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06/26/2020
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#iVoted, Rock the Vote Turn to Live Streams to Encourage Action in November

There'll be at least one good byproduct of the upcoming presidential election: dozens of online events that will have encouraged people to vote. With college campuses closed and nearly all music venues shut down, voting rights activism is following the trend of hosting virtual concerts in place of in-person events.

#iVoted uses the promise of live music experiences on election night to encourage people to get out and vote. Fans will be able to RSVP for a wide slate of #iVoted shows being held Nov. 3 by taking a selfie with their mail-in-ballot or from outside a polling place. There will also be a way for underage fans to gain access to the virtual concerts. The initiative, which launched in 2018, is admirable given that young people in the U.S. are more likely to attend live music events (53% of teens and 63% millennials, Nielsen Music 360 report) than vote (35.6% for 18-29 and 48.8% for 30-44 in 2018, US Census).

To source artists for the events, #iVoted partnered with Chartmetric to pinpoint which bands people listen to in each city and state. The 80 groups on board thus far are "top streaming artists in Wisconsin and Michigan, or artists from those states," says manager Emily White, who founded #iVoted with industry veteran Mike Luba and musician Pat Sansone (Wilco, The Autumn Defense).

To date, #iVoted has secured a mix of local and national acts including Drive-By Truckers, Ezra Bell, Jukebox the Ghost, Here Come the Mummies, My Brightest Diamond, Joywave, The Polyphonic Spree, Melt, Heather Mae, Boom Forest, Dead Horses and Jeffrey Foucalt. More artists will be added to the roster, says White.

"We'll get through the swing states, then we'll look at data again," she says.

The 30-year-old Rock the Vote kickstarted its Democracy Summer campaign on June 18 with a show that featured Katy Perry, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Ne-Yo, former Housing Secretary Julian Castro and about a dozen other performers and politicians.

In both cases, the two organizations are adapting to the realities of the pandemic's effect on in-person events that would normally be used to drive awareness and boost enthusiasm. The coronavirus "derailed the momentum" Rock the Vote had gathered, president Carolyn DeWitt previously told Billboard. "Our effort is really about building that momentum back up."

"One of the realities is Coronavirus derailed the momentum that is required in a major election cycle," DeWitt tells us. "A few months ago we began seeing how the restrictions were affecting young people in particular, by moving them off college campuses and disrupting graduations and proms."