Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Buy a Song, Support a Cause

Remember during Christmas 1984 when everyone got the 45, "Do They Know It's Christmas?" recorded by Band Aid? Profits from the record raised money for famine relief in Ethiopia.

The single was quickly followed by the American version, "We Are The World," in the spring of 1985. It also raised money for famine relief in Africa.

Below are some recent examples I found of proceeds from songs, or CDs benefiting a cause or nonprofit. I'd love to hear your examples too.

1. The album Instant Karma, a collection of John Lennon remakes by artists like U2, Ben Harper, and R.E.M., raises money for Amnesty's Darfur work.

2. Dark Was The Night will be released on February 17th to raise money for Red Hot, an organization, "dedicated to fighting AIDS through pop culture." (Thanks @abfdc for the tip). They've produced 14 other albums featuring every genre of music from country, to jazz, to Bossa Nova.

3. Putamayo World Music donates to a range of nonprofits.

4. For each (free) download of Peter Buffett's Christmas album, Star of Wonder, Amie Street and The Robin Hood Foundation will donate enough money to feed 15 people through The Food Bank of New York.

5. has a list of 35 Hurricane Katrina Benefit CDs.

6. Proceeds from SERVE3: The Hard Rock Benefit Album will benefit WHY (World Hunger Year). There is also a SERVE2 CD, and a SERVE CD.

7. Hopeless Records, in partnership with its nonprofit, Sub City, will release an 8th benefit CD in conjunction with its Take Action Tour. will receive 10% of the ticket sale proceeds, and 5% of the suggested retail price for each Take Action! Volume 8 CD.

8. In 2004, Band Aid 20 re-recorded, "Do They Know It's Christmas," to fund famine relief in Darfur.

9. Just heard about one more: If you download Jennifer Hudson's Super Bowl rendition of "The Star Spangled Banner" from iTunes, the proceeds will go to the Hudson-King Foundation, "a charity Hudson co-founded in the wake of the murders to provide counseling and other needs for families who lost a loved one to a violent crime."

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  1. Great list! I'm a big music fan. I recommend the 2-disc Instant Karma collection (worth it for the Black Eyed Peas version of Power to the People and Lenny Kravitz's Cold Turkey).

    Also, my daughters totally dig any Putamayo collection!

  2. There's "What's Going On" by Artists Against AIDS Worldwide, which also helped support 9/11 since it was released very soon after.

    Music video

  3. Anonymous11:47 PM

    Nice post. I recently found one from Switchfoot here:

    It's actually free- proceeds are for Habitat for Humanity. The co-founder Millard Fuller recently died.

  4. The first two songs ("Stand by Me" and "Let's Don't Worry") for the nonprofit Playing for Change (Musicians working around the world to create music schools for poor kids) are now available for purchase through iTunes. I LOVE their rendition of "Stand by Me" particularly. Watch the video of it on their website.

  5. Anonymous5:45 AM

    i was just singing
    feed the world in thinking up a post i'm composing...good memories...these endeavors have such lasting impact don't they? really getting excited to watch the impact of @twestival. are you going to the SF twestival? thanks for all you post/do/be :)

  6. Another one: Feed Them With Music: Download a song for a dollar and the contribution will buy 5.8 hot meals with Feed My Starving Children (the one up now, "The Mountain" is about Martin Luther King, Jr. and the recent election and I really like it alot.)

    Also: you certainly should check out the wizard rock scene (sometimes called "Wrock"), which has really gotten into raising money for charity in a big way. There are, believe or not, hundreds of bands over at Myspace with names based on Harry Potter characters. Some of them are, admittedly, quite dreadful, but many are getting extremely good and professional, releasing CDs, going on tours and attracting faithful and enthusiastic fans. Many of the bands play at bookstores and libraries, and work to raise money for literacy and social justice causes. See a list of bands over at Wizrocklopedia. One of the best known is Harry and the Potters, which started the Wizard Rock EP of the Month Club. The 2007 edition of the EP Club raised $13,000 for First Book, a non-profit organization that gives children from low-income families the opportunity to read and own their first new books. Proceeds for the 2008 edition of the Club will be split between First Book and the Harry Potter Alliance, an organization dedicated to using the examples of Harry Potter and Albus Dumbledore to spread love and fight the Dark Arts in the real world (the HP Alliance has worked very hard on Darfur issues, among other things). Other wizard rock bands have done compilations such as "Wizards and Muggles Rock for Social Justice" (there are two volumes on iTunes). The two wildly successful holiday wizard rock compilations Jingle Spells 1 (2007) and Jingle Spells 2 (2008) put out by The Leaky Cauldron (a Harry Potter info fansite) raised money for Book Aid International ($30,000 in 2007). You can buy them on iTunes. The album Wrock Against Bullying was a compilation that raised money for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada, an organization that offers mentoring to kids and young adults.

    These are just a few examples of the really remarkable charitable work being done by wizard rock bands.

  7. Anonymous12:45 PM

    I really enjoyed "No Boundaries: A Benefit for the Kosovar Refugees" which raised 10 million to help the cause. It also had some really good tracks, which is an important part (if you want to raise a lot of money). If you remember, this one became a best seller because of Pearl Jam's "Last Kiss" remake.

  8. Wow, this is an amazing list.

    Does anyone have tips for how nonprofits can work with musicians to set these kinds of projects up?

  9. What a neat trend!

    One more - 100% of proceeds from the soundtrack to Call + Response go towards ending modern day slavery. It features a lot of well known artists and amazing music.

  10. Hey Britt!
    I happened to post about Songs of Love today:

    You should check them out.

  11. Thanks for the additional suggestions, Qui and Manny. Keep 'em coming everyone.

  12. Anonymous11:48 AM

    A Very Special Christmas Albums benefit Special Olympics

    The series has raised over $55 million, the most of any CD-for-charity series

  13. Thanks for another great example, zakstar.

  14. You can buy any music you like from retailers like: Borders, Barnes&Nobles, iTunes, etc. AND have a percent of every sale go to the nonprofit group YOU choose!

    btw they have a great feature this month on MTV's Staying Alive Foundation...

    AND you can buy all your last minuet Valentine's gifts here as well while supporting your lovers fave nonprofit!


  15. Anonymous7:34 AM

    We're studying Radio this semester in Communicative English and for our practical exam, we have to record a music program. Incidentally, I chose the theme "Songs for a Cause". :)
    Here are some of the songs I'm using..
    Just Stand Up- sung by many lead women singers (including Beyonce, Mary Blige, Rihanna, Fergie, Carrie Underwood, Miley Cyrus, Ashanti..) for cancer patients, during the Stand Up to Cancer telethon in America. The proceeds went to cancer patients.
    Voices That Care, a 1991 song sung, again by many popular musicians. Meant to boost morale of American troops involved in
    Operation Desert Storm, and to support International Red Cross organization.
    Song for Gaza by Michael Heart
    He initially meant for the proceeds from sales of the MP3 to be donated to organizations working for those affected by the war, but couldn't manage because of some technical difficulty. The song can now be downloaded for free from his website, and he asks everyone who does so to donate to these organizations.. Many have done so.

  16. Thanks for adding to the list, Anonymous.

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