Live Earth SOS

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To say the stated goals of Live Earth are lofty would be an understatement. Staging a 24-hour concert series on seven continents with more than 100 music artists, with the hopes of reaching an estimated two billion viewers on TV and via internet feeds, is no easy feat. (According to Nielsen Media Research, the July 7th event ultimately reached 2.7 million viewers on its NBC Saturday night broadcast, but it also received 10 million video streams, or "views," via MSN.) Live Earth's ultimate goal, however, is nothing short of triggering "a global movement to solve the climate crisis," as noted on the event website. Headed by Kevin Wall, who had been worldwide executive producer of Live 8, and former vice-president Al Gore, chair of Live Earth partner the Alliance for Climate Protection, the event and its marketing featured significant contributions from the commercials music industry.

Music and sound collective Human was tapped to create the sound behind a spot announcing the "SOS" campaign. The commercial features people and animals from various parts of the globe singing the Morse code sequence in an ominous monotone that slowly builds to a crescendo as the weather around them descends into chaos. Director Frank Budgen worked with Human composer and partner Morgan Visconti to set the right musical tone for the spot. Visconti considered it a blessing to have the director in the studio with him. "It was great to have him there because he was able to look ahead to his edit when we were assembling the music," he says. "The ultimate goal of the piece was just to evoke emotion from people. I think everyone's very much aware of what's going on with the planet and this was just to drive it home."

Los Angeles-based music production company Barton Holt was called by Live Earth executive in charge of production Andre Mika to create the theme music for the event. Turns out, Mika was an old college friend and bandmate of Barton Holt composer Michael "Smidi" Smith when the two attended Western Michigan University. "They understood the mission of Live Earth and what we were trying to accomplish," says Mika, who produced the event's world feed from London.

"The (idea) was to figure out how to use the SOS Morse code signal as a theme," says Barton Holt creative director and Live Earth music producer Sean Holt. "Smidi rose to the challenge and changed the rhythm of it so we could turn it into something that had an Afro-Cuban undertone, which always lends itself to things that are very global and worldly in scope." Barton Holt executive producer Hugh Barton says the firm submitted 75 different mixes. "Because it was something that we knew the audience would hear over and over, we did many different mixes, like drum and bass only or choir only because there is a lot going on in a world piece like this."

"The final theme is really important because really, it's our brand on-air," says Mika. "It's a big deal because it kicks off our broadcast, we use it as bumper music, we use it everywhere. It's a great, very cool, uplifting piece. Everyone here at Live Earth is thrilled with it." A week before the big show, the guys at Barton Holt were looking forward to enjoying their VIP tickets to the London show. Says Holt, "I have to admit, it's not going to suck to hear our theme played over a million-watt sound system in Wembley Stadium."
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