PeaceTones: Fair-Trade-Music. Empowering Communities Through the Arts.

PeaceTones: Fair-Trade-Music. Empowering Communities Through the Arts.

Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
$100,000 - $250,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

PeaceTones aims to redefine the world music industry, creating a fair trade and community development business model that breaks down knowledge and access barriers to allow artists in developing countries to build viable and sustainable businesses. We strive to create a truly global marketplace through which musicians in low-income, post-conflict or post-disaster communities can sell their music to world markets online, keep the majority of profits from their music, and return a portion of their profits to their communities on an ongoing basis. PeaceTones works with musicians because music connects people in a way that very few other products can. Musicians hold a special place in their communities as mentors, role models and catalysts of change.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Our projects begin by reaching out to our fellow non-profits across the world and analyzing where we would have the greatest resonance and opportunity for success, focusing on countries that have experienced recent destabilizing events. The communities we work in, therefore, have a great amount of potential in terms of large youth populations, rich cultural and artistic communities, burgeoning access to technology, but deeply entrenched poverty. The legal and political infrastructure is often fraught with nepotism and corruption, leading to a great deal of disenfranchisement. Our experience with engagement has been extremely positive. Our first initiative was in Sierra Leone, a country that has had significant internal strife and that exhibits almost all of the characteristics listed above. Our following project was in the favelas of Recife, Brazil, where we worked mostly with young people. Growing up, they were intimately familiar with guns, drugs, and poverty, but with PeaceTones’ help, they have built a music studio to express themselves. We then began a project in Balan, a remote village in Haiti with a vibrant musical community. We initially planned to move to a different country following Balan, but following the Haitian earthquake of January 2010, we held another PeaceTones initiative in Port-au-Prince, which has been our most successful yet in terms of participation, publicity, and results for the artists themselves. Currently, we are in the beginning stages of a project in Kibera, Kenya.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

New Music Model: In an era when the behemoths of the music industry are struggling to sustain arcane business models, PeaceTones focuses on the cutting-edge tools independent musicians and record labels are using to get noticed, create a fan base, and be profitable. We subscribe to the Music+ model, giving customers more than just music, but a greater reason to buy. Every PeaceTones album comes with a story of talented musicians that struggle to make a living because war, poverty or natural disasters have inhibited their ability to be heard. PeaceTones customers buy our music not out of charity, but because they are getting a great product that is directly enabling an artist and their community to earn deserved income. Trade Shift: We promote international commerce, but we buck two trends of trade: 1) profit-taking by middle-men; and 2) the belief that developing countries’ competitive advantage is in exporting natural resources, which are often concentrated in the nation’s affluent. PeaceTones teaches musicians to protect their rights and to sell their music online without a talent agent, promoter, or manager, by using social media marketing and direct-to-fan sales methods. The products we promote are based on intellectual property (e.g. unique musical compositions), goods usually attributed to developed nations. Our focus on digital, proprietary business ensures less profits going to intermediaries and production, less environmental impact, products with ongoing revenue streams, and product marketing and sales across national boundaries to a global audience.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

PeaceTones works directly with musicians as they are powerful agents of change within their communities. Working with local partners, we hold legal and marketing workshops for musicians in low-income communities. Topics range from basic contracts and intellectual property law to social networking and getting music on iTunes and Amazon. We also inform students on local resources (e.g. legal aid). Workshops involve games, role-playing, and stories to create an engaging and non-threatening learning environment. We incorporate a contest, held through Facebook, into our workshops as an incentive for participation and as a means to practically apply tools learned in the workshops. The contest engages audiences around the world in the process of selecting the next PeaceTones musicians, and in turn gives publicity to many unknown local artists. Contest winners become PeaceTones ambassadors, record an album with PeaceTones, and 90% of profits from album sales go directly to the musicians and a local community development project of their choosing that is vetted by PeaceTones. PeaceTones then works with the artists to market the album both within their home country and internationally. The end products are an arts community with a greater sense of legal empowerment and marketing skills using technology, a large group of artists that have been given international recognition through the PeaceTones contest, and a PeaceTones ambassador that has launched a music career, received financial compensation for their talent, and is able to contribute to their community in a meaningful, sustained way.
About You
About You
First Name


Last Name


About Your Organization
Organization Name


Organization Country
Country where this project is creating social impact

, CE

How long has your organization been operating?

1‐5 years

The information you provide here will be used to fill in any parts of your profile that have been left blank, such as interests, organization information, and website. No contact information will be made public. Please uncheck here if you do not want this to happen..

What stage is your project in?

