California-born hardcore metal band Stick to Your Guns drummer George Schmitz, who lives in Denver, and his fellow bandmates kept getting tagged in social-media posts by fans doing good deeds in the world. Like a child proudly showing a parent what they had accomplished, fans were quoting the band’s lyrics while doing things such as donating blood and participating in protests and marches; photos even surfaced of people in European refugee camps wearing the band's merch.
Schmitz kept coming back to the question: How can he and his bandmates use their platform to spotlight some of these people?
On October 21, the group will kick off its co-headlining tour with Emmure at Summit Music Hall in support of the group's latest record, True View. There it will also host the #HopeBringers Initiative, a donation drive for people experiencing homelessness in Denver.
The newlynformed #HopeBringers Initiative is all about highlighting the good work of fans and improving one community at a time by rewarding good deeds with free concert tickets or screen-printed posters. But the idea is that over time, nobody will have to dangle a carrot to get others to do good.
“We’re starting with this idea of rewarding people for their behavior, but my hope is that we establish a pattern of behavior with this and then maybe we don’t have to offer tickets or screen-printed posters in exchange for donations,” says Schmitz. “We can work on just establishing that this is something that is associated with our tours for the future.”
Rather than fundraising for one nonprofit nationally, the band has wisely chosen to change the focus for specific cities, with the homeless-outreach drive in Denver, an animal-rescue and -rights drive in Anaheim, a clean-water fundraiser in Detroit, and a school-supply drive in Jacksonville.
Stick to Your Guns has always been open and honest with listeners about what’s important to its members. The lyrics in songs such as “Cave Canem” (“Will we not stop until all is destroyed?”) and “Diamond” (“You have to be a light to yourself”) offer clear stances on issues like global warming and the value of accepting responsibility for your actions. The bandmates have even hosted previous donation drives, calling for socks and sleeping bags in exchange for entry, or giving revenue from ticket sales to places such as the Trevor Project.
But it took those countless efforts from fans for Schmitz to conclude that there was a way the group could harness social media and fandom for good.
“The idea behind this is it started as a social-media thing, as a way for us to use our platform to re-post the work our fans are doing and maybe have it be a motivator or catalyst for others to do the same,” says Schmitz. “I kept thinking this is awesome that we’re going this route, but it would be really cool if we offered ways for fans to participate in these upcoming shows.”
While his band is based in Orange County, Schmitz has been a Denver resident for a little over two years. In that time, he's seen his fair share of individuals hanging out near the Denver Rescue Mission and Urban Peak, as well as up and down Larimer Street in the RiNo neighborhood — people with needs going unmet.
After beginning his research with a “vague Google search” of homeless outreach organizations in town, Schmitz decided to partner with Denver Homeless Out Loud, a local organization that works to preserve the rights and ensure the safety of people experiencing homelessness in the city.
Schmitz does not have a background in event planning, nonprofit outreach or, really, anything resembling traditional qualifications for planning something like #HopeBringers, but he does understand the effects of empowering people who are already doing good.
Schmitz and his bandmates did have some moral quandaries that needed answering ahead of time, such as what if people are doing the good deeds for the publicity and free merch? What if ulterior motives would surface once things got off the ground? What’s the downside to doing this?
After many conversations, they concluded that even if people had somewhat unsavory intentions in doing the good work, the work was still being done, and as a band with some social-media capital to spend, that was probably enough to help people in need.
“With the social-media initiative, I can definitely see how there could be some concerns about fans just trying to post and win some free tickets," Schmitz says. "But we really haven’t seen that with the launch, and I think it’s generally because people are less cynical than they might appear online.
“There really are good-natured people out there in the world that are actively trying to do good work," he adds. "Those are the people that we see posting in the initiative. There’s no real downside to this. If someone is trying to go out and get glory but in turn are picking up trash or working with an environmental cleanup, the good work is still getting done.”
The #HopeBringers Initiative is on track to become a regular event that goes beyond the four home towns and current locations of bandmates. There are still dozens of states, cities and pockets of fandom to reach, and should they continue on with the idea, its popularity and resonance will only grow.
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The group hopes other touring bands get involved in the campaign or plan their own version of #HopeBringers.
“I really feel that in this social-media era that we live in, we should be trying to amplify these good stories. Because we need to remind people that there are good people. Obviously, every day is not just a struggle, but in our political landscape, it’s a nightmare.
“I want us to stay angry and focused and driven," he adds. "But I also want people to be reminded that there is good in this world.”