Musicians use social media a lot. If you have even one musician friend, your Facebook inbox is probably filled with event invites for shows.
That’s certainly the case for me. And I don’t know about you, but I’ve noticed something change about these invites.
In the last six months or so, it seems like events promote bands less – and social justice causes more. Bands of all sizes, willing to donate the money from their shows to the benefits of their choice.
The change came against the backdrop of a tumultuous political climate that had communities divided across the country. I was thinking a lot about where to start, how to help at a time when so many people were feeling vulnerable.
Then I realized all I had to do was go to a show, or pick up some new music.
This spike in benefit concerts – people infusing a sense of community and social responsibility into their passions – shows the potential our generation has to better our world with nothing but an instrument or two.
A local show might not make more than a few hundred dollars, but keep in mind what the smaller bands give up: a (rare) opportunity to temporarily set back the cost of strings, practice spaces, gas – and the satisfaction of some cash in your wallet after hours of practice, promoting shows and emailing back and forth with bookers.
If you’re on the road, those sacrifices are compounded. That’s why I talked to Hayden Eller, whose Bellingham-based band The Co-Founder recently decided to turn tour gigs into benefit shows.
“It wasn’t a difficult decision,” he says simply. “All four of us in The Co Founder place great importance in actively giving back to our community.”
Eller says the band just wants to combine their passion for music with their desire to make a positive impact.
“We were happy to take a ‘loss’ and fund those tours out-of-pocket so that the earnings could be used to help others.”
Eller also helps other bands do the same, through his nonprofit label, Life Vest Records. Profits from the label’s first compilation went to the Opportunity Council of Whatcom County, which helps homeless and low-income families in northern Washington.
Eller says there’s another compilation slated for June, but hasn’t decided what cause will get the money from that upcoming release.
The Co Founder is far from the only band of young people mixing passion with action. Just take Portland artists for example. Quone and (possibly my favorite local band) Two Moons recently played all-ages benefit show for Voz Hispana Cambio Communitario. You can pay what you want for Cool American’s Better Luck Next Year Vol. 2, and the band will pass the money along to the Southern Poverty Law Center. The dollar you throw down to get Turtlenecked’s new single “Boy’s Club” goes straight to Planned Parenthood.
Big names are getting involved too. Sleater-Kinney and Feist both released brand new singles for the vinyl box set “7-Inches for Planned Parenthood.” Beach Fossils, Animal Collective’s Avey Tare and Angel Olsen are just three of the 100 major artists contributing to “Our First 100 Days,” a compilation that benefits organizations involved with issues like LGBTQ rights and climate protection.
And – if you aren’t already – you can get involved. You can give back and create positive change through something as simple as going to a bar when a benefit art show or concert is going on. Or by buying an album that donates proceeds to nonprofits.
But if you play music, put together a show for a cause you care about. If you draw, use that to raise funds for a group of people doing something that excites you. I don’t know you. You know you. Figure out where your passions lie, and use that to make a small impact on something you care about.
Eller says, if you’re new to getting involved and want to know where to start, check out DIY art and punk shows. He says those crowds usually know which issues aren’t getting a fair shake in mainstream discussion (or funding opportunities, usually), so they can point you in the right direction.
Don’t get overwhelmed by how massive world issues can be. Don’t feel like it’s out of your control. Focus locally. Do the little things. Go to a show. Buy some art. Find your way to do what you love in a way that helps others.
And really, if helping out your city by drinking beer and listening to music is too much to ask… we’re doomed.