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Celebrity iPod sale to benefit Gulf musicians

Ever wonder what some of your favorite celebrities are listening to on their iPods? A celebrity auction for charity now lets you in on the secret.
Image: Pankaj Shah
Pankaj Shah, founder and CEO of Tonic, hopes to raise at least $250,000 for charity through an online auction of celebrity-autographed iPods.©Michelle Vitiello / Michelle Vitiello
/ Source: NBC News

Ever wonder what some of your favorite celebrities are listening to on their iPods? A celebrity auction now lets you in on the secret.

Tonic, a company whose motto is “making it easy for people to do good things,” is sponsoring an online auction of celebrity-autographed iPods preloaded with their favorite tunes, with the proceeds going to charity.

Among the celebrities donating their John Hancock and musical tastes are former President Bill Clinton, Madonna, Donna Karan and Kevin Bacon.

Their signature-endorsed iPods will be sold on eBay to benefit Music Rising, a campaign started in 2005 by U2 guitarist’s Dave Evans, better known by his stage name The Edge, to replace musical instruments lost or destroyed by hurricanes in the Gulf region.

Tonic founder and CEO Pankaj Shah says he came up with the idea more than a year ago while brainstorming for a cute, easy, stress-free way to raise money. The result was the iPod sale, an event that was featured on a recent episode of the TV show “Ellen.”

In today’s challenging economy where charities are struggling for every dollar, Tonic felt it was crucial to raise money for Music Rising, says Shah, a former Silicon Valley technology executive. “The reason why we chose Music Rising for this project is because it fits within the vibe of what we are trying to do at Tonic. This project is fun, it’s uplifting, and it puts a smile on people’s faces.”

'Music will rise again'
All of the money raised for Music Rising goes toward purchasing and distributing instruments. Shah believes that these instruments will restore the soul of the Gulf-area people because everyone needs creative outlets to “live, sustain and be whole.”

Bob Ezrin, record producer and co-founder of Music Rising, is excited about the collaboration with Tonic. “My visits to New Orleans gave me a firsthand look at the devastation which tragically destroyed the lives of thousands. Every person who wins an iPod bid will directly be helping ensure that one of the Gulf Coast’s greatest assets — its music — will rise again.”

Tonic began in September 2006 as GreenDimes, a junk-mail reduction service.

It has since morphed into a media and e-commerce site focused on activism and social good, selling items such as high-quality clothing and accessories. A chunk of each sale goes to charitable causes around the world.

Shah says although Tonic is a business, the company will not profit from the celebrity iPod auction and all the revenue will go to Music Rising.

Shah is a major supporter of many nonprofits, but believes the nonprofit model is broken and that for-profit business models can be the savior of struggling charities. According to Shah, businesses are more organized, accountable and can report more tangible results than nonprofits.

“I don’t think it would have been possible to pull off something at this scale unless we were for-profit and making money in other areas,” he says of the iPod auction.

Now playing
Shah’s favorite iPod playlist is Mario Batali’s. The celebrity television chef’s favorite tunes include “Last Child” by Aerosmith, “Yes” by Coldplay and Shah’s favorite Bob Dylan song, “Hurricane.”

The iPods are being rolled out in specific categories in the coming weeks and the first auction is “Grammy-themed” iPods. Those interested in bidding will need to register first at

Despite the sagging economy, Shah hopes the auction will raise at least $250,000 for Music Rising. Shah says he’ll bid on any iPods left unclaimed.