Arcade Fire’s commitment to helping Haitian families achieve financial autonomy started long before the Montreal-based band became indie-rock royalty in the 2000s. “It’s something that has been in our DNA forever,” says singer Régine Chassagne. “We started playing in these punk-rock venues, and you’d bring $3 or a can of goods to give away.”
After the release of 2007 album Neon Bible, the band brought that spirit on tour, donating $1 from each concert ticket sold to Partners in Health, earmarking the money for the nonprofit’s initiatives in Haiti. And the group’s continuing dedication to causes in that country — from which Chassagne’s family emigrated — as well as the idea of setting aside $1 from each ticket sold, began to inspire other musicians to find ways to support causes important to them.
In 2014, Arcade Fire touring member Marika Anthony-Shaw established PLUS1. She calls it a “philanthropic concierge” that pairs acts — including The National, St. Vincent, Broken Social Scene and New York hip-hop crew Beast Coast — with causes they want to support but might not know how to get involved with.
The nonprofit uses Arcade Fire’s original model to gather funds, analyzing projections for ticket sales to estimate the amount it can raise. A hundred percent of those funds taken from ticket sales — which according to PLUS1 is approaching $10 million, with $3 million for Partners in Health alone — go to organizations like Native Youth Sexual Health Network, KANPE and Phoenix House. In 2018, distribution of funds through PLUS1 grew by 500%.
PLUS1 — which is based in Montreal and has offices in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Chicago — finds ways to deploy its funds to have the most impact, and experts survey local organizations in need based on causes and locations personal to the artists. Tyler, the Creator, who has asthma, wanted to donate $1 per ticket from his Camp Flog Gnaw Carnival to asthma relief. “We quickly learned that you’re 10 times more likely to die of asthma in America if you’re a person of color than if you’re white,” says Anthony-Shaw. Since asthma is also one of the leading causes of school absenteeism, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, PLUS1 located an asthma clinic on wheels called Breathmobile that provides free treatment for kids on school grounds.
PLUS1 now works with over 150 artists, and upcoming campaigns will involve Carly Rae Jepsen (LGBTQ youth advocacy organization The Trevor Project in San Francisco) and Conor Oberst (The Florence Project, which supports litigators working to reunite families at the border).
PLUS1 also bills itself as cause-oriented to allow more flexibility in partnerships. “You have so many different artists participating and everybody can kind of do a little bit, which is how we end up having massive distribution for maximum impact,” says Anthony-Shaw. “Suddenly you’re at Madison Square Garden, sold out, and you [realize] thousands of lives get saved from that one evening.”