers.

By bringing this same thinking to the world of music, the Sounds Right project to be a real turning point in how we imagine nature – not only as an entity that must be protected, but also compensated for its contribution. 

During its first four years, organizers project the initiative could generate over $40 million for conservation via an estimated 600 million individual listeners. These funds will be collected by EarthPercent before being directed towards biodiversity conservation efforts throughout the world. Specific charities have yet to be publicized, but Sounds Right’s expert advisory panel – consisting of biologists, activists, and Indigenous representatives – will be driving decisions on where to allocate funds.

It’s a model that could see nature earning more money than most musicians whose songs are available to stream. Typically, Spotify takes about 30% of revenue per song streamed, while the other 70% rest goes to royalties. Most artists must then split their share with labels, publishers, songwriters, and the like. For songs that feature nature as a collaborating artist, nature organizations are guaranteed at least half the royalties, and for tracks that consist solely of ambient nature sounds, this rises to 63%.

“I have always used nature’s sounds in what I do, so it feels proper to make it official”


sounds right aurora nature Spotify

Duetting with the voice of nature

For the songs released so far, nature was given its voice by Martyn Stewart, the acoustic ecologist lauded as “the David Attenborough of sounds”. For Norwegian singer AURORA, it’s the soundtrack of Norwegian wildlife: skittering forest sounds and cawing birds. London rapper Louis VI had some hyper-specific auditory requests, including a mountain chicken frog native to the Caribbean, from where his father’s side hails. Despite its critically endangered status, Martyn was able to capture that rare croak for Louis’ track Orange Skies.

The song’s energetic beat and blistering lyrics (“Calling climate justice, it’s about time / ‘Cause our Black people on the front line … Hurricanes and fires blazing, flooding in Savannah basin / We were all Indigenous until they slaved us”) give way to the eerie sounds of fire crackling – a stark reminder that nature is capable of not just collaboration, but consumption, too.

AURORA shares a similarly intimate relationship with nature. “I have always used her sounds in everything I do, so it just feels proper to make it official,” the singer shared. “She’s been my secret lover for a long time now, and we’re making it official.”

As for Martyn Stewart, whose recordings made it all happen: “My rent for being on the planet,” he declared, “is making sure the animals have a voice.” He’s kept his promise.

AURORA photo: Wanda Martin

Listen to nature on Spotify now

Check out nature’s very own artist page.

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