Tuesday, May 02, 2006

But what if your passion WAS the community?

I was shuffling through my MP3s earlier and Sarah McLachlan's song World on Fire started playing. Hopefully when I mention 'World on Fire', your first response is 'Ah yes, great video!'. If you've never seen the video, please stop reading this post and click on the image to right.

As I talked about back in February, this is simply brilliant marketing. If you've never seen the video, Sarah took the $150,000 that was set aside for the shooting of the video(which is an absurdly low figure) for World on Fire, and spent only $15 of that amount on the video, for a video tape. Almost all of the remaining $149,985 was donated to 11 different charities, and the combined charitiable efforts bettered the lives of over a million people.

The video itself is amazing. Sarah shows what the normal expenses are for a video, and instead what she spent the money on. $200 that would normally go to a production assistant for a day, instead paid for a term's worth of schooling for 100 Ethiopian children. $480 is usually set aside for phones, but in this case the money went to equip 10 schoolhouses in Afghanistan. Nepal was given 5 bicycle ambulances, after Sarah donated the $1,150 that would normally go to filming equipment. Normally $3,000 would be spent on one day's worth of catering during the video shoot. This time, it fed 10,950 children in Calcutta. Here is a breakdown of exactly which charities received donations, and exactly what the money was spent on.

But why did she do this?

The inspiration for this video came from Sarah visiting the website for Engineers Without Borders, a Canadian company that tries to bring technology to poorer countries in an effort to help relieve their poverty. One of their workers, Mike Quinn, would post updates 'from the field', detailing the conditions and people he came in contact with. Here is a portion of one of his updates:
I visit a woman with a stunning smile every night to buy oranges. Her name is Christy Yaa and she never lets me pay for my oranges because she wants me to take them as a gift. She works everyday from 6am until 2pm as a cleaner, and then from 4pm until midnight selling oranges. She does this seven days a week. She is a single mother and every penny she earns goes towards putting her 20-year-old son through secondary school near her home village, far from Accra. When she saves enough money for a bus ticket, she'll travel to see him.

As an engineer in Canada I would have made more in a day than she does in a year.

And still, she does not let me pay for my oranges.

When you watched the video for World on Fire, you no doubt remember seeing a woman selling oranges. That was the same Christy Yaa.

A music video is simply a marketing tool. In almost every case, it is used to help promote the single, and ultimately the artist. And this is how Sarah used the video for World on Fire, as a promotional tool.

But she wasn't promoting herself, she was promoting others. She was not only promoting the plight of poor, the tired, and the sick, she was explaining how easily these people can be helped.

Sarah took the $150,000 that Arista had given her to create a great video for World on Fire, and instead she helped over a million people. And quite fittingly, Sarah got one of the most remarkable music videos ever created in the process.

The moral? When you make the community your passion, you get what you deserve.

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