Listen Better

Sonos is devoted to empowering everyone to listen better. For fifteen years, we’ve focused on helping customers experience the life-changing power of music with our products. Our business has grown steadily, and now that we are in a position to do more, we’ve launched Listen Better, an initiative aimed at confronting the forces threatening music and sonic culture.

Music and sonic culture are under threat.

Around the world, musicians on the frontlines of social movements face persecution and punishment. Some must even risk their lives. All-powerful gatekeepers threaten to wall creative artists in and obstruct audiences’ access to their work. Women and other marginalised groups struggle to make their voices heard, not just as musicians and artists but also in less celebrated areas, such as production and songwriting. And important grassroots organisations trying to address these issues struggle with overworked volunteers and shoestring budgets.

We’re helping by taking a different approach to activism.

We start by listening first and foremost, convening small roundtables with pioneering activists and non-profits from all over the world to learn about their work and how we can support their efforts in truly meaningful ways.

Using our company’s unique resources, including money, products, spaces and reach, we are partnering with organisations to achieve the following objectives:

  • Fight music censorship and promote free expression.
  • Ensure that the Internet and new technologies foster diversity and equal access to sonic culture.
  • Support music education in underserved communities to inspire the next generation of artists, engineers, and scientists.

We’ve allocated USD 1.5 million in unrestricted grants for the next three years to provide select non-profits with USD 5,000-USD 15,000. We are opening up our flagship stores and spaces worldwide to host events and working with our network of cultural influencers to amplify the causes of our grantees.

Nurturing a grassroots network.

Part of our mission is to highlight activist groups on the frontlines and to foster community engagement with their work. Stay tuned for stories and updates on how these organisations are making an impact and see how you can contribute to their efforts.

Focusing on the next generation - STEAM

At Sonos, our products embody the combination of arts, technology, and engineering. That’s why Listen Better’s work includes supporting organisations focused on Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics (STEAM). We’re partnering with dynamic organisations in our communities to ensure the next generation is poised to enjoy creativity and sonic culture.

Listen Better Inaugural Grants

The following six organisations have each received a USD 15,000 grant to support their incredible work. Click to learn more.

Access Now
Access Now New York, NY

Access Now defends and extends the digital rights of users at risk around the world. They work to combine innovative policy, global advocacy, and direct technical support and fight for open and secure communications for all.

Access Now’s policy work focuses on developing and promoting rights-respecting practices and policies. The group seeks to advance laws and global norms to affect long-term systemic change in the area of digital rights and online security, developing insightful, rights-based, and well-researched policy guidance to governments, corporations, and civil society.

In advocacy, Access Now leverages deep user engagement, bold visual advocacy, and innovative campaign tactics. Their campaigns bring our policy positions and advocacy asks straight to the halls of parliaments and corporate boardrooms, package and deliver secure technologies to protect users at risk, and mobilise global internet users to pressure the powerful. Access Now also provides technology solutions and real-time advice for users at risk in circumstances where communications are not open, free, or safe.

ARTICLE 19 London, UK

ARTICLE 19 is a British human rights organisation founded in 1987 with a specific mandate and focus on the defence and promotion of freedom of expression and freedom of information worldwide. The group campaign in collaboration with partners around the world for the right to exercise these rights. Priorities include:

  • Working on behalf of freedom of expression wherever it is threatened. This work includes monitoring, research, publishing, advocacy, campaigning, setting standards, and litigation
  • Advising on the development of legislation to protect freedom of expression and freedom of information in countries emerging from conflict, war, and genocide
  • Campaigning to safeguard pluralism, independence, and diversity of views in the media
  • Championing freedom of expression, including freedom of information, as a fundamental human right that is central to the protection of other rights
  • Advocating for freedom of information legislation to ensure transparency and to strengthen citizens' participation
Freemuse Copenhagen, Denmark

Freemuse believes that art is not a crime. We are an international human rights organisation advocating for and defending freedom of expression by people who create art in any form, as well as those who wish to enjoy and experience artistic and cultural expression. We advocate for these freedoms and on behalf of targeted artists and audiences through campaigns, actions, and projects that seek to protect these values and hold groups accountable who are obligated to provide a safe environment for artistic creation and experience.

