null – Emily White
Like so many of you, I have spent my adult life immersed in the music industry. Yet in 2016, I was disheartened to hear that voter turnout was down in my hometown of Milwaukee. I was also fascinated to hear that 22,748 voters made up the margin of victory for the presidential election in Wisconsin – roughly the size of our Fiserv Forum arena. Similarly, next door in Michigan, 10,704 voters decided the election in their state. Certainly many, if not all of us, have stood in a venue with 10k or so of our fellow fans, making these numbers very tangible to all who work in music. Furthermore, the most recent election where I live in Brooklyn was determined by 1,151 votes. Which is fewer people than what fits into our neighborhood’s beloved venue, Brooklyn Steel.
Ever since, I’ve been determined to engage all Americans to think about, care to, and actually vote. It is how we make actual change moving forward – no matter our beliefs. So how can we all work together to do just that for the betterment of our communities? As young people in the U.S. are more likely to attend live music events (53% of teens and 63% millennials, Nielsen Music’s U.S. Music 360 report) than vote (35.6% for 18-29 and 48.8% for 30-44 in 2018, US Census), our world of live events is a great place to start.
At #iVoted, we worked with many of you for the 2018 midterm elections to activate over 150 venues in 37 states to let fans in on Election Night, who showed a selfie from outside of their polling place. This idea was so simple, yet impactful, that it was organized by just myself and an intern. However, we were able to do this with our venue partners because music and live events is the world that we all know and understand intimately. And we are fortunate that our jobs allow us to communicate with thousands of our fellow citizens. The word “promote” is literally in many of our job titles, even in these dark times for our beloved concert industry.
Everyone can do something. Here is what we can all do to encourage those whose lives we touch to get involved, and have a say in a country that allows us to do just that for this year’s presidential election and beyond.
Identify Election Dates in Your State
Many of us know that the presidential election and more is Nov. 3rd this year. But when you’re putting annual work plans together, head over to Ballotpedia’s handy chart to see what dates elections are happening in your state. Note these days in your company’s calendar so employees can have the day off to vote, which I’ll address further below.
Check Registration Deadlines
Similarly, head over to Vote.Org to note registration deadlines in your states. That way you can share this information with your team, and all that you know, so they can ensure they are registered in time at the top of the year. Instead of scrambling or stressing to do so at the last minute.
To register, navigate over to our friend and partner HeadCount’s website. Not only can you and all you know register and check registrations, but you can work with Andy Bernstein and his incredible team to get artists and talent you work with to do the same, both online and IRL post-vaccine when shows come roaring back for fans and all involved.
TURNOUT and Tune In!
Consider activating your venue or engaging with artists you know to get involved with #iVoted. For 2020 we went virtual, and fans RSVP to the largest music “festival” of the year with a selfie at home with their blank and unmarked ballot, or from outside of their polling place. Ineligible to vote for any reason, including age or citizenship? We’ve got you covered to RSVP via ivotedfestival.com as well. This is an event that celebrates voting and the power of fans and community. We’re excited to expand further into sports, comedy, gaming and more for 2022 and future elections to activate as many voters as possible moving forward.
AP Photo / Max Becherer –
Early voting gets under way at Smoothie King Center in New Orleans Oct. 15.
Take the Day off to VOTE
Voting is such a sacred right that we are fortunate to have. Yet Tuesday is often one of the busiest work days of the week! Not to mention caretaking and more in our personal lives. Give yourself and your team the day off for all Election Days to vote. Or the option to take a day off if they are voting early or absentee. We work in an industry of infinite work and communications that are hard to put on pause. And most folks will vote and then get back to work anyway. But give yourself and all around you the time to take a breath while researching candidates and issues. That way team members can make informed choices on decisions that affect all of us every single day.
Lead, Innovate, and Pivot
Each and every day all of us are constantly solving problems. How do we generate income in these dark times for our industry? The pandemic was and is a massive shock for live concerts. Yet, that is exactly what happened to physical music in the Napster era, and we still have a recorded music business. Our industry has always been the canary in the coalmine to lead other fields by truly adapting, innovating, pivoting, and evolving to keep moving forward. Use your incredible skills and minds to do the same, as many of you are by turning your venues into polling places, food pantries, COVID testing centers and more. By the way, I also think we should turn venues into legal marijuana dispensaries during the pandemic to generate income with our friends in the burgeoning cannabis industry. While simultaneously creating an additional revenue stream for venues that can continue post-vaccine. But that is a mess of laws for another op-ed that we can work together on post-Nov. 3rd.
For now, keep an open mind and remember that you influence everyone that you come into contact with, both while socially distancing and online. Use your innovative minds to create what you want to see in the world to help us all move forward together.
There is no doubt in my mind that artists have signed on with #iVoted so enthusiastically because we are a non-partisan voter turnout organization. This is a stressful time, no matter one’s beliefs. But allocating my time over the past three years to support voter turnout has been the best distraction for our unprecedented era. Yet, it also has a direct impact on improving said time. I encourage you to do the same however you can, so we can all come together as one at the end of the day.
What I’ve learned by amassing over 200 volunteers, and 600+ artists culled via our friends at Chartmetric’s data of the top trending artists in and/or from key focus states, is that we can all have an impact on what we deeply believe in and support. For me, that’s voter turnout. The concept of #iVoted is both simple, and impactful, which is something I’ll forever keep in mind as an entrepreneur, and I encourage you to do the same.
Why is doing so important? Regret is something no human wants to live with. And so many of you are the best in the world at taking an empty stage and creating a truly unforgettable experience for all involved. We can all do the same in our lives and communities. And many of us are so lucky as Americans to be able to do just that.
You have the power and support of our beloved music industry behind you to connect, inform, and inspire.
In the meantime, I encourage you to stay safe, get involved, think critically, and make your voices heard. It’s up to all of us to make sure we work toward what we want to see in the world – both this year and in the future. I look forward to celebrating voting with you on Nov. 3rd, 2020 and beyond. Let’s do this!
Emily White is the founder of #iVoted, a partner at Collective Entertainment, and the author of “How to Build a Sustainable Music Career and Collect All Revenue Streams.”