Hosted in July 2005, Live 8 was a set of benefit events that we designed to raise awareness of global poverty. Arranged as close to the 20th anniversary of Live Aid and the G8 conference as possible, it wanted to raise awareness and ask world leaders to pledge funds to fix world poverty.
The event itself was 10 music concerts that took place at the same time across 10 cities. Events were hosted in cities such as Berlin, Paris, Ontario, Tokyo and London. Tickets were allocated by a ballot to ensure that everyone had a fair chance of being able to attend. Not only were there 10 concerts arranged but the acts that took part were big-name performers – to help secure everyone’s attention. Plenty of artists took part including Celine Dion, Green Day, Wet Wet Wet, Elton John and Cold Play. Some acts even travelled between events so they could perform more than once – for example Katherine Jenkins who performed in both Berlin and Edinburgh and McFly who appeared in both Japan and Edinburgh.
Live Aid Started Things off
Of course, Live 8 isn’t the first big musical event that had a political agenda and it more than likely won’t be the last. 20 years before Live 8, Bob Geldof and Midge Ure arranged Live Aid – two simultaneous concerts arranged to raise awareness of the plight happening in Ethiopia. Despite technology not being advanced as what we’re used to now, the event was shown live in 150 different countries and attracted 1.9 billion viewers. Performers at this original event included David Bowie, The Who and Queen – many still say that Queens’s performance at the London event on this day was the best performance they ever gave, 21 minutes of legendary performance.
The Significance of Live 8
Climate change and global poverty have been on the political agenda for some time, however many people argue that world leaders are simply not doing enough to make any difference to what is happening around the world. Live 8 was designed to bring awareness to this, in particular global poverty. Following the event an extra $25bn - $50bn was pledged by world leaders to help - so it seemed the event did exactly what it set out to do.
The event itself was a massive deal with over 1000 musicians taking part in total. The concerts took place in over 10 cities but it was broadcast to over 180 television networks across the world. This resulted in 31% of the population tuning in to watch the concerts take place. The concerts had a total of 2 billion viewers, securing its stop as the biggest television audience of all time.
Although it is hard to pinpoint any changes to the concert specifically there is no denying that things did change during this time. For example, in 1990 the proportion of people living on less than $1.25 a day in Sub-Saharan Africa was 56% and by 2010 this had dropped to 48%. Of course, there is still work to be done and many would argue that events like Live 8 simply aren’t enough to make a difference where it really matters.
However, what cannot be denied is how much awareness this series of concerts raised; although you could argue that the passion for this has dropped off amongst the general public. However, at the time the celebrity-backed concerts really did raise awareness with a number of debates, discussions and talks on debt, trade justice and even the economic future of Africa took place. This pressure meant that world leaders were looked upon to make a difference with increased aid and debt relief expected by just about everyone – no wonder increased aid was promised at the time.
How Are Things Now?
Despite Live 8 making a difference at the time, the truth is that much of the world is in financial crisis and as such, there is still work to be done. With billions of people turning on their TVs to watch both events, it was obvious that public interest would be high at the time, but over the years it would be argued that momentum has been lost and that we could all do more.
That said, we’re only a few years away from Live 8 taking place 20 years ago – and a lot has happened in those 20 years. There are some vague whispers and rumours of a 2025 event that could take place, but of course, nothing has been officially announced as yet. These days we have access to much stronger and more advanced technology which means that we’re able to stream live shows much more easily across various parts of the world – although people are also much more used to being able to steam TV on demand which could affect viewing figures. Bob Geldof has talked in the past about where there will be another Live Aid extravaganza and he feels that thanks to the instant nature of social media, it just wouldn’t work the same - “I don’t think that works now, there’s a whole new age,” he told the Irish Independent. “You can do something; you can start generating stuff online now, whether that’s as effective immediately or not”.
Maybe we’ll see an online or virtual concert happening in 2025 to signify how the world has changed over the years & how perhaps we could all be doing a little more to help those that really need it.