SEATTLE, Washington — British singer-songwriter Rod Stewart holds the world record for the biggest concert attendance. His 1994 Copacabana Beach performance drew in a staggering 3.5 million fans. For world-renowned musicians like Stewart, such a number is not uncommon. Nowadays, the average pop concert entertains 85,000 to 123,000 attendees. Concerts are engaging and memorable experiences that easily bring together mass amounts of people from all over the world. When these events aim to raise awareness for a good cause, the potential for change is limitless. Here are the top five benefit concerts that fight global poverty.
Top Five Benefit Concerts that Fight Global Poverty
- Live Aid: Arguably the most well-known benefit concert in history, Live Aid rocked audiences and called attention to global poverty in 1985. Irish singer-songwriter Sir Bob Geldof manned the operation to raise money for famine relief in Africa with a popular concert lineup. Among the performers were Phil Collins, David Bowie, Tom Petty, Led Zeppelin, Mick Jagger and Bob Dylan. With names like these headlining the concert, it is no surprise that the event raised $38 million for the starving populations of Africa.
- Live 8: In 2005, Sir Bob Geldorf sponsored a series of eight benefit concerts in honor of Live Aid’s 20th anniversary. The purpose of the concerts was to raise funds for the Make Poverty History campaign and the Global Call for Action Against Poverty. The performances took place all over the world and featured stars such as Elton John, Snoop Dogg, the Cure, Def Leppard, Kanye West and Duran Duran. The performers pledged to send $50 million worth of aid to developing nations by 2010. This helped reduce the number of sub-Saharan Africans living under $1.25 per day by 8 percent over the course of five years.
- Hope for Haiti Now – A Global Benefit for Earthquake Relief: Hope for Haiti is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for the Haitian population, 75 percent of whom are impoverished. In 2010, a major earthquake devastated the Caribbean country and took the lives of more than 200,000 of its residents. In response, Hope for Haiti sponsored a telethon that consisted of live performances by Mary J. Blige, John Legend, Bruce Springsteen, Rihanna and Jay-Z. The event raised more than $58 million to fund relief and development efforts in Haiti. Hope for Haiti serves as an example of how benefit concerts can fight global poverty in light of an unexpected tragedy.
- The Global Citizen Festival: Global Citizen is a web-based social platform that encourages users to act and speak out against global poverty. In 2012, the website hosted its first benefit music festival in Central Park. Unlike other benefit concerts, the Global Citizen Festival tickets are free to users who have earned rewards for community service and advocacy efforts. The audience was made up of more than 60,000 fans of headliners such as Neil Young, Foo Fighters, the Black Keys and Band of Horses. The festival is responsible for thousands of people turning their attention toward the issue of global poverty while also demanding that government leaders implement poverty resolutions and foreign aid into policies.
- Rock Against Poverty: On Earth Day in 2011, a grassroots organization called the Vihara Foundation hosted a benefit concert in New York City. The Vihara Foundation aims to eradicate global poverty through the use of modern technology. During the foundation’s first concert event, American Idol finalist ANWAR and Rock Against Poverty co-founder Dale Stephens accompanied Grammy award-winning headliner Trey Lorenz. Tickets to the event were free, which encouraged citizens of all income levels to attend. However, proceeds from merchandise and an autographed guitar auction went to the Vihara Foundation. Rock Against Poverty proves that benefit concerts can fight global poverty even without expensive ticket sales.
Live music is one of the most universally appealing forms of entertainment. It draws together crowds of people with common interests and allows for a shared experience that often evokes powerful emotion. When musicians and producers gear their efforts toward issues such as global poverty, millions of fans will eagerly jump on the opportunity to tune in and take action. These five benefit concerts that fight global poverty demonstrate the immense potential for a movement to take off after a single live performance.
– Harley Goebel