Popular Musicians as Allies in Social Change
Musicians are powerful allies who leverage their activities in ways that amplify the messages and strategies of social justice movements and that draw the necessary resources—creativity, targeted audiences, press, funding—to make change possible; they do this best when they have support, strategy, and tools. Inspired by a desire to work on social change and to help raise money for the causes and issues they care about, musicians are contributing publicly in powerful and concrete ways: They lend their celebrity to movements and issues. Their creativity inspires people to think differently about the world, and they have a level of influence and reach in society to convene and activate people. Some examples: will.i.am’s song and video “Yes We Can,” released during Barack Obama’s presidential campaign; Farm Aid’s concert-based and online advocacy efforts on behalf of family farmers; Airborne Toxic Event’s song, “Neda,” important to the democracy revolution in Iran; the education of fans about using carpool and public-transit to reduce band-tour carbon emissions footprints; and the use of mobile technologies to engage concertgoers in activism. Musicians need smart partners, resources, strategy, and support to reach their full potential as artist-activist allies in social justice movements. Activism needs to be integrated into the music business, and opportunities to support musicians in the record cycle need to be pursued.