The Industry Connection

Interview with the Andy Bernstein, Founder of HeadCount

👋 Welcome to The Industry Connection. Today’s slate includes a new “artist-friendly” streaming model, Hollywood strike-woes continuing to build, plus we sit down with Andy Bernstein, the founder of HeadCount.

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Music News

  • 💸 Deezer, the French music streaming service, partners with Universal Music Group (UMG) on a new artist-centric music streaming model

    • The current pro-rata streaming model pays labels and artists according to their share of streams out of the total revenue generated by streaming services. One steam = one play. 

    • Deezer’s new model, which rolls out on October 1st, will rely on “boosts” that “rewards artists who are actively searched for by users, as well as those who maintain a level of 1,000 streams per month from at least 500 unique accounts.” Those Artists will now be considered “professional artists” and each of their steams will count as two streams when dividing up the revenue. Still with me?

    • If a fan were to actively search for a “professional artist” and listen to their song… now that would 4x the streams to count as four streams when dividing up the revenue.

    • I’m sure this new system won’t cause any controversy or backlash from “non-professional artists” 🙃 

  • 🔓 London’s O2 Academy Brixton allowed to reopen nine months after deadly stampede

  • 📉 Share's of K-pop agency YG Entertainment plunged 9% after BLACKPINK member Lisa rejects $40M contract renewal offer

    • If Lisa decides not to continue with the company, it could put the future of BLACKPINK in an interesting spot. Read more here.

  • 🥤 Ice Spice teams up with Ben Affleck to promote her new Dunkin’ drink in a… weird new commercial.

  • NSYNC won’t “officially” reunite (for now) - but Justin Timberlake is headed out on tour in ‘24

    • The band recently reunited on stage at the VMAs and shortly after announced their first new song in 20 years, 'Better Place' - which appears in the trailer for his upcoming movie 'Trolls Band Together.

  • Electric Zoo Organized hit with class-action lawsuit after disastrous festival

Entertainment News

  • 👎 Drew Barrymore is in hot water and will no longer bring back her talk show during the strike

    • Barrymore announced that her talk show would premiere on September 18th in compliance with WGA guidelines and without writers. That decision obviously faced backlash from the union and public alike. She has since backtracked and announced the show’s return will wait until after the strike has ended.

  • Apple is the latest entertainment company to suspend overall and first look deals (click here to learn what those deals are)

    • Following announcements by Disney, NBCUniversal, Warner Bros. TV and CBS Studios, Apple has suspended the deals of Natalie Portman & Adam McKay according to Deadline

  • 🥊 Endeavor bundles WWE and UFC into TKO Group, which began trading on the NYSE last week

    • Endeavor, which owns 51% of the new company, laid off over 100 WWE employees, as they look to cut $50M-$100M in costs.

  •  Russel Brand dropped by Agent after sexual assault accusations

  • 🎙️Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel, Stephen Colbert, Seth Myers and John Oliver will host an IRL recording of their podcast “Strike Force Five” in Vegas next week

    • Proceeds from the show will go to support their staffs… though we still have yet to publicly hear from Fallon on allegations from his staff of a toxic work environment.

Interview with Andy Bernstein, Founder and Executive Director of HeadCount

Last week I had the pleasure of chatting with Andy Bernstein, who founded HeadCount in 2004. Andy served as their Executive Director from 2008 until Thursday, when he passed the title off to Lucille Wenegieme, who is poised to lead the organization into a new era of inspiring youth participation in democracy. If you’re a live music fan, you’ve most likely seen HeadCount signing up fans to vote at concerts and festivals. Under his leadership, the organization has registered over one million voters, forged alliances with hundreds of musicians including Ariana Grande, Harry Styles, Dead & Company, and Beyoncé and produced dozens of highly-successful events and initiatives.

With National Voter Registration coming up on Tuesday, September 19th, the timing of this one worked out well. Before we begin, are you registered to vote? Our conversation is below:

AvA: Let’s go all the way back to the beginning. How did the idea for Headcount come about?

Andy Bernstein: HeadCount was started by accident. At the time, it was late 2003. It was at the height of the Iraq War. And I, like many people, were really upset about what I was seeing.

I didn't work in music. I was a sports writer. The only connection I had to the music world was I've co-authored a book about Phish, called the Pharmer's Almanac. One day I was doing an interview, and the conversation turned to the political state of affairs. When I hung up the phone, I said, “you know what, I got to do something, I got to stop complaining, I got to do something, what can I do?”

