PLUS1 offers a seamless, efficient way to use your show to donate to charity—while also making your own money.
“March 12: It was like being in a train station in a hurricane.”
Marika Anthony-Shaw is the founder and CEO of PLUS1, which works with over 150 artists and events worldwide to designate funds to charitable organizations by adding $1 to ticket prices. And on March 12, when it became clear across the world that COVID-19 could not be contained, “1.7 million tickets were cancelled in a matter of 10 hours,” Anthony-Shaw says from Montreal. “We had all of these artists and crew who play shows for their living, who are relying on this income and were excited to play shows for their fans, in venues all over the world—that whole infrastructure that just went silent.”
Concurrently, the organizations PLUS1 works with—including Partners in Health, War Child, and the Native Youth Sexual Health Network, among many others—were also in need of funds, now more than ever. “Our artists needed support and our communities needed support,” says Anthony-Shaw, “and there was this really important reckoning for us.”
Within three days—amid a flurry of out-of-work artists jumping online—PLUS1 created a Covid-19 relief fund. “This was an effort to bring everybody together and to support those in our community most at risk,” she says. “The beauty of artists flipping immediately and once again telling the story of our time, and bringing people together online—because musicians were telling the story and providing the necessary cultural survivorhood that musicians, once again, were offering. It was critical and providing the solace that we needed. PLUS1 wanted to be useful in those moments, with the quick pivot that could generate revenue for them if they needed it.”
PLUS1 was borne out of Anthony-Shaw’s time playing strings with Arcade Fire as the Montreal outfit became the indie-rock juggernaut it is now. “It was this growing platform—being literally on a stage and holding microphones becomes an extraordinary responsibility,” she says. “One of our co-lead singers [Régine Chassagne] is from Haiti and she took that very seriously—with this growing platform, how can I use this opportunity?”
Arcade Fire began working with Partners in Health in Chassagne’s home country—for over 30 years, the organization has been providing comprehensive, high-quality health care in some of the poorest, most remote regions of Haiti. The band wanted to do something lasting and ongoing.
“The options at that time were one-offs,” says Anthony-Shaw. “A benefit concert or an auction or a contest, but then it goes away. There were bits and pieces, but there was no glue that would create consistent support and quality support.
“We added a dollar a ticket, and we were playing to 1,000 people at a time,” she continues. “We raised $2.5 million, without the continual ask of our fans, and without that continual administrative effort. And not only had we been able to unlock incredible revenue for Partners in Health, Partners in Health had been introduced to millions of people. It became this really profound story of equity, and this narrative of Haiti as a beautiful place, a poetic place, an historically very important place.”
Anthony-Shaw founded PLUS1 in 2014. “I had had this extraordinary opportunity to play music around the world with my friends, but this is where my heart is,” she says. “We look to artists as our north stars, as our storytellers. It really does dictate where our culture is going.”
Participating musicians have included The National, Vampire Weekend, St.Vincent, Sufjan Stevens, and Carly Rae Jepsen. “We’ve been able to unlock over $9 million in these six years,” she says, “with these artists putting up their hands and saying, ‘I’m going to be a leader in this and direct my energy to these issues, these causes, and these values, on a regular basis.’”
For Side Door artists who have lost income in the pandemic, who want to make money online and support those in need, PLUS1 is now available as an add-on partner. “Folks can add us as a host, a secondary promoter, and we work with the philanthropic side,” says Anthony-Shaw. “We handle all the philanthropy on the back end, we have conversations about where to deliver those funds—right now it’s connected to our Covid fund. We’ve tried to make it really seamless so that people can just add us and we can take care of it.”
PLUS1 aggregates the funds and delivers them to participating partners, including in Canada the Unison Benevolent Fund and Food Banks Canada, and MusicCares and Trans Lifeline in the United States. Performers can use their shows to give back, while also earning their own income—and Anthony-Shaw says it’s important to PLUS1 that artists are taken care of.
“What we’re learning is it’s a critical piece—how do we ensure that artists are getting paid for their work?” she says. “Artists come first—without that we just don’t have what we need. We need to have this diversity of artists out there creating, and being safe in that creating.”