Verge Records (www.vergerecords.org), an independent record label based in New York City, announced today that it won the Social Entrepreneurship Award at New York University's Stern School of Business 7th Annual Maximum Exposure Business Plan Competition. In winning the competition, Verge demonstrated its commitment to a double bottom line: financial profitability and social impact, and received $50,000 in seed money from the Stewart Satter Family fund.
"Verge is both a social venture and a real market opportunity in an untapped niche," says Emmanuel Zunz, the label's founder and creative force. The label showcases cutting-edge, politically and socially conscious music from distressed neighborhoods across the globe. "It's a style of music which builds upon musical and cultural traditions, and incorporates contemporary elements such as Hip Hop and Electronica, making it accessible to American audiences." Verge uses record sales to support educational organizations in artists' neighborhoods working with at-risk youth through music and art. The cycle comes full circle when Verge identifies and recruits promising young talent nurtured by these programs.
"Our social mission is integral to Verge's DNA and brand," states Zunz. "We are doing much more than selling records; through their support of Verge, we are giving our listeners the opportunity to join with our musicians in confronting poverty and other important social issues." Zunz himself is a classically trained musician and holds a Master's degree in International Economics from Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS).
Verge's initial artist releases stem from the label's strong ties to Brazil, where Zunz was first inspired to launch a social venture. The apocalyptical Zen prophet and politicized shaman known as BNegão started his career with the successful Brazilian Hip Hop band - Planet Hemp, which also included Marcelo D2. BNegão calls his sound the "B side of Black music:" dub, Hip-Hop, jazz, 70's funk, reggae, samba and Miami bass, even touching upon hardcore. Verge has also teamed up with Alma, the New York based and underground Brazilian/bohemian party to launch a compilation this Fall.
To fulfill its social mission, Verge has partnered with Schools Without Borders (SWB), a Canadian-based nonprofit which seeks to develop lasting learning communities through initiatives that facilitate youth engagement and responsible leadership. Verge plans to use up to ten percent of profits to fund SWB music education programs in distressed communities. It also plans to work with SWB to build local recording studios, which will be used to help youth gain audio production skills and give voice to young musicians. Verge plans to release compilations of the best tracks recorded in these studios, in addition to releasing the music of already established artists.
Defined as the extreme edge or margin, Verge stands for both groundbreaking music and the neighborhoods that produce it. The first community project Verge intends to support is located in the Vila Alianca slum located on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Vila Alianca is a haven for drug traffickers and one of the most violent places in the world. According to Social Watch, 14,000 youths in Rio under the age of 24 met a violent death in 2004. But within this setting operates the Ponto BR program. Run by local musicians and artists, the initiative aims to keep youth out of the clutches of drug lords by offering Hip Hop, graffiti, percussion, and soccer workshops.
"We want to help out kids in these neighborhoods in a way that is meaningful to them," explains Zunz. "Around the world, Hip Hop has been adopted by economically distr