20 Candles for HeadCount

2024 marks 20 years of HeadCount! Our official birthdate is February 13, 2004 — so yes, that makes us an Aquarius double Scorpio (think what you want). In 2004, everyone was a volunteer, running the organization in between full-time jobs. This Rolling Stone article from 2004 had us hoping to register 100,000 voters before the November election. Since then, we’ve registered those 100,000 voters 12x times over. 

Here’s the last 20 years by the numbers: 1.25 million people registered to vote, a network of over 60,000 volunteers, 20 full-time staffers, a roster of over 500 artists, hundreds of corporate sponsors, millions (yes, millionssss) of email reminders about upcoming elections, and countless miles traveled in between tens of thousands of concerts. In the last two decades, we’ve broken records with Ariana Grande, The Grateful Dead and Harry Styles among others. In our own way, we’ve helped move the culture of youth civic engagement forward to record registration and turnout nationally in 2020.

“More young Americans voted in 2008 than in any election in history” were the words seen by a crowd at a Jay-Z concert in 2010. HOV addressed the crowd, encouraging them to use their voice, saying “So it just goes to show anything is possible, fight for what's right.” The speech was used on our “Vote Again 2010” campaign and appeared on CBS, Fuse and other major cable networks – and the words still ring true today. 

Like a true air sign, HeadCount has always strived to try new things and work toward a better future. In 2013, we launched Participation Row at Lockn’ Music Festival, where we encouraged fans to take action for a chance to win prizes. Since then, we’ve brought Participation Row to major music festivals like Newport Folk Festival & Okeechobee Music Festival and to every Dead & Company tour. In its 11 years, Participation Row has involved over 50 non-profit organizations and has raised over $2.5 million for various charities

In 2015, we hosted our biggest charity auction yet, when we celebrated 50 years of the Grateful Dead. The custom D’Angelico guitar played on stage by Bobby Weir and signed by all seven members of the “Fare Thee Well” band sold for $500,000. Bobby Weir continues to hold a seat on our Board of Directors, and the Dead community supports us in amazing ways — just last year, the band helped raise $2 million for various charities on Participation Row. 

Things were sweet to us in 2019, when we joined Ariana Grande on The Sweetener Tour and launched #thankunextgen to get her fans registered to vote and informed about upcoming elections. The program set an all-time record for voter registrations in a single concert tour with over 33,000 voter actions. Thank u, still, as this milestone remains to this day.

In 2020, we saw record-breaking turnout during a challenging year. There were no concerts of festivals for us to work our magic, so we pivoted to digital campaigns. We also launched Good To Vote this year, working with content creators like VSauce and entertainers like Samuel L. Jackson, Florence Pugh and Emma Roberts to get fans ready to vote. They offered the prizes (Samuel L. Jackson  a lucky winner how to swear in 15 different languages!) and we brought the voter registration checks. In a year that rocked us all in the worst way, we managed to register over 431,000 people and more than 78% of the voters we engaged turned out to vote. 

After a booming turnout in the 2020 election, the nation saw more and more restrictive voting laws, and we launched Save The Vote! – a national campaign to make noise about voting rights and make contacting lawmakers easier than ordering pizza. Since then, folks have sent over 185,000 messages to state lawmakers in defense of voting rights. 

Harry Styles treated us with kindness in 2022 – when he helped over 54,000 people get ready to vote ahead of the midterm elections. That year, we also began turning sports fans into voters through our partnership with the Washington Capitals, Wizards & Mystics

After 20 years, we’ve got too many stories to drop in one email in one day! Stay tuned for nostalgic memories all year long. If you read this far – thank you for being  here, whether you’ve been on this long strange trip since 2004 or if you joined last week – we appreciate your support.

Join us in celebrating all year long as we look back through the incredible experiences and memories we've shared — and a sincere thank you to everyone who has been a part of this journey so far.

We’re so excited for HeadCount 20: Bigger. Badder. Better.