Andy Bernstein

Postcards From Page Side: HeadCount – Onwards & Upwards

This week for Postcards From Page Side, I decided to focus on an issue close to all of us, whether we realize it or not: voter registration and the impact on not only our scene, but our world in general. HeadCount is a non-profit organization focused on registering voters at live concerts, amongst other things. Co-founder Andy Bernstein was gracious enough to take some time to chat with me about HeadCount’s first eight years as a non-profit and what lies ahead for the organization with the impending election year in 2012. “It’s been a very interesting few years for us. In a lot of ways, I’m more excited and honestly more proud of the work we are doing this year than any of the years that came before it,” says Bernstein. “We really wanted to take it to the next level in 2011 and 2012 and take action, by taking the momentum of the election and turning our community into a force.”

My conversation with Bernstein quickly turns to not only the past and present of HeadCount, but also most importantly, its future, namely the election year of 2012. And trust me, HeadCount has big plans. More than just sending teams on the road to register voters, they are all about having “fun” at the shows while educating the masses. “Going into this year we took a kind of different approach. Our goal this year was to really have fun with the community on a socially conscious level. That was everything that we feel the previous years had been calling for. We wanted to just strengthen our tie to the community on a pro-social level and that would take us back into the presidential year with a whole new position and ability to reach people and get the vote out.”

Bernstein continues to elaborate on certain, specific ways that HeadCount is continuing to reinvent themselves. “We have done three major things this year. The first is a survey called the Fan DNA Project that we are doing at shows asking about their musical tastes and political beliefs. We are going to compare different fan bases and different festivals [to find out] what do we all have in common? Where are we different? What do we believe in? It will help the bands understand their fanbase better and HeadCount understand the people we are trying to reach better.”

READ ON for more on HeadCount’s history and future plans…

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HeadCount Takes To The Phones

In an age of Facebook, Twitter and any number of social media outlets capable of documenting the minutia of your day to day life, sometimes something as simple as the lost art of the phone call serves as the best way to connect with someone on a personal level. For their latest social activism campaign, HeadCount is doing just that by taking a back to basics approach in order to remind people to head to the polls to exercise the Constitutional right to vote in next Tuesday’s mid-term elections.

The non-partisan organization, that was founded in 2004 by Andy Bernstein and Disco Biscuits bassist Marc Brownstein, and has helped register over 175,000 people, has enlisted a impressive roster of musicians from the indie to jam world, that includes Jim James (MMJ), Willie Nelson, ?uestlove, Matt Berninger (The National), Jon Fishman (Phish) and Warren Haynes (ABB, Gov’t Mule) to not only pre-record reminder messages, but also make live personal calls to a select number of the approximately 25,000 people who have made a “Pledge to Vote” via HeadCount.

In a media conference call yesterday to talk about the inventive initiative, HeadCount board member Bob Weir (Grateful Dead/Furthur) stressed the importance of a “Vote For You” mentality, saying that young people need to take the future into consideration and participate instead of letting a bunch of “crusty old folks” made the decisions that have direct impact on their lives and those of future generations. Weir, who joked that his call list was so large he better get to work on it immediately, said that would seize the opportunity to talk to people to help figure out where the organization’s efforts will be centered in the future.

READ ON for more from HeadCount’s conference call…

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