Can musicians be better activists?


NEW YORK, Sept 4 — Some musicians have long been associated with certain causes, both in their lyrics and their acts, but the scale of today’s environmental, social and political crises is prompting a greater number of artists to invoke such issues in their musical projects or concerts. But translating activist ideas into projects that reach listeners can be tricky — which is where a new app comes in. This app aims to connect musicians and a variety of NGOs.

The application is called ShowUp. It was launched on August 28 to “support activism and advocacy in the music industry,” as its official website puts it. The platform connects musicians who use it with 1.7 million non-profit organisations “verified” by ShowUp teams. These organisations are involved in a variety of causes, including climate justice, social justice, women’s rights and LGBTIA+ causes.

ShowUp works by enabling musicians to choose the association(s) with which they wish to collaborate, and to create participatory funding campaigns to which their fans can contribute. The idea is to lean on the close relationships that certain artists maintain with their fans to help create a global movement with considerable impact. K-pop group BTS, for example, raised two million dollars in support of Black Lives Matter with the help of its fans in 2020.

For Matt Hall, co-founder and CEO of ShowUp, the platform aims to help artists put their fame to work for social, political or environmental causes. “Our goal isn’t to turn every artist into an activist. This work isn’t for everyone. However, we do want to make sure that any artist practicing activism, or who may be inclined to do so, has the tools and support so that, when they decide to speak out about what’s important to them, their message reaches the broadest possible audience and drives the greatest financial impact possible to the communities and concerns they are supporting,” he explained to Billboard magazine.

Music fans and causes

Money being the lifeblood of these causes, ShowUp also enables artists to donate a portion of their royalties to the NGO of their choice, upon release of a new track and/or opus, or through their music catalogue, according to Billboard. In addition, the app will provide them with concrete data on the behaviour of their fans with regard to the fundraising campaigns they create, including the amount of their donations and the causes they support.

And for good reason: music fans may be more committed than others, especially when it comes to fighting climate change. This is the conclusion of a survey carried out in 2022 by scientists at Glasgow University and the YouGov Institute, involving 2,184 volunteers. The survey revealed that 54 per cent of music lovers surveyed agreed that “tackling climate change should be a top priority now, above other issues,” compared with 47 per cent of respondents who did not consider themselves to be music fans.

The launch of ShowUp is part of a wider context of change in activism, driven by young generations that are more aware and concerned about the major issues facing society. Musicians, more than ever, play a key role in communication about social and environmental concerns, and are increasingly involved with initiatives to raise awareness — both outside and within the music industry. Several of them, such as Coldplay, Massive Attack and Radiohead, for instance, are taking steps to reduce the carbon footprint of their world tours. — ETX Studio

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