If you've seen Coldplay perform, you may have noticed the words "Make Trade Fair" scrawled on singer Chris Martin's piano. Two years ago, the band was approached by OxFam, a British humanitarian organization, and asked to spread the word about fair-trade practices and worldwide poverty.
"We were like, 'Make trade what?'" says Martin. "We had no idea what they were talking about." But after traveling to Haiti and the Dominican Republic to witness firsthand the negative effects of global-trade policies, Martin has become the poster child for OxFam's Make Trade Fair campaign. At the Video Music Awards in August, he had the Oxfam Web address written on his hand, and he routinely plugs the cause at shows.
"Trade regulations around the world need to be improved drastically, or else we're fucked," Martin says. Before a recent concert in Mexico City, Coldplay visited local farmers in the town of Santa Isabel Tepetzala. They also dropped in on the World Trade Organization meetings in Cancun to present the head of the WTO, Supachai Panitchpakdi, with a petition containing nearly 4 million signatures seeking reform of trade rules, with more than 30,000 of those collected at Coldplay shows.
Meanwhile, the band is concentrating on its next album, which will be recorded in Chicago. "We're gonna try to make a record that will get us inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame," Martin says with a laugh. "Right now we've got some songs that sound like we want to be the Cure. That's because we do."