Operating for 1‐5 years

Share the story of the founder and what inspired the founder to start this project

In 2005, Jeff Aresty founded the non-profit Internet Bar Organization, PeaceTones’ parent and began immediately exploring ways of working with civil society organizations to promote the Rule of Law in frontier economies. He realized that no product is easier to transmit throughout a global market using the Internet than digital content, including music. In practice, however, a number of hurdles (both logistic and legal) create a gap between the musicians of the developing world and listeners worldwide. By helping to bridge that gap, he believes that musicians and global distributors will both win: musicians will secure an income while distributors and consumers will gain access to great new content. Helping to connect the culture of frontier countries to the global marketplace will enrich everyone, will promote fairness and mutual understanding, and will advance the Rule of Law. Through the PeaceTones Initiative, Jeff sought to establish the logistics chain needed to connect frontier countries to the modern marketplace, and to educate musicians and their communities about the legal realities of digital business. The objective is not to simply to reach out to the cultures of frontier countries, but to teach their communities how to use law and technology build their own economic bridges, access available global resources, and resolve their own disputes.

Social Impact
Please describe how your project has been successful and how that success is measured

PeaceTones has continued to grow the number of countries and communities we work in, the number of partners we collaborate with, our brand recognition, and most importantly, the number of artists we have impacted. We have also been successful in our ability to adapt our business model to changing dynamics (e.g. cultural, technological) to have the greatest possible impact. For example, PeaceTones began choosing its music ambassadors through partnerships with local NGOs. We democratized and digitized the process by migrating to an online contest format to incentivize artists’ exploration of online social networking and marketing, and also to create the greatest buy-in from the pubic at the beginning of the process, which has improved visibility for a greater number of artists, as well as promoted the PeaceTones brand. As a result of this change, we had better publicity (e.g. interviews with PeaceTones on Haiti national TV and Public Radio International’s “The World”), greater numbers of participants in educational workshops, and a greater amount of international participation. In our latest project, ‘Haiti Sings,’ we posted music videos of 20 musicians and had them campaign for votes on their songs. We also had over 12,000 hits on the contest site from over 50 countries and saw our Facebook ‘likes’ quadruple. We have also been extremely successful in translating the PeaceTones message of peace, community and empowerment to the artists we work with. After working with PeaceTones, our artists have devoted themselves to community development projects, including building a recording studio for local artists, starting a foundation to support skill-building and education for children, and supporting a local birthing clinic.

How many people have been impacted by your project?

1,001- 10,000

How many people could be impacted by your project in the next three years?

How will your project evolve over the next three years?

PeaceTones hopes to evolve by shifting from a model where we are the primary purveyors of legal empowerment and knowledge on using technologies for global commerce to one in which local PeaceTones constituents, partners, and ambassadors are main disseminators of our message. Our role will shift to concentrate more on giving these teachers and community advocates the tools they need to be successful, for example ongoing trainings on new technologies, facilitating partnerships with technology providers, and increasing the global brand and message of PeaceTones to enhance their credibility and visibility with their communities. We will also take on a greater role in developing new tools for our teachers and advocates, including learning materials for children and digital learning games.

What barriers might hinder the success of your project and how do you plan to overcome them?

A significant barrier in our work is the lack of basic information communication technologies (ICTs), most notably the absence of regular, reliable and accessible Internet in the communities in which we work. We plan to overcome this hurdle by partnering directly with those organizations that are providing hardware necessary for connecting to the Internet. By partnering directly with these organizations, we can offer legal and technology training at the inception of our musicians’ access to the Internet. Working at these initial stages will help communities to reap the greatest rewards from global connectivity and help to establish a foundation for the use of technology as a tool for opportunity, knowledge, and poverty alleviation.
A fickle music market has also been a barrier to success in the past. While a PeaceTones music ambassador may be well received in their local community, their global marketability may be limited. As discussed previously, PeaceTones has adapted its business model to account for market tastes by incorporating the market from the inception of a PeaceTones project by using a contest format rather than a nonprofit-networking format in choosing music ambassadors. By using a contest format, PeaceTones is better attuned to global market demand.
Insufficient financial resources are also an ongoing barrier to carrying forward PeaceTones projects. While we are able to offset costs with multiple revenue streams from music and merchandise sales, the majority of these proceeds go directly to the communities we work in, thus it is necessary to achieve greater economies of scale in the work we are doing to achieve greater overall cost-efficiency, brand recognition, and buy-in with larger established partners.

Tell us about your partnerships

We partner with NGOs in every new host country we work in. These NGOs help us to identify communities of high need, identify other collaborative partners, (e.g. media, facility providers), publicize workshops, and run workshops with translation and other necessary services. Because relating to musicians on the ground is such a fundamental component of a project’s success, and ultimately of building successful local businesses, our partners play a pivotal role in our success. The fact that we operate in conflict and disaster-impacted zones makes these partnerships all the more necessary, and our thankfulness all the more eternal. More than simply providing a means of friendly and accepted initial contact, PeaceTones partnerships enable us to better communicate our message of empowerment.
PeaceTones also works with a network of lawyers and legal student volunteers in the US and across the world, who provide us with pro-bono services such as contract-drafting, legal advice and legal translation services. These partnerships are critical in that they provide us with affordable expertise, and more importantly, in that they expose lawyers and legal students in the US and in other developed countries to the complex legal issues that those in developing nations are facing.

