January 23, 2010 / 2:46 AM / 9 years ago

Olympic guessing games pose musical challenges

TORONTO (Billboard) - The Winter Olympic Games are about to make Vancouver, British Columbia, unseasonably hot for the local and international musicians who will join the party — despite mystery surrounding the final lineup for the February 12-28 event.

Singer and songwriter Sarah McLachlan poses with members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police on the red carpet during the Juno Awards in Vancouver, British Columbia March 29, 2009. REUTERS/Richard Lam

The Games’ organizers seem determined to crank up the “wow” factor by not revealing the definitive list of artists who are involved until the last minute, while insisting that music industry executives sign nondisclosure agreements about their acts’ participation.

That’s frustrating for local executives who, while appreciative of the Games’ promotional opportunities, can’t get much advance marketing done.

Such secrecy extends to the widely rumored — but still unconfirmed — choice of singer-songwriter Sarah McLachlan’s “One Dream” as the Games’ theme song. McLachlan’s manager Terry McBride says a “really significant” announcement will appear later in January.

Many high-profile Canadian industry figures are understood to be participating in the music component of the Olympics. Bruce Allen, manager of Bryan Adams and Michael Buble, confirms he’s one of them but is also bound by a confidentiality agreement.


What has emerged, however, is that the Games will feature nightly performances at its central venue, the 60,000-capacity BC Place stadium, after each day’s medals presentation.

Billboard has learned that McLachlan and Nickelback will participate in the opening and closing ceremonies at the BC Place, but there’s still no confirmation about which act will play which ceremony.

Acts confirmed for the nightly “Victory Ceremony” shows (February 14-26) include Nelly Furtado, Stereophonics and INXS. The Vancouver Organizing Committee says the shows will be broadcast live on numerous networks carrying Games coverage, including Canada’s CTV, but declines to reveal the full list of broadcasters.

Canadian rock act Billy Talent will play an hourlong Victory Ceremony show, confirms the band’s manager, Pierre Tremblay, president of Hive Management. Tremblay says he can’t discuss the show, but he adds that his experience with Canada’s Barenaked Ladies during the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics demonstrates the selling power of the Games.

Barenaked Ladies, who will also give a Victory Ceremony performance, were handled by Tremblay for Nettwerk Management in 2002 and played a show at the Olympics Medals Plaza, broadcast by NBC during its Games coverage.

Tremblay says U.S. album sales and live attendance climbed in the weeks after the show. “It was a high-profile gig,” he says. “Their appearance aired in prime time and had a huge impact on their U.S. career.”

International Olympic Committee research shows that the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy, generated 10.6 billion viewing hours globally, down 19 percent from 2002. The IOC attributed the drop to a decline among North American viewers — partly due to prime-time competition from “America Idol,” but also because events were taking place in a European time zone.

The top viewing figures are generally for the opening and closing ceremonies.

Musical performances will also be a part of a two-month concert series that began Friday (January 22) under the Cultural Olympiad banner, with acts including Martha Wainwright, Blue Rodeo, Phoenix and Gomez.

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