For the first time ever – journalists became music artists on global music streaming sites in order to evade censorship. By addressing an important social topic with an innovative and engaging approach that used music streaming in a way that had never been done before, The Uncensored Playlist sparked the interest of the news and music media world-wide without needing to spend a dime on media.
Online press censorship is on the rise globally. But rather than just creating a traditional awareness campaign Reporters Without Borders Germany decided to tackle the problem head on.
Describe the creative idea
While in the worlds most censored countries many news websites and blogs are blocked by oppressive governments, music streaming platforms such as Spotify, Deezer and Apple Music are freely accessible.
We used this online loophole to evade censorship. Turning 5 acclaimed journalists from 5 repressed countries into music artists. Their censored articles were turned into lyrics and then uploaded onto music streaming platforms as uncensored pop songs.
On the 12th of March: World Day Against Cyber Censorship all the songs came together as The Uncensored Playlist.
Describe the strategy
Music has the power to connect with people of all ages, cultures and nationalities. Using music streaming services available in the worlds most censored countries was the perfect online loophole for reaching people in countries affected by censorship as well as around the world.
To highlight the problem further we selected 5 of the most poorly rated countries on the World Press Freedom Index where at least one well known music streaming service was available.
To appeal to people both locally and internationally each song was recorded in both English and local language versions, combining traditional instruments, local musicians and contemporary music styles.
The journalists were given the whole musical package, with record covers, album names, posters and artist biographies to create authenticity.
We spread the project online with a hashtag #truthfindsaway as well as using Reporters Without Borders large network of journalists to help spread the project.
Describe the execution
Our music team interviewed each of the journalists to capture the essence of their stories before transforming them into lyrics. While traveling incognito to the oppressed countries, they met local musicians, explored genres and the local instruments of each country and shot material to create music videos.
We created album artwork for 5 albums (one per country) before uploading them onto Spotify, Apple Music and Deezer. On World Day Against Cyber Censorship all the songs came together as The Uncensored Playlist along with our website www.uncensoreplaylist.com
featuring lyrics, articles, music documentary videos shot in the different countries and the hashtag #truthfindsaway
Meanwhile our support network of both local and international journalists spread word about the project far and wide in the traditional media and online.
And the online loophole worked perfectly, with the songs reaching all 5 countries as well as people around the world.
List the results
The playlist sparked a global conversation about censorship with 300+ news stories and 680+ million people reached to date. Appearing in the global music and news media such as The Guardian, The Fader, Der Spiegel, Glamour, Pitchfork and the BBC: Reaching far more people than the original articles could ever have. But most importantly, our songs became hits in the places where the articles had once been forbidden: peaking at #7 in the Vietnamese iTunes chart in its very first week. Encouraging globally recognised names such as Amazon to support our message.
The Uncensored Playlist will continue to connect journalists with musicians. Defying censorship every time a new song is uploaded.