To fight world hunger and transform their fans into social activists, Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam, Beyoncé, Black Sabbath, Neil Young, Kanye West, My Morning Jacket and dozens of other stars will donate two tickets to every show they play for the next three years. The Global Citizen Tickets Initiative, announced today, allows fans to earn points (one for sharing a Facebook video dealing with extreme poverty, 20 for raising $20 or more for a participating charity) and apply them to a ticket lottery.
It's an idea Pearl Jam's manager, Kelly Curtis, and Hugh Evans, chief executive of the Global Poverty Project, put together while planning last year's Global Citizen Festival in New York City's Central Park. That concert, starring Young, Foo Fighters and the Black Keys, raised $1.3 billion in pledges for the world's poor. Curtis first came up with the idea, but he needed Evans, an Australian who started working on world-hunger issues at age 14 and organized 2006's Make Poverty History concerts in Melbourne, to make it work. "It just shows the natural link between music and social activism to create change," Evans says.
For Curtis, the concept is a way to take something Pearl Jam and other stars have in abundance – tickets to concerts – and apply them to groups such as the UNICEF US Fund, Earth Day Network, Malaria No More and charity:water. "I'm hit up every day for something, whether it's to play or donate a song or give money," he says. "I just thought, 'What would accomplish a lot that wouldn't require time or anything – what if everyone gave a show?' You're talking about social activism in a really great way."
Curtis and Evans devised a lottery system in which fans who rack up between 10 and 20 points (depending on the concert price) can "spend" them on prize drawings for tickets. They'll manage their accounts on the Global Citizen webpage. The tickets are from each headliner's personal stash, so they're guaranteed to be available for every show and the pair of tickets is in areas where press and radio-contest winners usually sit. (Festivals such as Bonnaroo and Coachella aren't included in the artists' ticket offers, but some are participating in the initiative as part of their own deals.)
Evans first met Curtis in 2006, when he helped coordinate a collaboration between Pearl Jam and U2's Bono and the Edge on "Rockin' in the Free World" during the Make Poverty History concerts. "One day I was studying in the library and Bono's manager called us, and said, in a thick Irish accent, 'We want to perform at the Global Poverty Concert and we want to bring Eddie Vedder from Pearl Jam,'" Evans recalls. "We said, 'Wow, that's amazing.' It ended up beaming beamed all over the world."
To help coordinate the Global Ticket Initiative, which focuses on awareness about polio, malaria, women's rights, education and other issues, Curtis and Evans reached out to a group of concert-business leaders – reps from competing promoters Live Nation and AEG and competing agencies William Morris and Creative Artists, among others. At one point, Rob Light, head of CAA's music department and agent for Springsteen, Radiohead and many others, visited the office of longtime WMA rival Marc Geiger, co-founder of Lollapalooza, for the first time. "We are lucky the people running these areas are pretty altruistic and enlightened people, even though they may kill each other day-to-day," says Michele Anthony, a former Sony Music president who is chairing the initiative.
"It's such a non-political, easy thing," Curtis says. "You can't really say no, or you'll be shamed into saying yes."