Although the coronavirus pandemic put the careers of countless up-and-coming musicians on hold, it didn’t stop their creative drive. By the end of March, music-sharing platform SoundCloud reported that there had been a 50 percent increase in uploads, with many songs related to the socially distanced circumstances.
The surge inspired SoundCloud CEO Kerry Trainor to give back to the community. On April 22, SoundCloud announced a site-wide contest awarding the chance to be featured in a compilation handpicked by Pharrell Williams and his “i am OTHER” collective. The winning artists would also reap the benefits of SoundCloud’s marketing program, Repost Select, and receive funding from the platform’s $10 million creator accelerator fund.
Curating the mix was a no-brainer for Williams, who always has his eye on emerging talent.
“We wanted to find a way to help artists, especially independent artists, during this unprecedented time,” Williams says. “We thought, what better way than to send out a call to action so they could share exactly how they’re feeling during this moment in time — hopeful, sad, lazy, whatever it was, we wanted to be the megaphone for that.”
Titled “SoundCloud Presents: i am OTHER, Volume 1,” the 10-track compilation is available today on SoundCloud and features unique, emerging artists from different cities, genres and backgrounds. L.A.-based singer-songwriter Thomboi has written for the likes of Troye Sivan and Martin Garrix, Berlin-born singer Ruuth puts an eclectic twist on modern-day pop and rapper Kota the Friend contributed an anthem for the Black Lives Matter movement to the mix.
“SoundCloud is a real-time barometer for what’s happening in global music culture,” Trainor says. “You can hear the openness and immediacy in the music, and the themes of self-isolation and coping. It signals the next generation of artists is finding comfort in being creative and honest, and are not afraid to break down boundaries.”
Williams agrees that these up-and-comers are nothing if not resilient.
“These artists are awake, aware and ready to go,” Williams says. “This generation is not going to wait silently for the green light, they’re going to break out of the box and be disruptive.”
All proceeds from streaming the compilation will go to Sweet Relief and Help Musicians, two charities that are working to help struggling musicians get through the pandemic and continue to follow their dreams.
“These organizations are deeply rooted in the music community, working on the front lines every day to provide direct financial assistance and relief to artists and the music community across all genres, in all stages of their career,” Trainor says. “In an immediate response to the impact of COVID-19 on musicians, Sweet Relief and Help Musicians rapidly rolled out grant initiatives to provide direct financial, healthcare and emotional support to thousands of artists.”
Williams is proud to support these organizations as well, citing the need for the music industry to come together during this unprecedented moment.
“It’s a crucial time to be there for the artists who have been there for us,” Williams says. “The COVID crisis has crippled the music industry and we need to stand together and support one another always.”
SoundCloud plans to continue the project in partnership with Williams and i am OTHER in a second volume, this time focusing on the nationwide fight against racial injustice. See the full track list for Volume 1 below.
Mike SB – “Slow Day”
Mophead – “Rickey Smiley”
Kota the Friend – “B.Q.E (#BLM)”
NSTASIA x DLP – “Couch”
Shaylin B – “Magic”
Thomboi – “pothead”
Glvsshouse – “Games”
Ruuth – “Wake Up As You”
Big Mont – “My Own Eyes”
Dot Cromwell – “God Bless”