It’s not about you: It’s the project that matters and how you can play your part. Do what’s needed for the project, business or event to be successful and don’t even think about whether or not what you’re doing could be considered trivial or not. Nothing is below you and it’s only about team success.
As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Paul Peck.
Paul Peck is the co-founder and president of Fandiem, a digital fundraising platform for the entertainment industry that amplifies revenue and reach from non-profit campaigns. A veteran festival and concert producer, Paul is the co-founder of the Okeechobee Music & Arts Festival where he served as chief creative officer and head of programming. Prior to that Paul worked with Superfly Presents, where he helped to launch and develop the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival and Outside Lands in San Francisco. During his tenure, Paul was a key member of the booking and programming team, as well as other pivotal areas. Paul is known for his creative touch and producing once-in-a-time collaborative concerts that feature superstar artists and virtuoso players in unique configurations. He has worked closely with artists such as Skrillex, Chance the Rapper, Mumford & Sons, Trey Anastasio of Phish, Miguel, D’Angelo, SZA, Jim James of My Morning Jacket, Brittany Howard of the Alabama Shakes, Solange and Questlove amongst many others. During his final years at Bonnaroo, his Superjam concerts were the top annual story from each year’s event, garnering coverage from New York Times (including multiple times in the year-end, nationwide top 5 concerts of the year), USA Today, Rolling Stone (#1 concert of the event 3 times) and Billboard.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I was a student that was lucky enough to find myself living in New Orleans. I’ve always been a passionate music fan and when I moved there I thought I liked very specific types of music (and food and art). In New Orleans I was exposed to the diversity of music and cultural flavors that really broadened my tastes and I loved connecting with new stuff. I really dove deep into live music and some of my friends asked me to manage their upstart bands. I enjoyed exploring the music scene as a manager, which led me to want to produce my own shows and approach them from a creative standpoint choosing the artists and songs to be performed. My first show was a “Superjam” style tribute to Stevie Wonder. I produced the show from the standpoint of a fan who would get to experience what I was working on in an amazing place with a lot of great people. That authentic inspiration kept me on track to do something meaningful. It was an eye opening experience that had some very low lows and some magical highs and overall was looked at in the local industry as a big success. From there I was hooked and had a good reputation and was able to do more and more approaching shows from a business and creative standpoint with an artistic touch. I’ve always tried to keep my perspective grounded as both a fan and a producer.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
It wasn’t too funny at the time, but looking back I can laugh at myself with more humor than anxiety. I used to want to handle everything myself. The second year of Bonnaroo a major department that I was in charge of was the festival’s artist relations — all the logistics surrounding all the artists’ performances at the festival. This was a uniquely bad fit for my skill set. I had no experience in this area and I was very young. It was maximum chaos from the jump and included people getting stuck at the airport, the wrong size van being picked up, and it was just an epic comedy of errors. I learned then to commit to less and to better focus and do a better job. Also, there are certain things that each of us are naturally great at and certain things we each have to work extra hard at. I’m a producer who has since succeeded by focusing largely on creative and working with the right people who excel in logistics — which are so critical at these big, live events. The right team is essential and I always now try to work with people smarter than myself which is why I partnered with Alex, Jared and the rest of our team at Fandiem. A team with complementary skill sets and everyone focusing on their area of strength is always in position to succeed.
Can you describe how you or your organization is making a significant social impact?
So many of our artist friends are doing work to support nonprofits. Fandiem helps amplify these efforts for more reach and for far greater impact. When people are given a shot to win something along with their donation, they are given an incentive to donate more and now they’re aware of an area of need and a nonprofit foundation doing great work. In almost every instance our nonprofit partners make a lot more money through Fandiem than they would have through alternate means of fundraising. We want to support our partners financially, but we also want to help them with their growth and reach on an ongoing basis.
Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?
The focus of the very first Fandiem campaign was Tipitina’s, the historic independent music venue in the heart of New Orleans. There was an urgent need. The club is artist owned and they actually bought it just a year or two before the pandemic hit. As the months wore on, they were in trouble and called us for help. This place is holy ground for American music and an important stepping stone for artists around the world as they grow up through the ranks. Tons of epic artists have played there through the years and many return to do underplays or surprise appearances. It was also the place of my first music biz gig (I use this term loosely as it was much more an unpaid internship than a job). The thought of New Orleans without Tip’s was unimaginable and we launched a passionate campaign to Save Tip’s. Through our efforts the future of the venue is secure.
Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?
Fandiem is about harnessing the power of community and is designed to collect micro donations to make a much bigger difference. As part of that, we help spread awareness to areas of need and the work being done for these causes. Taking the focus away from relying on wealthy people to make big donations to fix problems is a healthy and empowering one for our society. When everyone gives just a little but we can do much more and we’re doing it together which fosters unity and that is an entirely healthy and enriching process.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
Leadership is exemplified through actions and positive behavior so that people follow the lead and in turn lead others. It’s like a ripple that turns into a wave. Sometimes it’s easy to take short cuts but it’s always important to set a good example for others especially when people are looking up to you. A lot of times, especially during this period of social distancing, we forget the impact we have on others but this connection is an important part of a healthy society comprised of well-intentioned individuals.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- Listen, look and learn with every experience: I was part of some very big projects very early on in my career. Bonnaroo most notably. I was working with various experienced experts in all all of the different areas needed to produce a massive event. I had to control my own impulses and ego to force myself to observe more than assert myself. I was working along people with a lot of experience and I went into song mode which I think served me well.
- Deep breaths: Sometimes big projects and experience can be overwhelming and you can be forced into acting in stressful environments. It’s important to be able to control your emotions and slow yourself down. Clarity in stressful moments can be so essential because sometimes split second decisions have a big impact. The interactions and events are real — the stress is not and can be controlled. This was something I was fortunate to learn early on. Perspective is key when you’re right up next to something it seems enormous. When you step away you have better perspective to really see something and evaluate it. Perspective can also come with time. Try not to get overwhelmed in the moment by your perspective at that moment because that’s the easiest thing that can and will change.
- Appreciate these moments: It’s easy to think that things that are in abundance at given moment will go on forever. But things change, people change, teams change, artists even retire. Appreciate your experiences as they happen. There have been times where I’ve, for example, hung out backstage at a festival while one of my favorite artists was performing thinking sure I’ll see the Beasties Boys tons more times, when in truth they were out there having the last performance of their career (and Nas my favorite rapper of all time sat in and I missed that too)
- It’s not about you: It’s the project that matters and how you can play your part. Do what’s needed for the project, business or event to be successful and don’t even think about whether or not what you’re doing could be considered trivial or not. Nothing is below you and it’s only about team success.
- Write down your experiences and takeaways: You learn with every project you do. But those learnings and memories can fade quickly. Write stuff down and revisit it right before you start the next big project. It’s good for your brain to revisit memories and it will help you grow with each festival, event and project.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I want to do projects that remind people, including myself of the simple truth that we as humans living on this planet are infinitely more similar than we are different. We are all literally connected to this planet and through some massive cosmic coincidence are all here at the exact same time. It’s easy to focus on our differences but the reality is we have much more in common. Having experiences where we connect with other people that may look different can be a healthy and essential experience and an important reminder of the universal commonalities of our lives.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Change is the one constant”. Embrace change. Life is change. Growth is change. It’s not always comfortable but change is growth and it’s a healthy process. Fandiem is the evolution of fundraising. We are now in a phase of culture and entertainment where the true power of the fan and the fan community is becoming more clear. Without fans there are no stars. It’s not about the individual on stage or under the lights, the power comes from the community — that’s the battery that powers the whole machine. Fandiem is about the power of community to make unimaginable change and it’s about rewarding members of that true fan community. The old model of fundraising is the auction style that rewards one wealthy person that gives for example $20k for something. The Fandiem philosophy is let’s inspire 50,000 fans to donate 10 bucks each and let’s make a real difference.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Greta Thunberg. It seems like all of her energy is devoted to the issue of our greatest existential threat: the climate crisis. Her passion drives and she is just getting started. I’d love to strategize with her on how to really make a difference and help save our freaking planet.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Fandiem can be found at https://www.instagram.com/winwithfandiem
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!
Social Impact Heroes: Why & How Paul Peck of Fandiem Is Helping To Change Our World was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.