Reporter Ian Urbina denies scamming artists with The Outlaw Ocean Music Project - News - Mixmag
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Reporter Ian Urbina denies scamming artists with The Outlaw Ocean Music Project

The former New York Times reporter has issued an apology to the contributing artists

  • Aneesa Ahmed
  • 8 December 2021
Reporter Ian Urbina denies scamming artists with The Outlaw Ocean Music Project

The Outlaw Ocean Music Project's musicians have received an apology from journalist Ian Urbina following allegations of scamming.

There were over 450 musicians involved in the project.

The Outlaw Ocean, Urbina's journalism series and eventual book, was the inspiration for the project, which began in 2020 and tasked producers with composing music inspired by Urbina's journalistic series and ultimate book.

Read this next: Marco Faraone releases new album 'Hope' in support of The Outlaw Ocean Music Project

Artists could utilise Urbina's field recordings from the water. KMRU, Appleblim, and Klangkarussell were among the electronic musicians that contributed.

The project's website outlines two key aims: "to disseminate the journalism through non-news-media channels such as music platforms, ideally to reach a younger and more global audience" and to "fund more reporting using streaming revenue derived from the music".

As reported by Forbes, Urbina's Music Project may be swindling hundreds of musicians under the pretext of artistic collaboration, according to one of the musicians chosen to participate.

Read this next: "Terrifying" figures show how many streams an artist needs to earn minimum wage

Benn Jordan, a composer and recording artist, uploaded a 20-minute clip on YouTube about his experience working with The Outlaw Ocean Project.

According to Jordan, Urbina approached him in May 2019 and asked him to contribute music to the project.

While Urbina stated that he would not be able to compensate Jordan for his services up front, he promised Jordan a slew of benefits in exchange for his help: "Spotify is building a podcast around it since they are intrigued by its innovative nature," Urbina wrote to Jordan via email.

"Both Netflix and Knopf, who are both working on projects based on the book, are excited to promote the music."

Read this next: YouTube is launching free background listening

Jordan was also critical of Synesthesia Media, Urbina's label, which, according to Urbina, would distribute the music to streaming platforms in exchange for a 50% cut of the profits.

Despite not creating any music and merely delivering optional field recordings, Urbina would be acknowledged alongside the performers.

Read this next: Former Spotify executive calls musicians "entitled" for wanting better streaming royalties

In direct response to the video put out by Jordan, Urbina rejected all accusations which were aimed at him and said that the video is 'not accurate'. The label made a statement on December 6.

"I've never made a cent from the music nor would I as that's not the project's purpose," Urbina's apology continued.

The label also released a second statement on December 6 claiming that they do not handle any artist royalty money.

Read this next: Should a fee-sharing model between DJs and producers be enforced in dance music?

On December 7, following days of backlash online, the label and Urbina issued an apology on Twitter, writing that he, his Synesthesia Media label and a subcontractor had "failed" to "communicate with [artists] fully, ensure they get royalty statements and paid on time, answer their questions quickly ... I apologize unequivocally."

Since the backlash, the participating artists in the project have been offered the option of keeping all of their streaming earnings or having their music withdrawn and returned to them entirely, according to all three statements from Urbina and Synesthesia Media.

"With regards to past royalties and statements, however, Synesthesia is unfortunately powerless right now—and this is why lawyers are involved—to provide any information because Synesthesia doesn't have it," the second statement added. "We genuinely apologize for this predicament."

Read this next: MPs call for musicians to earn a 50% share on their royalties

[Via: RA and Forbes]

Aneesa Ahmed is Mixmag's Digital Intern, follow her on Twitter

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