Saturday, July 14, 2007
Live Earthed to Death
Madonna- reinventing herself as a guitar player now? I don't think so!
OK, I'm sorry- I lied. It wasn't intentional. Really.
This isn't exactly about music. It's about benefits, and the beneficiaries of benefits from concerts for good causes, whether Bangladesh, Kampuchea, Amnesty International, or the Red Cross.
Did anyone try to watch that Live Earth debacle last week? What a train wreck.
Hatfield: Squeezing out a "Monster," or just getting zapped by his amp again? You decide!
As if we didn't get enough lame bands, lousy coverage, and pleas to our collective conscience to open our hearts (and wallets) to save the world at Live Eight, blah blah blah. At least they learned (or, did they?) not to have the VJs and guest commentators talking over the acts while they were still on, telling us how great it is to see the Chilis or a reunited Pink Floyd and how spectacular their performances are, which we would know ourselves, of course, if these numbskulls would get off the damn TV and let us watch, already!
But the biggest problem is, they're preaching to the choir.
The people that needed to have their collective consciences raised weren't the ones watching or listening. And they dismissed it all as lefty, tree-hugging propaganda. They don't care about the rest of the world, they don't care about music, they weren't tuned in and they weren't giving up a fucking dime. And on top of that, they (the networks, the sponsors, the folks that provided the services sold to the people that attended, from port-a-johns to beer and popcorn) actually made a shitload of money off of this thing!
I will refrain from getting into the whole "global warming- climate change" argument first because there's already a lot of facts as well as tons of disinformation out there about it, and I believe that if you're honest, you reach a logical conclusion very quickly that because of our sheer numbers, the activities we undertake, and our complacency and lack of respect for the environment, we're destroying this planet at breakneck speed. And also, I don't want to get into who's at fault because we all are, in some cases, for the mere reason we eat, breathe, consume, make garbage, and regularly defecate.
Finally, I'm not gonna get into this because Jerry will probably beat me senseless if I write another long diatribe. Whoops, but here we go again...
Left: Steve liked Kelly Clarkson; to me, she's just one more reason to want to pummel Simon
BECAUSE, as of 1998, Americans making less than $10,000 a year were donating approximately 4.3% of their annual incomes to charity, whereas the average of people making between $75,000 and $99,000 was under 2 percent! Back then, the national average for American households donating to charitable causes was something like $754 annually, and 7/10 households claimed to donate to at least some charities each year. Now, you might think that this figure is skewed because of the big corporate donors out there, right? Well, not so fast. In 1999, "Americans gave $190 billion in charitable gifts. $143.71 billion came from individual givers."
Not what you might think, huh? So more than 3/4 of the gifts to various different social, environmental, medical, political and religious charities were from private individuals. And mostly from ones we'd consider "poor."
(Note: statistics cited are provided courtesy of minnesotapublicradio.org, and Independent Sector (www.independentsector.org), based on national surveys conducted among US households in May, 1999, as well as CNN, AAFRC's Trust for Philanthropy, the Chronicle of Philanthropy, and other sources. So I'm not making this shit up.) And keep in mind, too, that the US government trails the governments of nearly ALL OTHER DEVELOPED COUNTRIES for annual charitable giving. Like everything else, they want it to come from the people, while they spend our tax dollars on more prisons, and sell off our national parks to predatory developers and speculators....
Now what's the impact of all this dough, and perhaps more importantly, the increase in the awareness of the people watching and listening to do something for: [name your flavor of the day social cause here] ?
Zero. Zilch. Nada. Zip. Goose eggs.
They were the ones that tuned in. Their consciences are already aware, duh. And if they weren't aware before they tuned in, they'd have to be by the time AFI and the rest of the pontificators that were out there posturing about their own awareness were finished. Apart from his time and debatable "talent,"I wonder how much the jokers in AFI ponyed up that day for charity? Were all the bands playing free, or were their "expenses" (like travel, hotels, and salaries for their crews, and I'm sure, AFI's personal assistants, wardrobe, hairdressers and manicurists) deducted from the gate first?
It's not to say this wasn't a good cause. And it should be a non-partisan one. Nobody really wants to ruin our air, water, and environment, and doesn't care about what we leave behind to the next generation, or the ones after that. Right? I'd like to think so. But I'd be deluding myself. Many of us are just complacent, but a few see money to be made in stripping the earth of non-renewable resources, letting poisonous bi-products contaminate the air and water so that the factories can make steel, chemicals, plastic, and all the other things we need and consume every day, bigger and faster and cheaper. And good luck finding a way around trying to buy their products, or products made from materials they furnish. There aren't any easy answers- that's why these things never get off the ground, no matter how many people are involved or how many countries they play in. Or to. Or for.
