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Bandade: A Community of Music Lovers Fighting for a Common Cause.

March 16, 2016

image14Caitlyn Grabenstein got involved in the Philly music scene while attending Saint Joseph’s University a few years ago. After graduating, however, she moved to Nashville for a job.

While down south, she launched a live music series, Bandade, that benefits the American Cancer Society.

Caitlyn recently returned to Philly and she’s bringing her events here. The first one is on Sunday at Milkboy.

We talked to her about the series and what she has planned for the Philly debut.

What is Bandade where did the idea come from?

Bandade is a charitable business that benefits cancer research with the help of nationally touring and local musicians. Participating artists have included Ingrid Michaelson, Jason Isbell, Judah & the Lion, Steve Moakler, Boyce Avenue, Portugal, the Man, Matt Hires, Carolina Story, and more. Bandade is one community, under one logo, of fans and artists fighting for a common cause.

The idea came from an experience I had during my senior year of college at Saint Joseph’s University. One of my best friends was suddenly, unexpectedly diagnosed with leukemia. While she was in the hospital I contacted Ingrid Michaelson‘s manager to see if they could do something special (we were all huge fans at the time). In response, her team sent my friend a beautiful care package of autographed tour tees, vinyls, and CDs.

About a year and a half later, after my friend’s passing and moving to Nashville, I had the thought, “How cool would it have been to have been able to order an autographed gift from our favorite artist online – and have it benefit a good cause!”

So I founded Bandade. Originally it was an apparel company that sold Bandade autographed merchandise to benefit the American Cancer Society. One logo, one community. But since, Bandade has developed into a live show and merchandise business, still all to benefit cancer research.

How does it work? Do proceeds go directly to the American Cancer Society or do you see the impact directly upon individuals?

It is a charitable business, not a nonprofit (people often get that confused). So, currently, 30 percent of our apparel sales are donated directly to the American Cancer Society. Initially, 100 percent of our show proceeds (after venue costs) were donated to the American Cancer Society. However, as we move more into the business realm and, make big Bandade plans for the future, we are going to start donating 10 percent of the door at every Bandade show. This is in hopes that we can continue to develop and book incredible talent.

Still, this show model is on a case-by-case basis because we have done individual benefit shows in the past. Actually, right before moving from Nashville, we did a special benefit for a local mother who was diagnosed with cancer. I always like to keep options like that open.

What were you doing in Nashville?

I was working for a publishing rights organization, doing mostly copyright infringement work. I love music. Maybe that goes without saying. It speaks most to me. So after having spent my entire life in the northeast, I decided to throw an air mattress and my dog in my little blue Hyundai and drive 11 hours south in hopes of working in music.

Fortunately, after a lot of hustling, countless applications and a brief stint of odd jobs, I ended up getting a position at one of the most reputable businesses in Nashville. I saw incredible shows, learned the industry from the inside out, and grew into an adult away from the comforts of home.

Why are you coming back to Philly?

Well, after that two and a half years away from home, my number one lesson was that a career will never replace the warmth and love of family and friends. Being so far away was tough. So when I was offered a new position up here, I took it.

I lived out my dream, got into the nitty-gritty of the industry, and even started a charitable business. But, like I said earlier, I went to SJU and just absolutely love Philly, so coming back was an easy decision.

What do you have planned for your debut Philly show?

The Bandade Kick-Off show March 20th at MilkBoy will showcase some amazing local talent, including Nik Greeley, Patrick Donovan, The Quixote Project and Katie Frank. We will also have Bandade merchandise available and information about getting involved. Beyond that, we have several show dates in the works for the spring and summer that will be announced soon.

Is it easy to line up talent when you explain the cause?

Hmmmm… That’s a tough one. Honestly, it really comes down to the individual artist and their management. As a musician myself, I understand the struggle of making these individual performances a sustainable profession. And I know that artists get requests like this very frequently.

With that said, the artists who do agree to perform or participate are always amazingly kind humans who are all-in the moment that I ask them. It’s because of this that I think the vibe at our shows is so positive and bright.

How do you know when Bandade has become a success?

That’s funny because before founding Bandade, I definitely measured success in a very traditional way – numbers and comparisons.

But as the business has grown, its success has surpassed my wildest dreams. Once people began hearing about Bandade in Nashville, my inbox was suddenly flooded with personal messages, people sharing their stories, from caretakers, to patients, to just empathic and giving music fans. It was truly humbling and awe-inspiring.

Since then, cancer survivors have played our shows and patients, caretakers and friends have made Bandade concerts a regular outing. I have witnessed musicians and managers be overly gracious and giving for no reason other than they just want to help. Because of these events, my calculation of success has transformed and, in my book, Bandade has already succeeded a thousand times over.

It has become exactly what I had intended, a community of music lovers fighting for a common cause, something I wish had existed years ago. Moving forward, my focus is simply to expand this reach. And I have some pretty major things planned.

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