Hacking the Music Industry with Social Impact

It didn’t matter how many people were watching or tuned in – the important thing was to create and DO.

Two years ago I was studying political science at Sciences-Po in Paris, France, spending my time in libraries and consulates (and café’s, of course), sifting through renewable energy policies.

I had a side-job at a bar where musicians and ensembles played on the regular. One Sunday, when we had the bar to ourselves, I sang along with the pianist, Jerry. After that day I started singing again. First around Paris, next in Berlin, in Austria and eventually in sweet home Chicago. Before I knew what had hit me, I had fallen, hard, for a passion that had been lying dormant.

After finishing my degree, I had a serious case of cognitive dissonance regarding what to do next. I’ve always been terrified of regretting things, or more so, not doing things because of the fear of doing them. My instincts told me that if life gives you something twice, you shouldn’t let it go. I resolved that there was no better time to switch directions and have a go at the music industry. After all, the end of one thing is the start of something new.

I moved to Los Angeles, the launchpad of opportunity. Like many of the city’s inhabitants, I had big dreams. I decided that I when I reached success (whatever that means), I would use my platform to raise awareness about socio-political and environmental issues I had studied and kept close to my heart. This way, I could combine both my worlds and live a symbiotic life. I thought I had it all figured out.

Except that, the music industry is crazy, changing and somewhat confusing (especially for a newcomer without any connections). It didn’t take long to develop a dismal sense of feeling lost. The tools available to make and record music without spending a fortune and the online platforms to spread it and be heard are more accessible than ever. And yet, getting the wind under your wings to take off requires a strangely rare balance of preparation, quality and dumb luck.

Then one morning, serendipity gave me a hug. A friend had posted a GOOD article by Carolyn Malachi, whose music video donated money to a cause with every view. The video only had a few thousand views, but was making such a large impact. I was so inspired, and my paradigm was completely shifted – needing a large platform to make a real difference was a myth. It didn’t matter how many people were watching or tuned in – the important thing was to create and DO.


I contacted the Carmelita Group, who was known for pioneering the cause-video. I introduced myself, said I wanted to use music to make a difference, and asked for their insight. Little did I know that beyond being a social agency for good, its founders were also music managers. Suddenly, I didn’t feel so lost anymore.

They coached me as I created an anti-violence awareness campaign for my single, “Grow”, with the support of five domestic violence prevention centers across the United States and in the United Kingdom. Receiving messages from men and women around the world was the only validation I needed.


Since then, it’s been amazing to watch my community grow organically, from performing for One Billion Rising to the Women Center Stage festival in New York and the La Calaca Dia de los Muertos Festival in Mexico. Just last week another cause-driven musician in Los Angeles contacted me, and we’re supporting each other. What I’ve learned is, starting small is better than never starting at all.

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via Barry Schapiro / Twitter

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