Wednesday night’s Nobel Peace Prize Concert, with outspoken British singer Morrissey among its cast of entertainers, was due to be shorter this year with a reduced line-up of performers. The loss of its major sponsor forced some cost-cutting in its 20th year, and now its organizers are searching for new sponsors.
“We have worked constantly for the past 20 years to secure the finances of the concert,” Geir Lundestad, director of the Norwegian Nobel Institute, told newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) earlier this week. “It went relatively well for a long time.”
Last year, however, the Nobel concert’s main sponsor Cisco, the California-based networking firm, decided against renewing its agreement. Lundestad told DN that Cisco paid more than any of the concert’s other sponsors, and thus left “a big hole” when they pulled out. “Now we have minimum financing,” Lundestad said.
The new “global benefactor” for the concert, meant to be a musical tribute to winners of the Nobel Peace Prize, is now a fund set up by the Pearson brothers of the US. Neither Lundestad nor the Pearsons themselves would say how much they contribute, but DN reported that it’s not nearly as much as Cisco did. Other “main” sponsors of the concert, which is broadcast in many other countries in addition to Norway, include two of Norway’s largest multi-national firms, Norsk Hydro and Telenor, along with IBM, newspaper Dagbladet, power firm Statkraft and accounting firm KPMG.
Fees waived, costs still mount
The result of the decline in sponsor income means that the concert, which usually has lasted more than two hours with commercial breaks, will run for 90 minutes this year, uninterrupted. The line-up of performers, who include Swedish rapper-reggae artist Timbuktu, Syrian musician Omar Souleyman and singers Mary J Blige, James Blunt, Zara Larsson and Envy, has also been cut from 10-11 down to eight. Even though they traditionally agree to waive their professional fees, the Nobel Institute still must cover all their costs tied to their trip to Oslo. That can be substantial.
This year’s concert hosts are actors Claire Danes and Aaron Edward Eckhart. The concert at the Oslo Spektrum Arena downtown will be broadcast live in Norway, the US, Canada, Mexico, South Africa and several countries in the Caribbean, with Lundestad claiming that the shorter format actually appeals to more broadcasters. “The length of the program was always a problem for the international TV companies,” Lundestad said.
The Nobel Peace Prize Concert was also given a new name and spun off from the Norwegian Nobel Institute in 2010. It’s now part of a new entity called Nobels fredspris forskning og informasjon (NFFI), which encompasses both commercial activities and research that involves international relations, peace and conflicts. The research often brings foreign scholars to Oslo, and amounts to one of the largest expenses for the Nobel Institute.
Flap over Morrissey
Meanwhile, the inclusion of the British singer Morrissey on the Nobel Concert line-up this year has stirred some controversy, because of remarks Morrissey made at a concert in Poland shortly after the terrorist bombing and massacre in Norway on July 22, 2011. Morrissey stated from the stage that the July 22 tragedy proved that “we live in a murderous world,” but then he suggested it was nothing “compared to what happens at McDonald’s and Kentucky Fried Shit every single day.” Morrissey, the 54-year-old former vocalist for The Smiths, is an avid vegetarian and animal rights activist.
He later attempt to clarify his remarks but made no apology to offended Norwegians. He called the killings in Norway “terrible,” but he stressed that millions of animals are killed every day for the sake of profits for McDonald’s and “KFCruelty.” Because such killing are protected by the law, Morrissey claimed that people are asked to be indifferent and not even question them. Not all Norwegians were satisfied, and Oslo Mayor Fabian Stang, who normally invites all Nobel Concert performers to his office during their stay in the capital, has said that Morrissey wouldn’t be among them this week.
Odd Arvid Strømstad, producer of the Nobel Concert, told newspaper Aftenposten that neither he nor others are production company Eyeworks Dinamo, which books the performers, were concerned that “Morrissey will repeat unfortunate remarks.” Nor has Morrissey or any other performer been asked to refrain from making political or controversial remarks at the concert. He said that Morrissey is a committed animal rights activist, “and we can live with artists being committed.”
He added that all the artists booked for the Nobel Concert forego their usual fees and only have their expenses paid by the Nobel Institute. “They take part for free,” Strømstad said. “We rely on those who participate, and don’t operate with any form of censorship.”