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Singers on fast track for exposure at Olympics

Bon Jovi, Whitney Houston, Bocelli know Games add prestige to resume
/ Source: Billboard

While Olympians like Bode Miller, Sasha Cohen and Apolo Anton Ohno go for the gold Feb. 10-26 at the XX Olympic Winter Games in Torino, Italy, an array of music acts will be going for the platinum.

Established stars including Andrea Bocelli, Bon Jovi, Whitney Houston and Lou Reed, as well as new and developing acts like Switchfoot, Flipsyde, Morningwood, the Donnas, Rock ’N Roll Soldiers, We Are Scientists and OK Go are hoping for a boost from Olympic exposure either through appearances on NBC’s commercials for the event or by performing in the nightly Olympics concert series.

By using hip, under-the-radar acts, NBC hopes to connect with the much-coveted youth demo. “We’re constantly trying to get the 18- to 34-year-old attachment to the Olympics,” says Vince Manze, president/creative director of the network’s in-house NBC Agency.

NBC uses music in four ways for the Olympics: network campaigns in advance of the Games; co-branding opportunities; features and interstitial footage broadcast during the athletic events; and the nightly concerts.

As the network hopes to raise the cachet of the Winter Olympic Games and NBC among twentysomethings -- Manze says the 35-54 demo is already hooked -- the featured artists will be heard by millions of people in TV land.

Being associated with the Olympics can add to an act’s prestige, Atlantic chairman/CEO Craig Kallman says. In addition to the Donnas and Rock ’N Roll Soldiers, NBC is using music from Atlantic’s James Blunt and Big City Rock.

“It’s one of the highest honors when you’re talking about sports placements,” Kallman says. “And the Olympics (have) such national importance and significance. The music in these spots can definitely have a lot of emotional resonance too.”

The Donnas’ “Fall Behind Me,” from its appropriately titled 2004 album “Gold Medal,” is being used in a spot highlighting the female snowboarding team.

The group is between albums, but lead singer Brett Anderson says the exposure is invaluable. If nothing else, she jokes, “I’ve heard from ex-boyfriends (and) members of the family who don’t understand or approve of what I do and who now say, ’I saw you on TV. I see what you’re doing is legitimate and real.”’

Anderson says the pairing made sense. “We definitely saw the parallels between girls working in a man’s world. And the idea of making the Olympics appeal to a younger generation.”

She says the TV exposure will help the band in cities where it does not receive major radio play and build anticipation for its next album. “The people who can really benefit from our songs are the girls in middle America and the only way you can really get through to them is TV,” Anderson says.

MEDALS, BUT NO METAL

Acts on tap to give full concerts following each night’s medals ceremonies include Houston, Reed, Bocelli, Ricky Martin, Avril Lavigne, Riccardo Cocciante, Kelly Clarkson, Duran Duran, Anastacia and Ennio Morricone.

Among the acts that played the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City who saw at least a 25% increase in sales were John Williams, whose music will be prominently featured this year in soundbeds; Sting; Train; Dixie Chicks; and Barenaked Ladies.

David Goldberg, head of Santa Monica, Calif.-based David Goldberg Productions, was hired by the city of Torino to coordinate the concerts at Medals Plaza. The challenges are considerable: “You’re asking artists to get on a plane for five or 10 hours to perform and work within an existing situation,” he says. “It’s far from their normal show situation.”

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Bocelli’s performance dovetails with the promotion of his new album, “Amore,” and its first single, Winter Games anthem “Because We Believe,” which will be used as a soundbed for several NBC Olympic packages. Bocelli will also perform the track Feb. 9 from Torino on NBC’s “Today.”

Reed’s manager Tom Sarig hopes to leverage his performance into additional exposure. “I’d like to find a way for this to be shown on an NBC-owned cable outlet, like Bravo,” he says. “That’s what we’re discussing right now: how we can use the footage for further exploitation.”

The Olympics Committee owns all the footage and can license it for other purposes. Sources say there are no plans for any DVDs or CDs featuring musical appearances.

Reed has a “huge following in Europe, significantly bigger than in the U.S.,” Sarig says. Therefore, playing in Italy appealed to him.