#iVoted Aims To Increase Voting With Free Concert Admission

– Don
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A music manager and entrepreneur has a novel idea to combat Americans’ poor voter turnout: vote and get into a concert for free. Called #iVoted, the initiative was created by Emily White, founding partner of Collective Entertainment, with Mike Luba of Madison House and musician Pat Sansone of Wilco.

#iVoted works like this: on November 6th, the next national voting day, voters with photos of themselves standing outside a polling location—photography isn’t allowed inside—can get into a concert at a participating venue. Entry will be on a first-come, first-served basis, naturally, but venues will probably have extra room on historically slow Tuesdays.

A handful of venues and promoters are already on board. C3 Presents in Austin, Texas, is on board with Stubb’s, Emo’s, and Scoot Inn. Peter Shapiro and The Brooklyn Bowl in Brooklyn, N.Y., was an early supporter. Stacie George at Live Nation has committed Irving Plaza, The Gramercy Theatre, and the 

“There’s general excitement around it,” said Margaret Galton, talent buyer at C3 Entertainment. C3 books shows at four Austin venues, including the 2,200-capacity Stubb’s Waller Creek and 1,500-capacity Emo’s. With the interest of agents and managers came questions about the logistics. An artist would would need to be routed through the Austin area on a Tuesday to participate in #iVoted; two artists were excited about #iVoted but won’t be in Austin on election day. Artists, venues and managers will need to decide how many people are allowed extrence. Galton believes the details will get worked out once C3 starts booking shows for November. “Why not do our part to get people out to vote?” she asked.

There are practical, business benefits to #iVoted. Aside from encouraging people to vote, #iVoted can help venues bring in more people, and more food and drink revenue, without giving away tickets outright. Venues aren’t always at full capacity, and for years ticketing and promotion executives have said 30 percent of tickets go unsold. Handfuls of entrepreneurs have tried to move unsold inventory: Jukely is to live music what ClassPass is to group exercise, Will.   White’s primary mission isn’t filling venues to capacity, however. “The idea is to rally voter turnout as strong as we can,” she said.

Voting rates in the United States are hardly inspiring and well below most developed countries with fair elections. Voters in dozens of other countries are more engaged than U.S. voters. Belgium, Sweden, and Denmark score each have above 80 percent turnout rate, according to Pew Research. The 2016 presidential election won by Donald Trump had a voter turnout rate of 60 percent, according to FairVote. (The U.S. Census has the self-reported voting rate of registered voters at 64 percent.) The 2008 election of Barack Obama saw a 61.6-percent turnout. Bush’s reelection in 2004, a tumultuous period with a strong anti-war sentiment, scored a 60.1-percent—the first time above 60 percent since 1968. #iVoted faced an additional challenge in November because midterm elections have about half the voter turnout rate as national elections.

But America’s biggest problem is registering voters, not getting voters to the polls. About 87 percent of registered American voters took part in the 2016 presidential election, putting the U.S. behind only Belgium and Australia, a country that makes voting day a national holiday. Just 64 percent of U.S. adults are registered to vote. White says #iVoted has a partnership with Headcount, to increase the voter rolls. Venues can work with Headcount to register new voters, too. “If fans aren’t registered this doesn’t work,” said White.