RealTime IT News

Rockin' in the Fee World

America Online is spreading the musical wealth to a chorus of outlets and online partners that will take part in the Live 8 concert on July 2. Live 8 concerts will take place on Saturday in Philadelphia, London, Paris, Berlin and Rome, all in the name of poverty relief. Other venues included Johannesburg, Ontario, Rome and Tokyo

The concert event is also a study in the pervasive power and reach of global media since the first Live Aid concert two decades ago -- online, on the tube, and through thin air via wireless networks.

After securing the North American media rights to broadcast the upcoming event, AOL announced it had granted licenses for the concert to MTV Networks, Premiere Radio Networks and XM Satellite Radio.

Live 8 is a distant cousin to the 1985 benefit concert Live Aid. Both were organized by Irish rocker Bob Geldof to raise awareness of the burden of international debt on Third World countries, especially on African nations.

For AOL, the concert will showcase its new Web portal, as well as draw attention to this global problem, according to Jordan Kurzweil, vice president of production at America Online. As the exclusive online partner, AOL will show all the concerts live online at no charge through aolmusic.com and on the AOL portals in the UK, France and Germany. AOL will then offer the concert videos on-demand for six weeks.

"What makes this event unique is that AOL will carry it live from beginning to end and broadcast the concerts from around the globe all in one place," Kurzweil said.

While the concerts -- expected to draw a broadcast audience of up to two billion people -- focus on poverty, businesses are seeing a potential cash cow.

AOL has spun its exclusive online rights for the event, along with U.S. broadcast rights, into several partnerships. The media conglomerate licensed the television rights to Walt Disney Co. for broadcast on ABC, in addition to the radio, satellite and cable TV deals.

Nokia , the first to sign up as a global sponsor for the events, said it is the primary sponsor of ABC's prime-time Live 8 programming and will continue to replay the Live 8 messages after event.

Broadband phone company Vonage says it spent a "respectable sum" to become a sponsor of MTV's broadcasts of the Philadelphia Live 8 concerts, as well as to be a sponsor of Premiere Radio Networks' feed of the 12-hour show this Saturday. It will run a series of 30-second and 60-second ads that will total 12 minutes in length.

More than 200 affiliates are broadcasting 12-hour feeds of the event, and Vonage will have 12 minutes to allocate between 30- and 60-second ads, the company said.

Artists slated to perform for the five shows include the Dave Matthews Band, Jay-Z, P. Diddy, Stevie Wonder, Coldplay, Elton John, Madonna, Paul McCartney, Pink Floyd, REM, Sting and U2.

Although AOL expects a big audience turnout for the show, it is likely that most of its viewers will turn up after the microphones have been turned off, said Kurzweil.

The world has certainly changed since 1985, and although many of the musical acts to perform this year are different, it is the major role of new technologies that provide the stark contrast between the two events.

Late last month, for example, Geldof squared off against a giant global company that didn't even exist back in the 1980's. The fiery promoter told the BBC that eBay was trying to make money "on the back of the poorest people on the planet" by allowing sellers to offer tickets for sale to the highest bidder.

He even referred to the auction giant as "electronic pimps" because the free tickets for concert in London's Hyde Park -- featuring Paul McCartney, Snoop Dogg, U2, Sting and Madonna -- were being auctioned for as much as $2,000 on eBay's U.K. site.

The 150,000 tickets were originally free to lottery winners who entered a contest via text messaging. More than 2 million people sent text messages for tickets, raising nearly $3 million to cover some costs of the event.

Los Angeles-based Mobilium Group hopes to get TV viewers around the world to text message their support of the cause by typing the words "Live 8" into their cell phone keypads. The name of everyone who does so will run on a ticker tape used as a backdrop to the live events in his or her city.

MTV, the lone U.S. network to carry the concerts and probably one of the biggest benefactors of Live Aid, was obviously excited to be back in the mega-concert business.

In a statement, Judy McGrath, MTV Networks chairman, said participating in the event to help advance global issues is one of MTV's proudest moments.

"Live 8 is one of those moments, and we're glad to join our musical brothers and sisters in every corner of the world to help shine the spotlight on ending poverty," McGrath said.