We’re hiring! Join Us.

Latest Stories

View More →

Industry Person of the Month - Jane Henderson of HeadCount

by Photo of Ross Bernhardt

We spoke with Jane about music, social media and why it’s more important to vote now than ever.

Industry Person of the Month - Jane Henderson of HeadCount

In case you didn't already know, midterm elections are right around the corner. On November 4th, Americans will vote on all 435 seats in the House of Representatives, 33 seats on the Senate, 38 state and territorial governorships, 46 state legislatures and countless local races. A lot of people forget about midterms since they get the mainstream coverage Presidential elections do.

Jane Henderson never forgets, and she's out to make sure more people participate in all elections. 

Jane is the Director of Artist Relations at HeadCount, a nonprofit that is primarily known for registering people to vote at concerts and festivals. HeadCount is involved in a ton of different activation methods and campaigns designed around the idea of getting people involved in voting and democratic process. HeadCount works with over 300 musicians, actors and comedians on campaigns that look to encourage registration and participation. Jane is responsible for maintaining these relationships, creating new ones, and organizing the efforts at shows and festivals.

"We work with over 300 artists across the country, so we have teams set up in different cities all over," Jane told me in a phone interview. "When bands get to the city, I make sure my team is there at the shows. I make sure they are on the list, that they have a table inside to set up, and maybe negotiate some band merchandise to raffle off."

Creating and fostering these relationships also helps in another area that Jane oversees: digital partnerships. HeadCount has experienced great success through digital campaigns. In late September, Jane managed a big online campaign that saw some great results.

"On September 23 we ran our National Voter Registration Clipboard Campaign," Henderson said. "It got over 500 million impressions online, which was really incredible and a big success for us. We try to make it easy for the people to participate; we have musicians, actors, comedians just hold up a clipboard that says 'Register to Vote Here'. There are deadlines in a lot of states you need to register for, and especially this year because it’s a midterm election year, a lot of that stuff isn’t as accessible. Not as many people know about it. 

"The turnout is disgustingly low, so this year we did a huge push to get these artists to hold up signs. We had all of them post the photos on National Registration Day with the link to register to vote. We registered over 10,500 people that day through HeadCount alone, and had hundreds of musicians and celebrities post photos online, which included Fergie, Stephen Colbert, Russell Simmons, Dave Matthews, Phish, and Lewis Black."

The Lewis Black post was especially impactful. "I think that Lewis Black got around 10,000 likes on Facebook alone. You might want to check that, it might not be totally accurate [Ed. Note: Black’s photo received 11,840 likes, 3,639 shares and 489 comments]. There’s a way to reach our demographic, our age group, and that’s through social media."

So how did Jane come to find herself running these huge campaigns and meeting all of these artists and groups as part of her work? Like many stories, there was never an "A-Ha!" moment, but the opportunity arose where she could combine two of her passions: live music and activism.

"My uncle actually is an avid live music fan. I definitely grew up in the live music scene, I was definitely one of those kids at shows and festivals with my parents when I was little. He was a fan of HeadCount just through mutual friends and people specifically in the jam band music scene. HeadCount, about four years ago, sent out an email to their mailing list saying they were looking for interns. At the time I was 20 and I had just dropped out of college. I definitely needed something to fill my time That was a strong motivating factor for me. So when I looked at the website, I was immediately jaw-to-the-ground, this was perfect for me. It combined my two passions in life: music and activism, giving back to my community and standing for something. I saw the roster of musicians they were working with like the National, and I just had to jump at it.

"I went to school in D.C., and I definitely thought about going down the political route. I never once thought to myself that I could be in the music industry. It never crossed my mind. Back then, as I am now, I was very much into live music. Being in D.C., I was at 9:30 Club and Black Hat every night, seeing bands and shows. But I never thought, that despite this great passion, that I could make music work. So my internships before HeadCount were with other nonprofits, a micro finance company, a group that worked to get trials for those in the D.C. area, so I was definitely doing a lot of community-driven work. But I think that my long-term goal at that time was definitely to go into law. It wasn’t until I started interning at HeadCount that I realized it was so much more of a passion than I ever thought and what I could actually do with it. I realized, 'Fuck yeah, I want to be in this world and in this industry.'

"I came in as an intern and was doing a mosh posh bunch of things. And I remember my boss Andy sitting me down and saying, before I was even hired, saying 'Listen, I can tell you have that spark and that you’re hungry and super driven. I want you to make this the experience you want to have. Do with it what you will.' I want to make it really easy for musicians to care about something and to enable and empower their fans to care too. It’s kind of everything that I wanted it to be."

Jane was certainly able to carve out a niche for herself. In addition to really bringing the digital partnerships along, Jane started a project called the Capital Community Program, which she is incredibly proud of. "Peter Shapiro, who owns the Capitol Theatre and the Brooklyn Bowl, wanted to do a venue-specific charity program and kind of gave us a blank slate to create that with," Henderson said. "What we did was we created a platform for raising money through ticket sales. Basically we auctioned off a special box to each show, and the proceeds from that go to sending local educators and teachers to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. They go there, they get training on how to bring music into the classrooms, and it’s really cool. So I manage and create that. We were able to send 10 teachers this year, triple our numbers from last year."

So how exactly does Jane get all of these initiatives done? How does she get bands and comedians and everyone else to sign on and start participating? It all essentially boils down to some good old-fashioned networking. And a little bit of social media stalking for good measure.

