Politics overshadows successful 64th Eurovision
The 64th edition of the Eurovision Song Contest wrapped up on Saturday at Expo Tel Aviv’s Pavilion 2 (10,000-cap.), Israel, in a contest that has seen the music industry divided on political, rather than musical, issues.
The Netherlands won Eurovision 2019 with singer-songwriter Duncan Laurence’s performance of piano ballad ‘Arcade’. The Dutch artist received 492 points, followed by Italy’s Mahmood with 465 and Russia’s Sergey Lazarev with 369. The UK’s Michael Rice placed last, with a total of 16 points, for his rendition of ‘Bigger Than Us’.
“I have been so delighted with this year’s competition and we have all been very impressed with the wonderful talented artists who have taken part this year,” says Jon Ola Sand, the European Boradcating Union’s (EBU) head of live events and the executive supervisor of the Eurovision Song Contest.
“I would like to thank them for the hard work and dedication they have given us. Each artist has brought something unique to the contest and embodied what this contest is about,” adds Sand.
However, music was not the main topic of conversation surrounding Eurovision 2019. Following the win of Israeli act Netta Barzilai last year, the 2019 competition took place in Tel Aviv, sparking controversy due to the long-running Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Despite calls to boycott the event, Madonna performed at the grand final on Saturday night. The singer opened her performance with a call for unity, declaring: “Let’s never underestimate the power of music to bring people together.”
Madonna’s rendition of her new single ‘Future’ featured two dancers who displayed Israeli and Palestinian flags on their backs, walking arm-in-arm.
“Each artist has brought something unique to the contest and embodied what this contest is about”
Icelandic act Hatari, who finished in tenth place, also displayed Palestinian flags during the contest.
The EBU states that both sets of artists violate its rules, which designate Eurovision as a “non-political event”.
The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel denounced what it called the “fig-leaf gestures of solidarity from international artists”.
Ticket sales for this year’s Eurovision were lower than expected. According to Israeli paper Globes, between 5,000 and 7,000 foreign guests visited the country for Eurovision, including the participating artists’ delegations and journalists. Previous predictions expected the competition to attract between 20,000 and 30,000 tourists.
Local media puts the low numbers down to high hotel rates and steep ticket prices. Tickets to Saturday’s final set fans back £373 for prime seats and £252 for standard seats. Tickets for last year’s final, held at the Altice Arena in Lisbon, Portugal, cost between £31 and £262.
Calls for a boycott may have also have affected ticket sales.
“Let’s never underestimate the power of music to bring people together”
The Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement, an initiative working to “pressure Israel to comply with international law”, initiated the call for a boycott of Eurovision 2019. BDS claims that more than 150,000 people responded to its call, including artists and music-related organisations.
Musicians including Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters, Wolf Alice and Brian Eno urged a boycott of the event, due to Israel’s “grave, decades-old violations of Palestinian human rights”.
The Musicians’ Union of Ireland similarly supported the boycott, calling on its members to attend protests in support of sidelining the contest.
Entertainment industry non-profit organisation, the Creative Community For Peace (CCFP), established a movement to oppose the boycott, stating that music “transcends boundaries and brings people together”.
The CCFP initiative has more than 35,000 signatories, including Sharon Osbourne, Gene Simmons and Justin Bieber manager Scooter Braun, as well as individuals from the Madison Square Garden Company, the Recording Academy/ Grammys and AEG Presents.
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Wolf Alice call on musicians to help save venues
Ellie Rowsell, frontwoman of Mercury Prize-winning band Wolf Alice, has called for more musicians to step up in the fight to protect the UK’s grassroots venues. The singer-songwriter spoke at the start of Venues Day 2018, the conference organised by Music Venue Trust.
The sold-out fifth edition of Venues Day takes place today, with over 500 venue professionals in attendance at Islington Academy in London. Following a welcome address by Liberal Democrat peer Tim Clement Jones, Rowsell urged more musicians to support the grassroots venues scene.
“I could go down to the [now-closed] Purple Turtle in Camden and borrow every piece of their equipment on their open-mic nights,” she said. “When I see these grassroots venues closing down or under threat, I worry that these authentic starts may no longer be possible.
“The music industry can’t afford to be more depersonalised – when your favourite venue turns into a Costa Coffee, it’s a loss of culture, opportunity, community and individualism.”
“When your favourite venue turns into a Costa Coffee, it’s a loss of culture, opportunity, community and individualism”
MVT says it hopes to see more musicians attending and lending their support to Venues Day 2019.
Rowsell continued: “Musicians can be one of the greatest helps of all. Last summer we toured a lot of the venues we first played in. It’s easy to forget that the venues are there cheering you on as well, and might invite you back to play when you’ve sold no tickets the first time around.”
“It’s important for musicians to recognise these acts of kindness – more should be giving back.”
Venues Day is supported by UK Music, Help Musicians, Jack Daniels, the O2 Arena and Academy Music Group. The programme includes a mix of panel discussions, presentations, working groups and speedmeeting sessions with booking agents and various specialists.
Music Venue Trust welcomes two new trustees
Music Venue Trust (MVT) has announced that Ellie Rowsell, lead singer of Wolf Alice, and Bengi Unsal, senior contemporary music programmer at the Southbank Centre, have joined the organisation as trustees, in a bid to further expand the board’s wide range of industry expertise.
Alongside the work of the existing eight trustees, MVT hopes the welcoming of Rowsell and Unsal will expand its consideration of both artist needs and the wider cultural background of the industry.
MVT acts on behalf of the some 440 independent and grassroots venues across the UK represented by the Music Venue Alliance. Speaking of the impact grassroots venues have had on her career, Rowsell admits: “Without independent, grassroots venues I’m not sure my band would be where we are today.
“They bring originality, equality, opportunity, character and spunk to the cities they reside in and now more than ever is the time to fight to keep them going!”
“These intimate spaces offer fans an unparalleled gig experience and provide bands an essential platform to be discovered.
Echoing Rowsell’s ideas of nurturing young talent, Bengi Unsal adds that small venues provide invaluable opportunities for emerging acts: “I am very aware of the crucial role the grassroots venues play in nurturing young talent in today’s competitive music industry.
“These intimate spaces offer fans an unparalleled gig experience and provide bands an essential platform to be discovered and to grow their audiences at the early stages of their career.”
The organisation has also announced the appointment of Sarah Thirtle as co-chair to the Trust. She will act alongside fellow co-chair Chris Prosser. On her new role, Thirtle says: “I am honoured and delighted to be asked to be the Co-Chair of the Music Venue Trust, alongside Chris Prosser.”
“There are numerous challenges facing grassroots small music venues. Our vision is for this sector to be valued, invested in and thriving, securing these vital cultural spaces for our towns and cities.”
The announcement of the new appointments at MVT follow a series of recent initiatives. 2018 has seen the organisation of several regional meetings across the UK for grassroots venue owners to exchange ideas, as well as the establishment of the Fightback: Grassroots Promoter scheme, designed to help young female promoters get their first chance with a share of a £100,000 grant.