Turning 30 and Making a Difference in a Music Business, Post-Apocalypse
My name is Andrew McMahon. Over the course of my 12 years as a touring and recording artist, I have traveled under the monikers of Jack's Mannequin and Something Corporate. These days, however, I am trying on my own name for size. By the title of this piece you might assume it is a cynical rant about the dissolution of the modern music business and my place in it. Fear not, it is anything but. I am living proof that even in its state of disrepair, the ability for a unique voice to be heard in this business still exists. If you are reading this you probably fall in one of three categories: a fan who followed a link from one of my web portals; a curious onlooker who vaguely recognizes the name on the byline, but is not quite sure why; or you are scratching your head altogether as to who I am and why the Huffington Post thought me worthy of this guest blog. The reality is -- I am a lot of things. I am a singer/songwriter who has quietly sold over 1,000,000 albums despite never having a big song on radio, in a car commercial, or an episode of Grey's Anatomy for that matter. I am also a cancer survivor, a fact that makes me even more thankful for the crazy career I have been blessed with.
When I was diagnosed with Leukemia seven years ago, I never assumed I'd be sitting here three albums later on the eve of Dear Jack Foundation's third annual benefit show to raise money for young adults with cancer. Like my career in music, my philanthropy career has been equally scattershot beneath the radar. Still, by my standards, both have been great successes. In the six years since our inception, Dear Jack Foundation has managed to raise nearly $500,000 as contributors to The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Light the Nights Walks. As the foundation has recently grown into an operating 501(c)(3), we have raised more than $250,000 through homespun charity events and concerts, contributing to the expansion of hospitals with young adult wings, as well as initiatives that put patients in camp as a break from their difficult treatments.
I guess I just like to work quietly. I've never had a clever viral video or been invited to the Grammys. It's not to say I wouldn't be glad to have met these bench marks of modern music business success, but in their absence, I am proud of what I've accomplished. I am proud that night after night and album after album, a mass of humanity I now refer to lovingly as the pop underground, come together and sing. Whether it's in theaters and concert venues around the world, in the privacy of our own homes or the constantly shifting landscape of social media, we are a scrappy tribe and we stand for something: Music that is found, shared and cared for despite access to traditional outlets; music that lives virally and through word of mouth; music that tells a story that people want to retell. In the face of my illness, my fans not only rallied around me, but set the tone for giving as part of their support for my music. Many of our donors are found within the ranks of my core fan base, and on November 11 and 12, we will celebrate together, with the final performances of my band, Jack's Mannequin with every dollar of profit going to Dear Jack Foundation, an organization that is entirely volunteer run and helps raise money to impact the underserved adolescent and young adult (AYA) demographic of cancer patients -- an organization I am proud to have started. It's a good life. One I am lucky to live for so many more reasons than one. I never would have expected it when I signed my first big record contract in 2001, but I could never ask for anything more.