The last concertgoer has gone home, the stages have been dismantled. Now, almost a week after pop stars such as Bono, Puff Daddy and Jewel performed at the charitable NetAid concerts, a question remains: How much money did the event raise?
The answer from NetAid's organizers: We're still not sure.
Despite touting its unprecedented capacity to link donors and aid organizations over the Internet, neither the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) nor corporate sponsors of NetAid have been able to provide an accounting of donations and revenues thus far.
Organizers of the three overlapping concerts held Saturday have called the event a success. They said more than 100,000 people attended the shows in Geneva, London and the Meadowlands in New Jersey to hear music from dozens of acts and appeals for U.N.-sponsored programs, such as refugee resettlement, Third World debt relief and environmental protection. Cisco Systems, the principal corporate sponsor, said video feeds of the concert were accessed nearly 2.4 million times on the Internet during the 16-hour span of the concerts.
But organizers won't--or can't--say how many tickets were sold, nor how much money has been generated for organizations serving the impoverished.
While the London show at 70,000-seat Wembley Stadium was sold out, and a smaller, invitation-only show in Geneva was at capacity, the crowd for the concert at Giants Stadium in New Jersey filled only about half the 53,000 available seats and left large empty patches on the field. Much of the audience reportedly left by the time Bono and Wyclef Jean capped the event by singing "New Day," a song they wrote for NetAid.
Under an agreement with Cisco Systems, the main corporate sponsor, the first $5 million of revenue from the concerts will go to repay Cisco for funds advanced to secure the three concert venues. The repayment agreement was among the issues cited by actor-musician Harry Belafonte when he angrily quit as a top NetAid organizer several weeks before the concerts.
People who saw and heard the event were asked to visit the NetAid Web site (www.netaid.org) and contribute time, material or money to various programs. Robert Piper, a U.N. employee who helps manage the site, said, "Many people have registered their interest online. People have indicated a willingness to get involved."
However, he could not offer specific figures, nor could Trygve Olfarnes, public affairs officer for UNDP. Olfarnes said more information may be forthcoming next week.
KPMG, the giant accounting and consulting firm that designed the NetAid Web site, referred calls to Cisco.
But Kent Jenkins, a Cisco spokesman, was unable to provide any figures as of yesterday, nor was he able to explain the apparent delays in reporting one. He referred calls to Bob Chlopak, a Washington public-relations executive who has represented NetAid for weeks. Chlopak said such an accounting was complicated, since the event involves donations made over the Web, ticket and merchandise sales, contributions over a toll-free phone line, and radio and TV licensing fees.
"I am trying to get that information," Chlopak said. "There is an absolute pledge of transparency here. I am sure we will have independent auditing. But we can't just click and get that information."
Cisco, a San Jose, Calif.-based company that makes computer networking equipment, initiated NetAid last year, in part to demonstrate the capabilities of its products and to show off the Internet as a vehicle for anti-poverty activism.
The company has donated $10 million to the NetAid Foundation and KPMG has donated $1 million. The NetAid Web site explains that "monies donated to NetAid will be managed and distributed by the NetAid Foundation. The NetAid Foundation will select and fund projects directly related to poverty eradication. The Foundation will publish a list of all funded projects. These projects will be followed and the results reported."
Among other things, the Web site says donors can "get the 'New Day' CD free" by signing up for a "NetAid Platinum Visa" card.
The U.N.'s Piper said activity on the NetAid Web site would likely peak within the next week, after taped broadcasts of the NetAid concerts are shown around the world. The shows were carried live in the United States on VH-1 and in Great Britain by the BBC, but many radio and TV stations around the world have yet to air them.
Unlike other pop-star fund-raisers, such as Live Aid, Piper said, "this is not a onetime event. What stands NetAid apart from other events is the concept. We expect NetAid will live on in the coming months and years."
Live Aid, which featured some of the same stars as Saturday's concerts, raised funds for African famine relief in 1985.
CAPTION: Jewel performed to a half-full house at the Meadowlands, one of three concert venues for NetAid's poverty relief effort.
CAPTION: Only about half the 53,000 available seats were sold for NetAid at the Meadowlands in East Rutherford, N.J.