Explain your selections

Individuals support our projects by not only giving donations, but by recognizing the work we are doing, listening to PeaceTones albums and songs, telling their friends about the amazing music we offer and therefore increasing brand recognition. We have fundraised for past projects with individuals such as these by selling songs and albums, selling PeaceTones merchandise and also by selling concert tickets to shows performed by our PeaceTones musicians in the United States. NGOs have also been very generous in providing us with in-kind support, translation and organization services, connections to media and other promotional tools, and in advising us on fundraising and non-profit management. Grants from foundations, such as the World Justice Project, constitute a key resource for our work as they fill the resource gaps that remain after individual and sponsor contributions. It is with the help of grant money we are able to cover staff and administrative costs associated with training, recording and mentoring our musicians. Businesses have also been key in giving in-kind support, such as law firms that have helped us with creating training materials and in giving legal advice. The support we must covet is that of customers. Operating as a social-enterprise, we prize our customer relationships and their purchases of PeaceTones music and merchandise. Ultimately, it will be our relationships with our global customers that determines our success, and for this reason, we make it clear how much we value them by offering excellent customer service and world-class products.

How do you plan to strengthen your project in the next three years?

PeaceTones will strengthen its mission by continuing to adapt and learn from new projects, by augmenting our knowledge of global music markets and by continually updating our partner communities with this knowledge. Specifically, we plan to incorporate more learning tools directly on our website, such as WikiTones, a music and technology wiki where artists can learn real-world, cutting-edge methods for promoting music online, and also share their own experiences. We also plan to strengthen our brand recognition by building out a college-affiliate program whereby student-led clubs and organizations will discuss, study, and advocate for global micro-commerce initiatives. With this demographic being the largest consumer base of music and the biggest influencers of market tastes, as well as increasingly interested in international social movements, these groups will act as key partners in future projects (e.g. by contributing to WikiTones, voting in contests, buying music). PeaceTones will also strengthen local partnerships in areas we work by creating permanent resources of legal and online marketing knowledge, including training local teachers of workshops, building computer-skill programs, and creating on-location libraries with relevant materials. We are also evolving in terms of technology, for example in working with partners to create digital learning games. We also plan to create a network of our empowered communities so that they may learn from each other about best practices for marketing themselves and promoting their brands to the global community.

Which barriers to employment does your innovation address?
Please select up to three in order of relevancy to your project.


Lack of access to information and networks


Restricted access to new markets


Lack of skills/training

Please describe how your innovation specifically tackles the barriers listed above.

Technology can amplify music across a dance hall, past sovereign borders and into a global marketplace. An artist’s ability to benefit from their craft need not be restricted by the number of tickets that can be sold, the ability of their community to pay, or by a lagging political economy. PeaceTones teaches artists to market their proprietary media in digital form, create economic international business relationships, and tap into willing and wanting consumers by utilizing the modern Silk Road, the Internet. PeaceTones also begins international distribution relationships with artists across the world and uses its brand and message to help give artists a springboard to new markets.

Are you trying to scale your organization or initiative?
If yes, please check up to three potential pathways in order of relevancy to you.


Leveraged technology


Other (please specify below)


Grown geographic reach: Multi-country

Please describe which of your growth activities are current or planned for the immediate future.

We plan on implementing new technology applications to release PeaceTones music to the world in innovative ways (e.g. online concerts, mobile), as well as to teach musicians and teachers about e-commerce and legal protection. Additionally, we are currently developing partnerships with music education and Internet access providers in developing nations. These partnerships will allow us to branch into new communities and use our contest model to give recognition to economic and legal empowerment through technology and music. We also plan to continue to market our music ambassadors, including our latest artist, Wanito, who will be releasing his international debut album in the fall, and to expand our PeaceTones ambassadors by holding a PeaceTones program in Kibera, Kenya.

Do you collaborate with any of the following: (Check all that apply)

Technology providers, NGOs/Nonprofits, For profit companies, Academia/universities.

If yes, how have these collaborations helped your innovation to succeed?

University students and professors have helped us to develop workshop materials, run workshops, and market and promote the PeaceTones brand and its music ambassadors through both grassroots marketing and formal partnership. We have worked with both internationally renown as well as small local NGOs in the locales we work, ranging from the film NGO, Shine a Light, to the World Justice Project. We have also worked with businesses, ranging from professional musicians that have mentored our artists to develop high quality musical products, to amateur musicians that donate in-kind with promotions dedicated to the PeaceTones message, to large law firms that have donated their expertise to support our continued message of using the law to support and protect music.