Politics made for typically strange bedfellows Tuesday as rap-rock hybrid group Linkin Park and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon convened for a discussion on efforts to rebuild Haiti after the 2010 earthquake. Despite the undeniable oddness of the scene, it was an indication of the power of musical philanthropy to have actual impact on humanitarian crises.
The U.N.’s Global Creative Forum at the Hammer Museum was strangely timed as the uprisings in Libya reached crisis levels, but Ban was present nonetheless, addressing the forum in the morning and meeting with the band for a private conference and Facebook-broadcast town-hall discussion in the afternoon.
The forum was established last year as part of a U.N. push to prod Hollywood into tackling stories about the org and social justice issues dear to it. Larry King hosted an afternoon panel with Djimon Hounsou and Rajendra Pachauri on trying to make climate change “sexy.” The Linkin Park conference was not part of the official program, but it could give a boost in legitimacy to the band’s charity efforts.
“All the star singers have influence and power,” Ban told Variety when asked what he hoped to accomplish with the meeting. “I went to Haiti (after the earthquake), and we were mobilized, but this is not enough. We made a (relief fundraising) video and put it on our website and YouTube, and it was visited by 6,000 people. Then this band, Linkin Park, incorporated this video into their music, and it was visited by 6 million people.”
The band has been unusually committed as a charitable force, moving well beyond the de rigueur telethon and benefit-concert model. The band’s Music for Relief foundation — started as a response to the 2004 South Asian tsunami — has raised nearly $4 million in donations and has since been mobilized to tackle an assortment of disasters and green initiatives, with Haiti as the most recent focus. The group plans to make a trip to the island, under U.N. auspices, once its current tour ends in late spring.
“It will be great to physically see how much what we do is actually helping people there,” said band frontman Chester Bennington. “And we can see how we could better use our resources.”
Shortly after the January 2010 earthquake, the “Haiti Now” telethon raised $60 million in private donations, but the extent of the damage requires extensive rebuilding.
“People become bored really easily,” Bennington said. “It’s like if someone sees an accident on the highway, they’ll call 911, but they usually won’t stop and stay to make sure the person’s OK, and they definitely won’t check in to see how the rehabilitation is going afterward. So the goal is to do as much as possible in both the short and long term.”
Perhaps one of the band’s most successful recent programs is its Download to Donate venture, which charges $10 for year-long access to an updated roster of downloadable songs from the likes of Lupe Fiasco, Alanis Morissette and Yeasayer, sending all proceeds to local Haitian orgs.
“It’s quite noble,” Ban said of the band’s efforts. “I asked them to keep doing what they are doing.”