SRQ Magazine | July 2015
When Sophie Cache heard the voice of A child singing on the street corner during a business trip to Indonesia, she was moved to drop money in the child’s cup—until someone pointed out a shady figure across the street. Cache was told the singer was a slave, kidnapped by a master who would pocket any money, and that her generosity would only support a terrible human trafficking trade.
“Indonesia is not like America,” she says. “You are not allowed to dream.” The experience haunted Cache even after the trip, discussing the encounter weeks later with her husband Johnnie Chung. The entrepreneurial Chung found the tale moving. Could there be some way the couple could aid these singers halfway across the world? He set out to create a system where money for music could flow directly to the performer, and the StarRizer streaming service was born. Chung became CEO, Cache took the role of president and Naples investor Charles Hallberg was appointed chairman of the board. Part iTunes and part Kickstarter, StarRizer allows money paid by music fans to go to an account for the musicians; the business model even allows listeners to become promoters and get paid as more people discover music at no cost to the musicians themselves. Of the $1.29 a consumer spends on a song on StarRizer, 25 cents goes to the performer, with the rest split between promoters and supporting the system itself. “If you believe in the power of music, and believe power should be in the hands of the people, then support StarRizer,” Chung says. The service does not exclusively showcase artists coming from poverty. Today it includes thousands of unsigned artists from around the world, from developing nations in Asia to upstarts in Sarasota. Chung is convinced if he can get some major stars—perhaps someone like Jay-Z, who demonstrated belief in pay-to-play streaming with the launch of Tidal last year—then interest will soar. The consumer, meanwhile, enjoys access to undiscovered talents from around the world and the rewarding knowledge they can put a dollar in this virtual cup with a clear conscience.