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Pulitzer Center Update October 9, 2020

Behind the Story: The Outlaw Ocean Music Project

Media: Authors:
Image courtesy of The Outlaw Ocean Project.
Image courtesy of The Outlaw Ocean Project.

Editor's Note on October 9, 2020: Ian Urbina is a Pulitzer Center grantee for reporting on Libya that is forthcoming. Although The Outlaw Ocean Music Project was not supported with Pulitzer Center funds, we are supportive of the great work Urbina has done on this exciting project. 

What do musicians and journalists have in common? They are both storytellers, according to investigative journalist and grantee Ian Urbina. Over the course of five years reporting on lawlessness at sea for his book The Outlaw Ocean, Urbina amassed a vast audio archive of field recordings. From this sound archive, The Outlaw Ocean Music Project was born. 

The Music Project is a first-of-its-kind initiative that invites artists from around the world to create music inspired by Urbina's field recordings and reporting. Spanning numerous genres, from electronic and ambient to classical and hip hop, the music seeks to capture the emotions and raise awareness of the critical offshore issues described by the book. 

While being an artistic experiment, The Outlaw Ocean Music Project also re-examines the traditional ways we consume and fund journalism. Enlisting over 400 musicians from more than 60 countries, the project has translated Urbina's stories into music heard by millions of listeners worldwide on platforms like Spotify and Pandora.

Pulitzer Center intern Ethan Ehrenhaft interviewed Urbina and produced the above video exploring the Music Project's origins, creative process, and impact.

To learn more about The Outlaw Ocean Music Project and listen to its tracks visit


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