How MTV is Hurting Obama's Democratic National Convention

President Obama
President Obama
 

This story first appeared in the August 17 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

The theme song for September's Democratic National Convention might be "The Sound of Silence." With less than a month until the Sept. 3-6 event in Charlotte, N.C., sources say party planners are having a hard time booking musical entertainment for the various events.

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The problems began when MTV moved its annual Video Music Awards to Sept. 6, the Thursday when President Obama will deliver his acceptance speech at the convention. That means many A-list acts, which normally would have been tapped to perform at parties during convention week, will be tied up in Los Angeles.

It's also a problem that the Dems' post-Labor Day convention falls at the same time that many exhausted performers are returning home from summer tours. And even the president's most ardent supporters admit there is somewhat deflated buzz around Obama, as opposed to the frenzy of 2008, when such acts as Kanye West, Nelly, Death Cab for Cutie and Sheryl Crow gladly performed in venues big and small every night of the convention.

This year, groups including the One Campaign and the Human Rights Campaign, both of which threw splashy events four years ago, have decided against holding concerts as a way to trim expenses. "We have four very costly ballot initiatives [on marriage equality]," says an HRC rep. "We're putting our money into winning elections." For its part, an MTV source tells THR the network will shift the VMAs to 8-10 p.m. as opposed to its traditional 9-11 p.m. slot "to avoid conflict with the Democratic National Convention proceedings that evening."

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And one party planner expects that last-minute appeals will prevail among the Democratic loyalists; rapper Flo Rida already has agreed to play an event for military families. "I think there will be good participation in the end," the planner says. But while it might be impossible for a top musician to resist a personal call for help from Obama himself, sources say the fact that the convention is in Charlotte, which is not easily accessible from Los Angeles by air, also is a deterrent.

"Charlotte is not Denver," says one Democratic activist of the 2008 host city. "My guess is it might not be the star fest that it once was, but it will still command some star power."

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