My name is Mitchell Matthews, and I’m an autistic singer-songwriter from St. Louis, MO, currently based in Springfield, MO!
Two years ago, in August of 2019, I read about Jair Bolsonaro, the incumbent president of Brazil, facilitating the intentional deforestation of the Amazon rainforest, which would disrupt its effect on the Earth’s temperature/ecosystem, and put the indigenous peoples still living there in danger. Like many people, I was angry, and in turn, spent the next four days taking a set of lyrics I had written months prior about not taking life/myself so seriously, switching the wording/connotation, adding more lyrics, and having my roommate at the time add some instrumentation, which resulted in my song, “Amazonia.”
(note: 100% of the profits made from Amazonia, whether on Bandcamp, Spotify, or iTunes/Apple Music, have been/will be donated to Amazon Watch and Rainforest Trust.)
After writing and releasing this song, and making the decision to donate all of the possible profit, it dawned on me that I live in an age, whether we’re talking about climate change, environmentalism, LGBTQIA+ rights, racial justice, disability rights, mental health awareness, etc, where I should be spending my life fighting for other people, as much as taking care of myself.
Similar to how Bandcamp dedicates the first Friday of every month to giving their share of artist’s profits to the artists themselves, or how Spotify allows you to include a direct fundraising link at the top of your profile, whether that money is going to you or an organization you support, all in honor of COVID-19, I had the idea of making a music platform/record label focused around charity, fundraising, and advocacy. I sat on the idea for awhile, trying to figure out the most effective way to bring this to life, and then, after the Black Lives Matter protests that commenced in May of 2020, I was inspired to launch the first official website for Songs with a Purpose.
The image above is the first official logo of Songs with a Purpose, designed specifically to be immediately recognizable and adaptable, depending on the cause we’re promoting; for more information on SWAP as a whole, visit our website at https://songswithapurpose.org/.
The organization was first focused on what I call the Artist Pledge Program, where we work directly with artists of any size (local/independent, bigger, etc), in which they pledge either parts of their discography, everything they’ve released up to this point, or exclusive music that hasn’t been released, for however long, and a percentage of their choice would be donated to an organization of their choice, with the remaining percentage split between them and SWAP. Though, we are currently putting that program on hold, until we gain a sizable enough audience to bring effective promotion and attention to the artists we are working with.
Though, after a suggestion by my close friend and partner in SWAP, Jacob Snow, we have since started/been focusing on the Songs with a Purpose streamraisers, which are charity concerts live-streamed on Twitch, where artists of all sizes/backgrounds can perform/promote their music, and all the donations from viewers go towards the cause/organizations of the month.
We did our first streamraiser in December of 2020 (the Songs with a Purpose Christmas Streamraiser), where we raised $435 for COVID-19/homeless relief, and split those profits amongst Crisis Aid International (crisisaid.org), an organization that provides food for malnourished children, medical care, orphan care, water wells, safe homes for victims of sex trafficking, emergency relief & more, and Southwest Missouri Solidarity Network (https://www.facebook.com/SWMOSolidarity), a grassroots mutual aid organization serving people marginalized by capitalism, such as the large homeless population in Springfield, MO.
In addition to the streamraiser itself, we released a compilation album of original works by a selection of artists who performed on Bandcamp, and the majority of profits will go towards Crisis Aid International and Southwest Missouri Solidarity Network, while the rest will distributed between the artists and SWAP; if you would like to check out and/or buy the individual songs or compilation as a whole, you can visit our Bandcamp at https://swaprecords.bandcamp.com.
And now, on April 2nd, 3rd, and 4th, starting at 6:00 pm (CST) each night, we will be hosting our next Songs with a Purpose streamraiser, centered around Autism Acceptance (at the suggestion of my good friend Emily, who is also autistic), exclusively on our Twitch. (Note: The Musical Autist has no association with the Twitch platform and parents should use discretion if giving access to their children.) Similar to a music festival, like Lollapalooza or Coachella, close to 30 artists will be performing across all three nights, and donations sent in by viewers will be distributed amongst The Musical Autist and the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network (ASAN) [if you are unable to attend, but would still like to support our streamraiser, and in turn, these wonderful donations, you can send in your donations to https://www.paypal.me/swaprecords).
The official logo for our Songs with a Purpose Autism Acceptance Streamraiser, modeled after the neurodiversity ribbon; to watch the streamraiser, visit our Twitch account, at https://www.twitch.tv/songswithapurpose.
Additionally, the lineup of musicians on April 2nd will consist exclusively of autistic musicians, including The Musical Autist’s very own Co-Founder, Sunny Cefaratti, newest Board member, Will Swartz, and two of our Content Writers, Jennifer Msumba and Hilary Baird, as well as other musicians across the United States and around the world. As an autistic musician myself, it was important to have autistic representation within our streamraiser, outside of myself, in order to amplify our voices and show my friends/family/viewers just how big of an autistic/autistic musician community there is.
Thank you to The Musical Autist for being such a great partner to work with (I hope to do more with you all personally and under SWAP in the future), and for giving me the platform to share our story with this article. Additionally, thank you dear reader, for reading this, and we hope to see you at our streamraiser, or hear from you in the future!