Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Using the discography for charity

When web sites first started becoming popular in the mid-90's, there was a call on the LuckyTown Digest for obvious reference points for Bruce Springsteen -- a lyrics site, a site for bootlegs, a discography, etc. I took on the discography, which I continue to maintain.

Sometime later, a New York Times article noted that, for all of Springsteen's charity work, there was no site oriented to it. So, in 1996, I created the charities page, which sought to list out charities with which Bruce had worked. This consisted of charities that received proceeds from "Various Artists" records in which Springsteen participated, and also charities that he worked with at his tour stops. Considering that Springsteen works with one or more charities at every show he plays, it goes without saying that the charities page is horribly incomplete -- there are hundreds of charities that could be listed, and I've only got 24. That's something that I hope to rectify in the not-too-distant future.

For nearly a decade, I ran the discography as a purely egalitarian sort of thing; staying totally outside commercial considerations. I just listed the releases, and the names of a few websites that might sell the listings. I knew that people occasionally went to the discography page to find something, which they subsequently bought. Last summer I received an email from someone who was ecstatic after buying his wife seventeen items he found on my site. And I was happy for the little thank-you note. It costs me some money to run the site -- more than it should, probably -- but it just never bothered me that much.

Finally, this past November, a little action taken by my friends over at hollerif gave me a bit of an idea: By becoming an amazon associate, I could get a commission for items sold from my page. It wouldn't be much, but maybe it'd at least cover the cost of the site.

Then I had an epihpany: I can do better than that. I can do much better than that. I could become an amazon associate, get the commission, and then turn around and donate the commission to one of the charities listed on the site. Finally, an explicit linkage at the fan level between the commerce/discography and the public works! A flash of brilliance!

So I hooked up to amazon. I got a neat little logo to display -- and if you click on it now and buy something, some of it's going to go to a charity:

I signed up on November 12. A little late for orders of the Born to Run 30th Anniversary set, but still in time for some of the holiday season shopping. The cool thing was, even if the item bought wasn't Springsteen, so long as they got there from my page, I still got the commission.

Amazon pays out quarterly. For the period from November 12 until December 31, 33 items were sold off the site. Amazon gave me proceeds of $27.12. This may not seem like a lot, but give it a few quarters and I figure it'll add to a healthy amount.

Then I had another epiphany: Match the donation. Simply turning over the money to a charity is nice enough, but it's also neutral to me. By matching it, the buyer is partially committing my money, too. Springsteen has matched proceeds from merchandise sales at some of his shows, and that's one aspect of his approach that I'll happily emulate.

My first proceeds from amazon arrived at the end of January. The first selected charity is the Kristen Ann Carr Fund. The donation amount is $50; I'll carry over the remainder of the match for next quarter's recipient. I am tracking each quarter's results at a new donations page.

If you read this and shop at amazon anyway, I hope you'll consider using one of the links off this site to get there -- or just click on that nifty banner a bit higher on the page.


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