A global TV audience of 4.7 billion people – approximately 70% of the world’s population – watched the 2008 Beijing Olympics, according to Nielsen. This year’s Summer Games in London, which run July 27-Aug. 12 (followed by the Paralympic Games for athletes with physical disabilities Aug. 29-Sept. 9), looks to be even bigger – with plenty of promotional opportunities for accompanying musical artists.
“For the industry, I can only see an upside to London 2012,” says Jo Dipple, CEO of trade group U.K. Music. “We’ve got the eyes of the world on us, and our artists are providing the soundtrack. It’s a golden opportunity to highlight music’s worth to the U.K.”
Here, Billboard looks at some of the many ways that the music biz stands to gain at London 2012 and, equally important, how to avoid losing out.
More than 12 million tourists are expected to visit London in 2012 – a 5.2% increase from last year, according to London & Partners, the official promotional organization for the U.K. capital city. In addition to the obvious sports attractions, a full and varied musical program has been devised. Beginning July 28, the Live Nation-operated BT London Live festival runs throughout the games’ duration, with free daily outdoor events featuring a mix of music, entertainment and sports taking place in the U.K. capital’s Hyde Park (50,000 capacity) and Victoria Park (20,000). Live Nation will also stage two ticketed 80,000-capacity concerts in Hyde Park to coincide with the games’ opening and closing ceremonies, headlined by Duran Duran and Snow Patrol (July 27) and Blur and New Order (Aug. 12), respectively.
Before the games begin, the BT River of Music Festival (July 21-22) will have Scissor Sisters top an international bill of artists at six specially constructed sites along the banks of the River Thames, performing for a total audience of 500,000, according to organizers. The nationwide London 2012 Festival, running June 21-Sept. 9, also contains a strong music segment, spanning classical, opera, pop and world genres. Its tent-pole event is BBC Radio 1’s Hackney Weekend (June 23-24), featuring Jay-Z, Rihanna, Swedish House Mafia and David Guetta playing to a total live audience of 100,000, and also broadcast across BBC radio and TV channels.
A large number of high-profile hookups between musicians and brands have already occurred in the run-up to London 2012, most notably the partnership between Mark Ronson and Olympics worldwide partner Coca-Cola. The globally focused deal had the Grammy Award-winning producer/artist create an original track, “Anywhere in the World” (featuring U.K. dance star Katy B), that serves as the official theme for Coke’s “Move to the Beat” summer campaign, spanning broadcast, mobile, digital and outdoor platforms. “It may be the biggest exposure that I have for a song,” Ronson said at this year’s MIDEM conference.
Other notable brand/music partnerships include a collaboration between B.o.B and rock group O.A.R. as part of Duracell’s “Rely on Copper to Go for the Gold” campaign in support of Team USA. The two acts teamed to record the song “Champions,” which is available as a free download on Duracell’s Facebook page. U.K. rapper Wretch 32 also enjoyed a large Olympic boost, heading Adidas’ “Take the Stage” campaign by performing in the sports clothing manufacturer’s TV spot.
U.K. rock band Elbow stands to become one of the biggest beneficiaries of this summer’s games when its track “First Steps” is prominently placed across all BBC TV, radio and online coverage as the broadcaster’s official Olympic theme. Forty separate edits of the BBC-commissioned song, which features the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra and an 80-piece choir, have been produced, ranging from several seconds to six minutes in length.
“It is one of the biggest synchs that we will do this year in terms of profile for one of our artists,” says Jim Reid, senior VP of synchronization for Europe at Warner Music Group and Warner/Chappell Music Publishing. He says that although the financial terms of the deal weren’t massive, Warner/Chappell will receive significant performance royalties, while “in terms of profile and prestige for the band, there’s not much bigger.”
Elsewhere, British dance act Underworld will perform the biggest gig of its career when the act soundtracks the July 27 three-hour opening ceremony. A comparative event at the 2008 Beijing Olympics was watched by more than 2 billion people, according to Nielsen. The lineup for the Aug. 12 closing ceremony, titled “A Symphony of British Music,” hadn’t yet been announced at press time, but will feature a mix of established and new U.K. acts.
According to a 2011 report from Visa Europe, consumer spending in the United Kingdom will increase by £750 million ($1.2 billion) during the seven-week period of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, with entertainment and service industry revenue set to grow by £80 million ($125 million). Although many retailers privately fear a fall in consumer spending during the games, Visa predicts the U.K. retail sector will swell by £185 million ($290 million).
To capitalize on the boom, leading U.K. entertainment chain HMV will be running in-store and online promotions, such as its current “Best of British” campaign, celebrating home-grown music and films on CDs and DVDs from the past 60 years. HMV’s “Sounds of the Summer” promotion also ties in with Olympic fever, highlighting Britpop-styled compilations and key third-quarter music releases. A licensing partnership between Universal Music and the London Organizing Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games will have the major label release London 2012-branded music compilation albums across all genres.
The impact of a busy summer will be felt in the licensing sector, says Peter Leathem, CEO of U.K. recording rights collecting society PPL. “We anticipate that many individuals and organizations will use recorded music both in the run up to, and during, the games,” he says, calling London 2012 “a huge shop window” for U.K. music.
The total cost of staging this year’s games stands at £9.3 billion ($14.7 billion), according to the Olympic Development Agency oversight group. While the economic benefits of hosting an Olympics remains hotly disputed, the potential for London’s newest sporting arenas-such as the capital city’s 80,000-capacity Olympic Stadium-to become future entertainment venues is a welcome prospect for the live music industry. (Live Nation and AEG Live are both interested in management rights, according to reports.)
“Not only are we going to be left with big venues that can host big music events, but we will have a transportation infrastructure which allows those events to grow,” says Will Page, chief economist at U.K. collection society PRS for Music. Page cites London’s O2 Arena-the world’s top-grossing arena (for buildings with a capacity of 15,001-plus) in 2011, according to Billboard Boxscore-as a past example of how a major public-funded initiative (the venue originally opened as the Millennium Dome exhibition hall) can result in a massive win for the music business.
Improved infrastructure is also likely to have a positive impact for the touring industry, says Page, who credits greater transport links between London and continental Europe with potentially attracting a higher number of overseas visitors to U.K. music events following the games.
For every winner, there has to be a loser. Consequently, some executives fear that, for all the promotional opportunities an Olympics brings, the music industry may also suffer as a result of London 2012.
Several well-established U.K. festivals, including the Big Chill and Sonisphere, have pulled planned events due to a combination of poor ticket sales, artist availability and a congested summer schedule. The Music Festivals PLC-operated Hop Farm Music Festival, which takes place June 29-July 1 in Kent and features headliner Bob Dylan, has also reported ticket sales moving “slower than last year.” Inflated travel and hotel costs due to the Olympics could have additional negative impact on audience numbers during the games, even though few international acts are scheduled to be in the market during the key seven-week period.
“It’s a very, very muddled marketplace [in the United Kingdom] at the moment,” Live Nation U.K. COO John Probyn says. He cites the Euro 2012 soccer tournament (June 8-July 1), the United Kingdom’s Diamond Jubilee festivities, the Olympic Games and its accompanying music events (including Live Nation’s own festival program and BT London Live concerts) all contributing to competition for the ticket buyer’s wallet.
“It’s really difficult to get your head above all of that and say, ‘Look at me!'” says Probyn, who is relying on strong artist bills and a comprehensive PR strategy to reach audiences.
One thing’s for sure: It’s going to be a busy summer.••••