There’s a misconception that charity marketing strategies must evoke sadness and guilt. Picture Sarah McLachlan’s “Angel” playing as sick animals look directly into the camera and thus, into the viewer's soul. Josh Corcoran is proving otherwise with Spare Change, a video series that uses music to unite musicians, businesses, and the local community in support of charity.
“If we’re doing our job right,” says Corcoran, “we’re hoping to really showcase charities in a different light, and the approach of being creative for charities, and how they can market themselves a different way.”
The idea for Spare Change came during a night in South Side in early 2017. Corcoran had just lost his job and found out that he and his wife were expecting a daughter. Frantically sending out resumes during the day, he met up with his friends at night to relax through music.
“For some reason, it was a warm February day in Pittsburgh,” says Corcoran. “We decided to go out into the streets and started to busk as a joke. We started making money from people, and then this guy came up asking for spare change.”
Corcoran took all the money they had made from their guitar case and gave it to the gentleman.
“His reaction, he was so floored that we were like, ‘Wow, what else can we do with the money we make from music?’ That very night I started filming on my phone,” says Corcoran.
They continued their adventure, and the video became the first episode of Spare Change. After posting the video and receiving positive reactions online, Corcoran and his friends continued busking around town, filming, and donating the money they made to local causes. To give their videos a soundtrack, they reached out to bands they were fans of, such as Dispatch and Bryce Vine, and asked for permission to use their music.
“Bryce Vine, he said, ‘Anytime you want to use my music, go for it.’ So, after that first year, we started getting musicians to be in the videos themselves and Bryce Vine, who let us use his music before, was now in our 12th episode.”
Spare Change has evolved into a video series that invites musicians to perform on behalf of their favorite charity. The artists often busk and then turn their concert into a fundraising event by passing the Spare Change bucket around for a cause of their choosing. The whole process is edited into a video used to create an online campaign to invite more donations. Charities have included the American Cancer Society, the Jewish Federation Victim of Terror Fund, and the Rock, Reggae, and Relief festival.
“Their mission to raise money for non-profits, and the ability to connect a band with a good cause through their audience, is inspiring,” says Chris O’Brian of Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad, who appeared in episode 13 of Spare Change.
Recently, Spare Change won $25,000 from Chip and Joanna Gaines of Fixer Upper as part of their “Chipstarter” contest, where interested parties could win any amount to “fund their dreams.” Out of 200 submissions, Spare Change was one of 12 finalists.
“They flew us down to Waco, Texas, and awarded all 12 [finalists] whatever they had asked for,” says Corcoran. “We didn’t find out until we were on stage. We've gotten great feedback from these musicians who see it as an outlet to showcase their more charitable side. But to have recognition from a finalist perspective of Chip and Joanna Gaines is like, ‘Wow, we're really onto something here.’”
After winning Chipstarter, Corcoran began thinking about how to better market and release Spare Change videos.
First, he upgraded their production capabilities. Up until that point, Corcoran and the Spare Change team were filming and editing the videos on a phone. The team is also planning to have a per-episode budget and a consistent release schedule.
“Before, we were kind of running and gunning, film, release, film, release,” says Corcoran. “Now, we’re going to try to be really specific about releases, almost like a [TV] season.”
As artists make tour stops in Pittsburgh, Corcoran plans to shoot episodes around their shows. Then this fall, an episode will drop every two weeks, the time in-between allotted to promote the musician’s chosen charity.
“We want to become the music video series in Pittsburgh that bands look forward to when coming because they can use this opportunity to make an impact,” says Corcoran.
While Spare Change won’t be releasing anything this summer, don’t be surprised to see a national act busking in the streets of Pittsburgh.Have our music coverage sent directly to your inbox by signing up for our 7 Days 7 Concerts newsletter here.