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Nature has officially become a musician

As part of a new campaign, nature has been recognised as an artist on major streaming platforms, including Spotify. Royalties will go towards supporting climate action initiatives across the globe.

Temperatures are rising, habitats are diminishing, and glaciers are melting at an unprecedented rate.

As the climate changes, the Earth’s suffering continues to reach new heights, and the reality that we’re running out of time to do something about it becomes clearer.

These days, the natural world needs all the help it can get.

Considering that conventional methods of providing that aid have fallen relatively short thus far, it was perhaps to be expected that more unconventional methods would rear their heads eventually.

The most recent example of this is nature’s recent recognition as an official musician.

Yep, you read that right. Nature – as in, birds chirping in the forest, waves crashing in the ocean, and the sound of thunderstorms – is now listed as an artist on major streaming platforms, including Spotify.

It currently boasts over 1.8 million monthly listeners and a number of features on songs performed by the likes of David Bowie, AURORA, Ellie Goulding, London Grammar, MØ, and Tom Walker.

Part of a new campaign called Sounds Right that was launched by AKQA and UN Live last week, the aim is to encourage ‘music fans across the globe to recognise the intrinsic value of nature and to inspire them to take action.’

Its release is paramount, given that wildlife populations have significantly declined in the past five decades.

But how exactly does it benefit the environment?

As programme director Gabriel Smales explains, royalties (collected by Brian Eno’s Earth/Percent charity) will go towards biodiversity conservation and restoration projects in threatened ecosystems around the world.

Artists who choose to credit ‘nature’ will see a share of at least 60% of their profits distributed to environmental causes and 63% of profits from ambient nature tracks will do the same.

‘The dream is that any artist who’s interested in collaborating with nature is able to visit our website, download nature samples and tag nature on their tracks, with a portion of the royalties donated to high impact conservation initiatives,’ Smales told the BBC.

‘What would nature spend her money on? She’d prioritise conserving and restoring ecosystems with the greatest levels of biodiversity and endemism.’

He added that funds will be distributed under the guidance of the Sounds Right expert advisory panel, a group of pioneering biologists, activists, and representatives of Indigenous Peoples.

‘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,’ said Smales.

To make this happen, nature’s representatives will mostly be from the Global South, as that’s where most of the ecosystems and endangered species the initiative hopes to support are based.

And while it takes a little while for royalties to accumulate, Sounds Right and its partners have estimated that the project will generate over $40 million for conservation, with a predicted 600 million + listeners in its first four years.

Ultimately, Sounds Right looks to ‘upend our purely extractive relationship with the natural world’ – which sees us treating it as either a resource to be optimally exploited or a rubbish dump for waste and pollutants – and bolster awareness about nature’s contribution to the creative industries.

The latter shouldn’t be too much of a challenge, given music has long-been considered a powerful tool for inspiring action on social issues and art can make people understand how deep and spiritual their connection with nature ought to be.

With Sounds Right, this takes on a new role as a catalyst for conservation efforts and the Earth’s preservation, making contact with nature seem desirable again and giving the planet’s influence on the work of countless musicians that have mimicked the sounds and rhythms of the Earth throughout their careers the recognition it deserves.

‘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,’ said Katja Iversen, CEO of UN Live.

‘This movement unites people around the world in a shared commitment: recognising the intrinsic value of nature. Together we must act now to protect our planet for our common future.’

So, at the end of 2024, when your streaming platform of choice compiles all your data to tell you who your most-listened to artist is, hopefully nature’s made it to the top of the charts.

The health of our planet kinda depends on it.