Veteran singer-songwriter Roberto Vecchioni was the winner of the 61st edition of Italy's flagship Sanremo Festival, which concluded on Saturday (Feb. 19).

Vecchioni, 67, came first with the song, "Chiamami Ancora Amore," while second place went to the group, Modà, in a duet with the 26-year-old singer Emma, with the song "Arriverà." Another veteran, Al Bano, 67, came third with the song, "Amanda è Libera."

The voting system for the five-night festival, which is broadcast live on state-owned Rai Uno TV, is complicated. This year, winners were chosen by a combination telephone vote, "demographic jury" of 300 voters representative of Italy's population, a jury of journalists, and members of the Sanremo Festival orchestra.


Vecchioni's label boss, Universal Music Italy CEO Alessandro Massara, tells Billboard.Biz he is "Delighted with the result. Roberto Vecchioni is one of the greats of Italian music and, when I first heard his song in the studio, I knew it would do well, but the victory is a pleasant surprise. He showed a lot of courage in going to Sanremo, as many veteran artists are scared of the telephone voting system, which tends to favor younger artists with a 'TV talent show' background."

Sanremo has dominated Italian music since its inception in 1951, with participants releasing albums during the festival. In the last decade, however, its relationship with the music industry became strained primarily on account of the festival's declining ability to sell records and the feeling amongst record labels, that they were providing "content" with little in return, while Rai TV reaped the financial rewards of a massive TV audience and advertising revenue.

Things reached a head in 2004, when the labels boycotted Sanremo. There has, however, been a significant improvement since then, under the artistic direction of Giancarlo Mazzi. The labels have participated willingly, and TV ratings have improved.


Universal boss Alessandro Masara says: "I think this year's audience (an average of 12 million viewers and an audience share of 52% on the final night) was "something of a record. It was a great festival. The songs that were presented have already done well in terms of iTunes sales: let's hope that this will also be reflected in physical album sales."