Music Heals: an interview with Chris Brandt

I met Chris Brandt a little over year ago when I was in Victoria at #SMCV11 to deliver a workshop on YouTube. Then an instructor at Nimbus School of Music, Chris and Brian Thompson were delivering a workshop on using social media for musicians and bands.

A late-night conversation over cocktails at Clive’s ensued. As you do.
I was very excited to hear about Chris’ latest enterprise, which is a Charity called Music Heals. In a ballsy move, he has actually quit his job to focus full-time on this charity which helps to raise funds for music therapy, something I have experienced the power of first-hand in my life.

One of the really cool things that Music Heals has done is created something called The Bandwagon: a portable recording studio that lives in hospitals so that kids who are making music can create beautiful, professional recordings of their work.

Because social media for charities and NFPs is my new AOO (area of obsession), I asked Chris if I could interview him for the blog to see what kind of tips the rest of us could pick up.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Chris Brandt:

RC:  Tell me how Music Heals came to be.

CB: After working for a number of years with Music Therapists and sitting on the organization committee for the Music Therapy Ride, my business partner (David Barnett) and I decided to step back and create something new. There are a number of wonderful existing initiatives that support Music Therapy, but they are all working independently of each other. We want Music Heals to be an umbrella organization that supports the efforts of therapists, fundraisers, event organizers, and institutions like hospitals and hospices, and works to keep Music Therapy top of mind all year long. Our goal isn’t to impede upon or cannibalize the work of these existing initiatives, but rather to help them achieve their goals, along with a few of our own.


RC: What exactly is it that you are trying to accomplish through Music Heals?

CB: Spending 20 years in the music industry I have had the pleasure of meeting a lot of famous figures. That said, the music therapists I have come into contact with are the biggest rock stars I have ever met. They are the experts, and I am humbled by the work that they do. Our goal isn’t to do their work. We are noise makers. Our goal is to make noise and raise funds which we will give to the therapists to do what they do best. The allocation of all of the money we raise will be recommended by a committee of Music Therapists representing all of the various areas where they work (children, mental health, seniors, rehabilitation, education, etc.). It is arrogant to suggest that we know how to best spend the money. They will assist us by providing this level of transparency and credibility for the organization.

RC: What role does social media play in your marketing and donation strategy?

CB: I have spent the last 3 years teaching a 6-month Music Business course to artists, producers, promoters, record label owners, managers, and every other facet of the music industry. A significant part of my course was social media, and how to leverage this free medium to spread the word. We are a new charity – we will be relying heavily on free. Social Media will be essential to spreading the word about Music Heals. Stage one is an awareness campaign. The goal for year one is to remove the question “What is Music Heals?” from the conversation. If people don’t agree with what we are doing that’s fine, but they will at least know who we are.

We are here to provide value to the community by connecting music therapists and related initiatives across North America. We are soliciting therapists with a blog, or anyone hosting a fundraising event, to send us a link. We will tweet about it. Everyone benefits when the conversation is loud enough for the general public to overhear. Music Therapy is not funded by the government. It is entirely donor funded. This is why we need to raise awareness and speak louder.

RC: What successes have you had so far with social media, and what advice would you give to other NFPs or Charities thinking of jumping into using Social media?

CB: People want to support you. Give them a reason. We added 400 “likes” to our FB page in one day, simply by asking our friends to follow this new venture that we are tremendously passionate about. You can’t cry wolf with people. Pick your spots. We’re going this direction, and we’re excited about it. Want a front row seat? You can’t ask favours, you have to provide value. In terms of strategy, I would say the key is to build relationships. Make friends with the media, and then remember to treat them as friends going forward. You wouldn’t spam your friends – or at least you better not. Recognize that the blogger with 30,000 followers has a specific audience. Don’t send them crap that you want promoted. Send them information that their fans will enjoy reading about. Don’t ask them to tell your story – write the story that they want to tell.

RC: Thanks, Chris!!

Follow Music Heals:

Note: Just to back up what Chris is saying about building relationships, I wanted to share with you this recent blog post I read: Thoughts On the Psychology of Social Media.

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Rebecca Coleman

Social Media Marketing Strategist, Blogger, Author, Teacher, Trainer. Passionate foodie, mom to Michael, fueled by Americanos. I love my bike. Soon-to-be cookbook author. Localvore with a wanderlust.

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