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Live 8: It's the marketing stupid
Friday, July 01, 2005

"End African poverty now!" the tag line goes.

I think one of Live 8's objectives will fail. I'm not a pessimist and the producers of the show probably have good intentions, but you and I know that poverty in the African continent will not end after the concert. However, the main aim of the concert is to market singers to a massive audience.

I don't get why musicians making a name for themselves don't pick an economics book and start being more politically active by voicing clear, logical, workable, and coherent messages and not by playing make belief via popular songs.

It seems that in their minds, because they are known to the public and because they say so, they can end poverty of a whole continent with singing.

We need to act with facts and with logical plans to be implemented in order to help the groups in societies that do need help, not by wasting resources in pointless concerts.

Has anyone calculated how much it will cost to put these concerts together? How much money it will cost to advertise during the live broadcasts? How much it will cost to clean up after fifty thousand (per location) concert goers? I'm no accountant, but I can estimate tens of millions of dollars. Can we use that money instead to aid the local "poor."

The truth of the matter is that marketing super rich rock stars should not be camouflaged as aid for the poorest of our continents. In a way, it's an insult to our intelligence.

America, f***k yeah!
Trey Parker and Matt Stone, creators of South Park, satirized the phenomenon of celebrity idolatry in their new movie Team America: World Police.

Team America's plot revolves around a group of private paramilitary, elite puppets that serve as the world police. The heroes of the movie need someone to infiltrate a terrorist group in the middle east to find out where and when terrorist attacks will take place. Thus, they recruit an actor to save the world with "his acting." Not "by" his acting, but "with" his acting. At the end of the movie the heroes go all out in battle against celebrities, such as Helen Hunt, Matt Damond and George Cluney. You must watch this movie to understand how this Live 8 concert is the same thing. You'll laugh at both.

The producers and entertainers of Live 8 are demanding world leaders to forgive international debt and to give more money (our tax money) to African countries in order to end poverty. Are they so blind not to see that giving money to these countries only benefits the ruling regimes?

What these countries need is an economic rebirth, not more free money.

The funny thing about the economy is that in order to be sustainable you need stable governments in order to manage commerce. The African countries, unfortunately, lack stable governments and sustainable economies. Note that these statements are not a secret nor very insightful or original from my part--they are common knowledge.

How to solve poverty in 3 steps
The infallible plan to eradicate African poverty, according to Live 8, is simple. It goes as follows:
  1. Super rich singers sing

  2. ?

  3. At the end of the concert, the ultra poor are no longer poor, due to #2 above
Great! We can probably try applying the concept to end African hunger too. Oh, wait. This guy already tried that with "Live Aid." And we all know how that turned out, i.e., It didn't work.

Somewhere in #2, the plan is to pressure G8 leaders to end "poverty" in Africa by "forcing" the populous to watch non-African singers sing. It almost sounds like Trey Parker came up with the idea--to be funny.

So, if I watch U3 sing, my "G" leader will end African poverty? Why not try to end local poverty?

I think these guys (Live 8 organizers and artists) are giving way too much credit to current world leaders. Have these singers looked around their own countries? Have the Canadian singers walked around TO's Financial district? How about US singers in Chicago's magnificent mile? I was asked for money 4 times in one block. 3 times by the same guy--this dude was persistent, and I admired that.

But it's not that these G8 leaders are stupid. They are not. Some of these presidents and prime ministers are actually advised by very smart people. Some of that smartness has to rob off onto them, even though naturally they may not have been blessed with the "smart" gene. How many of us don't think that we are smarter than the average US president :) It's our right, I guess, and some of you probably are.

So, even though the G8 leader's main concern is to make their respective countries richer (that means all of us) with their free trade agreements, they don't purposely seat in their Herman Miller chairs and say to each other "Let us make poor people poorer and on the way there kick the first cute puppy we see," as some may want to believe. I'm sure it's a bit more complicated than that.

When you think critically about the whole G8 gatherings, those leaders are there to represent the majority of our advanced societies. It happens to be that we are paying them to maintain the status quo. Unfortunately, in our North American societies the "poor" (Whatever that is) have less to say in what goes on in the economy. Hence, we leave those matters to our elected politicians, i.e., raise the standard of living for the majority and in the process everyone will benefit.

