Postcards: HeadCount Reveals DNA Project Results

When I first started working for HeadCount in 2005 and 2006, one of my very first roles was pounding the pavement at shows, with a clipboard in hand, registering voters at those concerts.  Five-plus years later, HeadCount has taken things to the next level and analyzed all of the data they have collected both online and in-person since June 2011 as part of The HeadCount DNA Project. The report illustrates the differences and similarities between music fans in regards to their favorite bands, political leanings and more, a very cool idea and a valuable influx of data indeed. On a personal level, for those who volunteer for HeadCount, the DNA project allows us to see who makes up the people we speak to at shows and where their fundamental beliefs lie.

[How to Read: Out of 1,000 people who took the Fan DNA survey, 538 are Phish fans, 476 are Dave Matthews Band fans, and a 292 are Furthur fans. Of those, 148 are fans of both Phish and DMB, 122 are fans of Phish and Furthur, and 86 are fans of Furthur and DMB. 75 are fans of all three – via HeadCount]

I spoke to HeadCount Co-Founder Andy Bernstein about the results from the DNA Project. “It was interesting to see how answers varied from band to band and genre to genre,” he says. “Indie rock fans were the most likely to be Democrats and show interest in different issues. Jam band fans were most likely to be libertarians or not party affiliated at all.” As Bernstein alluded to, the results from the DNA Project show that certain fans of certain bands (Maroon 5, John Mayer, O.A.R.) tend to be Republican heavy, while fans of the jam bands that HeadCount started their mission with (STS9, Disco Biscuits) tend to be more radical in their thinking.

Also, there is some unsurprising info within the results, such as many Phish fans also digging on Furthur, while Dave Matthews Band tends to be a centralized median as to where all sorts of folks gather, despite their political views. Other graphs show that while over 80% of concert-goers have heard about a social or political issue at a concert, 49.65% have “registered to vote, signed a petition or written an elected official” – a high number that surprised me and shows the great strides organizations such as HeadCount have made.  That brings us to another aspect of HeadCount that has improved over the years: keeping the fun elements of attending live concerts at the forefront, while managing to mix those types of questions/info with the pertinent stats about their core mission.

Bernstein continues about the results, “Let’s face it, the music community – particularly the live music community – is fascinating. So we tried to get at what’s underneath it all…the Fan DNA so to speak. It ranged from the politics of the community to how fan bases overlap. Then we mapped it all out with graphics and charts.” One thing that was discussed over the years in our many HeadCount conference calls was how to attract people towards our booth at shows. All of the Fan DNA results should assist the organization in continuing to help garner new attention and allow people to see just who it is HeadCount is reaching.

Another unsurprising point found within the results was that “Democrats were more likely than Republicans to attend more than 10 concerts per year (36% vs. 26%), but Libertarians trumped them both, with 43% hitting a double-digit number of live music events each year.” But, quite possibly the most important fact that stuck out at me was the direct correlation between artist (and their messages/lyrics) and how the audience members viewed certain issues, with the numbers backing up that more of Ani DiFranco’s fans felt Wall Street was greedy than say Maroon 5’s fans did.

The main issues that divided the political parties seemed to be based around the financial world and their views of President Obama. However, as views may differ amongst certain groups, it was amazing to see how many similarities there also were for all bands’/genres’ fans as well. For instance 57% of ALL respondents said they are usually inspired to take action when a musician speaks about a social issue from stage. That 57% number includes 55% of Libertarians and half of Republicans.

There are also some more amazing facts and tidbits and graphs and charts in the “More Fun Charts” section. For instance, a number of the bands that attract “younger” fans (from what I have noticed working for HeadCount at their concerts), such as Maroon 5 and O.A.R., seem to have the most fans in the top slots about being interested in ALL of the issues. Maybe the younger generation of music fans is the most aware of what’s happening around them since the baby boomers of the ’60’s? Well, this data certainly suggests so.

Also of note is that whether folks attended Camp Bisco in upstate New York, or High Sierra in northern California, anywhere from 45-65% (approximately) of fans seemed urged to take action and inspired by an artist saying so. This lines up with my experience in HeadCount, where a single voice from the stage seemingly echoes that of a thousand in the crowd, and it’s often times the motivation one needs to get out and be active, no matter what the cause they rally behind.

Bernstein adds, “The big takeaway is that people going to shows are mostly on the same page when it comes to values and what they think about the state of the country, and it doesn’t really matter what party they support. Whether someone was a Republican or a Democrat or Independent, they were pretty likely to say the country is messed up and we better do something about it, or support an agenda of investing in the future.”

Remember to register to vote if you are not, or have recently moved, and check out all things HeadCount at You can view the full DNA results here.

In a final, concluding note, Happy Holidays and a Rockin’ New Year to all of my readers – thanks for supporting the second year of Postcards From Page Side! I look forward to much more with you all in 2012!

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