An ongoing dispute between Olympic organizers and musicians heats up

Richard Smirke, Billboard magazine, 7/27/12

An ongoing dispute between the Olympic organizing committee LOCOG and the U.K. Musicians' Union is heating up. LOCOG agreed that all professional musicians performing as part of London 2012 would receive fair payment for their work. Volunteer musicians (e.g. amateur artists) and headline acts were exempt from the deal. [However] the organizing body is facing a growing swell of criticism for repeatedly approaching professional musicians to perform for free. Musicians' Union spokesperson Isabelle Gutierrez says she has seen numerous examples of LOCOG directly contacting musicians and managers asking artists to perform for free, the first reported instance happening back in April. Gutierrez says that on each occasion the Olympic organizing committee has consistently denied it breached the terms of its agreement and instead claimed a junior staff member made an unauthorized approach to a professional musician. "The first example where that happened, the band in question had been approached to do fourteen gigs for no payment," she said. "When we highlighted this to LOCOG...instead of saying: 'Sorry. Yes, of course we need to pay them.' They just dropped the idea of using that band." Gutierrez continued, "We have seen numerous emails from LOCOG targeting professional musicians saying: 'Would you like to play? We haven't got a budget for it, but it would be great exposure for you.' Basically, we have yet to hear of one example where a professional musician is actually being paid by LOCOG. I'm sure there are some somewhere, but we are yet to find one." Jazz musician Corey Mwamba has set up a petition , campaigning for fair payment [and] a Facebook group entitled 'Musicians Against Playing For Free At The Olympics' has attracted over 10,000 followers. "There isn't a sensible reason why LOCOG are not paying artists to perform," Mwamba said, pointing to the 476 million of upspent contingency funding that was saved ahead of the Games. Mwamba said the petition and accompanying protest "sends out a really strong warning to those organizations with a large budget that this type of sharking practice is entirely unacceptable."


Olympic opening ceremony music topping download charts

The Associated Press, 7/29/11

Enjoyed the music-packed Olympics opening ceremony? Now you can buy the album -- and thousands have. The soundtrack, which went on sale as a download minutes after Friday's ceremony ended, has topped the iTunes album chart in Britain, France, Belgium and Spain, and has reached No. 5 in the United States. Director Danny Boyle's spectacular opening ceremony was a rollicking celebration of British music. The album includes tracks from -- among others -- David Bowie, The Pet Shop Boys, Chemical Brothers, Arctic Monkeys and Underworld. Universal Music will also release an album of the London Olympics' Aug. 12 closing ceremony, which will feature British acts including The Who.


Commentary: Did you know the Olympics used to give out medals for works of art?
Joseph Stromberg,, 7/25/12
For the first four decades of competition, the [modern] Olympics awarded official medals for painting, sculpture, architecture, literature and music, alongside those for the athletic competitions. From 1912 to 1952, juries awarded a total of 151 medals to original works in the fine arts inspired by athletic endeavors. Now, on the eve of the 100th anniversary of the first artistic competition, even Olympics fanatics are unaware that arts, along with athletics, were a part of the modern Games nearly from the start. Baron Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the modern Games, "was raised and educated classically, and he was particularly impressed with the idea of what it meant to be a true Olympian -- someone who was not only athletic, but skilled in music and literature," [author Richard] Stanton says. Many art world insiders viewed the competitions with distrust. The fact that the events had been initiated by art outsiders -- and the fact that all entries had to be sport-themed -- led many of the most prominent potential entrants to decide the competitions were not worth their time. Still, local audiences enjoyed the artworks -- during the 1932 Games, nearly 400,000 people [saw] the works entered -- and some big names did enter the competitions. In 1940 and 1944, the Olympics were put on hold [due to] World War II. When they returned, the art competitions faced a bigger problem: "Avery Brundage became the president of the IOC, and he was a rigid supporter of amateur athletics," Stanton says. "He wanted the Olympics to be completely pure, not to be swayed by the weight of money." Because artists inherently rely on selling their work for their livelihood -- and because winning an Olympic medal could theoretically serve as a sort of advertisement for the quality of an artist's work -- Brundage took aim at the art competitions, insisting they represented an unwelcome incursion of professionalism. After heated debate, it was eventually decided the art competitions would be scrapped. They were replaced by a noncompetitive exhibition, which eventually became known as the Cultural Olympiad. Still, half a century later, the concept behind the art competitions lingers. Starting in 2004, the IOC has held an official Sport and Art Contest leading up to each summer Games. Though no medals are at stake, winners will receive cash prizes, and the best works will be selected and displayed in London during the Games. Somewhere, the Baron Pierre de Coubertin might be smiling.

Commentary: Perhaps the most popular opera libretto of all time is Olympic-themed

Fred Plotkin, WQXR Operavore blog, 7/27/12

At the ancient Olympics, there was a musical competition at the Temple of Apollo in Delphi. In some modern Olympics, there has [also] been a significant arts component which sometimes includes opera. The 1984 Los Angeles games included a production of Turandot by the nascent LA Opera. This month, the Royal Opera House presented all-star stagings of Les Troyens and Otello. What was not much noticed was a concert performance on May 19, as part of London's Lufthansa Festival, of Vivaldi's opera L'Olimpiade ("The Olympics"). I tried to find out more about it and learned some surprising things. In the 18th and early 19th century, it was customary to announce an opera in Italy with the name of the librettist first. Perhaps the most famous librettist of the 18th century was Pietro Metastasio (1698-1782), who wrote more than a hundred texts used for operas, oratorios and other theatrical presentations. His works were based almost entirely on stories from antiquity, particularly the exploits and challenges faced by heroes. Two of his most popular libretti were L'Olimpiade (1733) and La Clemenza di Tito (1734). There are more than 50 operatic versions of each. L'Olimpiade was adapted from "The Trial of the Suitors" in Book Six of The Histories by Herodotus. In simplest terms, it is the story of two competitors, Megacles and Lycidas, at the ancient Olympic games who vie for the love of the same woman, Aristaea, whose hand is promised to the winning athlete. This is perhaps the most popular operatic libretto of all time. Among [the 50 or more] composers who set L'Olimpiade were its original composer, Antonio Caldara, in 1733, and Galuppi, Hasse, Pergolesi [and] Vivaldi.


Olympics arts festival promises to be "game-changing" for artists with disabilities

Jane Morris, The Art Newspaper, 7/10/12

A major festival of art, dance, music and other performance created by deaf and disabled artists, [will] coincide with the Games. "Unlimited: the Revelation Starts Here" will open to the public on 30 August (until 9 September) and includes 29 major new commissions programmed at a cost of 3 million by the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad (mainly funded by the National Lottery through the Olympic Lottery Distributor), alongside a host of other events, talks and performances. Many of the commissions -- which include a major new work by the Candoco Dance Company featuring performers from China, the UK, and Brazil (the previous, current and future Olympic nations) -- have premiered in other parts of the UK as part of the London 2012 Festival: the Southbank festival is a chance for visitors and Londoners to see all the commissions in a packed, 11-day period. Jude Kelly, the Southbank Centre's artistic director, described the festival as "game-changing" and said that, with the help of the British Council and other partners, the aim was to influence other nations' attitudes to deaf and disabled artists, as well as bring the artists to a British public. She described the season as "the most significant piece of work in the Cultural Olympiad build up: in the same way that the Paralympics changed the understanding of what the human body is capable of, 'Unlimited' wants to show the talent, and the effort and the perseverance required to make great works of art". Kelly said the works will be accompanied by a programme of talks and discussions, which will be "rightly, political" and "rightly, challenging". 

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