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Willie Nelson's Farm Aid III Being Held in Nebraska Today

September 19, 1987|DENNIS McDOUGAL | Times Staff Writer

LINCOLN, Neb. — The pop charity frenzy spawned two years ago by Live Aid, Bandaid and a host of other "Aid" music benefits may have faded in the rest of the nation but not in America's heartland.

Country music mogul Willie Nelson plans to stage Farm Aid III at the University of Nebraska's Memorial Stadium here today as part of his continuing effort to call attention to the plight of the American farmer.

Farm Relief Projects

Farm Aid officials hope the 10-hour benefit will replenish the coffers of Nelson's Massachusetts-based Farm Aid Foundation, which has spent more than $7 million on farm relief projects during the last two years.

In putting on the concert, which will feature 40 country and rock music acts, Nelson is bucking a trend in which each new all-star charity production has earned less for charity than the event that preceded it. The Live Aid concerts for Ethiopian famine victims, for example, earned nearly $100 million in 1985. But Live Aid's 1986 successor, Sport Aid, put on by athletes, took in about $30 million.

Similarly, the all-star recording session that produced "We Are the World" in 1985 for the U.S.A. for Africa Foundation has raised more than $55 million to date for African relief. But U.S.A. for Africa's 1986 charity event, Hands Across America, raised $16 million for charity after paying nearly $17 million in expenses.

Lack of Public Interest

Public disinterest in pop charity has afflicted Farm Aid as well. The first concert, featuring an array of rock and country musicians, was well received in Champaign, Ill., two years ago and took in almost $10 million in contributions. But Farm Aid II in Austin, Tex., last year earned only about $1 million.

Although today's concert, with 69,000 seats at $20 apiece, sold out a week ago, the real measure of Farm Aid III's success will be in how it is received by television viewers, who will be asked to make pledges. Cable television's The Nashville Network will carry all 10 hours of Farm Aid III (beginning at 10 a.m. PDT). A two-hour prime-time version produced by Dick Clark Productions will air on more than three dozen commercial stations across the country, including KHJ-TV Channel 9 in Los Angeles, beginning at 8 p.m.

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