What do George Clinton, LeAnn Rimes, Tracy Chapman, Third Eye Blind, Bennett Cohen, and Jerry Greenfield all have in common? Apparently not one hell of a lot. At least, that could be the interpretation drawn from the cancellation of the “One World One Heart” music festival, which was to have taken place in Bethel, New York—yes, as in “Woodstock,” for those of you who are keeping geographical track—during the weekend of August 23. The festival, which began in 1991 in Vermont, apparently didn’t quite sell enough tickets to make the event economically viable. Which is what it all tends to come down to nowadays, in this dog-eat-ice cream environment that we’re living in. Ice cream? Oh, maybe you missed the reference: Cohen and Greenfield are the two guys who are better known as “Ben & Jerry.”
Once upon a time—or 1978, for those of you who are keeping chronological track—a small ice cream store was established by a couple of guys in Burlington, Vermont. It was housed in what had been a gas station. Mmmm: 89 Octane Crunch. If you’ve visited Burlington, Vermont, anytime since 1978, it probably wouldn’t be too far off to describe Messrs. Cohen and Greenfield as “hippies.” I was there earlier this week and came to the conclusion that more than a small number of people who would probably be better off in Berkeley—for those of you who are keeping climatological track—because it is far more temperate, were too burnt to make the trip. Anyway, those two created some tasty confections and did so while maintaining social, ecological and economic policies of the sort that many people would find to be laudable and which bigger businesses probably found to be incredibly annoying, especially when people were eating Ben & Jerry’s rather than their Mass Marketed Though Seeming To Come From A Boutique Brands treats. “Who the hell are those guys!” was probably screamed in more than one boardroom during the heyday of the Ben & Jerry rise to a sweeter position on the economical landscape.
Well, as it turns out, all things must pass. Ben & Jerry’s was gobbled up by Unilever in 2000, the multinational that puts out such fine products as I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter. Makes me hungry just thinking about it.
Ostensibly, this year marks the 25th anniversary of Ben & Jerry’s. Or, in their parlance, the “25th birthday”—for those of you who are interested in the personalization marketing approach. While not wanting to get into the ontological questions related to When Does An Authentic Company Started By A Couple of Guys In A Former Service Station Stop Being An Authentic Company Because It Has Been Acquired By A Faceless Multinational? it does seem as though there’s something significantly different vis-à-vis the firm in question.
The previous One World One Heart fests were held in Vermont. Sure, 25th anniversary, couple of old hippies, Woodstock—the movement to the new venue seems to make sense. But possibly, it didn’t make cents this time—or, more to the point, for those of you doing the math, dollars, lots of dollars. Back in the day (as in last year and in years previous), the festival was free. This time, they were charging for tickets. And presumably, the number of tickets moved was not sufficient to move the people at Unilever to permit the festival to go forward. As the rhetoric on the official Ben & Jerry’s website has it: “Right place. Wrong time. An economic downturn coupled with an unexpected slump in the music industry, has forced our hand and the cancellation of this year’s One World One Heart Festival.”
The Show Must Go On? Apparently not.
The question that arises is this: What does an “economic downturn and an unexpected slump in the music industry” have to do with throwing a party for an ice cream brand, a brand that would undoubtedly score big with fans of funk, folk, rock, and once-sweet-seeming-girls-who-now-seem-to-want-to-be-nothing-more-than-duclet-toned sex objects? While those of you who would like to imagine that It’s All About The Music would insist “Nothing! now write a goddamn concert review or something and don’t make our heads hurt while considering anything else,” the real answer is “Everything.” Money matters far more to music today than ever. More’s the pity, but there it is.
Now let’s squirt a little I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter on our Cherry Garcia and feel better about Ben & Jerry.