Q’s With Paul Peck, Alex Machurov & Jared Heiman: Fandiem Team On F-COVID Campaign And Harnessing Fan Communities For Good
Prominent musicians have long used their platforms to encourage their fans to support a bevy of causes, and the trend reached a new high during the pandemic, with artists directing followers to donate to COVID relief efforts, social justice campaigns, voter engagement organizations and more.
For many, the moral satisfaction of giving is enough, but prizes can help to sweeten the deal and draw in even more potential donors.
Music industry vets Paul Peck, Alex Machurov and Jared Heiman co-founded Fandiem in 2020 to facilitate such campaigns. Thanks to deep experience in festivals – Peck and Machurov through work on Bonnaroo and Outside Lands during overlapping stints at Superfly; Heiman from involvement with Pitchfork – the trio had an innate sense of how to harness shared experiences and communities in service of a broader objective.
Since debuting with late 2020’s Save Tip’s, a benefit campaign for New Orleans club Tipitina’s that offered prizes for donors including a “Top Banana” lifetime membership to the storied venue and a virtual backstage pass to hang with Widespread Panic’s Dave Schools, Fandiem has served up prizes and experiences for fans such as a private guitar lesson with the Grateful Dead’s Bob Weir – where Weir signed the custom guitar he used and gave it to the student after – and VIP flyaway packages to events from the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction to Megadeth and Lamb of God’s “Metal Tour of the Year.”
When the Omicron variant complicated live’s return in December, Fandiem assembled the F-COVID campaign with Bandsintown, recruiting some 30 artists including Metallica, Eric Church, Nine Inch Nails and Kesha to offer a range of sweepstakes prizes benefitting Sweet Relief Musicians Fund, which provides assistance to touring artists and their crews.
Peck, Machurov and Heiman, who serve as president, CEO and CRO, respectively, connected with Pollstar to discuss Fandiem’s origins, the F-COVID campaign and what’s next for the company.
Pollstar: Give me a little background about Fandiem’s origins and mission.
Paul Peck: During the pandemic, we were doing a variety of nonprofit work [and] seeing different results with different campaigns and working with a lot of artists that were coming to us saying, “Hey, I got some time, I want to help, this is an area of need that I’m aware of, I’m super passionate about it. What can I do with my fans?” I was producing a variety of streaming stuff, Alex and Jared were working with different nonprofits doing some consulting work, and we all looped up together to discuss what we had learned and what we thought we wanted to do and what the opportunity was for the greater good.
Pollstar: So earlier in the pandemic you were just all providing consultant work unrelated to this company.
Peck: Yeah. I had been producing a bunch of virtual fundraisers and those kinds of things. In some cases, [they] were getting millions of views and raising good money, but I thought there was a much bigger opportunity to raise more and spread the word around what these nonprofits are doing and illuminate crucial areas of need. We just thought all of these disconnected dots could be connected in a really strong way, so we started building out Fandiem, this idea of when people make a donation to an important cause selected by an artist, they can win an amazing life-changing prize from that artist. That was the core principle behind Fandiem.
Jared Heiman: We all understand fan experiences. We’ve been privileged to be a part of those experiences our entire careers. So we have a wealth of experience in that. We were able to say, “All right, let’s give fans the opportunities to win these types of amazing experiences, because we know firsthand, most fans don’t get that opportunity.”
How did the F-COVID campaign come about?
Heiman: When Omicron hit … all of a sudden, again, tours started getting canceled, shows were being delayed. So, Sweet Relief was a very natural partner to work with on this. We were talking about this idea of, you know, “F COVID!” Everyone’s tired of it, right? We want to get back on the road. It picked up steam pretty quickly and we started doing outreach to artists, just saying, “Hey, is there anything you guys can do to support this?” … It started to snowball. We’re currently still running it; we had over 30 artists participating and giving us prizes. Bandsintown as our partner has really helped us amplify and get this cause out there to millions of fans through their platform. Between all three of us – Sweet Relief, Bandsintown and Fandiem – it just felt right.
I want to get back to F-COVID, but I know that you worked with Bandsintown for a Giving Tuesday campaign in November. Tell me about that campaign and how its success led into F-COVID.
Machurov: We thought it was a great opportunity, especially as we were bumping up against the holidays, to build a coalition of artists who support Giving Tuesday. Very similar to F-COVID, we started to reach out to a bunch of artists and said, “Hey, what is the nonprofit that you want to support?”
Heiman: Bandsintown has Bandsintown For Good, so both companies share that idea of giving back. We’re now in a year-long partnership with them. There’s going to be these moments throughout the year where we’re going to come together and form an artist coalition where artists get behind a particular cause to give back.
Can you speak to the caliber and range of artists participating in F-COVID? What are those conversations like and how do you ultimately secure the participation of these huge artists like Metallica, Nine Inch Nails, Eric Church and Kesha?
Heiman: A lot of the artists we work with have their own foundations. Metallica, the All Within My Hands Foundation. Pearl Jam, the Vitalogy Foundation. We’re actually talking to the foundations directly, and then they’re looping in the artist to support whatever prize or experience we’re giving away and to really create awareness of the campaign. There’s also a number of times where we’re just speaking to the artists’ teams directly.
I imagine there’s a range in terms of artists who want to be very involved and creative and others who just say, “Tell me what you want me to do and I’ll do it.”
Peck: For the artists, it’s another opportunity for them to be creative in a totally different way. The way that we produce these prizes is very similar to the way that we would produce festivals, where it’s just got to be so amazing, so over the top, so surprising that people feel like they need to be a part of it. It’s almost like we’re producing a festival for one or two people. Sometimes the artist can really get on board and think about “How can we create an absolute dream experience for one of our fans to reward mass participation in support of a great cause?”
It’s interesting to hear that as guys with festival backgrounds you’re applying that perspective. You’re going all out with the creativity and the artistry of it.
Peck: The thing that’s really inspiring about the whole platform and about the individual campaigns that we’re so fortunate to work with these artists on in the fact that, previously, these are the types of prizes that would be thought about, maybe not as creatively, as auction packages, where one wealthy person pays a lot of money that maybe is out of reach for the everyday fan to do something really special. Our thing is, rather than one person paying, for example, a hundred grand for something, let’s get 20,000 people to donate 20 bucks each. Now those 20,000 people all know [about] this really crucial area of need that their artist heroes are passionate about. We’re really creating this opportunity to amplify and enhance the impact of the fan community. And that’s where the real strength of the industry is – it’s about the community and the power the fans have collectively.
You founded the company when things were shut down. How, if at all, are you seeing things change as shows have returned? Where do you fit in?
Heiman: In the beginning of the pandemic, a lot of the prizes and experiences we were offering were virtual. No one was doing any events, there were no in-person interactions. Our platform was built to be able to fulfill prizes in a virtual space. But then as things have opened up and events have come back and festivals are returning, that really opens up the possibilities of the experiences that artists are able to do with their fans. When the pandemic started to come down a little bit, one of the unique prizes we did was Foo Fighters had a private show [in June 2021] that they gave us some passes to. It was their first show back and Fandiem was there to support NIVA and give fans a chance to attend. We’re really excited about live events coming back, because it’s going to open up the floodgates for us in terms of possibilities for fan experiences.