Listen Better: An Open Letter from Patrick Spence


Music is at the heart of our mission at Sonos.  But in today’s world, music faces mounting threats. Too many artists face barriers to free expression and others can be jailed or even killed for merely sharing their songs over the internet. Communities lack space and resources to ensure all musicians can be heard. We’re failing to foster a new generation of music lovers prepared for success in the modern economy. Music, along with film, suffers from many violations to artistic freedom. Our failure to protect music is a failure to protect the basic liberties of all people.

That’s why we’re committing to work actively to promote and protect the future of music—using our business to support those confronting threats to music, whether targeted at artists or a symptom of broader injustices affecting all disempowered communities, and helping to make music a central part of life for everyone. Our commitment to these issues is driven by Sonos’ deep connection to music culture as well as our fundamental values around universal human rights. And while music will serve our primary driver, we will also act according to our belief that greater freedom for music means greater freedom for all other forms of expression, such as journalism, film and protest – and vice versa.

We recognize we have a lot to learn about the fight to protect basic rights for artists and other complex policy issues related to our mission. Earlier this year we invited a group of leading activists to our Boston offices to listen and ask: How can Sonos most effectively support organizations working courageously on the frontlines? Their messages were straightforward: Community-based initiatives need more support and flashy corporate partnerships often get in the way of true priorities.

In response, we’re launching a new initiative called Listen Better that will enable our company to act meaningfully on behalf of our values around music. We will focus on building strong, lasting relationships, with no strings attached to our product, based on a simple philosophy: Do what does the most good to help those on the frontlines. We plan to support grassroots activist and advocacy work with small, strategic grants and grow our program carefully over time as we continue to listen and learn.

To get started, we’ve committed $1.5 million in unrestricted grants over the next three years to fund groups around the world working on five key objectives:

  • Fight censorship and promote free expression for underserved artists.
  • Defend digital rights and access to information for musicians and other artists.
  • Provide space and tools so that musicians can be heard.
  • Support music education in underserved communities.
  • Inspire the next generation of artists, engineers and scientists.

We’ve awarded our inaugural round of Listen Better grants to the six organizations who joined our roundtable this summer and who will help us identify the issues at the heart of our future grassroots grant giving: Access Now, Article 19, Creative Time, Freemuse, the Future of Music Coalition and Index on Censorship. These groups have generously agreed to continue advising Sonos on key priorities and strategy as we continue to learn and build this program in the months and years ahead.


Sonos invited a group of leading activists to listen and ask: How can Sonos most effectively support organizations working courageously on the frontlines?


Listen Better will work with Q-Tip, an artist with a long history of making music to achieve social good who has inspired us for decades with his art and activism. Q-Tip has advised Sonos for several years, and as Advisor of Listen Better, he will play a major role in guiding our giving strategy, helping to spread the word about urgent issues facing music, and spurring more people to get involved.

In the spirit of working to promote and protect the future of music, we want to hear from you. Please use this link to tell us about your work.

In early 2018, we will launch a program to allow any eligible organization, based anywhere in the world, to apply for a Sonos grant. And over time, we plan to use Sonos’ unique resources beyond financial support, including the many talents of our employees around the world, and a large audience that shares our love of music, which we can engage to get involved in this important work.

Listening makes life better. But without freedom for the underserved to make their voices heard, there is nothing to listen to. There’s just silence. So we must listen better – and fight for the future of music.


Patrick Spence
CEO, Sonos

Also available in: Danmark Deutschland España France Italia Nederland Norge Sverige United Kingdom United States