On Nov. 3, all eyes will be on Wisconsin as one of the key battleground states for the presidential election.
And thousands of eyes that day will be on Wisconsin artists performing in the iVoted virtual festival, orchestrated by Oconomowoc native Emily White.
White, who grew up in Hartland and is a founding partner of artists and athletes management company Collective Entertainment in New York, has an extensive résumé in the music industry, from tour-managing the Dresden Dolls when she was in college at Northeastern University to writing the book "How to Build a Successful Music Career & Collect All Revenue Streams" that was published in March.
But iVoted may be her most ambitious undertaking to date. White and her iVoted volunteer team — including her client Pat Sansone of Wilco, and board member Kennita Hickman, director of artist outreach and support for local nonprofit Imagine MKE — hope to book up to 1,500 acts, many of them coming from up to 20 battleground states.
Artist confirmations are being announced on a rolling basis, but iVoted has already locked in 125 artists — including noted national names Drive-By Truckers, Living Colour and Dresden Dolls — with about 20 acts coming from Wisconsin, one of the first states iVoted zeroed in on.
"Instead of booking talent we think people will like, we're paying attention to data and looking at what fans are listening to" in those battleground states, White said. Guidance is coming from analytics partner Chartmetric, which measures streams and social media followings for artists. "What people are listening to in Milwaukee is so different from Grand Rapids, Michigan, and Jacksonville, Florida. It's been a blast to work on and dig into."
After seeing the ultra-slim margins in the 2016 presidential election in states like Wisconsin and Michigan, and steep turnout declines in cities like Milwaukee, White pondered the possibility of hosting a concert to encourage voting.
Ultimately, iVoted organized more than 150 concerts in 37 states for the November elections in 2018. Along with big names like Billie Eilish, the lineup included Milwaukee artists Lorde Fredd33, Kia Rap Princess, Tapebenders and others performing at local venues like the Miramar Theatre and the Cactus Club.
With venues indefinitely closed because of the coronavirus pandemic, iVoted is going virtual for 2020. People will be able to RSVP to watch as many shows as they'd like by submitting a selfie with their mail-in ballot or in front of a polling place. Minors can submit a video explaining when and why they'll be excited to vote, and people living overseas will be able to RSVP as well. RSVP links have yet to go live, but you can sign up for iVoted's email list to get an alert.
And when people tune in on Nov. 3, they'll be able to see sets from several of Wisconsin's most popular acts. They include: rappers WebsterX and Munch Lauren; folk groups Dead Horses, Field Report, Horseshoes & Hand Grenades and Them Coulee Boys; singer-songwriters Peter Mulvey, Brett Newski, Trapper Schoepp, Cullah, Boom Forest and former PHOX guitarist Matt Holmen; pop rock acts GGOOLLDD, Telethon, Well-Known Strangers and Life in a Tree; electronic producer Melvv; and R&B artists B~Free and Klassik.
"It means the world to me to work with so many Milwaukee and Wisconsin artists and see them excited about voting," White said. "It's been a really moving experience to work with that community like this, and really inspiring. I have just been blown away by the talent that I've seen."