Regent Park School of Music turns royalties into donations

A sustainable fundraising program results in a sample of its students' music being used on Taylor Swift's new album.

The Regent Park School of Music has found a way for a fundraising program to support its music classes for years to come – especially now that it has a role in one of the year’s most anticipated album releases.

The Regent Park School of Music aims to remove financial barriers to music education for at-risk youth, serving kids under the age of 18 in high-priority Toronto neighbourhoods like Regent Park and Jane and Finch. To help fundraise in support of the school’s music programs, 14 students from the school recorded Parkscapes, an 11-song album of compositions and samples.

Unlike many other fundraising programs, the “Sample School” program (developed by agency BBDO Toronto) is designed to extend well beyond a limited campaign period: every time a track from the album is used as a sample in a song, all licensing fees, royalties and residuals that song generates will be directed back to the school for as long as the song continues to be sold in record stores, played on the radio, streamed online or used in a soundtrack.

“It felt like a great fit for RPSM, because the kids who benefit from the program were now playing a direct role in sustaining it,” says Rana Chatterjee, ACD at BBDO Toronto, who is friends with an instructor at the school. “The goal of RPSM isn’t to build better musicians. It’s to build better people, to turn the kids who walk through those halls into community leaders through the values RPSM embodies.”

Regent Park School of Music and BBDO worked with producer and DJ Frank Dukes to record and produce the album of samples, working for three days out of House of Balloons, a studio owned by The Weeknd, who Dukes has previously worked with. The album, published in June, is also hosted on Kingsway Music Library, Dukes’ online collection of music and samples.

Dukes has been credited on songs from artists including Lorde, Drake, The Jonas Brothers, Post Malone, Wu-Tang Clan and Taylor Swift. Among the three songs he produced for Swift’s new album Lover is “It’s Nice to Have a Friend,” which samples songs from the Parkscapes album that Dukes shared with her before it was released.

Richard Marsella, executive director of Regent Park School of Music, said staff and faculty at the school were “thrilled” to hear themselves on the album, on top of the exposure it gives to its work. But besides students at the school getting to hear themselves on one of the more highly anticipated albums of the year, having a contribution to Lover will likely have a big impact on the “Sample School” fundraising project: the album has sold nearly 600,000 copies in the U.S. alone since its release on Friday – making it the country’s fastest-selling album of the year so far – with “It’s Nice to Have a Friend” earning four million streams on Spotify in its first three days (Swift also made an additional donation to the school).

Parkscapes is being promoted through PR and Dukes’ own social channels. Volume 2, created in collaboration with Matty Tavares of Bad Bad Not Good, will be released in the near future.