It’s not a Coldplay concert (it’s much more)

Next weekend, one of the most popular bands on the planet will play in Mumbai, but it’s not all about them

Updated - December 02, 2016 03:39 pm IST

Published - November 15, 2016 08:08 am IST

Global citizen India has partnered with crowdfunding platform Ketto to help raise funds for organisations and projects that align with their focus area. Photo: Getty Images

Global citizen India has partnered with crowdfunding platform Ketto to help raise funds for organisations and projects that align with their focus area. Photo: Getty Images

Over the past decade-and-a-half, India has hosted rock concerts from artists as varied as Roger Waters, Elton John, Bryan Adams and Iron Maiden. While all of them are legendary figures with huge cult followings, there was an implicit acknowledgment that they had come to India at the end of a cycle, the years of their peak popularity behind them. To find the last time a global superstar arrived on these shores in their pomp, you’d have to go back to Michael Jackson’s concert in Mumbai in 1996 and his famous visit to Bal Thackeray’s toilet.

Twenty years later, the same city will play host to British rock band Coldplay who, while perhaps not in the same league of global superstardom as Mr. Jackson, are nonetheless regarded as one of the biggest and most popular bands on the planet. In short, Coldplay coming is a big deal.


It’s not that surprising, therefore, that some politicians are now accusing the BJP government in Maharashtra of using their appearance to score political points. Their objections, which briefly threatened to briefly overshadow the concert, were raised by Congress leader Sanjay Nirupam and the members of the Nationalist Congress party (NCP). Mr. Nirupam has claimed that he is not against the event per se , but objects to the fact that the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA), headed by Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, has given a concession of 75 percent to the organisers for the hire of the MMRDA ground where the concert will take place. He says the state government has also given a tax exemption to the show, which is unusual for an entertainment event.

Mr. Nirupam’s contention is that the tax exemption for the event was given at a time when the election code of conduct is in force in several parts of Maharashtra that are going in for panchayat elections. As part of the event, he says that various political leaders will take to the stage and deliver political messages that will be broadcast all over Maharashtra and could possibly affect areas going in for polls.

It has to be noted though, that while Mr. Nirupam and the NCP have raised such objections, the Maharashtra Congress is far from unified in this matter and it’s difficult to gauge what they seek to gain from objecting to the concert. Congress leader Milind Deora for instance, tweeted recently that the concert is a “good apolitical event with larger goals.” “I’m involved in the organisation in my personal capacity and I don’t see any political motives here,” he said. As for the BJP, its MP in charge of organising the event, Poonam Mahajan, has said that the concert is part of the Global Citizen movement and as such, it is much larger than one individual or one band.

More than the band

With all the buzz about Coldplay, what’s often overlooked is that the concert is a broader event linked with the Global Citizen movement, and it aims to get India to take a leadership role in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals initiative and help achieve them by 2030.

Coldplay’s lead singer, Chris Martin, is the current creative director of the Global Citizen festival, an annual music event established in 2012 by the Global Poverty project as part of a continued movement to end global poverty by 2030. More recently, the festival, which is held at Central Park in New York every year, aligned itself with the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals.

The Global Citizen festival works on a model through which people can sign up to support causes and win tickets to watch great live music. Participants first register on the website, opening a Global Citizen account. They then take ‘actions’ related to listed causes, ranging from signing petitions, sending tweets, sharing links on Facebook, sending emails to world leaders and more. Each action earns the participant a certain number of points, after which s/he is eligible for a lottery-type draw that could win free tickets to the festival.

An Indian stage

According to Global Citizen CEO Hugh Evans, in an interview with Billboard , the groundwork for bringing the Global Citizen movement to Indian was actually laid when Prime Minister Narendra Modi came onstage at one such event in New York in 2014. After that, Mr Evans said, a visit to India was organised for Mr. Martin to meet Mr. Modi in Delhi, and the two started talking about bringing the movement to India.

Global Citizen India (GCI)is the first time the festival is moving out of New York. It’s a collaboration between the parent organisation and the India-based Global Education and Leadership Foundation (GELF).

As with the parent festival, participants can win tickets, but there are some important additions. The organisers have identified three major focus areas — sanitation, quality education and gender equality — which are three of the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals. The actions that are required include signing petitions calling on government officials to provide hygienic sanitation facilities on Indian highways, signing petitions asking United Nations Secretary General candidates to commit to scaling up efforts to improve sanitation, as well as tweeting about an issue or sharing links on Facebooks. Bhavya Bishnoi, spokesperson for GCI, says that in the month after the India initiative launched, close to 500,000 Indians took 1.7 million such actions through the platform. Mr. Bishnoi says that close to 80 per cent of the tickets for the concert are given free to people who take what he calls ‘action journeys’ and get to the minimum points required to enter the lottery.

But there’s an important addition. Mr. Bishnoi says GCI has also partnered with a crowdfunding platform Ketto to set up a way for fans to help raise funds for organisations and projects that align with their focus areas. Participants who raise specified amounts for one or more of the selected organisations — Save the Children, Magic Bus (which works on quality education), Swachh Bharat Kosh (works on sanitation), Oxfam India that works on gender equality — have a block of 1,000 tickets reserved just for them.

“Last month, GCI in partnership with the The Green Batti Project also undertook its first offline activity in Mumbai, when 1000 young Global Citizens came together at 100 schools to gather data on infrastructure in these schools in order to improve them,” Mr. Bishnoi says.

GCI’s goals, therefore, go beyond the event. Mr. Bishnoi says that several leaders from politics and business and business will make important announcements and commitments in line with the goals of the festival. Their participation, then, is actually a key part of the festival.

And, while Coldplay is undoubtedly the headline act, they will be joined on stage by a host of other stars, including rap mogul Jay Z and pop singer Demi Lovato. Of course, since it’s Mumbai, there will also be a sprinkling of Bollywood stars, many of whom have recently signed on to the Global Citizen movement.

The price to pay

When plans for the concert were first announced, there were rumours that the non-free tickets were going to be priced at an eye-watering starting price of Rs 25,000, with the more expensive ones rising to Rs 5 lakh. However, the first tranche of tickets, released on, cost Rs 5,000, 7,500 and 15,000. And those sold out in under a couple of hours. Bookmyshow has now released a ‘silver’ ticket, which costs Rs 20,000, that promises a special viewing area for the concert.

Even at the lowest range that’s still pricey, but for many it’s a bargain, worth it to actually watch Coldplay live.

"I was lucky because I was not too far back on the waitlist," says Smiti Shirvastava from Gurgaon, "whereas my sister who also tried around the same time was 66,000 on the list. I got the Rs 5,000 tickets and I think that's totally worth it for Coldplay. I'm a big fan and i keep checking their international tour dates and ticket prices and the cheapest tickets for those gigs also works out to about Rs 8,000 or so." Arun Ramasubramaniam, a BA student from Delhi, got lucky: "I won two free tickets. I had to do some actions like taking a quiz about sanitation and signing some petitions. It wasn't complicated at all and though i know that a lot of people were just getting on to the platform to win tickets you do get to learn a lot about the issues and it's good to see so many people taking part."

Navdha D, a digital marketer from Bangalore, who has followed the band since the 90s, says, "I go for gigs often and have literally struck off bands from my bucket list. So traveling for gigs isnt a big deal for me. Haters will hate but it still remains on top of my bucket list to see them. Have been to a couple of international gigs, so quite frankly booking tickets for this one was a piece of cake."

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