CAMPAIGNS: JUDGE AND JURY; UK politicians are unlikely to break any new records

Rock the Vote is more likely to boost the profits of record companies than it is to reinvigorate youth interest in parliamentary democracy, believes Nicholas de Luca, director of APCO UK

Rock the Vote is more likely to boost the profits of record companies

than it is to reinvigorate youth interest in parliamentary democracy,

believes Nicholas de Luca, director of APCO UK



From the Concert for Bangladesh to Rock against Racism, Live Aid to Sun

City, the Conspiracy of Hope to Red Wedge varied causes have attempted

to attach themselves to rock ’n’ roll’s rebellious energy and youthful

following.



While a number of these efforts have managed to raise money it seems

less clear how many consciences have been lifted or political activists

created. Rock the Vote is a US export dating not as many presume to the

1992 Presidential election campaign when Pearl Jam, REM and Madonna led

an effort to get the MTV nation into voting booths - but to 1990 when US

record biz execs wanted to halt Republican-led efforts to censor lyrics.

This campaign turned into a nationwide voter registration push,

resulting in 350,000 additions to the electoral roll and a 6 per cent

upswing in the youth vote. Will this work in the UK? Is the Rock the

Vote idea transferable to this country? Can rock and roll mobilise young

people to vote?



The British version is being driven by John Preston, chairman of the

huge BMG music group (and also chairman of the BPI - the record business

trade body). The organisers of Rock the Vote insist that the concept can

work here. To convince us it is so, they have put up a pounds 1 million

budget, are planning a mass advertising campaign, a Live-Aid like

concert broadcast on television, record store promotions, an album, a

single, a video, bumper stickers, badges and t-shirts.



But so far, Rock the Vote has failed to pass some fundamental hurdles.

If it is going to inspire the disc buying public, they are going to need

to sign up some first division bands. Radiohead, the Boo Radleys and

Gene - it must be said - are not Blur, Oasis and Pulp. While there are

desperate efforts to get other name acts like Elastica and Supergrass

into the fray, without the big boys of the current Britpop scene no one

will pay attention. Whether or not kids can be persuaded to buy more

good cause albums remains to be seen.



In the US, the widespread penetration of cable TV - bringing MTV and VH1

into most households - meant that the Rock the Vote message was being

heard constantly in homes throughout the country. With music channels

available to a fraction of the UK populace the ability to get the word

out is going to be more difficult.



But, if the recent Brit Awards were anything to go by, there is no

shortage of interest in rock ‘n’ roll among politicians.



But people, including the young, want their politicians to be effective

not hip.



If politicians want teenagers to vote they need to deal with their

concerns not rub elbows with Damon and Noel.



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