Things To Do: Small-Scale Benefit Concerts, Pt. 1

Making Climate Service Announcements. Including written announcements in your program notes and commercial recordings. Making a Message video. What else is there to do?

At the first Playing For The Planet concert, October 24, 2009

Well, you can put on your very own benefit concert. and/or their allied local/regional groups operating eternally on shoestrings; even a few hundred dollars can make a difference in their effectiveness.

If you’re new to concert production, it’s best to take things slow. Better to work on a small scale and learn the process before you start involving larger sums of money and greater numbers of people.

The simplest way to do a benefit concert is to do it secretly.

That’s right. Not a word to anyone.

All you need to do is take the money you made at a particular gig…and give it to the appropriate organization.

I know, I know. It doesn’t have the same feeling, does it?

But it’s a start, and it may very well change the way you approach the gig. It feels different, knowing you’re playing for a reason beyond the fact that you’re a performer and you perform for a living — and this can trigger new ways of being with your audience.

The secret-benefit strategy exists right at the intersection of pure donation and pure performance.


Any gig can be a benefit concert, you can do this anytime you like;
You don’t need to persuade anyone else to play for nothing;
You get a tax write-off (in most cases);
You don’t need to do publicity, rent a hall, and go through all the other hassles that come along with concert production;
You’re not going to lose money…(well, no more than you would on any gig, I suppose).


Nobody knows about it, and a big part of the power of benefit concerts is to get more people informed and motivated to take action.

And therein lies the real power of the benefit concert: it’s a way to bring people together and get them excited about something.

There are two sure-fire ways to get people together: music and food.

If you’ve never produced a concert before, you can start by throwing a pot-luck fundraiser for your friends and family — with some live music and a knowledgeable person as the secondary attractions. Make friends with people in the organization you’re hoping to support, and invite them along to meet people and talk.

This is very easy if you’re a solo artist, or if you have some duet or trio partners who are willing to put in some time for a great dinner and a good cause.


You can use your own space, or persuade a friend with a big living room to act as host;
Everybody gets to eat;
People will RSVP, so you won’t be in suspense about who’s coming and who’s not;
Infrastructure costs and requirements are minimal — very likely you won’t even need a PA;
An excellent format to get a small number of people deeply involved in an issue — a Q&A with an activist spokesperson can galvanize your guests and provide the nucleus of a working group for subsequent projects;
If you invite 15 people and everybody contributes $20, you’ve raised $300 in an evening, plus had a chance to perform for a sympathetic audience and eat a good meal. Those are good numbers.


It’s only your circle of friends — if you’re reclusive, anti-social, or most of your friends are musicians who are playing gigs that night — so the circle of energy you generate is still small.

OK, that’s all on benefit concerts for now. The next post will tackle the larger public concerts, which are more demanding, more exciting, more lucrative, and more rewarding — and carry larger possibilities of failure.

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