HeadCount Celebrates Ten Years of Inspiring Political Participation & Action
Yesterday marked the tenth anniversary of HeadCount, a nonpartisan, non-profit organization whose mission is to encourage and increase civic participation in democracy through partnerships with musicians and music events. HeadCount is at more live music events (around 1,000 concerts per year) than any other non-profit and is best known for their voter registration efforts at concerts and music festivals. The organization has registered over 200,000 voters since 2004.
In 2004, HeadCount was just an idea, but within its first year, it grew into a movement with volunteers in over 70 cities in the US. Before HeadCount, Executive Director Andy Bernstein was working as a sportswriter. He was interviewing someone when the conversation turned to the unsettling and frustrating state of the world. Tired of complaining and wanting to take action, Bernstein emailed Marc Brownstein. Given Brownstein’s influence and success as the bassist of the Disco Biscuits, his industry connections, and his socially conscious attitude, he was a perfect partner for what Bernstein envisioned. Bernstein recalls, “He got right back to me with two words: ‘I’m in.’ That was it. We decided right then and there to make it happen.”
As Brownstein puts it, “I wanted to harness the energy that we had in the music scene and try to turn it into something new.” Capturing this energy, Bernstein and Brownstein have created programs that “translate the power of music into real action…by reaching young people and music fans where they already are” (HeadCount.org). Enlisting a strong board of directors, including Bob Weir and Al Schnier (of moe.), and setting up booths at shows for bands like moe., The Disco Biscuits, Michael Franti & Spearhead, Bela Fleck, Leftover Salmon, The String Cheese Incident, Assembly of Dust, The Derek Trucks Band, Gov’t Mule and Galactic, HeadCount registered thousands of voters in just their first year.
HeadCount’s success relies on its volunteers as much as its ties to individuals in and of the music scene. The organization works with over 100 festivals, concerts, venues, partners, and touring musicians to reach fans. Volunteer street teams exist in most major cities, and almost every night of the week, they are at events encouraging music fans to take control, be more civically engaged, register to vote, and vote often. Volunteers are empowered to stage effective local campaigns.
HeadCount also has produced themed concerts, network TV PSAs, and award-winning digital media campaigns; these campaigns and initiatives have featured Jay-Z, members of the Grateful Dead, members of Phish, Dave Matthews, Stephen Colbert, and John Stewart, among others. HeadCount really seeks to empower young people to take an active role in the way our country runs, creating initiatives like #SoundOff, an online platform that makes it easier to tweet directly at Congress and creates potential for public dialogue with lawmakers. The organization also created initiatives like “Music for Action,” a climate change campaign that generated 100,000 emails to Congress through a “Best of Bonnaroo” giveaway, and Participation Row, a non-profit village at Lockn’ Festival, where non-profits could set up booths and inform and involve festival-goers in actions of the non-profits’ missions. The organization continues to thrive and influence, and empower its volunteers and music lovers to seek change through their own actions. Here’s to ten years of a growing, positive influence!
Click here to read the full account of HeadCount’s founding and first year in action, written by Sam D’Arcangelo.
For more information, or to volunteer for HeadCount click here!