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It has been a week since Japan was shaken by a massive Earthquake. If I learned anything from working in a record shop after the Haiti earthquake, it’s that a lot of charity projects are heading for download stores near you. Some of them might be good. A lot of them will be bad. A few might be downright ugly.

How do you decide which ones to promote or take part in? How do you say “no” to the others? As usual, I’ve got some ideas.

10 Guidelines for Participation in Charity Projects

1) Only waive your share of the revenue on an album project if everybody involved (label, artist, publisher, distributor, retailer) waives their share. This should help keep it clean.

2) Only promote an album as a charity project if either…

a) …100% of the purchase price goes to the charity in question.

b) …the portion of proceeds to be donated can be clearly stated everywhere the product is offered for sale.

3) A charitable project or promotion must generate considerably more for the charity than the monetary and opportunity cost of executing and promoting it, otherwise it would be more cost-effective to simply make a donation.

4) Choose charity projects that fit within your existing promotional real-estate and functionality unless it’s your job or core competency to build a donations platform.

5) Don’t use your brand to solicit donations to a third-party organisation through a third-party platform or social network. Do it personally, and encourage your friends to do the same.

6) Only collect donations from the public when you can be confident that 100% of these donations will go, (and will appear to go) to the cause in question.

7) Support humanitarian causes in public and political causes in private.

8) The decision to support humanitarian causes should be guided by the desire to help that cause, not by the desire to look good or to secure publicity.

9) Only engage in public fundraising when you expect to raise a significant amount of money.

10) In the event of a major disaster, your response should be co-ordinated to channel support through a single reputable and internationally recognised organisation.

If you’d like to make a transparent appeal for donations to an international audience, you might find it helpful to know that the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies can take a credit card payment from anywhere in the world through this page. If your audience is local, it might be more tax-efficient to make a donation to your local Red Cross society.

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  1. March 18, 2011

    Woo-hoo! Our charity album passes your litmus test. But in all sincerity, everything you’ve pointing out is quite apt. And although my foundation’s charity album isn’t in response to a natural disaster, much of your list can be readily adopted to other charity projects.

    Charity albums should also attract a certain level of gift-in-kind attention from studios, technicians, etc. Productions costs add up just as fast as artist costs so finding a group that can convince everyone related to those avenues about the value of their project should speak volumes to donors.

    Charity albums also reach a different level when they contain a certain amount of original material – or new recordings made expressly for the benefit album – as opposed to something consisting solely of re-licensed content (not to say the latter has no value, nothing could be further from the truth).

    If the organization responsible for the album is a registered nonprofit, their album must contain some of the items in your list, especially the net proceeds ratio as well as including educational literature detailing the organization’s mission statement and providing information on beneficiaries.

    Finally, your point about a most favored nations clause is equally important and should be spelled out with specific language in the artist agreement (BTW, make sure they have a written agreement!).

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