On September 20, Give A Home, the global concert series presented by Sofar Sounds, Vice and Amnesty International, will see acts like The National, Jessie Ware, Kate Tempest and Jack Garratt perform simultaneously at secret venues around the world.
The movement has been in the works for some time but as TIO found out, Ian James, Managing Director of Mushroom Music Publishing, played a role in its genesis.
Speaking to TIO over the phone, James said the idea stemmed from a charity concert series called Passport: Back To The Bars, founded by UK music exec Stephen Budd. Budd is also the founder of NH7 Weekender and OneFest festivals, and a Music Managers Forum (MMF) board member.
The Passport project, which launched in the UK in 2004, employed a ‘Text Message Lottery’ where the public paid £1.50 to text in to get their ‘name in the hat’ to win a pair of entries to an artist’s show.
Passport received three runs in 2004, 2015 and 2016 and saw concerts from the likes of The Cure, Coldplay, Amy Winehouse and Duran Duran raise millions for the charity War Child. In fact, the 2015 run raised £750,000 pound in one day.
During a lunch in London, James and Budd fleshed out the idea for Give A Home, where just like Passport, the entry system meant earnings were limitless.
As Budd got to work sourcing infrastructure and sponsorship partners from London, James used his own contacts to create a ‘money can’t buy experience’ in Sydney.
“When you have the resources to help with something like this, use them,” said James. “Stephen Budd in London brought in Vice and Facebook Live to add infrastructure. Amnesty brought their integrity and reputation as a charity you can trust and Sofar [Sounds] had a great idea going which was easily applied.
“I brought in my daughter Katie James (Woodford Folk Fest, Sydney Opera House) and her partner Damian Cunningham (Live Music Office) to contact everyone they know,” he added.
James also reached out to Eleven’s John Watson to request Midnight Oil take part. But as it happens, the show day is during Peter Garrett’s well-deserved week off when he plans to celebrate his daughter’s birthday. James also reached out to Jaddan Comerford to check Vance Joy’s availability; but alas, despite Jaddan’s eagerness to be involved, the global star’s schedule was locked.
Regardless, James, his daughter Katie James and Damian Cunningham have put together a stellar local lineup with The Jezabels, Megan Washington and Ngaiire on the Sydney bill.
The invite-only shows are set to take place in secret venues in 357 cities across 60 countries, including Sydney, Austin, Bangkok, Kiev and Leeds. Entry is made via a small voluntary donation at the Sofar Sounds website.
“The model is unique,” said James. “Put in a request for tickets and hopefully you are successful. If not the money goes to the right place. That means the total money raised is not limited to the capacity of the venues or the overheads usually incurred with most shows.”
Proceeds go to refugees who’ve been displaced from their homes and lives as a result of political upheaval.
“Hopefully we will get a similar result to that achieved by Bob Geldof,” said James. “It means we are doing something practical for a lot of very unfortunate people.”
Unlike Geldof’s philanthropic ventures, Give A Home concerts won’t be staged at stadiums and arenas. Each artist will perform an up-close-and-personal acoustic set for around 30 minutes – a live anomaly given some of the names on the global lineup.
“Part of the charm is it allows fans to see their favourite musicians in an intimate setting,” said James. “It’s not about donations or big stadium shows. It’s local. That should be very appealing in itself.”
James said one of his major pride-points about the music industry as a whole – and the reason for Give A Home’s early success – is its members’ altruistic nature.
“The music industry has a very distinguished history of getting involved when things matter. It always will,” he said. “That’s one satisfying thing, we have a heartbeat. The list of artists that have put up their hand is remarkable. And so is their music, which is a positive force in difficult times.”
Note: Other key players who helped bring Give A Home to life are: Rafe Offer (co-founder, Sofar Sounds), Rocky Start (co-founder, Sofar Sounds), Tom Lovett (Global Commercial Director, Sofar Sounds), Salil Shetty (Secretary General of Amnesty International), Augusta Quiney (director, Art for Amnesty), Eric Ferrero (Amnesty US), Margaret Huang (Amnesty US), and Kate Allen (Amnesty UK).