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XLIVE Interview Series
XLIVE Interview Series - Matthew Leone - Charity Bomb.jpg

Matthew Leone, Charity Bomb - XLIVE Interview Series

This week on the XLIVE Interview Series we sat down with Matthew Leone, a musician, philanthropist, and event professional who is also the Founder & CEO, aka Major General, at Charity Bomb.

Hear Matthew speak at XLIVE 2019, November 17-20 in Las Vegas!

Charity Bomb is a tight knit group of like minded people who together form a disruptive charitable organization, fundraising, and awareness agent to organize a variety of events and help various organizations raise money for their causes.  We spoke to Matthew about a number of topics from the benefits of being a cause-lead concert promoter, sponsor acquisition, booking talent for benefit events, and much more.  Read the full interview below!

Thanks for taking the time to sit down with us today, Matthew.  We tried to give a little overview of Charity Bomb in the intro above, but for our readers can you please elaborate on the types of work you and the Charity Bomb team do, and how you came up with the idea to eventually co-found the organization?

Thank you for your interest and support of Charity Bomb. Our mission is to identify the challenges of overlooked or under- serviced constituencies, enlist the most effective and honest specialists in that field, and form partnerships to provide immediate, intermediate and long-term plans to offer guidance, resources and a long-term solution to the challenge. We achieve this by producing our STRANGE brand benefit concerts to fundraise for and highlight the work of our partnering organizations. The idea came from our unyielding desire to make people’s lives better and collating our collective experiences and expertise to create a way to achieve that.

Can you give a few examples of projects and events you’ve worked on, and how you’ve created immersive and unique experiences for attendees which ultimately helped fundraise?

Our flagship event is the annual STRANGE 80s in Los Angeles. Finn Wolfhard, star of Netflix smash Stranger Things was bummed that his TV success would prohibit his musical ambitions. I convinced him to participate in a benefit event on the condition that I could get him on stage playing guitar with Jack Black. My challenge was to create an event that made that unusual circumstance make sense. Subsequently, I booked a load of A-level rock stars & entertainers to collaborate, performing short sets of the anthems of the 80s. Being an old cat, who’d actually lived through the glory of that decade, I thought, if I could recreate that atmosphere with custom production builds, video arcades, 80s hair salon, TV walls, etc. we can hit on the best emotional experiences of three generations: watch today’s rock stars & celebs, perform the hits from your youth, while your kids get to see their favorite celebrities in an intimate, and strange environment.strange3dstray.jpg

Now we do STRANGE 90s in Chicago, STRANGE 90s Country in Nashville, STRANGE HALLOWEEN in Las Vegas, and STRANGE ODYSSEY in NYC coming soon!

Before we go too much further, we at XLIVE want to thank you for all the work you do helping charities and nonprofits.  When did you know you wanted to work for, or start, a charitable organization and hold benefit events?

A few years back, my band Madina Lake were in Chicago on break from touring. I left a writing session late and heard a woman screaming for help. I raced towards the sound and encountered a woman on her back, bloodied and being strangled and punched by one of those club-going muscle-head types. Clocking in at 5’6, 118 lbs, I thought “Damnit.” I rescued the woman and woke up from a coma with a third of my skull removed and longshot odds of survival. I woke up a week later to my twin brother, partner, bandmate and best friend Nathan telling me I was #1 trending on Twitter. The international music community rescued me, whether donating for my medical bills or sending well wishes up into the ether and down to my hospital bed, it worked. Consequently, we devoted our lives to giving back. We had been putting on shows since we were eighteen, and touring for the last eight years, doing all the big festivals around the world. It was all we knew how to do…and loved doing.

Such an incredible story.  And so glad you're doing well now.  You’re a musician also. Can you talk about your background in music and how it has helped you professionally?

Nathan and I have been in every dimension of the business for over twenty years. The last eight spent touring the world with Madina Lake. The relationships with artists, agents, managers and promoters procured from that were and are invaluable. We’ve been putting on shows since we were 18, living in a loft in Chicago.  Then playing the major festivals and tours around the world taught us everything we needed to know to do it ourselves. It was the perfect 10,000 hours + of training to prepare us for this impending destiny.

Being a non-profit, are sponsorship dollars even more important than for-profit live events?  Are some sponsor sales easier to close, since the events are philanthropic in nature and the sponsor wants to align themselves with a good cause?

Sponsorship dollars are paramount to events like ours. It’s an expensive production any way you slice it. The reason we’ve been successful is because of our strategy to underwrite as much of the production costs as we can through in-kind sponsorship deals, i.e. offering logo inclusion in exchange for a backline of gear.

Cash sponsorship dollars are a whole new animal. It takes years to find and nurture the right contacts, establish and demonstrate your event’s value proposition, and time your pitch before their budgets dry up.  

However; “Recent studies show indisputably that a business that aligns with charitable cause, particularly in their brand’s culture, are substantially more inclined for success and sustainability.” - Fortune Magazine

More and more studies like this are coming out exemplifying a brand’s increased odds for success by any metric. And today, there is more pressure on brands to demonstrate CSR (corporate social responsibility), which is another advantage.

Similarly, how does it work with talent?  The talent budget likely isn’t as large as a for-profit festival or event, but you’ve been able to book some great talent without having to pay top dollar.

We have had the great fortune of forging several friendships with the top-tier artists across a variety of genres, from legacies to “heatseekers.”  Based on the cause(s) we are serving, we go straight to the appropriate artist to make the ask. So far, every one of them, members from Slipknot, No Doubt, Weezer, Bush, Jane’s Addiction, The Offspring, Nsync, Sum 41, Deap Vally, etc., have played for gratis. We tend to donate all of the proceeds, so not having to pay for talent is an integral component enabling us to do that.

strange 80s DELOREAN.jpg

When fundraising, the event and production budget has to be conservative so that the highest number of dollars can go to the cause.  What are some tricks to creating a great and memorable experience, on a budget?

The goal is to make the event so unique, original and cool that vendors & artists want to align with it early on. We are vocal about our loyalty to early champions too, resulting in in-kind partnerships with brands like Gibson, Guitar Center, Vans, Stussy, and NRG. The same philosophy applies with the artists. If they see the potential for STRANGE events becoming the next big thing, they like to be early supporters.  Another thing we do is ask that our artists do M&Gs with fans so we can couple that with a pair of tickets and create VIP auction experiences and launch them on www.charitybuzz.com.

What are some of the benefits of being a cause-lead concert promoter? 

The absolute best part, beyond everything else mentioned above, is that when you have a room filled with artists, fans, vendors and venue staff who are passionate about the reason they are there, we are able to create that elusive, magical vibe at every show. It’s the perfect platform for creating my favorite of all the scenarios: the win-win-win-win. Artists have a riot over the two-days they spend together (rehearsal & performance), fans are happy and love the experience, the cause/partnering org gets funds & awareness raised, and Charity Bomb are fulfilled, knowing we are doing meaningful work that we hope is making the world more enjoyable for as many people as we can.

Thanks for your time today Matthew!  Where can people learn more, get involved, and get in touch with you or Charity Bomb?

Thank you XLIVE, we appreciate you dearly.

www.charitybomb.org

www.strange80s.com

www.strange90s.com

FB: www.facebook.com/charitybomborg

Twitter: @charitybomb

IG: @charitybomborg

 

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