HeadCount X Grassroots California #GoVote
If you’ve been to a jam band or EDM music festival within the last few years, chances are you’ve been approached by someone in a flatbrim with a clipboard asking if you’re registered to vote.
Those heady activists work for Headcount, a grassroots nonprofit organization dedicated to registering concertgoers to vote. Founded in 2004 by Marc “Brownie” Brownstein, bassist and front man for trance-fusion pioneers the Disco Biscuits, Headcount has registered 300,000 voters since its inception (that’s 10 percent of the population of the US for you math nerds out there). HeadCount.org
“At the time there wasn’t really anyone going to the concerts and registering voters face-to-face in the field, and we were very effective at not only organizing volunteers, but also training people and teaching them how to reach out in the field,” Brownie said in an interview with Live for Live Music last month. “And that has become the backbone of what HeadCount is about–the field activities and the thousands and thousands of volunteers organizing themselves, with the help of just Headcount’s small staff.”
Headcount’s primary mission is to register voters at concerts and music festivals in the jam band scene and beyond. The organization worked 67 festivals and an additional 1,600 concerts in 2016 alone, including Lockn, Camp Bisco, the Capitol Theater, and the Brooklyn Bowl according to Headcount media coordinator Aaron Ghitelman.
Brownie founded Headcount with his friend Andy Bernstein, a man of many hats known for writing an encyclopedia on Phish called the Pharmer’s Almanac and inspiring the Biscuits song Bernstein and Chasnoff.
The duo had experience developing grassroots campaigns from organizing street teams for Biscuits tours, and decided to throw their caps in the political ring after seeing how the 2000 election was decided by 536 votes in Florida
The two have since enlisted the help of other musicians, including Bob Weir, Warren Haynes, and Dave Matthews. Musicians outside the flatbrim scene have supported Headcount as well, including artists like Jay-Z and Grace Potter. You can find a full list of Headcount artists here.
This year’s presidential election is historically important. But Headcount wants you to do more than just vote for the president, Brownie said in last month’s L4LM interview.
“This isn’t just a presidential election,” he said. “If anything, the last 8 years have proven that each of the branches of government can obstruct progress in their own way. Just because you get the President you voted for, doesn’t mean you’re going to get everything you want to happen. That’s why for a lot of states, for example, it’s important to get out to the polls for ballot initiatives, local elections, because they matter. Engaging our volunteers and finding out what the most important issues are on a local level helps them get people involved.”
To that end, Grassroots and Headcount have teamed up to release a limited run of Headcount flatbrims. You can find them online here, or check them out at the new Grassroots store in Denver, which celebrated its grand opening last month.