How Music Influences Charity
I love music and listen to it every day. When I arrive at work early, I listen to classical music. If I have a moment during my lunch hour, I will listen to soft rock. Going home, if I am not listening to CNN or ESPN, I am channel surfing through the decades. I recently saw an old commercial that had individuals singing on a hilltop for a cause and wondered how music was used for charity.
In “When Music and Charity Collide,” Reason Digital made the case that it’s natural to use people’s love of music to do good. Here are six key points (and real-world examples) to note if you plan to use music for charity efforts, as specified by Reason Digital.
'Make It Memorable.'
Look at the British Heart Foundation’s Staying Alive CPR video, Reason Digital suggested. In case of emergency, the video instructed audiences to call 999—the official emergency number in the U.K.—then push hard in the center of the chest to the beat of the Bee Gees’ hit “Stayin’ Alive.” The video has 5.2 million views on YouTube—and numerous accounts of individuals using this memorable technique to provide CPR have been reported.
Peter Kay’s The Animated All Star Band for Children in Need is a good example of this, according to Reason Digital. Instead of real people, Kay used an animated cast (including himself and popular cartoon characters), mixed together a series of popular songs that people would recognize and created a single, feel-good song to catch people’s attention.
'Make It Funny.'
When Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement, the Flight of the Conchords comedy duo, released “Feel Inside (And Stuff Like That)” in an effort to fundraise for kids suffering from life-threatening illnesses, it wasn’t the typical radio hit. It was funnier—resulting from real things school-age kids had said and putting them into song format, Reason Digital explained. The humorous approach worked as the song helped raise $1.3 million for medical research in New Zealand.
'Building Up Emotion.'
Music videos for charity aren’t the only way to feature music in charity work. Even the music in the background of online and TV charity campaigns make a difference, Reason Digital explained. It should reflect the tone of the ad and bring forth that emotion in viewers, as the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children did with its use of piano and delicate vocals.
'Fighting for a One-Off Cause.'
Bringing together artists to bring attention and much-need funds to a specific cause is nothing new. As Reason Digital pointed out, a recent example of this is the cover of “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother” from the Justice Collective, which features the likes of Sir Paul McCartney and Robbie Williams, to help in the wake of the Hillsborough Disaster.
'Using Popular Musicians.'
Is there an artist that aligns with your mission, cause or goals? Try teaming up with them. Charity Swear Box, a website where people used to be able to donate money whenever they swore on Twitter, used the band Stooshe in their efforts, Reason Digital explained. Stooshe is known for being outspoken and swearing often in music and interviews, so they complemented the website’s mission well.
In 2010, The Top 13 compiled a list of the top charity songs. They are:
- 1985’s “We Are The World,” a song Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie wrote for USA for Africa, raising $63 million for Ethiopian famine reliefs and setting the standard for all future benefit songs.
- 1984’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” which Bob Geldof and Midge Ure wrote for the Relief for Famine in Ethiopia.
- 1985’s “That’s What Friends Are For,” a song Burt Bacharach wrote that Dionne & Friends covered for the American Foundation for AIDS Research.
- 1985’s “Sun City,” which Steven Van Zandt from Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band wrote in opposition to South Africa’s policy of apartheid.
- 2005’s “Do They Know It’s Hallowe’en?” which Nick Thorburn and Adam Gollner wrote for UNICEF.
- 1989’s “Self Destruction,” which was the musical result of MC KRS-One’s formation of the Stop the Violence Movement to benefit the National Urban League’s anti-violence programs.
- 1997’s “Perfect Day,” a Lou Reed song that a super-ground covered to benefit BBC’s Children in Need charity.
- 1990’s “We’re All in the Same Gang,” an anti-violence song Dr. Dre produced for the West Coast Rap All-Stars.
- 1986’s “We’re Stars,” which Ronnie James Dio and members of Dio wrote to raise money for famine relief in Ethiopia.
- 2001’s “What’s Going On,” a cover of Marvin Gaye’s song that Jermaine Dupri and Bono produced with proceeds going to AIDS Worldwide and the American Red Cross’ 9/11 fund.
- 2005’s “Come Together Now,” which Denise Rich, Mark Feist and Sharon Stone co-wrote to benefit victims of Hurricane Katrina and 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.
- 2010’s “Everybody Hurts,” a cover of R.E.M.’s song that many big names in music covered to benefit several charities helping in Haiti relief efforts.
- 1985’s “Tears Are Not Enough,” which another super-group released, raising more than $3.2 million for Ethiopian famine relief.
The power of music is amazing. It will be interesting to see what future causes musicians devoted to charity and performing will lead.
There are many ways to be inspired and informed. For many of us, the combination of music and charity will continue to resonate and cause us to open up our hearts and wallets to help others, which is always a very good thing!
Duke has extensive experience as a nonprofit practitioner, author, lecturer and consultant. He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO for the last 11 years. He has been a long-standing member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals where he was previously named the AFP Indiana Chapter Fundraising Executive of the Year and has held the CFRE designation for many years.
He received his doctorate degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in education administration, master's degree from Marshall University with an emphasis in public administration and a bachelor's degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in marketing/management. He has also completed post graduate work at the University of Louisville.
He is currently executive director of development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division in Indianapolis, Indiana. Contact Duke at firstname.lastname@example.org or 317-224-1029.