Why wasn’t the ‘Boston Strong’ benefit concert televised?
“Healing in the Heartland,” the relief benefit concert Wednesday night starring Vince Gill, Reba McEntire, and Blake Shelton, raised more than $6 million to assist Oklahoma tornado victims.
“Boston Strong,” the benefit concert held Thursday night for the Boston Marathon bombings victims, and highlighted by appearances from Aerosmith, the J. Geils Band, New Kids on the Block, James Taylor, and Carole King, is projected to raise around $1.5 million, about one-quarter of the Oklahoma effort.
Two tragedies, two sold-out benefit concerts. One difference? Oklahoma’s was viewable on a live webstream and on NBC-TV, encouraging people watching at home to call in and make pledges. Boston’s was watchable only on a spotty webstream and could be heard only on SiriusXM Radio, and on Friday people used social media to voice outrage at not being able to see a concert benefiting a local tragedy.
“Really irritating that #BostonStrong concert is not on television,” read a tweet from Suzanne Morse, one of many complaining voices on the subject.
Don Law, president of Live Nation New England and the man who pulled the “Boston Strong” concert together, from lining up the artists and getting them hotel rooms, to securing the TD Garden for no fee, told the Globe Friday he could not get a TV station to underwrite the costs, which he estimated at $500,000. And when he lined up a major corporate sponsor instead to pay for the broadcast, the sponsor backed out at the last minute. Law declined to identify the sponsor.
“We were going to do it,” he said of televising the event. He said it would have raised more money because more people would have watched it and been encouraged to phone in pledges.
At a press conference Thursday before the event, Law explained that logistics were the main reason the event was not televised. He said configuring the arena to accommodate a TV production, from seating to lighting, is more complicated than a simple live stream on the web.
Whatever the reason Boston’s concert was not televised, it’s clear that Oklahoma’s concert, in the aftermath of a tornado that killed two dozen and injured many more, benefited from the presence of Shelton. The country music star hosted the event, and because he is a coach on NBC’s “The Voice,” that network agreed to air the concert and put it on its cable channels, including G4, Bravo, E! and CMT, either live or delayed.
Sam Weisman, a TV producer and director from Newton with no connection to the “Boston Strong” concert, said he thought the lighting and production quality for the local event was impressive for such a fast turnaround, and that it would have translated fine to television. He said other, more complicated reasons, could have contributed to why it wasn’t televised.
“This merger of old media and new media is still happening,” said Weisman, who produces the NBC reality a cappella show “The Sing-Off.” “The language of commerce in this area is so all over the place. One of the new bits of commerce are these live events. And because they are one-offs it causes a gray area.”
That gray area often involves music rights, he said. A pre-taped show has to clear the rights to show an artist’s music, Weisman said. But a live show is less constricted, yet still full of tricky questions about rights.
That issue could come into play for another reason. Law said Friday that Live Nation is exploring whether a DVD of the concert could be made and sold to collect more money for One Fund Boston. The fund has raised more than $37 million for victims of the April 15 bombings.
One local TV station, WBZ-TV, said the question about why the concert was not broadcast should be directed at Live Nation. “It’s a question the organizers of the concert will have to answer,” WBZ spokeswoman Ro Dooley Webster said. When told it’s the question a lot of people were asking on social media, she said: “We’d like an answer too.”
If the live webstream had worked more smoothly, it’s possible the backlash about the lack of a TV viewing might have been muted. During the concert itself, from the time it started around 7:15 p.m. until around 9 p.m., the live stream was sporadic, working one minute, crashing the next. It became more consistent around 9 p.m., when J. Geils was wrapping up its set, and for the final three hours it was mostly smoother.
But as of Friday afternoon, almost 24 hours after the concert, even the replay video of it on various websites was still problematic, often stopping barely five minutes into it during J. Geils’ performance of “Love Stinks.”James H. Burnett III of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Doug Most can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Globedougmost