Business Matters: If Big Radio Had Pandora's Royalty Rate, It Would Owe Billions
Business Matters: If Big Radio Had Pandora's Royalty Rate, It Would Owe Billions

Wednesday night's Hurricane Sandy benefit concert at Madison Square Garden may have been a middle-aged rock fan's dream concert, but their kids -- and many other segments of the country -- appeared to have tuned out. Social media numbers suggest the hyped 121212 Concert broadcast may have been hurt by its absence from any one the country's four largest networks. If the concert generated much enthusiasm, it didn't show up online.

According to social media tracking company Bluefin Labs, the 121212 Concert generated 1.5 million social media comments during the six-plus-hour broadcast. That number is comparable to the 2012 Golden Globe Awards, which generated 1.1 million comments, and the 2012 MTV Movie Awards, which prompted 1.5 million comments. The company tracked comments across Twitter and Facebook in the U.S. for three hours before and after the live broadcast to account for the time difference.

But the 121212 Concert, which was broadcast on 34 stations in the US and online on dozens of websites, elicited just a small fraction of the social media generated by the 2012 Grammy Awards (13 million comments) and the 2012 MTV Music Video Awards (12.8 million comments), both more briefer events. The social activity shortfall is even more notable when you consider that Chase, the event's sponsor, gave the #121212concert hashtag great visibility by sponsoring it at Twitter on Wednesday.

Unlike the Grammy Awards and MTV Music Awards, however, the 121212 Concert was a one-off concert that was put together in a short period of time. Recurring awards shows are able to build brand awareness and market themselves virtually year round. Viewers' lack of familiarity with the 121212 Concert brand was undoubtedly a challenge for its organizers.

The concert featured a who's who of Baby Boom-era rockers: the Rolling Stones, Roger Waters, Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, the Who, Paul McCartney, Eric Clapton, Billy Joel. There were some younger artists, such as Alicia Keys, Kanye West and Coldplay's Chris Martin. The reunion of Nirvana -- with Paul McCartney sitting in for Kurt Cobain -- filled the space between the young and old.

A roster filled mostly with legacy artists may sell tickets, and older people may very well be more charitable than younger people, but the social media numbers suggest the 121212 Concert failed to generate the enthusiasm of major televised music events like the Grammys. Some of this makes sense. According to a new PewGlobalResearch study, 80% Americans aged 18 to 29 use social media while only 59% of Americans aged 30 to 49 and 28% of Americans 50 and older do so. But even after taking age into consideration and accounting for the 121212 Concert's long time frame -- over 6 hours to the Grammy's 3 hours -- the numbers still appear quite weak.

Nor was the lineup compelling enough for major networks to air the broadcast. The four major U.S. television networks -- ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC -- carried their regular programming Wednesday evening instead of the benefit concert. Only an NBC affiliate in New York carried the telecast. Viewers around the country were able to see the concert on channels ranging from AMC to MTV. The webcast could be found at dozens of websites.

The top two moments that generated the most social activity were, not surprisingly, when younger artists were on stage. Kanye West's performance was by far the top social activity with a peak of 11,498 comments per minute. According to Bluefin Labs, many of the comments were about his leather skirt. Chris Martin's performance generated the second-most amount of social activity with a peak of 6,474 comments per minute.

The other moments in the top five were, in order: the Rolling Stones taking the stage (a peak of 6,148 comments per minute), the Who taking the stage (a peak of 5,866 comments per minute) and the Nirvana reunion with Paul McCartney (a peak of 5,744 comments per minute).

Social media numbers are much higher when a younger audience is watching on a major network. For example, Chris Brown's performance at the 2012 Grammy Awards generated 453,000 social media comments in a 5-minute span, according to Bluefin Labs, a level of activity 687% higher than that reached by Kanye West during Wednesday night's benefit concert.