I just returned from the National Folk Alliance Conference in Memphis, TN and it was an extraordinary 4 days. I saw so many wonderful artists perform and my soul is saturated great with music.

This conference was totally unlike any I have ever been to before for many reasons – It’s intimate and it all takes place in one hotel & adjoining convention center so there is no running up and down trying to see bands on opposite ends of town, and best of all each artist plays more than one time so I never had a scheduling issue. If I fell in love with an artist and wanted to see them a second or third time this was always possible.

My new favorite artists list includes Meg Hutchinson, Twilight Hotel, Amy Speace, Michelle Citrin, Lindsay Mac, divine MAGGees, Diana Jones, Susan Marshall, Rose Cousins, Colin Spring, Emilia Dahlin, Emily Herring, and The Carolina Chocolate Drops.

If you are an artist and you play folk, roots, blues, AAA, Americana or even world music I can’t recommend this conference enough.

As I was enjoying myself at this intimate conference and in the folkie / politically conscious spirit I got to thinking about the messages artists convey and how we all like to give back and the new initiative we have taken here at Ariel Publicity which is called helping others – when you sign up for Cyber PR we provide a list of charities and some different ways you can become involved to help each one.

Jen Chapin, our client for the past 5 years, and our dear friend has written a guide that I think you will find most helpful. Jen is the Chair of World Hunger Year and has a lifetime of experience helping others to make a difference. Her father Harry Chapin co-founded World Hunger Year in 1975. WHY is currently a leader in the fight against hunger and poverty in the United States. So, choose a charity, and start giving back – you will be amazed that will open up for you, the new fans you can meet, and how you will feel when you know you have made a contribution to others.

How To Do A Benefit:
Guidelines for Performing Artists and Others
Who Want to Make a Difference
Compiled by: Jen Chapin

A benefit can be as simple as a small donation of a portion of proceeds from a tiny bar gig, to something as ornate as a full-out multi-performer concert with corporate sponsors, extensive publicity, merchandise raffles, etc. In any case, a benefit is a wonderful way to bring new support to a charitable organization, new attention and credibility to an artist, and new magic and meaning to a performance and an artist’s career. These guidelines are primarily intended for up-and-coming artists who want to help out but may not have the resources or audience to do something big, but they also include ways to make an event bigger. To figure out what works for you:

1) Select the beneficiary – Ariel Publicity has a list of charities that we recommend but of course you are welcome to discover and support your own.

  • Does the beneficiary do work that you truly believe in and feel good about supporting?
  • Do you know them to be reputable and effective?
  • Can you effectively describe the mission and work/programs of the beneficiary to your audience so they feel good about supporting the cause?
  • Can the beneficiary assist in promoting and supporting the event? *

2) Think about your audience…

  • Do you have an audience that will support your benefit?
  • What kind of donation/ticket price/cover charge can your audience reasonably be expected to contribute to the event? How can you price your event as to raise the maximum funds while being inclusive of your audience?
  • Can you/do you want to join together with other artists in presenting the event and widening the potential audience?
  • Will your audience members all be asked to contribute on the same level or will there be different levels of participation with special seating, backstage passes/meet and greet, signed merchandise, etc.?

3) Determine when and where your benefit will take place…

  • Does the date of your benefit compete with other performances or events of the beneficiary or yourself? Does it give you enough time to plan and prepare?

4) Calculate expenses…

  • Have you set a budget?
  • Do you know what you will need to spend to compensate supporting performers, if any? Technical staff? Venue expenses? Other support? Will these people donate their time?
  • Do you know what you need to spend to sufficiently publicize the event to make sure it reaches the largest possible audience? Design expenses? Printing costs? Can these be donated?
  • Other expenses? Lodging for performers? Food? Drink? Decorations? Can these be donated?
  • Do you have sponsors – corporate, individual, etc. — to cover these expenses and help optimize the event? Have you explained to your potential sponsors the public relations benefits they will receive in return for their help?

5) Set Goals…

  • Is your benefit to raise awareness or funds for the beneficiary? To collect food, toys or clothing? (Sometimes it’s not possible for emerging artists to make significant contributions after paying their expenses, but there are many ways you can support an organization – just a mention from the stage can be helpful in itself!)
  • Do you have realistic — yet high-reaching — goals and expectations for how much money, donations, and/or awareness you want to raise for the event?

6) Think about Extras…

  • Do you have additional ways to raise money and enhance the event; i.e. raffle items, merchandise sales, donation box, silent auction, higher value tickets, etc.? Do these extras fit into the tone, time frame and logistics of the event you are planning? Will the additional revenue raised be worth the work necessary to provide these extras?

7) Publicize the Event, the Beneficiary, and Yourself…

  • Do you have promotional materials like flyers, posters, etc. to help spread the word about your benefit?
  • Do you have a professional press release to send out describing all the basic details of the event by email, fax, or mail?
  • Do you have a list of media contacts in newspapers, periodicals, TV, radio and the Internet to which you can send this press release to? (Many media organizations will give special attention to benefits and community –related events) Will any of these media outlets partner with you to help sponsor the event with a special promotional effort?
  • Do you have display materials, banners, brochures, postcards, etc. to lay out at the event to promote the beneficiary and inform your audience? Will your event have a program describing you, the beneficiary’s work; listing sponsors, etc.?
  • Have you identified media partners who will work with you to publicize the event? Have you sought out donated advertising space?
  • Have you sought the help of local businesses and other locations in displaying posters, etc.?

Other Notes:

* Most non-profit organizations are understaffed and pushed to the limit of their capacity just in fulfilling their mission. Please understand that your beneficiary may not have the staff time or resources to support your event and try to avoid making demands on the organization. At the same time, be sure to let the organization know about your event and to obtain brochures and other materials to inform your audience about the substance of the beneficiary’s good work.

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