It’s 2019, and at PLUS1 we hear—and feel—so many concerns about the state of the world.

I can’t even count how many times I hear people reference their climate anxiety in a week, or the number of times my own jaw has dropped at the policy changes that seem to roll back hard-fought-for human rights. I think we all feel that there’s too much happening in the world to be standing still right now. But it’s crucial to remember that even small acts can add up to a big difference. 

We’re in the middle of a major cultural shift. Celebrities have become activists, activists have become celebrities, and changemakers are viral stars. The way we consume speaks directly to the identities we construct and put forward in the public sphere. For long, doing good has been something we’ve done outside of our everyday lives, like donating to charity or volunteering. But now, everyday participation in life can seem inherently political. Even the food we eat or the clothes we wear are laced with political or values-based implications. Everyone is looking for ways to contribute, to do better, to give back, to make a difference. 

That’s why we built out PLUS1, a non-profit social impact platform that leverages the existing infrastructure of live events and harnesses the convening power of audiences to be an engine for real change. We start with a small charity ticket add-on, then add in comprehensive storytelling, advocacy opportunities for cultural leaders, artist advising, merchandising, sponsorships, and more. By doing so, we’ve made monumental differences in the lives of people, communities, and our planet at large. 

PLUS1 activation and signage at YOLA DÍA 2019
PLUS1 activation and signage at YOLA DÍA 2019

When I was touring with Arcade Fire, we witnessed first-hand the power of communities coming together over a shared passion. We made a long-term commitment to add $1 to every concert ticket sold, to be donated to Partners in Health’s life-saving work in Haiti. As we went from playing 1,000 capacity rooms to playing back-to-back sold out Madison Square Garden shows, the dollars grew—and so did the impact. $2.5 million dollars went to building hospitals, training doctors and nursing and serving millions of patients. 

The real thanks goes to our fans.

We may have been the organizing force, but by showing up, our fans became the largest donor group to assist in building the Caribbean’s biggest teaching hospital. Our fans’ shared appreciation for our music translated into education, into people learning life-saving skills, and into actual lives saved. We soon realized other bands, venues, and tours wanted to join, too. 

We’ve seen first hand that small steps can lead to big change. The majority of Americans (80%) see gathering in person as essential to promote positive change in the world, and 84% don’t even believe it has to be political to do so. By leveraging a captive, active group of participants already gathering globally for live events, the potential for positive impact through the aggregation of small actions is beyond measure. 

The live events industry is growing, and its role in our current cultural zeitgeist is evolving. Last year, 78% of Americans attended a live event. According to Pollstar, there were 152.1 million tickets sold for live events in 2018, which means at least that many people gathered to share cultural moments they cared about enough to buy a ticket to. Imagine the reach, the power, and the opportunity for change if each one of those people were involved in giving back in just a small way. 

A simple gesture can make a big difference. For PLUS1, this means looking at what we do best in this industry — convening people. 5 years on, through partnerships with 150 artists, festivals, and events, we’ve deployed $10 million dollars to more than 250 proven, efficient non-profits working at the forefront of providing what the most vulnerable among us need:

Resources, access, and compassion.

What’s next?

There’s no shortage of need, and we know that the live events industry can be a leader in making massive change. PLUS1 helps us move away from one-time “do-good” projects into the integration of caring for one another on the daily. We want what we’re doing to become business as usual.

Venues, promoters, festivals, and event organizers can contribute through actions as simple as showcasing posters in bathroom stalls with crisis line numbers included, hosting sensitivity training for your security staff, or something as holistic as a PLUS1 partnership. These commitments aren’t just good for the world, they’re good for business — 80% of millennial music-goers are more likely to attend a concert or music festival that features performers who are affecting positive change through their work

The world can feel scary, and I’m definitely no stranger to those fears. But when we all come together, shoulder to shoulder, we have the power to do something about it. 4 in 5 Millennials say that they attend live events to experience connection to other people, to community, and to the world. We don’t only need to take big steps to make a big difference—when we all come together by meeting people where they are, small steps can be transformative. Compassion is contagious.

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