An accomplished musician is ditching record labels and teaming up with his fans — for good.

Singer-songwriter and producer Kenna wants to be the first-ever 'one-for-one' recording artist.

The music industry can be brutal.

Everyone wants their cut: record labels — especially record labels — agents, lawyers, managers, promoters, and other grabby middlemen.

It's particularly tough on artists supporting themselves while also trying to make a positive difference in the world through their craft.


Photo by Sascha Kohlmann/Flickr.

In the age of streaming, most recording artists face a steep climb just to make a living, let alone become philanthropists.

By the time we hear the songs, much of what we spend to enjoy our favorite musicians' hard work has been scattered by the winds of industry, and little remains for social responsibility.

Research by data journalist David McCandless, for example, shows that record labels take between 81% and 86% of payouts from streaming services like Spotify.

Photo by Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP/Getty Images.

Musician, producer, and activist Kenna Zemedkun has worked in the music-industrial complex for years and is ready for change.

He wants to produce and sell all of his music and perform all of his concerts as a "one-for-one" artist — one who "makes a commitment to improving the world through the daily sales and business of music."

Kenna Zemedkun (left) and his father. Image from Translator Labs (screenshot).

Being a one-for-one artist, according to Kenna, means cutting out the middlemen and clearing a path for partnership with his fans.

"Instead of giving the majority of money I make to the music industry, I could just use it to benefit the causes that you and I care about."

With fan support, Kenna plans to independently produce all of his music and send half of everything he earns to important causes.

"Every time you listen to the music I produce, get tickets to my show, click 'like,' 'buy,' 'share,' ... you knew it was funding change," he says in a one-for-one kick-off video. "Instead of giving the majority of money I make to the music industry, I could just use it to benefit the causes that you and I care about."

Among Kenna's causes are getting clean water to impoverished communities, fighting for women's rights, and (naturally) expanding arts education in schools.

Kenna's pilot one-for-one project is an album called "Songs for Flight." Here's the first recorded track:

Kenna hopes the one-for-one model inspires other musicians to seize their power, connect more deeply with their fans, and make an impact.

Time will tell if the one-for-one model can change the music industry, but in the meantime, Kenna's goal is straightforward: spread the word, raise money, make art, help people. Now that's a song worth hearing on repeat.

Watch Kenna's one-for-one kick-off video:

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