Today (June 14) marks the official start of the World Cup 2018 as the opening game will see Russia face Saudi Arabia at Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium. Yes, there are big questions looming over this year’s competition – such as which individual England player will become a scapegoat for an overall underperforming team – but alongside all of the usual pageantry and punditry, the music biz has been striving to be at the heart of procedings. Here Music Week investigates how…
LET HIM ENTERTAIN YOU
All eyes will be on erstwhile Take That member Robbie Williams at today’s opening ceremony, where he’ll get proceedings underway with a performance just 30 minutes before Russia take on Saudi Arabia. Russian president Vladimir Putin will be in attendance at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium, with Russian soprano Aida Garifullina also due to play. And all this after the controversy Williams caused with his 2016 single Party Like A Russian (67,678 sales, OCC). While he likely won’t be performing the song that reportedly caused offence in the World Cup’s host country, Williams and his team will be hoping for a boost after the ceremony. The show comes just weeks after Dua Lipa performed at the Champions League Final.
FOR RUSSIA WITH LOVE
Sadly, there’s no official England squad team song for this World Cup tournament. Boooo. But that’s not to say other people haven’t been busy recording songs for the competition. Picking up where Shakira’s Waka Waka (This Time For Africa) left off, the official song of the World Cup is Nicky Jam, Will Smith and Era Istrefi’s Live It Up. Which it must be noted, hasn’t been particularly well-received by critics though it has racked up 11,420,742 plays on Spotify. Fairing better is Jason Derulo’s Colors, which boasts of being the official anthem of World Cup sponsors Coca-Cola. It is beating Live It Up on Spotify by double at 26,732,011.
Of course, World Cup tunes aren’t the sole preserve of R&B stars and Fresh Princes. Just take Rasputin Rebooted by the Stars House Band – featuring Kaiser Chief’s Ricky Wilson and, er, Freddie Flintoff’s ode to Harry Kane. Comments have been disabled on YouTube. The real gem of the bunch is Music Week On The Radar stars and Robbie Williams enthusiasts Rhythm Method pre-emptively conciliatory Chin Up. It starts off with a soundbyte of Alan Shearer decimating England’s form and then takes us on a journey through English fans' past thuggery and a veiled threat to Gareth Southgate, reminding him that he owes fans after his penalty miss. It is a retro gem.
If you want to watch the World Cup on television this summer, you’ll likely do so on BBC or ITV, who are, as ever, the UK’s two official broadcasters. Details of both channels’ title sequences – which will accompany their every World Cup programme – have been kept tightly under wraps, but the industry will find out which artists have been chosen imminently. Thiago Thomé recorded ITV’s version for the 2014 tournament in Brasil – and even played it in front of watching pundits in the channel’s studio. Meanwhile, the BBC’s brightly lit promo was soundtracked by Stevie Wonder’s Another Star. Who will follow in their footsteps this time round?
"NEVER STOPPED ME STREAMING..."
With the world watching the footie, will streaming services take a rare hit on their numbers? Not if their marketing departments have anything to do with it… Apple Music is featuring playlists for each of the 32 competing nations, with artists chosen by the local teams. Deezer will also host a “football fever” takeover, with exclusive playlists hosted by artists from each nation. So Sweden gets Zara Larsson, and England get Kasabian. You can only hope Gareth Southgate’s team selection proves more imaginative. Also, expect streams of Three Lions and World In Motion to spike should England sweep aside the footballing might of Panama and Tunisia… but make sure you have Stop Crying Your Heart Out and Dry Your Eyes cued up for the inevitable penalty shootout.
AND NOW A WORD FROM OUR SPONSOR
While the ads will doubtless irritate some by the tournament’s close, there’s no doubt that the World Cup generates some serious spending among the big brands. All the music biz can do is strap in for the ride, with labels and the sync sector looking to push their acts for the biggest campaigns. Already this year we’ve seen Anderson Paak used for Beats By Dre’s Guy Ritchie-directed spot, AC/DC synced by Coca-Cola and Major Lazer used for Pepsi Max’s ad. For the music business, the World Cup and the Super Bowl represent a similar gold rush opportunity. Who will win out this year?
For more on World Cup syncs, don’t miss the next issue of Music Week, on sale Monday, June 18.