July 2, 2005 6:00 AM PDT

Live Aid for the Internet age

What's the difference between today's Live 8 concert to combat poverty in Africa and the Live Aid benefit held 20 years ago?

U2 lead singer Bono says Live 8 is much more about getting people involved and less about getting charitable donations.

Others say this year's benefit concert is also distinguished by its use of the Internet as a tool to bring together a global community.

Live 8 refers to the Group of Eight summit, next week's gathering of leaders of the world's wealthiest nations, to be held in Gleneagles, Scotland. The concert is aimed at getting those leaders to commit more aid money to Africa.

Concerts to be performed by 150 musicians in 10 cities are already being beamed on the Internet by America Online, the event's only online sponsor.

Philanthropist and Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates made a surprise appearance at the London leg of Live 8, expressing support for British Prime Minister Tony Blair's work on global health and poverty.

"The generosity we are asking for can save millions of lives," said Gates, who was cheered on like a rock star by a crowd of 200,000 or so. "Some day in the future all people, no matter where they are born, will be able to lead a healthy life."

The online concerts are free, even for non-AOL members. The company has said it will also make Webcasts available for 12 weeks.

But apart from being a virtual venue for the concerts, the Internet has played a role in everything from circulating an online petition, to coordinating a program of street gatherings called "The Long Walk to Justice." The main Live 8 site offers, among other features, a comprehensive list of performers, footage of starving children and the opportunity to upload photos for a gallery that's been posted along some two miles of railings in Edinburgh.

Cell-phone technology has also been in the Live 8 spotlight, with free tickets to the London concert offered through a text-messaging promotion. Those tickets ended up on eBay, until the company's U.K. director removed the listing at customers' urging when the price hit 1,000 pounds.

Bloggers, too, have made themselves a part of the Live 8 action. As of 3 p.m. PDT Friday, the blog search engine Technorati had tallied up 9,877 Live 8 related blog items.

The concert venues include London; Edinburgh, Scotland; Paris; Berlin; Rome; Philadelphia; Barrie, Ontario; Tokyo; Johannesburg, South Africa; and Moscow. AOL will be Webcasting from only a handful of those cities.

The BBC is the host broadcaster from London. Partner TV and radio broadcasters, such as MTV, will also be airing the concerts.

Some Live 8 headliners include Madonna, U2, the Who, Coldplay, Sarah McLachlan, Maroon 5, Dave Matthews Band, Elton John, Pink Floyd and R.E.M.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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Gaw Bless AOL - never thought I'd say that
I tried watching the combined MTV/VH1 broadcast. After 1 hour, I hadn't seen 1 entire track. I saw lots of partial tracks. They kept cutting to commerical (sic) and interviewing members of the audience FFS.

I went online to AOL's broadcast & saw the WHOLE Pink Floyd set (without talking heads talking all over the second half of Comfortably Numb).

Today.....I had a viable alternative to TV. Can't wait for the future !

P.S. EVERY 3 SECONDS, A CHILD DIES AS A RESULT OF POVERTY - it's hard to ignore a message like that.
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