I said, well, what if I can just get people to vote who go to the same concerts that I go to, Maybe that's my sphere of influence. That's the change I can make in the world. I sent my friend Marc Brownstein, who's the bass player in the band called the Disco Biscuits, a three page email with all these ideas and he sent back two words: “I’M IN.”

AvA: What types of artists & communities were you focused on when you launched HeadCount?

Bernstein: We started out purely in the jam band scene. The first artists we worked with were Michael Franti, Derek Trucks, Gov’t Mule, and The Disco Biscuits… but within a few years, we were on the road with Pearl Jam, John Mayer, O.A.R, Ariana Grande, Billie Eilish, many of the biggest pop acts in the world. That was a long evolution & it certainly was not what we envisioned early on.

What we envisioned from day one is that there are more people at each festival and show we go to than that decided the outcome of the election in Florida in 2000. So let's just make sure our community is voting. Eventually we came to see the opportunity in many more music communities.

HeadCount volunteers on-site at a Festival registering fans to vote. Credit: HeadCount.org

Are there certain moments you can attribute to the evolution of HeadCount during your time as Executive Director?

Bernstein: Our work with Ariana Grande was really game changing, as we set a record for the most voter registrations and actions on a tour, and I really credit her and her team. We were an extension of her brand, and that lifted our brand in the process. That's an ethos of HeadCount: the Artist is the power, and the Artist is what moves the fans, so we need to be an extension of the Artist. And when we're doing that, we can be relevant in a lot of communities that are even new to us. So whether it's working with Harry Styles, Billie Eilish, Lizzo, or Alicia Keys, which are all tours we’ve done in the last year, or Dave Matthews, Phish and The Dead that we started out with, our ability to recognize that it is the partner and the Artist, who matters in the equation, our ability to look at it from a music industry lens and not an outsider lens, has made us a very good partner to a lot of artists, managers and agents.

The second was working with the Parkland students and the March For Our Lives movement in 2018. That was a really seminal moment for the country, where a giant social movement was born very quickly out of it led by young people who tied it all back to voting. We ran voter registration drives at events all over the country, and at that moment, I think it was really clear that HeadCount’s core capability of running field and digital campaigns around voting can exist at a lot of places that can be relevant beyond just concerts.

Ariana Grande registered more than 33,000 voters on her Sweetener world tour, breaking a HeadCount record.

AvA: What does the future of HeadCount look like?

Bernstein: Well, I'm so excited to announce new leadership: Lucille Wenegieme. A couple of years ago, I decided quietly that it was time to bring in someone new. I was coming up on my 50th birthday, and when I started HeadCount, I was 32 years old. I was a young voter and we have always aimed to engage young voters through culture. I somehow aged 20 years over 20 years. Funny how that happens.

So a couple of years ago, I felt like a change had to come. I didn't share that decision with anybody until last year, and then in April we publicly announced a search and very quickly zeroed in on Lucille. She is such a rising star, most recently running strategy for the Denver election office, and being on both the government side and advocacy side. Early in her career, she was also a fashion blogger and worked at Coach, and before she started her professional career, she got a master's degree in Medical Science. We feel like we found the perfect person… She's incredibly smart, has a real ear for culture, and has put her life's work into making it easier for people to vote. What I hope the industry recognizes is that HeadCount is changing with the times, and that we have successfully brought forward a person of immense talent and that the potential is limitless. I hope the music industry sees that, supports her and that the artists will have greater impact because of it.

But I'm not leaving… I'm just stepping back. I’m going to continue to leverage 20 years of experience and relationships and lend my support to HeadCount in many ways. And I'm also really excited to see how I can lend my experience to help others who want to do good in the world and have social impact, while continuing to make sure that HeadCount is a strong partner to the music industry.

AvA: What advice would you give to someone getting started in the music business or wanting to launch their own non-profit?

Bernstein: The way we got HeadCount going is that myself and many other people gave it everything we had. We dug down deep, continued to evolve, and react to a lot of trial and error. When something didn't work, we had the humility to recognize it didn't work, and then make changes. So what you see now is the product of 20 years of trial and error, and not trying the same thing twice and expecting different results.

My advice is you've got to dig down deep and have that humility to recognize most things you're going to try aren't going to work, and that’s okay as long as you recognize it. Instead of trying to make excuses in your own head to justify all the time you spend, you've got to find out what this is telling you and make that adjustment.

Lastly, find that part of yourself that's truly who you are. Not your work self, but truly yourself. And let your mind flow and let yourself experiment and unlock things and problem solve. Then try and find a way to make an impact.

 🧠 Andy’s Book Recommendation:

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This newsletter is written by Warner Bailey (connect with me here). Edited by Malik Figaro. 

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