Live Aid was produced with the intention to raise money and awareness on the famine in Ethiopia during the 1980’s. The event was a single-day, multi-venue event that took place worldwide and is also one of the largest live television broadcasts to date. Donations to fight the famine totaled over $280 million. The concerts featured a very diverse lineup consisting of everyone from Adam Ant to U2.
Twenty years later, Live 8 was announced. The festival was put at the same time as the G8 Conference. The concerts were again put on to raise awareness of poverty and was in conjunction with the Make Poverty History campaign. Like Live Aid before it, the concerts took place in several major cities across the world and was again broadcast worldwide. This time however, Bob Geldolf (organizer of both major concerts) did not ask for donations. The sole purpose was to simply raise awareness.
Live Earth was another series of concerts worldwide. This time former Vice President Al Gore was at the helm. Again, the purpose of this concert was to raise awareness on the issue of global warming and wanted to win support for the Seven Point Pledge that urged governments to take an active role in adopting new environmental laws and policies. Ironically, the concert (and Al Gore’s house) was heavily criticized by many for the environmental impact it took to actually produce the event.
Farm Aid’s mission is to “build a vibrant family-farm centered system of agriculture in America.” The benefit has been an annual event since 1985. The board of directors consists of Neil Young, Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp, and Dave Matthews. Since inception, the concerts have raised over $30 million to help family farms in the United States.
Now, I’ve presented you with a few examples of the many festivals or concerts that take place to raise awareness for various causes, but do they really accomplish this goal? How so? Did Live Earth make you want to go and reduce, reuse, and recycle? Did you change your lifestyle because of it? Did you donate your money or time to that specific cause or issue? To be honest, the only Farm Aid I ever watched was in 1998 when Phish performed an epic Down by the River with good ol’ Uncle Neil. That’s not to say that I’m not aware of the struggle of family farmers, but Farm Aid wasn’t what brought the issue top of mind for me – it was the farmers I knew personally.
Several regular festivals have also taken the initiative to create areas for non-profits to table and provide information to concertgoers – Planet Roo for example. But are they effective? Do you visit them? What other concerts or benefits can you think of that have been produced within the last 30 years to raise awareness for a specific cause? What determines the success of these events?