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Really Want to Rock the Vote? Try Volunteering (Guest Column)

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It feels like years since much of the United States went into lockdown over the spread of COVID-19 in March. At the time, my biggest concerns as a manager were moving scheduled worldwide tour dates and album releases for many of our artists to the fall and hoping (and falsely assuming) things would get back to some sense of normalcy by then. I even spoke about this with Billboard at the time.

However, our federal government never created or implemented any plan on how to navigate out of this. Months later, it has still done nothing but claim a false victory. In the meantime, every single arm of the music industry is hurting due to this lack of response.

As days turned into weeks and then months during the spring and summer, I found myself obsessing over the news and feeling I needed to personally do something -- really anything -- to try and be a part of the change that was clearly needed. It was at that point I volunteered with the Biden campaign.

Since then, I’ve been spending many late East Coast evenings doing volunteer work for the campaign call crew. The call crew is made up of tens of thousands of citizens from all over the country who call into swing states to track down voters, find out who they are voting for and encourage them to volunteer their time to make a change this November. I got my start in the music business as a publicist -- which I still do along with managing -- so cold calling folks didn’t scare me off. That being said, sometimes when you get the “wrong” type of voter on the phone, you do tend to hear a ton of cursing and hostile thoughts. No worse than some conversations I’ve had with certain music editors over the years, I guess.

As the months progressed, I went from making calls to becoming a moderator captain overseeing all of the others making calls and offering assistance and guidance. There are many others like me from all walks of life doing this, and I admire them all.

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Keith Hagan

Of all of the terrible things the current administration has done, politicizing public health is by far the worst. Public health is not blue or red. The music industry cannot return to any type of normalcy until a real plan can be put in place to beat back the virus and allow venues to open and artists to tour again. While limited capacities in venues can work for artists on a regional level, no one is going to want to undertake a national tour for 25%, or even 50%, of what they could normally make.

Livestreaming has become an effective way for artists to generate some income and connect with their fans. But artists and managers need to be careful about who they do deals with on this front. Too many of these companies are not only taking too big a piece of the action, they are looking to own the content. Now is not the time for companies to be taking advantage of artists.

I tip my hat to organizations such as the National Independent Venue Association that are doing their best to lobby the government to help save so many of these independent venues across the country that have now been closed down for over seven months. MusiCares also came to the rescue of many working industry folks by cutting checks.

The election isn’t weeks away -- it’s here. Early voting has started in many states and we’re already seeing record early turnout. If you’re concerned about the future of the music industry, I would strongly encourage you to do something, anything, prior to Nov. 3. Voting is the most important action you can take to bring about change, but there are so many other volunteer options on either a national or regional level out there to help push things in the right direction. It’s not too late to pick one. Get in the fight.

Keith Hagan is the co-owner of SKH Music, a management & publicity company. He is based in New York City.

Music Stars Encourage Fans to Register to Vote | Billboard News