What Are You Doing on July 2?

The big news this week for Torontonians was the announcement of a Canadian Live 8 Concert going ahead at Park Place in Barrie (about 45 minutes north of Toronto) on July 2, 2005.

While a lot of the reports in the Canadian media centered on the overwhelming consensus that the musical guests for the Canadian venue were mediocre and well past their prime, few detailed the reasons behind the event or the financial boost the hosting cities will see.

“We don’t want your money. We want you!” Canadian Live 8 Concert organizer Michael Cohl said on Wednesday. The idea behind the international event is to raise public awareness of global poverty and put pressure on the G8 countries to cancel African debt, increase foreign aid, and improve rules of fair trade.

Sir Bob Geldof, organizer of the Live Aid concerts that raised money to help ease African hunger in the 1980s, is also behind this year’s event. In his introduction on the official Live 8 web site, www.live8live.com, Geldof explains:

“This is without doubt a moment in history where ordinary people can grasp the chance to achieve something truly monumental and demand from the 8 world leaders at G8 an end to poverty.

“The G8 leaders have it within their power to alter history. They will only have the will to do so if tens of thousands of people show them that enough is enough.

“By doubling aid, fully canceling debt, and delivering trade justice for Africa, the G8 could change the future for millions of men, women and children.”

Free Live 8 concerts are currently being planned in London, Paris, Berlin, Rome, Philadelphia, and Tokyo, with artists ranging from U2 to Snoop Dog and Tim McGraw to Stevie Wonder taking the stage to do their part to promote the cause.

While the concert promoters are touting the fact that the event is more about awareness than fundraising, the host cities are likely looking at July 2nd a little bit differently.

With concertgoers expected to number in the hundreds of thousands in some locations (London and Paris) and millions in others (Rome and Philadelphia), July 2nd will without question see millions of dollars of revenue for the regions hosting the “free” events.

Based on the media coverage I’ve seen criticizing the talent booked for the event over the past few days in Toronto, it seems pretty clear to me that, to most people here anyway, Live 8 is more about a big rock-and-roll concert and a chance for the host city to make money than it is about awareness of any cause.

So now I’m wondering… Who’s going to benefit more from this concert event of the 21st Century: the third-world poor or the savvy business people in your area? My vote is for the latter.