Music is power: How non-profits are working with musicians

Posted by Isabel on Jul 10, 2013 05:20 AM

Various musicians have been teaming up with non-profit organizations in unique, creative ways that both benefit a great cause and introduce how music can be a part of it. Think about it: music is power. That's a statement most people will agree with, as music has the ability to empower and move people in a very big and inspiring way. Protest songs have long been a part of historical, social movements, but how does that translate to current movements, both big and small?  It's always cool when release likes "Hope For Haiti Now" and "Chimes Of Freedom" bring together celebrity artists for a good cause, but, nowadays some non-profits are starting to team up with more indie musicians on creative, music-related campaigns that raise awareness year-round.  And it's brilliant.

While some orgs have built relationships with more well-known artists, others are working with indie musicians to promote their causes while also introducing their supporters to great, emerging talent. It's the best of both worlds, really: you (as the audience) get to support a cause you care about while simultaneously discovering a new artist; and you (as a musician) can share your passion through both a charity and your music. As a performer, you probably won't make any money from being a part of a benefit concert, but, why not donate your music to a worthwhile cause? Volunteering through art is a rather unique way of giving back  and music is a powerful way to send or support a message. So, if you're interested in using your music for good, here are a few non-profits working with artists in creative ways that you should know about:

1. Invisible Children


We firmly believe that music has a necessary role in giving social movements tremendous amounts of momentum. It is a universal language, and at Invisible Children, it's important for us to be a part of that language.

The above statement comes from the 'About' section of the Invisible Children music blog, a place where supporters of IC can discover new music, read about musicians supporting their efforts or learn about social issues translated through songs. It gets cooler. In August, the organization is hosting a human rights conference called Fourth Estate Summit where students and educators will gather for a weekend of learning about social justice issues. Something unique about this event is the inclusion of music: each night of the conference,  IC will host a  "main stage performance" and a "fireside performance" where indie bands will have the opportunity to take the stage and play in support of Invisible Children. The lineup so far is pretty impressive and includes a few, notable Sonicbids alumni and current artists: Noah Gundersen, Carousel, Le Wrens, Ghost Beach and The Jane Doze.

2. The ONE Campaign

The ONE Campaign recently launched agit8 to offer musicians the opportunity to "get on their soapbox" to perform a protest song. Co-founded by Bono, ONE is a campaign and advocacy organization taking action to end extreme poverty and preventable diseases. Currently, ONE is partnering with high profile and emerging artists to amplify the voices of those who spoke up for social change throughout history. The organization is using agit8 as a platform to spread the videos of musical protest performances around the world. Moreover, the site has a cool feature where you can listen to a cause-specific playlist of songs performed by a variety of artists - from Ed Sheeran covering Bob Dylan to Macklemore & Ryan Lewis showcasing "Same Love" for marriage equality.

3. To Write Love On Her Arms (TWLOHA)


To Write Love On Her Arms is a non-profit organization dedicated to presenting hope and finding help for those struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide. This movement has been moving forward in a beautiful way where musicians are joining their conversations of hope and healing through their music.  TWLOHA joined The Summer Set on their recent tour and they continue to be a part of incredible music festivals such as Sasquatch, Bamboozle, and the Vans Warped Tour, among others. In 2011, the organization was awarded a one-million dollar grant at the first American Giving Awards presented by Chase Bank on NBC. The money funded a nationwide tour HEAVY AND LIGHT, where the organization used music and spoken word to empower and encourage those struggling to stay alive and find help. The concert consisted of acoustic performances by artists such as Jon Foreman (of Switchfoot) & Fiction Family, Will Anderson (of Parachute), Now, Now, and The Lone Bellow, among others. Together, TWLOHA and musicians are empowering people to converse through songs when words aren't enough. It gets more awesome: the org recently partnered with UK Artist and Sonicbids alumni, Ben Howard,  turning his lyrics into a t-shirt that raises money for their cause. You could even just follow TWLOHA Founder, Jamie Tworkowski on Twitter and you'll get tips of cool, indie bands he's listening to that often have amazing stories of hope.

The takeaway for non-profits:

Music is a great platform to raise awareness for your cause. Your cause is important and by parterning with musicians who support you, not only are you looking at a new creative way to fundraise and reach new audiences, but you're also inviting people to converse with you in a very effective way that moves people. If you're a small non-profit, find local artists in your community - why not work together to benefit a cause while also helping someone kickstart their career? Music is a creative outlet and it's always inspiring to watch a band or artist connect with a cause they deeply care about - whether it's a performer like Demi Lovato sharing her story of overcoming depression through a song or Macklemore & Ryan Lewis commenting on social issues through lyrics and video; bridging audiences and causes through music is emotional, honest and beautiful.

The takeaway for musicians:

What is a cause that you fully believe in and support currently? Why not write a song about it? Music is a powerful tool; if you've gone through a struggle - turn that into a song. If you want to advocate for a social issue - fuel that through your lyrics. Why not share your story through your music and then go to a non-profit and say "Hey, I support you, I wrote this song for you, I care about what you're doing and I want to be a part of it." While these are just a few social organizations using music to share their impact, so many other great non-profits are starting to connect with their supporters musically. As an indie artist, you might not be able to easily find yourself playing an HRC benefit or recording a video for the ONE campaign, however, that doesn't have to stop you from getting involved with your music to support a cause you care about. Try checking out your local community organizations - I bet they'd love to have you play at one of their charity events or share your story within your community.

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