I have to admit, though, that these benefits are not reaped by all in some occasions. It's unfortunate and probably not intended.

Our North American economies (I have to include myself in it from 1989 to the present) are not what they are because of free money or singers singing songs for free. It has taken a couple of centuries of sweat, blood, and hard (very hard) work.

I have to mention that the super rich of our societies do give and try to help humanity in general. The one example from the US I can think of is Bill Gates. He donates some (read billions of dollars) of his own money to different worthy causes. In Canada, Michael Laziridis (RIM's CEO) gave $100,000,000.00 of his own money to create the Perimeter Institute, a theoretical physics establishment.

The sums of money these leaders of our industries are donating are not small. But you have to notice that these funds are not sent directly to African countries or Latin American countries. Think about it. Why would anyone want to create a theoretical physics institute? Most of what these scientist talk about is probably only understood by 80 or so individuals of our entire world population (if not less). $100 million seems a bit excessive.

The reasoning goes that by advancing science, everyone in the world benefits. This is actually true. The changes made are not instantaneous. It takes time, but it works. Eventually, everyone will benefit from a few Joe Shmoes understanding Quantum Mechanics.

Over the weekend, I shook Laziridis hand at some formal function at Waterloo. At the end of our one minute conversation he suggested that I donate money to my alma mater. No, not to the poor directly, but to an institution of higher learning (He's actually the Chancellor of Waterloo, so he had to ask.)

Why should I give money to a University and not send it to Africa? If you look at the socio-economic breakdown of the student population of most universities you'll find that a big percentage of students are from middle-class families. Do these students need the money? Probably not. But the point of sustaining research and letting smart people sit around for countless hours staring at walls is not to make them rich, but to aid in sustaining creative thoughts that in turn evolve into new technologies that will eventually help every human being on earth. Electricity, small pox vaccines, laptops, drinkable water--it's all good in my book.

The irony of this whole Live 8 concert, and what inspired these ramblings, is that if all these performers and producers donated ALL the money they have made and will make (due to royalties) in their whole lives, they could probably end the poverty they are talking about (at least of the most needy). I have yet to see, though, a single singer giving away their fortunes to these African countries (in part or whole). In other words, I don't see a real commitment to their cause.

Should they give their hard earned fortunes away? Of course not. It's irrational, hence they don't do it. But they (whoever they are) are asking world leaders to do what they don't personally do. I guess it's easier to forgive billion dollars of debt when it's tax payers' money.

Anyway, it's ridiculous for us to believe that this Live 8 concert will cure poverty. Some critics of the concert are actually saying that the participants are probably going to sell more records later on due to the "free" PR. I don't blame producers and artists for participating. It's their livelihood, after all.

The solution
I don't know the solution, but I can personally say that by being entertained, enjoying a cold beverage, and wearing $200.00 shoes and designer jeans will definitely not directly help the "poor" anywhere in the world. Some concert goers will end up forgetting why they are there in the first place. Is it to watch U2 or to help the Gomez family in a country they don't know even exists?

A more realistic solution will probably involve bringing economical development and educational programs to these areas. And most importantly, a change in their government. If the core of the ruling class doesn't change, forgiving debt, sending more free money, and singing singers will do nothing to "cure" poverty--in Africa, or downtown Toronto. BTW, I'm not advocating invading any country and throwing the ruling regimes out of the window. It may be viewed as wrong, if there is no oil around.

It's the marketing stupid (A Clintonesc feeling, no?)
On a final note, Live 8 is not hurting anyone (some may disagree). It is actually generating dialog about the actual problem. However, we should call it what it is: marketing of rich singers. Why hide it?

What is the first rule of Live 8?
Rule #1: Watch LIVE 8 on TV and online. No joke here.

The final rule of Live 8 is to email our G8 leader. It's the last rule. Not the first, but the last. And it says to "email," not call or send a letter, but email your "G" leaders (SPAM filters will get a good workout). Check it out.

I still can't figure out how watching Madona grind her hips will aid the poor. But then again, I'm not a musician.

BTW, If you click on the link the Live 8 site is providing, the first thing you'll see is a nice Flash movie with: "What's hot: Song for Britney's Baby..." Not even a picture of the African continent. I think the Live 8 message got lost somewhere already.

But maybe not. What I'm arguing here is that it is all about the singers. And I don't see any contrary evidence.

