Dave Matthews and his manager Coran Capshaw are partnering with an Internet charity site to meld philanthropy with live music in an innovative way. Matthews and rock multi-instrumentalist Tim Reynolds are performing two sold-out concerts at Seattle's McCaw Hall Dec. 6-7, with 100% of the proceeds -- an estimated $1 million -- to be donated to charities selected by ticket purchasers through JustGive.org.
For each $135 ticket purchased, the buyer received a $150 credit that could be directed to any of 1.8 million charitable organizations in JustGive's database. JustGive, which bills itself as the "online destination for charitable giving," is a San Francisco-based nonprofit organization that, since launching in 2000, has distributed more than $130 million to tens of thousands of charities. Matthews' partnership with JustGive represents the nonprofit's first with an artist.
Matthews says he and Capshaw had been looking for a "novel way" to inspire giving. "Coran came to me with this idea of people paying for their tickets and [directing] that amount of money -- in the end, it turned out to being more than that amount of money -- to any charity of their choice," Matthews tells Billboard.com. "If you come to this concert, your only responsibility, besides enjoying the show, is to give $150 away."
Capshaw hopes that other artists will consider embracing similar approaches to charitable giving. "These two shows are the first of what we hope to be many, and we'd love to roll this out nationally with other bands, cities and venues across the country," Capshaw tells Billboard.com. "We want to inspire giving any way we can, and this is an example of a way that fans can go enjoy a concert and really direct where their funds go to."
Matthews agrees that the Seattle shows with Reynolds are "a test batch -- like making one barrel of wine and seeing if it's worth making 100 barrels," he says. "It just seems like a very balanced idea to me and one that could catch on."
This power of choice makes the difference, separating this concept from other consumer-related giving efforts, Matthews says. "There are other versions, like some of the money from this chocolate bar will go toward stopping deforestation," he says. "If you buy the chocolate bar, you can't say 'I actually want to give this to the Boys & Girls Clubs of America.' They'll say, 'Sorry, the orangutans are going to get this one.' In this instance, this goes to your primate of choice."
Charities often are pinched in difficult economic times, a fact not lost on Matthews. "We often fear each other and are greedy in the face of lean pickings, but I think I'm a fairly good judge of human beings, and although we tend in defensive positions to be often quite selfish, in general I think people are very kind, especially when they feel the power over what is happening," he says. "So I expect [this type of initiative] will grow into a somewhat fashionable charity."
Matthews, who received the Humanitarian Award at the 2005 Billboard Touring Conference, is an ongoing presence in musician philanthropy, often through his Bama Rags Foundation. He rarely discusses these efforts publicly, however. "If I give, it doesn't really matter whether or not I talk about it," he says. "If I do give somewhere and then turn around and say 'look what I did,' then in a way I think the act is made smaller by the fact that I want to receive something in exchange for it when I have already gotten the emotional response from helping someone out."
He's talking about the JustGive.org initiative, however, because he hopes other acts emulate the concept. "If we were on stage and we had dancing bears and then tomorrow there were 20 bands with dancing bears, I would be like, "Everyone stole our idea, that's not cool," he says. "In this case, if 20 bands take this idea and do it, that's awesome, that's exactly what we want. I hope we cause, in a perfect world, a plague of giving, but in this case even a common cold would be nice."
In his own touring efforts, Matthews says this type of program could end up being something he does frequently "maybe more often than not." But that will not be the case in 2011 with the Dave Matthews Band, the top-grossing artist for the decade 2000-2010, which announced this year that it would be taking a year off in 2011 for the first time ever.
The band has continued as one of the top draws in the world in the wake of the tragic death of founding member LeRoi Moore in 2008. "Roi's last year with us was the best year we'd had in a long, long time and what he left us with, and the determination he left us with, lasts," says Matthews. "I miss him terribly, and I miss him every day, but I think the band has honored him the last couple of years by acting out the things he had grumpily demanded over the years, and I look forward to many years of doing this together still.
"Next year, although we're not going to hop on the same train of buses and drive around North America, I have no doubt we're going to get together, whether it's in front of people or whether it's in some room somewhere, and make music together, because this is my second family."