Media Earth

My neighbors were having a party on their porch last night, making it almost impossible to concentrate on the work-intensive task of web surfing.  I turned on the TV for some white noise, and ended up catching about an hour of the Live Earth spectacle.  Spanning seven continents (I’m not quite sure how that’s possible, to be frank), the concerts were broadcast virtually everywhere.  Or, as the Alliance for Climate Protection states:

Live Earth will reach this worldwide audience through an unprecedented global media architecture covering all media platforms – TV, radio, Internet and wireless channels.

By all accounts, it was masterful piece of organization.  From the bit that I saw, it seemed clear that the musicians and the audiences were fired up; a number talked about the environmental movement as a new “revolution.”  This, I fear, remains to be seen.  I’d love to believe that each of the two billion people (I’m not making up that number–see the website) who witnessed Live Earth are going to go home and rally for environmental change.  Bring it on!  In the meantime, a few reflections on the use of media during Live Earth.

First as the various television stations cut between different concert venues, they showed short films about the environment (you can see a few of these here).  Running the gamut from sincere (“The Mermaid”) to tongue-in-cheek (“Super Power Bloke”), the films served as a delightful break in the wall to wall concert footage being served up.  I’ve never been one for concert films, so I’ll admit my bias freely.  But I can’t help but think that the served as a kind of palate cleanser: they broke me out of the monotony of watching an artist on stage, for one thing.  More importantly, however, they were making direct statements about the causes of environmental degradation and possibilities for social reform.  This is a bit more on message than “If you love the earth, I want to see you jump up and down to this song!”  But perhaps this displays the media savvy of Kevin Wall and Al Gore.  You can’t ask people to absorb information all the time.  Get them to a concert, and then, when they’re not expecting it, hit them with some knowledge!

Second, and more randomly, I watched the Madonna segment with awe.  Sister can still throw down, I gotta say.  She’s playing her own guitar now, and she’s very smartly moved “Ray of Light” down half an octave so that she can hit the high notes in a live performance.  The perplexing media moment came at the end of her set, however, when she made her way down the runway for the ubiquitous crowd-sing.  As she prompted various parts of the audience through the chorus to “Hung Up” (sing it with me–“time goes by…so slowly”), she crouched down and held out the mike.  So let’s try this as a hypothetical: Madonna is on stage in front of you, holding out a mike, urging the crowd to bounce and sing.  What do you do?  Well, if you were like 40 other audience members, you would stand, immobile and silent, holding your video camera/cell phone up to record the moment.   The old fogey in me wants to tell them: “Live in the moment, man!”  The other part of me, however, wants Live Earth to go all Beastie Boys artsy, and find a place for fans to upload their own videos of the performances.  A kind of “Awesome, I…Shot Live Earth!”  At least in the second version, participation happens in the aftermath.  But do I misunderstand the concert experience, whippersnappers?  Is recording the performance the new way of holding up your lighter during the encore?

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