No doubt about it- some people do profit from the destruction of our planet- and profit BIG. They don't see themselves as the bad guys. And they don't give any more to charity than they can get away with in order to avoid taxes on their profits, or to avoid the bricks and barbs mobs would hurl at them for being acknowledged as the greedy, rapacious, self-centered looters they are. But Big Business today is hardly the benefactor and "steward of the public weal" that once upon a time, governments called upon the "captains of industry" to be, when their record profits would be reinvested in the economy and create more jobs and a better standard of living for all - you recall, the "trickle down" economics theory? Yeah, and I remember my Mom telling me about Snow White and a bunch of short guys when I was an impressionable tad, too. That's what it is- fairy tales. Never happened, never will. Or as Steinbeck put it, "Tell me about the rabbits, George."
So, shouldn't the musicians be the first ones in line to donate to these things, if they really believe in them? Not just playing free after expenses, but footing their own portion of the bill AND coughing up some real coin, too. As much as I dislike them, I gotta say, the fact that Smashing Pumpkins actually put their money where their mouths are and donated all proceeds from their 1998 tour to charities in 13 cities, and an additional $ 419,000 to Hale House (which cares for abandoned children) makes me think they're sincere about what they believe. To their credit, they didn't grandstand. It wasn't noted widely in the press. I can support a band like that (I may actually have to go out and buy Gish now!) and that does make a difference.
Alternatively, when me and 50,000+ other people at RFK Stadium were told by Michael Stipe that the Tibetan Freedom Festival was not going to continue after a woman on the infield was hit by lightning, and that they weren't giving refunds ("It's supposed to be a benefit, man") my immediate thought was, "Gee, Mike, you're the millionaire- why not donate the profits from your next album, or write a check? You can afford it! We paid $75 a head and saw about 4 bands, 2 of which I couldn't have cared less about. And we got charged $7 for a piss- warm beer, or $10 for a personal sized cheese pizza? Fuck YOU!" And then I don't want to ever buy another REM album: in fact, I want to turn the ones I already have into frisbees. Even though I like them a whole lot more than Smashing Pumpkins.
What's that? I hear Jerry snoring. Or is it Steve? I better wrap this up, quick.
The point is, they're going about this all wrong. Make a pay per view that I can record and edit later, and I'll pay a reasonable fee (not a pro wrestling steroid fest or championship fight-type charge in the $50 range, but maybe half of that) so I can get it and watch at my leisure. And keep ALL the money for charity. Or let us download the performances we want to see and keep for a donation (let's say, $1 or $2 per band) and avoid all of the acts you don't want to see, and the ads, the pontificating, and the whiny pleas to our humanity. Hell, I'll pay extra not to see that! C'mon, I got my checkbook out and pen in hand, get me while I'm vulnerable.
And then the inevitable multi-CD set will come out, missing most of the performances by the bands I like. And like Live 8, it'll also probably be a multi- DVD set, which I'll buy, and fast-forward with my remote through all the bands I can't stand, leaving maybe 2 good hours out of the 22 broadcast that I'll actually want to watch. Hopefully, at least some of the money raised by that will go toward what was intended- figuring out how to stop melting the polar icecaps before the coasts of every country look like New Orleans after Katrina, only more so. But most of the performance CD/DVD's that get released will best serve me as coasters.
Don't care enough to do that? Or just sick of the constant nagging to give what you can't really afford? CBS and other channels broadcast "highlights." That was free, and you can tune out the message and just watch the dinosaur bands and a bunch of talentless multi-millionaires tell you about how much they're doing and how much you should be like them. "And- oh yeah, stop downloading my songs because I can't afford the gas for my limo and the fleet of humvees at my 300 acre compound."
A benefit is supposed to be a benefit, and a charity is supposed to be a charity. Do the research- see if the money actually reaches the people that it was intended for, or if the majority gets absorbed in "administrative costs" and other nefarious ways that sidetrack the money into some oily, self-proclaimed "humanitarian" rip-off artist's pocket. Ask the folks at the United Way, or a hundred other charities that were fleeced by their leaders to silence sexual harassment charges, grease their buddies' palms, or channel funds to election campaigns. There are a lot of analyses online about who does what with donations, look 'em up. Give where it matters, and buy from the people that give back. Don't throw what you have away.
Steve and Jerry are awake again, and coming after me with the wood chipper.
I better get out of here. Sorry for the long gripefest again- really. But it was disappointing all the way around.
Trying to keep his limbs intact,