Saturday, July 07, 2007

A Curmudgeon’s look at Live Earth.

I realize, like a lot of people, that the planet is in a bad way. In fact, given that I studied (in a cursory manner) geology and the cause of mass extinctions while writing “The Unearthing”, I know damn well that Humankind is standing on a precipice that could very well lead to our demise.

So when I heard about the Live Earth concerts being held this weekend around the world, it initially seemed to be an important moment, especially given the caliber of performers who are attending these extravaganzas around the globe.

However, the fact is that even with the global predominance of television and the Internet, most of the world’s citizens, including people in North America, Europe and the other “First World” members, will not see the event, nor will they care.

Why? For the most part, I dare say a genuine lack of interest. Live Earth fails because of its format: Nine lavish benefit concerts around the world, televised, broadcast online and on all the music video channels. But other than the people who are there, everyone else is just a vicarious observer, not even a witness to the event.

Few of the people watching will be impacted, and only the people at the actual shows will feel as though they are part of that Wave of Change that people at such events inevitably get swept up in.

And I’m not immune to getting swept up in such waves, either. Largely the reason I wrote the piece about Darfur a few months back was because of being swept up in a wave at a concert-for-Darfur.

However, the student groups who put on the Darfur concerts succeeded precisely because they weren’t putting on a show that was more of a Big Deal than the cause it purported to support.

Now, I’m not saying that the celebrities and musicians involved with Live Earth are cynically using the event for the sake of being in the Spotlight. In fact, I believe many if not most of them actually believe in the Cause they are playing today to support.

The reason that Live Earth will fail to effect any real change is that Live Earth is about Live Earth; it’s a spectacle, a side-show, a carnival attraction.

Likewise, there is a lot more going on in the world today than Live Earth: Over a hundred people are dead from a single car bomb in Iraq…Alan Johnston, who was held hostage for more than four months, has finally arrived home in England…Montreal’s annual jazz festival has brought tens of thousands of tourists to town for the weekend…Venus Williams just won Wimbledon; I’m sure Live Earth isn’t paramount on any of their minds, today.

Which is why the think-global-act-local approach, with viral marketing and getting your friends to come out and see you play and the one or two big celebrity surprise guest method used to spread awareness of the Darfur crisis works so well: globally, local people are raising awareness and affecting change.

And if the people behind Live Earth were doing this, recruiting promoters and music acts locally on a global scale, advertising each concert in the local media, in the schools and posting bills on every lamppost and vacant wall, they’d reach more people, spread the message more powerfully and get the word out a hell of a lot more effectively than this nine-show extravaganza going on today.

Live Earth is modern media lip-service, despite however many people who are involved. Give me two or three student groups and a small-act booking agent in every city where concerned students and promotion-hungry small-to-medium acts meet, and I will give you the world.

Live Earth fails because it has put the spectacle ahead of the cause.


T said...

Well written and said my friend.

So... when're we taking over the world buddy?