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Politicians are on the same stage as rockers, hip-hop artists, and comedians as they attempt to reach and expand their supporters via the Web.
Within the last few months, presidential candidates have begun to pop up on Eventful.com, a site where music fans and others lobby their favorite performer and writers for local appearances. Some politicians, like Hillary Clinton, have appeared because their supporters have demanded local campaign stops. Others, like Barack Obama, John Edwards, Ron Paul, and Mike Gravel, have actively pursued a place on the site and the feedback it offers.
Eventful, which is based in San Diego, lists 4 million events worldwide. It pulls and receives information from a variety of sources, including those who use the site to keep track of events in their area. The site allows users to find, promote, and create events, virally. It provides weekly lists of local events of interest to particular users. Soon those notices will be sent via e-mail.
It also offers a dashboard where performers (and candidates) can see where they're in demand, how many people looked up their site profile, and the age groups of people requesting appearances. Performers can place a widget on their own Web site and MySpace pages to encourage feedback from fans. When the level of demand is high enough for a performer to respond, they can notify users of an upcoming event through an e-mail list offered through the site.
Users have created groups for a wide variety of interests, including Microsoft events. They can pick a performer and location, include a message urging the performer to appear, then e-mail message encouraging friends to add to the demand. With one click, they can grab the code and place a widget on their own Web sites to reach more people. And they can choose to receive reminders or notices about specific venues or performers.
Record companies, entertainment groups, booking agents, and campaign workers have responded. Glazier said about 15,000 performers, writers, and candidates have signed up, and the company receives about 600 to 700 new profile requests each week.
"They're using this service to reach out to fans and supporters to say where would you like us to tour," Eventful CEO Jordan Glazier said in an interview Friday. "They're able to reach out and say, 'Hey, thanks for demanding that I come to your city. Great news: I will be there in two weeks!"
As an example, the hip-hop group Pretty Ricky is basing an entire tour on the service, encouraging fans to compete and rack up 1,000 or more requests. They're promising to appear in each locale that reaches that bar by Dec. 17, -- no matter how long that puts the group on the road.
Fourteen cities are competing for Lori McKenna to play an acoustic show on her Soul2Soul tour. The hottest demand worldwide, in terms of Eventful requests, is the rock band Hinder, which had nearly 54,000 requests by Friday afternoon. Though the requests are spread out geographically, the total number of fans responding worldwide exceeds the record-setting crowd of 40,000 when the Grateful Dead played at the sprawling Saratoga Performing Arts Center in June 1983.
"It starts to get very, very meaningful for musicians," Glazier said.
It's also starting to become meaningful for candidates.
Obama ranked seventh in demand on the site Friday afternoon. Republican candidate Ron Paul ranked 18th. Both have held rallies where Eventful users urged them to appear and notified their supporters through the site, Glazier said.
Presidential candidates are trying to take Howard Dean's online success one or two steps further. Instead of simply gathering grassroots support and donations online, they're trying to have a dialogue with voters and parlay online enthusiasm into real-world support.
"It gets to real heart of whether the Internet is going to be successful for candidates," Glazier said.
That means getting voters to rallies, canvas, work their phone banks and ultimately go to the polls, he said.