A couple of final questions
Skeptical? yes.
Will I go? No.

    Geldof is criticised for using Africa as "a catwalk" which is more about reviving the careers of ageing rock stars than about helping the poor in Africa. Many charities had been planning a rally on July 2 targeting the G8 summit and were apparently surprised at the Live 8 announcement, although, due to the common cause, protest has been muted.

    People have pointed out the absurdity of super-rich celebrities preaching about extreme poverty to the masses for a day, before returning to making and spending enormous profits. Damon Albarn also suggested that the performers' record labels should pay "a tariff" as the accompanying publicity would increase future record sales and hence their profits.

Principles of Marketing, 5th Canadian Edition.

11:20 PM | 7 comment(s) |


For most companies participating, the support generates great publicity. But the losers might be several companies that contributed to $12,000 luxury gift bags that will be handed out to celebrities, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Greenfield, the marketing expert and blogger, said the blogosphere has already been chattering about the gift bags, which will reportedly include Hugo Boss suits, Seven jeans, Gibson Guitars and Bertolucci watches, among other fancy gewgaws. Greenfield said it would have been much smarter for the companies to make a donation on the celebrities' behalf.

"We think it's interesting that brands want to be included in a swag bag that has to do with poverty," Greenfield said. "They're kind of missing the whole picture."

No Escape as Live 8 Saturates

It is interesting watching the list of comments on websites

like this all over, about this.

I don't understand why everybody is arguing and stating

what's wrong with this or that when most everybody is right.

It is not a simple issue. There is no simple solution.

At least somebody is doing something to let others in positions to make decisions know-or to provide a vehicle for

many many others to let those people know-it's time to do

I hope these powerful people don't end up quibbling like so many of these blogs have.
By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:48 AM

I totally agree with you. There is too many of us trying to say what's wrong with it.

But, is this entertainment extravanza, as some have called it, really doing anything, but generating increadible amounts of profits for the organizers, the creators, the artist (in future revenues), advertizers on TV, TV stations, etc., etc.?

Don't take me wrong I'm all for profits (specially, if it includes me) and free market enterprises, however, honesty will take you further. Saying on TV that it is for a good cause, doesn't make it so.

Why aren't we seeing the top economist of the world talking about this in more direct forms?

What I really would like to know: Is Greenspan (The most powerful man in the world, as some people call him) at any of this concerts saying to himself "Yes, yes. This will solve African poverty."

Like I said, I think there should there be more direct approaches.

And if our leaders are not really doing enough to help others and at the same time helping our "own" societies, then we are fortunate to have means to take their powers away. We seem to call it democratic elections.

Don't take me wrong, I hope it does work. But, we can't just blindly agree with celebrities and their way of thinking.

Imagine a world full of Scientologist?

Or a world in which every weekend is is Live N (N > 0). A concert to end "world hunger/poverty/stupidity/cinicysm/democracy/terrorism/etc/etc."

Geldof only whishes :)

You are very stupid. You didn't even take the time to read about the differences between both concerts, the talk between Geldof & Tony blair about how exactly expect in the new G8 meeting, the work that Geldof & Bono made along these years and the results of that work. Obviously the situation will not change tomorrow, but they are doing something while you'r writing stupid things (not even an intelligent critic) in a patetic weblog.
By Anonymous Diego, at 3:27 AM


Now, Diego, tell me how you really feel...

Dude, you have to have 2 sides of a story to start a debate. This blog (Which I forced you to read) is just my personal point of view of different things.

Unfortunately, I do know the supposed difference between both concerts (But trust me, MARKETING of singers was one objective in BOTH).

Also, name calling will probably do nothing - Why don't you write a smart blog (as opposed to patetico) explaining to us feeble minded humans what the whole thing is really all about.

And I hope you enjoyed the concerts and feel good about saving Africa - I'm quite certain every citizen in Africa is thanking you for their new SUV and their new shiny sustainable economy that just materialized after the concert - Bono is calling it: "The Live 8 miracle." Hm? I should trade mark that...

BTW, politicians and rich singers have your interests in their hands, always - Keep listening to them.

This post has been removed by a blog administrator.
By Blogger Lunch, at 1:50 PM

very well said jose.
By Blogger Lunch, at 1:51 PM

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