Musicians have more power than many other groups to enact real change by capitalizing on the deep emotional connection they develop with their fans and supporters. Musicians and the organizations they support have leveraged these connections in ways both big (FarmAid, Live Aid, Project [RED]) and small (farmer’s markets, rent parties). However, it can be a wasted opportunity if not done for the right reasons, with the right collaborators, or with an understanding of the philanthropic vibe in your community. The last thing you want to do is cannibalize another event or organization, so take a little time to ask around and see what’s already in place.
Here are a few simple questions to consider before taking on a project that’s near and dear to your heart.
What cause is most important to you?
With so many worthy causes to choose from (world hunger, social justice, human rights, global warming, etc.), it can be tempting to take up any or all causes that wander your way. And while strategy and art are not typically the most compatible of bedfellows, prioritizing your attention (something you do everyday as a self-motivated creative) is key to success. Do you spend every weekend hiking and rock climbing? (I’m in awe of your supreme physical prowess!) These lifestyle choices probably come out in your work and your audience is likely already aligned with them. Do some quick research to find organizations that are active in your community and start by following them on social media or showing up to their next event. Your support can then grow from organic participation and you’ll be able to count on that organization down the road to support your work as if it were their own—because it will be.
Who will help make the event a success?
As mentioned above, your relationship with the organization or cause you plan to support will be a key element in your success, but don’t forget about the other people who will need to be involved. This starts with other musicians: the members of your band and/or the other acts you hope will join the fight. Although a solo show could feel incredibly gratifying if you pull it off, every new collaborator you book on the bill will the increase the potential fan base that’s ready to give and spread the message. And unless you’re a wiz with spreadsheets, communications, and all the other skills required to organize an event with this many moving pieces, you should consider finding a few non-musician partners to pitch in with setup, promotion and event management. You likely have many friends just as passionate about the cause as you are (that’s one reason they’re your friends), who would love to help. Make the cause—and the team effort behind the concert—the focus of your event, and everyone wins.
What’s your goal?
There are many possible calls to action when putting on an event like this—and you’re better off prioritizing these as well. Do you simply want to raise awareness or would you prefer to raise money? If you’re raising money, do you plan on donating to the national organization or the local chapter? Effective goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound (SMART). Instead of just “doing whatever you can to help,” set some benchmarks for yourself and your collaborators. Do you want to raise $500 or $5,000? It’s important to choose the end goal at the start of your work—it can influence which cause you support, who you collaborate with, how you promote, where you book the event, and even what music you perform. You’re joining a noble tradition…take a moment to revel in the warm glow of your positive contribution to the world.
Additional questions to consider:
• How will you leverage your work to get the most artistic and career benefit?
• Do you have photos, video or audio recordings from your performance to share with those fans unable to attend the event?
• How often will you do this work?
• Where can you make the most difference?