This week sees the release of Waxploitation Presents Causes 2, the second album in our ongoing Darfur benefit series. The beneficiaries being Human Rights Watch, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières and Oxfam America.
The album includes rare and exclusive songs from some of the most compelling artists in the indie and alternative music world: Black Moth Super Rainbow, The Decemberists, Devendra Banhart, Diplo, Federico Aubele, Gnarls Barkley, LCD Soundsystem, Matthew Dear, Mum, My Morning Jacket, Neon Neon, Richard Swift, RJD2, Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings.
There's a long tradition of benefit albums in the music industry and today, it's one of the last bastions of noble things a record company can do. In addition to Causes 2, there are two other notable albums out right now: Dark was the Night and War Child Presents Heroes. It speaks to the good nature of music artists that they are usually more than happy to help when help is requested.
Making a benefit album (or any kind of benefit anything) can be a trying task. You are dealing with so many moving parts, each with constantly changing casts of characters. You are interacting with each artist's record company, publishing company and managers to get various permissions and approvals, each artist has a limited amount of time to record a new song or dig through their vaults to find one suitable. And you have to add the ingredient of urgency, which is never an easy thing to do when asking someone for a favor.
With our Causes series, what makes urgency such a visceral thing is that every day literally means lives. When we released Causes 1 in 2007, the number of people who had died in Darfur was about 70,000. Today, the UN estimates that number to be at least 300,000. And there are now 4.7 million people in dire need of assistance.
So every few weeks, you are asking yourself if you should release the album as-is...or wait, in hopes that another song will come in that will help sell more albums. Striking a balance is difficult.
What I hope to do with Causes 2 is create more awareness for the crisis, create more awareness for the work that Human Rights Watch, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières, and Oxfam America are doing, as well as create a platform for others to be able to lend a hand.
What I learned from releasing Causes 1 was the almost inexhaustible amount of assistance that comes around. The onrush of enthusiasm was what led us to immediately star working on Causes 2. I can't give enough examples of people volunteering their resources without any prompting. Independent retail stores that paid the full amount of the retail price, instead of keeping the profit for themselves. Magazines, like The Fader, URB, Filter, Paste, GOOD and Vapors, that donated full page advertisements. iTunes giving us every possible inch of home page real estate you could imagine (which probably resulted in our selling nearly twice as many albums). And the help of college radio stations, publicists, internet marketing specialists, the list goes on.
This time around, we've benefited greatly from MTV/mtvU/THINK MTV premiering Causes 2 for hundreds of thousands of music fans because they tied the promotion of the album with the promotion of the crisis in Darfur. And as we know, MTV's constituents are some of the most promising activists we have.
When a crisis goes on for a number of years, fatigue can set in. But no one has given up hope. Things can change for the better in Darfur. Untold numbers of people are committed to changing the outcome. It takes humanitarian assistance, political will and unlimited tenacity.