Frequently Asked Questions About The Outlaw Ocean Music Project

What are the goals of the music project?
The goal is to disseminate the journalism through non-news-media channels such as music platforms, ideally to reach a younger and more global audience. Our hope is that, with help from musicians, we can get more attention on what we believe is urgent and worthy reporting. This is meant to be an innovation in the distribution of journalism as well as an alternative and more creative method of storytelling. 

Has the project achieved these aims?
Yes. Far more people have been exposed to the reporting and in a new and different way. Musicians from more than 60 countries have read the reporting and in subsequent interviews many of them have talked about its importance. Listeners of these albums who likely would not have known about these stories now do. 

Is the music project meant to be inclusive or exclusive?
The project is decidedly inclusive as it is meant to scale as big and diverse as possible because its purpose is to spread the reporting more widely. In other words, we aim to recruit as many musicians as possible who are interested to support the effort.
Should artists join the project hoping it will result in greater streaming of their music?
No. That should not be the key motivation for an artist to join the project because the main goal of the effort is to help spread the reporting and to do something that is creative and new in the melding of storytelling and music. Furthermore, the primary promotion that occurs around the project is aimed at a group effort rather than promoting any one album. 

How is revenue from the music divided?
Historically, the divides were as follows: After expenses, 50 percent of revenue made on the music goes to the musician. The remaining portion went to Synesthesia, the label that runs the music project, for the sake of producing more music and amplifying the reporting further. At the end of 2021, Synesthesia shifted the splits so that musicians would instead draw 100 percent of their streaming revenue (after expenses). Then, if musicians want to make a donation to support more reporting or more music, they could do that on their own. 

What is Synesthesia Media?
Synesthesia is an LLC (called Synesthesia Media LLC) that Ian Urbina created to serve as a label to register with music platforms. 

What is the name of the non-profit organization that produces the journalism?
The federally registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization is called The OO Project Inc. Publicly, the organization is known as The Outlaw Ocean Project

Where should participating artists direct questions about their royalty statements?
The company that handled payments and statements for music up until December 2021 is Naymlis. For questions about payments or royalty statements during that time period, please email Naymlis at For questions about statements after December, 2021, please email:

If musicians want to be released from the project, can they be?
Yes. We have no desire for anyone to be involved who is not happy supporting the effort. Musicians need only to send an email to Musicians can ask for their music to be removed from the platforms or they can opt to keep their music up on the platforms but simply nullify the original contract (here is the release form) so that all rights to the album return to them. 

Where can I learn more about the goals and methods of the music project?
You can watch an explanatory video made by The Pulitzer Center on our About page. You can also read various news articles about the project on our Press Page, including one from the San Francisco Classical Voice and an Op Ed in The LA Times.

What was the controversy surrounding the music project and how was it handled?
In late 2021, a number of musicians expressed frustration with the project. Their complaints were stoked by a misleading YouTube video. The core complaint among musicians was that they did not think the contracts they signed were fair. They also voiced frustration that their music had not streamed well or been sufficiently promoted. In response, Ian Urbina and Synesthesia Media apologized and took several steps. They allowed all musicians who wanted to depart the project to cancel their contracts and to own, monetize and upload their music however they preferred. For artists who wished to stay in the project, all streaming revenue would only go to the musicians. The overwhelming majority of musicians – more than 400 of the original 500 – opted to remain in the project, which continues to grow, adding new artists monthly. In June 2022, the Scripps Howard Foundation, one of oldest and non-profit journalism organizations in the U.S., gave the music project the 2021 Award for Excellence in Innovation, publishing an extensive video about the effort. 

Winner of the 2021 Scripps Howard Award for Excellence in Innovation in Journalism

The Journalism behind the Music

All music in this project is based on The Outlaw Ocean, a New York Times Best-Selling book by Ian Urbina that chronicles lawlessness at sea around the world. This reporting touches on a diversity of abuses ranging from illegal and overfishing, arms trafficking at sea, human slavery, gun running, intentional dumping, murder of stowaways, thievery of ships and other topics.

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