"So a lot of the stuff happens in person. We’re fortunate that we’re at a ton of music events. We’re at concerts and festivals, and al to of what I do has happened at festivals. When we started this process with the photo campaigns and getting artists involved, How easy, how nonpartisan, just to encourage participation and activism.

"We work in an office with super cool dudes and cool chicks like Brooklyn Bowl, Relix Music Magazine, management groups, the lovely ladies from GoLightly, and being in that kind of environment is incredible because musicians will come through."

"Like everything in the music industry, it’s a lot of networking, a lot of talking to managers and publicists. You can get a good read based off the musicians’ Twitter and Instagrams. Social media makes everyone accessible to us. The goal with social media is to connect with fans. You want to be able to see what a day in their life is like, that’s why people constantly tell their artists “Put more shit up on Instagram.” People eat that shit up. From that, it’s pretty easy to assume from what they are saying which bands are going to be more politically active than others. We’re non-partisan, we don’t care which way you vote, we just want you to vote."

After she made that statement, I kidded and asked if they won't be going after Ted Nugent anytime soon. After the laughter subsided, Jane again reinforced that it doesn't matter who takes part in these campaigns. They care about one thing: people voting.

"We ask everyone, we want everyone to be involved with us. We’re doing this photo campaign again on November 4th, on election day, with even more famous artists and actors and comedians. And the whole concept with this one is just saying 'Go Vote'. It’s so simple. We’re having people create music and artwork, like Luke Wessmen, who’s a famous tattoo artist in NYC, a bunch of different artists are making stuff.

"We had some musician in the office recently who was Canadian. I said ‘Hey, do you mind telling your U.S. fans to go vote on November 4th?’ And he was like ‘Totally I will. Canadians need to vote, too!’

"We want everyone, every band. I could give a shit about who somebody votes for. Obviously I have my own personal views, but I don’t want to ever be known as the generation who didn’t have anything to say, the generation that didn’t show up."

And that's the biggest motivator for Jane: getting people to care. With everything happening across the political spectrum, now is as important a time as ever for people to start paying attention and participating, and Jane wants to make sure that starts taking place more consistently.

"This is monumental for us," Jane explained. "It’s so interesting to me because a lot of people just feel like it isn’t working, that the political process is broken. It’s working. There are issues that are changing the landscape of our country, whether that’s marriage equality or marijuana legalization, these things happen through voting. There are revolutions happening within our generation and they are inspired by democracy and being a part of that. There are so many things you can have a say on, especially in the midterm elections, especially on a local level. So to me, this is more important than anything. Our political world is terrifying. It’s scary. There are wars going on. It’s time for us to speak out and use our voice and to vote and make informed decisions about our leaders. These individuals that we elect, they are going to be the ones that define these decisions.

"It’s so frustrating to me, I have so many friends that don’t vote. I’m going to be that annoying friend that is like, 'You register to vote?' I have voter registrations in my purse! I’ve always admired a person’s will to speak their mind whether they agree with me or not. I don’t mind if you come at me with different views, as long as we’re having a conversation. I think that’s the problem. I would love to see our nation be able to come together and have more educated discussions, what we’re realizing is that that is not going to happen with the individuals that we currently have in office. We will be the next generation and we’ll be electing these officials. I hope we can use that power to inspire people and create an environment within our nation where we are actually seeing it in practice. I think it’s happening on many levels, but it isn’t happening enough.

"The majority of people that don’t vote in midterms, this is crazy to me, are college-educated 24-year-olds. That’s the highest demographic of people that don’t vote, the right-out-of-college in between like 22-34. That’s insane! When you see what’s happening in Scotland and their voter turnout, and the number of people registered in their country, you have to ask where did we go wrong? How are we not the ones turning up and using our voice?"

Whatever the reasons, Jane and the rest of the dedicated people at HeadCount are doing great work to reverse that and enlist more participation in our democracy. They have a bunch of great initiatives coming up for the midterms and for future elections. For this November, they have their #GoVote campaign that is going to encourage widespread voting during midterms. They are still locked in to getting people registered for the midterms and will continue to foster new relationships and efforts with venues and other nonprofits. 

What sets HeadCount apart is their dedication to not only getting people registered, but getting them to follow through, no matter who they vote for. Their commitment to seeing democracy take place is extremely admirable. It doesn't matter how people register, whether they hear about it at a festival through someone at HeadCount or not, but the fact that they are getting involved is the important part. To learn more about HeadCount and all of their initiatives, head over to their website and remember to #GoVote in the midterm elections on November 4th.

Want great tickets but hate paying fees? Check CHARGED.fm to find tickets for less and NO FEES.

Comments (1)
  1. Connie Dula's profile

    Connie Dula

    October 17th, 2014 @23:31

    Jane, you're so great. We Love You! Auntie Connie....

  2. Add a Comment

    All fields marked with * are required.

Continue (x)

Please Login…

To continue, please login into your CHARGED.fm account.

Don't have an account?
for free.

Hold on a sec…

Login (x)

Hold on a sec…

Sign Up (x)

Hold on a sec…

Share with Friends (x)

Share on other sites

Share this event on your favourite sites and other online communities.

Note: These links will open in a new window

Contact Host (x)
Contact The Host

* All fields are required.