July 16th is the anniversary of the death of Harry Chapin, one of the world’s great humanitarians and one of music’s finest story-song writers. I remember the exact moment I heard the news on the radio that Harry Chapin had been killed in a car accident on the Long Island Expressway. He was heading to New York City to meet with his manager to discuss cutting back on his performance dates. His detailed songs, filled with life’s reality touched me, like many during Chapin’s heyday. He wrote about subjects most other writers dared not touch. His legacy is his profound devotion to the performing arts and helping to solve one of the world’s most unnecessary problems, hunger. The organization, World Hunger Year, is a testament to Chapin’s charitable efforts during his lifetime and it remains one of the leading organizations fighting hunger today.
I would like to pay tribute to Harry Chapin by revisiting the theme of contributing to your community. In my article, How To Benefit from Playing Benefit Shows, I focused on the benefits you might reap from doing charitable concerts. Now I’d like to turn the tables and encourage you to consider how you can use your music to make a difference in someone’s life, in your community, in your country, and in the world.
Music is a powerful medium. A performer has the ability to influence attitudes, enlighten people to new ideas, shed light on important causes. You have the capability of moving people and even governments to action and affect changes that enrich people’s lives. Sometimes it is as simple as asking people to bring some canned goods to a concert to be donated to the local food bank. Sometimes it is simply providing written brochures at your concerts and mentioning the cause you are supporting from the stage. Mostly, it is finding some cause that ignites your passion and moves you to action. You don’t need to found a new cause. There are plenty of charities that could use your help already hard at work.
The entertainment industry has long been in the forefront of identifying important issues and bringing them to the public’s attention. Continuing to focus on hunger, it was again Harry Chapin who convinced then manager, Ken Kragen (Kenny Rogers manager and author of Life Is A Contact Sport), to stage a national media event to increase awareness of this nation’s homeless and hungry. Hands Across America involved five and a half million people spanning 4,152 miles joining hands and singing songs from coast to coast. “We Are The World” was another enormous effort for hunger relief in Africa spurred on by Harry Belafonte, it involved many notable recording artists. An environmental cause such as cleaning up the Hudson River was brought to light by folk singer, Pete Seeger. There are many more examples, but I want to get you thinking about your role and how you can make a difference with any of your affiliations.
First and foremost, are you compelled to get involved with and have your creativity and art be associated with something bigger than yourself, something that touches others in a meaningful way beyond entertainment value?
Begin by looking to your own community to see what efforts already exist which you would like to become associated.
Perhaps you might find an issue that needs fresh attention, something not already in the public eye.
- Think of a number of ways in which you can promote the cause through your performances, for example:
- Declare a portion of concert proceeds will go to the cause.
- Have brochures and information available at your concerts.
- Mention the cause from the stage.
- Invite members of the organization to be present at your shows to answer questions.
Contact the organization promoting the cause if one already exists and present your ideas to them. Invite them to become involved with your efforts on their behalf. If there is money collected, donors will want to know that their contributions are tax-deductible. You might get others involved who can create an ongoing organization to address the issue for the long-term once attention is focused in that direction.
Motivate the media to write about your cause-stage a media event. The most effective way to get the media interested in the cause is to stage an interesting and innovative media event. Seeger sailed up and down the Hudson River in the Sloop Clearwater during October each year, stopping at various ports along the route giving away pumpkins and hosting small music festivals. This attracted the attention of the media and increased the public’s awareness of the need to clean up the Hudson River. It has made a monumental difference in the Hudson River today. The media is your best friend when it comes to writing about a novel event. Make sure you send plenty of press releases describing the event and the cause for which you are working.
As I consult with more artists each day, I see so many finding new meaning in their performing careers because their passions have grown beyond simply playing the gig. They are driven more by how the music can impact social change. If you are so inclined, use your music to make a difference. What you leave behind will be much more than the music.
And, I invite you to learn more about this and other topics important to your career development and to sign up for free weekly audio Biz Booster Hot Tip! Every Monday you’ll get another valuable strategy and technique that you can put to use immediately. You’ll find helpful books, career development seminars, Booking & Touring Success Strategies & Secrets online course and information on booking tours, the music business and performing arts. It’s all waiting for you at http://www.performingbiz.com. Jeri Goldstein is the author of, How To Be Your Own Booking Agent The Musician’s & Performing Artist’s Guide To Successful Touring, 3rd Edition.
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