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HeadCount Uses Music to Engage Voters

HeadCount, a non-partisan voter registration organization, has a goal of registering 200,000 voters before the 2008 elections. How do they plan to do it? By using the power of music.

HeadCount uses the assets of the music industry and the incredible influence artists have over their fans to mobilize concert-goers to action. The volunteer network will form street teams in approximately 50 US cities, each working with affiliated bands and promoters to set up voter registration tables at concerts. The organization will also send volunteers on the road with major artists, an approach that helped register over 12,000 new voters on the Dave Matthews Band tour in 2004—an all-time record for a single concert tour. Artists involved this election cycle include the Allman Brothers, members of Phish and the Grateful Dead, OAR, Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, and Maroon 5.

In addition, HeadCount has invested in state-of-the-art voter registration software and expects to register tens of thousands of voters through their website. This activity will be buttressed by extensive "get-out-the-vote" activity. The organization will work directly with artists to encourage people of all ages to head to the polls in 2008.

The organization was formed in early 2004 by a small group of musicians, band managers, concert promoters, and fans, and quickly blossomed into a nationwide network. By April of that year the organization was registering voters at more than 20 concerts per week, and went on to send teams on the road with Dave Matthews Band, The Dead, and Phish. They ended up registering 48,500 voters. HeadCount also produced its own public service announcements starring the artists it worked with. These spots aired on CBS's "The Late Show with David Letterman," TNT, and TBS. All of HeadCount's achievements that election season were accomplished without the aid of a paid staff or central office.

In 2006, HeadCount staged "The Midterms Matter Tour," bringing a voter registration theme to 35 major concert events. It also generated over one million e-mails directly from artists to their fans, reminding people to register and to vote.

Stretching beyond just registering voters, HeadCount also aims to become "the community organizing arm of the live music scene," giving every socially conscious music fan an avenue toward activism.

For those who are ready to get even more politically involved, HeadCount is currently offering a valuable opportunity. The organization's volunteers receive intensive training in voter registration guidelines and practices, and get hands-on experience with community organizing. For the first time, some will be eligible for modest, performance-based stipends. Those who are interested can sign up at


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