Business

Linda Perry and Kerry Brown Become Go-To Partners When Charity Bashes Need 'Wow'-Worthy Performers

Jenny Lewis and Beck
Michael Kovac/Getty Images for CORE Gala

Jenny Lewis (left) and Beck performed at the CORE Gala on Jan. 15.

When they're not writing and producing records, Linda Perry and Kerry Brown are helping to program multimillion-dollar charity events, like the recent Nirvana reunion.

Like many a Los Angeles origin story, We Are Hear's starts with Courtney Love. In the early 2000s, Love was working on songs for a never-released album with songwriter-producers Linda Perry and Kerry Brown — who didn't realize they were working on the same project until their respective wives introduced them over dinner. Perry and Brown hit it off, and in 2017, they decided to go into business together as We Are Hear, a record label, management company and publishing house whose clients include Natasha Bedingfield, Imogen Heap and Pete Molinari.

In 2018, when wildfires ripped through central California, Perry and Brown realized that their creative talents — and industry connections — could also serve a higher purpose. Friends of Perry's who own a ranch in Malibu, Calif., asked for her help organizing a benefit concert for Woolsey Fire victims. In less than two weeks, Perry and Brown booked a veritable music festival's worth of talent: Katy Perry, Joe Walsh, Gwen Stefani, Alanis Morissette, Rita Ora, Rick Springfield and Incubus all performed at the One Love Ranch concert. Instead of buying a customary charity-dinner table, attendees could purchase a trailer replete with food, drinks and chairs to take in the show for $100,000. Perry and Brown sold every last one.

"Normal galas, as beautiful as they are, are sit-down dinners [with] rubber chicken," says Perry. "We're not going to do that."

We Are Hear has since become the go-to partner for celebrity nonprofits looking to host once-in-a-lifetime charity events. Perry and Brown partnered with nonprofit The Art of Elysium, which empowers artists and Los Angeles communities in need to emotionally triumph over their circumstances through art, for the 13th iteration of its annual Heaven fundraiser in January, titled Heaven Is Rock and Roll. Perry and Brown worked with Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino to turn Los Angeles' Hollywood Palladium into a modern-day CBGB — with Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic leading a Nirvana reunion along with performances by Marilyn Manson, Cheap Trick, St. Vincent, L7 and others. Entry to the event cost anywhere from $250 for a single ticket to $100,000 for a premier table.

The same month, Sean Penn recruited We Are Hear to curate his annual CORE Gala benefit for Haiti. "We wanted something light and fun, but that had an Americana feel to it [because] Sean Penn is an American man — he's rugged," says Perry. As part of her vision, Portugal. The Man remained onstage the whole night as the event's house band. Beck and Jenny Lewis performed a spare duet of the Gram Parsons classic "Love Hurts," and Dwight Yoakam sang his rollicking rendition of Elvis Presley's "Suspicious Minds." By the end of the night, the gala had pulled in $5 million.

Perry and Brown try to reflect both the cause and the personality of the event's host in its design and programming. "If you combine a genuine appreciation for music with a passion to share authentic art, you have We Are Hear," says Brown. "We are breaking an outdated model — we want to remind not only fans, but artists, of how powerful music can be."

As for what's next, Perry isn't shy about the artists she dreams of booking: "If I could get Chrissie Hynde and Stevie Nicks at an event, I would literally die — I would be like, 'Now I've done it all,' " she says. "But it'll happen. I know it."

Kevin Winter/Getty Images
Kerry Brown (left) and Linda Perry

This article originally appeared in the Feb. 1, 2020 issue of Billboard.