Rock for Art

Posted by Mr. Jeff A. Hawthorne, May 20, 2016 0 comments

The Brothers Jam opened for Battle of the Bands at the Crystal Ballroom / photo by Erica Ann PhotographyLike several other communities that have been posting on the blog this week, we at the Regional Arts & Culture Council (Portland, Oregon) were looking for a fun way to celebrate creativity in business and cultivate employee engagement in the arts while raising more money for our 10th annual united arts fund campaign, known as Work for Art. Drawing from several great models including the CincySings event produced by ArtsWave, we decided to produce a Battle of the Bands on May 12 at the beautiful Crystal Ballroom in downtown Portland.

And what a battle it was! By the end of the night, we had raised about $75,000.

The concept is just as you would expect: seven bands, made up of employees who play music on the side, competed on stage for the title of Best Company Band in Portland. Most of the participating companies were already actively involved in our annual campaign, which has traditionally been focused on workplace giving. This was our first foray into a public fundraising event, and we were thrilled to find that some of our biggest supporters (including KeyBank, Portland General Electric, the Portland Timbers and The Standard) amped up their involvement with large ($10,000) sponsorships. Several more companies joined us at the $5,000 level – even if they weren’t fielding a band! – and we secured three media sponsors as well. The minimum cost for an employee band to participate was $3,000.

Christopher Brown and the celebrity judging panel / photo by Erica Ann PhotographyThe entries covered a wide range of business sectors and musical styles. We had bankers, surgeons, lawyers and engineers. Their 10-minute sets included metal, country, pop and rock. The groups ranged from a 3-guitar trio to a full, 8-person ensemble – with cowbell! They performed mostly covers, but a few original songs as well. The competing companies were:

  • Burgerville, Dystopia
  • Kaiser Permanente, Members Only
  • KeyBank, The Red Keys
  • Portland General Electric, Larry and the Lightbulbs
  • The Standard, Smoke Before Fire
  • Tonkon Torp, The Legal Limit
  • ZGF Architects, Pencil Skirt Paula and The Straight Edge Rulers

Tickets were sold at a very affordable rate of $10, and we encouraged Work for Art donors to use their Arts Card to purchase 2-for-1s. But the majority of tickets were sold to friends, family and coworkers of the participating performers, many of whom had never before contributed to our campaign. What a great opportunity to talk about Work for Art in front of a new audience! Our emcees and our participating bands did a great job talking about the impact that Work for Art and its funded organizations have in our community.

Mad drumming from The Red Keyes / photo by Erica Ann PhotographyWe also sold VIP tickets for $100 each, which included reserved seating, hosted food and beverages, and validated parking. Sponsors received 10 complimentary VIP tickets and a branded table at the event.

Since one of our major goals was to raise money for the campaign, we ran several additional revenue generators that night, which added an additional $7,600 to our coffers:

  • A silent auction 
  • Raffle tickets, only $20 each. The grand prize? A beautiful, hand crafted electric guitar built by Burgerville CEO and a rocker dude himself, Jeff Harvey.
  • Audiences voted for their favorite band by placing cash (or scrip) into voting boxes. The band with the most money at the end of the night received the Audience Favorite award.

In all, more than 400 people attended our first annual Battle of the Bands and helped us inch significantly closer to this year’s overall campaign goal of $1 million. Our website has a recap of the event and a look at all of the winners.

Members of the Timbers Army (the moniker for fans of Portland’s MLS team) sang with celebrity judge Steve Pringle to close the show / photo by Erica Ann PhotographyLike any first-year event, we learned a lot of things that we might do differently in the future, but overall the event template is solid and scalable for us – and certain to be repeated next year. I’m already receiving calls from companies we’ve never worked with, who want to participate. And this year’s participants and sponsors were tremendously pleased. One company executive told me that the excitement and buzz within her company was amazing, and built workplace camaraderie across departments. Over and again I heard how some employees had never worked together until they formed a band, and now they plan to collaborate – artistically, socially and professionally – on a regular basis.

We all know it: sharing creative experiences and expressing our creativity builds powerful connections with the people we’re closest to, and with our community. Battle of the Bands proved that in a big way, while also helping us elevate our campaign to new heights.

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