Can music change the world? As one of the driving forces behind the July 7 Live Earth concerts for "a climate in crisis," Kevin Wall is counting on it. After seeing Al Gore's "Inconvenient Truth," Wall, the CEO of Control Room, which provides digital feeds of concerts and other live events to Web sites and theaters, called the former vice president with the idea of holding a massive event to further spread the film's message. It wasn't long before Gore helped corral artists like Madonna, the Police, Metallica and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, who, along with many others, will perform at the concerts, set to take place in eight different cities on six different continents and broadcast worldwide. Whether watching Sting and Co. burn through "Roxanne" will convince anyone to trade in their SUV for a hybrid remains to be seen -- Live Aid impresario Bob Geldof has expressed his doubts -- but at the very least, Wall's history, which includes a hand in Live 8, Live Aid and 1992's Freddie Mercury tribute concert, suggests Live Earth should be one heck of a show.
Wall, 55, spoke to Salon on the phone from Los Angeles.
What has to happen for you to consider Live Earth a success?
We need to reach the most people possible -- that's the key. Al Gore's slide show was seen by thousands of people; it influenced two people in Hollywood to make a movie ["An Inconvenient Truth"] that then influenced millions of people; I saw that movie and now I'm going to deliver 2 billion people. It's about delivering a message. If we can move people, provide them with some take-away actions, that's the change we're looking for. The climate crisis isn't going to go away with a concert, but this is not a concert; this is a global event for humanity. This is not about the haves and the have-nots like Live 8 was; this is about all of us.
What have been the biggest differences between organizing Live Earth and Live 8?
We lacked time with Live 8. We had eight weeks to pull it together and we had difficulty with media penetration. This time we've got HDNet, Sirius, XM, NBC, Telemundo, and that's just in the U.S. The concerts will be on TV, on the Internet and on the radio in 100 other countries. Live Earth will be the most complex media event in history. We're trying to do multiple Super Bowls all around the globe, all in the same day and all in high-def.
Another thing we've had to do differently is green the stadiums. We had to sit with artists and go through messaging and look at how to get them greening their lifestyles. Bob [Geldof] said everyone knows about the climate crisis, but I'm in L.A. and I look out my window and I see seven SUVS. Awareness is not the same thing as behavioral change.
At this point, large-scale concerts like Live Earth are nothing new. Do you worry that people won't respond as forcefully as you'd like?
No. Music is still a very powerful way to incite change. Think about the late '80s, when the music business took on apartheid. The anti-apartheid movement had been a niche movement in colleges, but in 1985 the "Sun City" record [by Artists United Against Apartheid] came out and in 1988 we produced a Nelson Mandela tribute concert at Wembley Stadium and within months this guy was out of prison. [Mandela was released in 1990.] That was the result of pressure applied through music. The same thing happened with the Amnesty International Tour that Springsteen and Sting and Bill Graham put on. There was a big change in the upholding of human rights at prisons. The Freddie Mercury tribute concert was a tipping point for AIDS awareness, for the AIDS issue, and caused massive change. USA for Africa, "We are the World" -- another great example. Live Earth is not about me making money or padding my résumé; it's about making change.
-- David Marchese