Second Lives For Setlists: Best-Selling Authors Launch Charity Auction With Help From Rock Star Friends

Bobby Bank/Getty Images
Smith at Carnegie Hall in New York on March 21.

Authors Dave Eggers and Nick Hornby went to their contact lists to drum up artists’ setlists to auction for charities benefiting young writers.

Normally, music fans would have to hang around after a concert and snag a setlist from a stagehand. But best-selling authors Dave Eggers and Nick Hornby are launching a charity auction, Setlists for Young Voices, to save them the trouble, with "the idea of the setlist as a historical artifact that you can frame and put somewhere that will always make you smile," says Eggers. "It's just a piece of paper, but it's an artifact of a moment, and it has all your favorite songs written on it."

Eggers and Hornby pooled their connections in the music world, from friends to former interviewees, to collect over 70 signed setlists to auction as a benefit for their nonprofit organizations -- 826 Valencia and Ministry of Stories, respectively -- as well as additional nonprofits that are sending delegates to the International Congress of Youth Voices in Puerto Rico in August. Setlists for Young Voices will launch on eBay's charity site on April 22 and run for 10 days, with autographed lists from Reba McEntire, Dixie Chicks, Death Cab for Cutie, Nine Inch Nails, Andrew Bird, Aimee Mann, Def Leppard and Elvis Costello, among others.

"We just started asking around, and no one said 'no.' Everyone immediately started sending setlists," says Eggers. "We would get an envelope from Paris from The Pretenders one day, and the next day it would be an envelope from Georgia [with] R.E.M. setlists from 1989."

The physical documents are as varied as the artists sending them, with some still taped-up and creased; others on artists' stationery; and more handwritten and torn from yellow legal pads.

"We have some amazing ones from Patti Smith, who sent four, and each one is handwritten" on stationery from the hotel she stayed at during the tour stop, says Eggers. "It's in this beautiful almost calligraphy. It's as incredible as you would expect from her."

When fellow author Michael Chabon got wind of the project, he was able to secure setlists from Rush, Pete Townshend, Wilco and others. Chabon "gave it a whole new life," says Eggers. "He took the baton and did a lap with it."

The authors also were promised Coachella setlists from Janelle Monáe, Mac DeMarco, Ty Segall and more, and secured lists from a number of artists playing the Bay Area's Noise Pop festival.

The diverse group of kids that the organizations are sending to Puerto Rico come "from the same place as so many of these musicians, who write themselves into existence and create their own destinies through their mastery or their eloquence with the written or spoken word," says Eggers. "The two are hand in hand; there is always a kinship. Musicians get it."