Freemuse began its journey in 1998 when it specifically focused on music and the censorship of musicians at a time when there was no organisation shedding light on these issues. We have since expanded our mandate to cover all art forms. Freemuse also holds Special Consultative Status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), providing research and guidance on artistic freedom issues globally

Creative Time
Creative Time New York, NY

Over the past four decades, Creative Time has commissioned and presented ambitious public art projects with thousands of artists throughout New York City, across the country, around the world—and now even in outer space. Their work is guided by three core values: art matters, artists’ voices are important in shaping society, and public spaces are places for creative and free expression.

Creative Time is acclaimed for the innovative and meaningful projects we have commissioned, from Tribute in Light, the twin beacons of light that illuminated lower Manhattan six months after 9/11, to bus ads promoting HIV awareness, to Paul Chan’s production of Waiting for Godot in New Orleans, and much more. They are committed to presenting important art for our times and engaging broad audiences that transcend geographic, racial, and socio-economic barriers.

Future of Music Coalition (FMC)
Future of Music Coalition (FMC) Washington, DC

Future of Music Coalition (FMC) is a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit organisation supporting a musical ecosystem where artists flourish and are compensated fairly and transparently for their work.

Music is about more than commerce and entertainment—it’s about community-building and creative communication. At a time when free expression faces new threats, it’s more important than ever to make sure diverse artists have the ability to express themselves freely, reach audiences, and build sustainable careers, from the studio to the stage and beyond..

FMC works towards this goal through original research, educational resources that help artists navigate changing business models, and direct advocacy to ensure that musicians’ voices are heard on the full range of issues that impact their lives and livelihoods. From free expression to affordable health care, from arts funding to net neutrality, from copyright to media ownership, FMC is an independent voice for musicians of all genres.

Index on Censorship
Index on Censorship London, UK

Index on Censorship is a non-profit that campaigns for and defends the fundamental right to freedom of expression worldwide. We publish work by censored writers and artists, promote debate, and monitor threats to free speech. Through our campaigns and our Freedom of Expression Awards Fellowship, Index directly supports groups and individuals facing censorship.

Get involved.

If you would like to register your interest in our Listen Better initiative, please fill out this form and tell us about your work. We’ll be taking applications in the Summer of 2018.

Frequently asked questions

  • Why now?
    For 15 years, we’ve focused our business on helping customers experience the life-changing power of music through wireless home audio. Now that we have the means, it’s time to fight for our values as a company.
  • Why these objectives?
    Our objectives work to fight against threats to music and sonic culture, while providing resources for artists and the next generation of creators to thrive.
  • What does Sonos know about activism?
    It’s vital that we recognise both our strengths and weaknesses as a business. Sonos is new to activism, which is why we’ve started with listening to and supporting the change makers. Our goal is to lead from behind, using our voice when it can make a crucial impact and when our partners need us to do so. We are here to offer our unique resources, including expansive communications capabilities, financing, a large audience of music lovers, and our relationships with artists.
  • How much is Sonos committing to this effort?
    We’ve committed $1.5 million in unrestricted grants over the next three years to fund grass-roots organisations. We also donate products, provide employees with paid volunteer time, and offer up our spaces, such as our retail stores.
  • How often will you issue grants?
    Grants will be issued on an annual basis.
  • How do I apply?
    You can register your interest by filling out the form above. (Note that this is not an official application.) We’ll issue an open call for applications in Summer 2018.
  • How will this model of giving small grants make an impact?
    In designing our strategy for Listen Better, we conducted a lot of research and, more importantly, listened to grass-roots organisations. We asked how Sonos could create the most positive impact for them. Our approach stemmed from these key learnings:
    • The most lasting change comes from the ground up. Every $1 invested by grant-makers in policy advocacy, community organising, and civic engagement provides a $115 return in community benefit, according to the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy.
    • Traditional corporate foundations disproportionately support the largest NGOs. This leaves grass-roots groups underfunded. About 2.3% of non-profits account for 90% of total non-profit revenue in the US, according to Nonprofit News. Large NGOs do deserve our support but we will aim to offer a balanced portfolio to effect lasting change.
    • Community-based endeavours are especially in need of support. We heard this loud and clear in our roundtable with activists. Local change makers often struggle to find funding.
  • What’s the difference between Listen Better and Sonos Cares?
    Listen Better is our grant-making wing of the organisation, laser-focused on activism and music and sonic culture. Sonos Cares is our employee volunteer programme, which allows our staff to devote their time to giving back to local communities. The two initiatives work closely together and coordinate to help meet the needs of the organisations with which we work.