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Got a band and a cause worth fighting for? Organization helps find like-minded fans

Members of Blank Generation play Marquette Pool opening this summer. The group headlined a Play for the Cause show at Off Broadway yesterday.
Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio
Members of Blank Generation performing at Marquette Pool opening this summer. The group headlined a Playing for the Cause show at Off Broadway yesterday.

A St. Louis nonprofit called Playing for the Cause is trying to connect philanthropic musicians and their fans to causes they care about. Lynn Cook founded the organization on one simple idea.

“If you have 3,000 happy people in front of you every night, all you have to do is ask and of course they’re going to support you,” said Cook.

Cook hopes to bridge the gap that can separate socially conscious musicians, their fan bases and the causes they care about. The nonprofit integrates the idea of a tribute or benefit show into each stop on a musician’s tour without making the cause the sole focus of each show.

Cook helps musicians find a cause that matters to their bands. Playing for the Cause then connects the musicians with nonprofits that support that effort in each city along their tour and arranges a giving plan.  The musicians can donate a percentage of ticket sales or revenue. The organization provides social media support through Twitter and Facebook to help broaden the partnership’s reach and make sure fans know what's happening their home towns.

"Millennials and Generation X are always looking for new ways to give but the people aren’t talking to them, the nonprofits aren’t talking to them, so this takes something that musicians want to do and something that people love and marries the two together,” Cook said. 

Cook launched Playing for the Cause in early 2014. She’s produced local events with local bands but has an eye toward expanding. She’s been traveling to national gatherings like the Americana Music Association Conference and spreading the word among agents and managers for national acts.

Crisis Nursery helped

Jazz vocalist Ben Taylor used Playing for the Cause to generate donations for St. Louis’ Crisis Nursery last Christmas. He said the concert brought together the audience and band in a “really unique way.”

Taylor initially had mixed emotions about putting on a show with the organization because he was already asking people to pay for the show. 

“Instead of just being a concert where people just show up, they drink, and listen to music, it was a way of giving back and saying, ‘Listen, there’s more to this,’” said Taylor. 

And the project aimed at supporting both musicians and their causes continues to receive reciprocal support from those communities. Last night four local bands stepped and played a fundraiser for  Playing for the Cause at Off Broadway.

Andrew Gibson’s band, Blank Generation, headlined the show. He said each member of the band appreciates the chance to unite their music practically with social justice interests. Gibson also runs an arts education nonprofit and said he can see the benefits of Playing for the Cause from both angles. Gibson hopes the organization actually activates other musicians to consider integrating their music and the issues they care about.

“Hopefully this organization can compel musicians to find causes that are meaningful to them and support those causes through a show, thus connecting their fans to the same worthy cause,” said Gibson.

Funds raised by the concert will make their way back into the community as they’re used for the nonprofit’s operating costs.

Editor's note: St. Louis Public Radio’s Jess Luther serves on the Playing for the Cause board.

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