Il Festival della canzone italiana, più comunemente noto come Festival di Sanremo, è una competizione che si svolge dal 1951 a Sanremo, in Liguria. Ad esso hanno preso parte, in veste di concorrenti, ospiti o compositori, molti dei nomi più noti della musica leggera italiana. L’evento si articola in più serate trasmesse in diretta dalla televisione e consiste essenzialmente in una gara tra brani selezionati nei mesi immediatamente precedenti da un’apposita commissione, valutando le candidature pervenute. Tali brani, che devono essere stati composti necessariamente da autori italiani con testi in lingua italiana o dialetto regionale, vengono proposti da diversi interpreti nella cateria Big o Nuove proposte, in prima assoluta pena la squalifica. Le canzoni vengono quindi votate sia da giurie di addetti ai lavori o di consumatori che mediante il voto popolare sotto forma di televoto. Alla fine, vengono proclamati e premiati i tre brani più votati tra quelli in gara in ciascuna delle due sezioni ed il vincitore assoluto. Dal 1977, Sanremo si svolge al Teatro Ariston tra i primi di febbraio e la prima decade di marzo.
In the aftermath of WWII, one of the proposals to revitalize the economy and the reputation of Sanremo (a city on the Mediterranean coast of western Liguria in north-western Italy) was to create an annual music festival to be held in the city.
During the summer of 1950, the administrator of the Sanremo Casino, Piero Bussetti, and the conductor of the RAI orchestra, Giulio Razzi, decided to launch a competition. The competition would be amongst previously unreleased songs performed by three artists only (Nilla Pizzi, Duo Fasano and Achille Togliani) and was dubbed the Festival della Canzone Italiana. The first edition of the festival (as well as every festival until 1976) was held at the Sanremo Casino on January 29, 30 and 31 of 1951. The Sanremo Song Festival was the inspiration for the Eurovision Song Contest, the longest-running annual international TV song competition. In fact, the festival winner earns the right to represent Italy at Eurovision.
From 1953 to 1971, with the exception of one year, each song was sung twice by two different artists, each one using an individual orchestral arrangement, to prove the festival was a composers’ competition versus a singing competition. Starting in 1972, each entry was sung by one artist only. The “Big Artists” and “Young Artists” groups were formed in 1974. Although only one winner was chosen at the festival, Big artists were automatically admitted to the finals while Young artists faced an elimination round first. In 1977, the Teatro Ariston became the new venue for the competition. Throughout the 1980s, the festival experienced many changes: pre-recorded backing tracks replaced the orchestra, playback performances were introduced and additional awards were awarded during the event. In the 1990s, a new rule came into play – newcomers and established artists competed in separate competitions with separate winners. Although the festival made many changes to its competition creating different categories throughout the following years, it came back to the rules of the 1990s in 2007 with the newcomers and established artists competitions.
The Sanremo Music Festival has launched the careers of some of Italy’s most successful singers, including Andrea Bocelli, Laura Pausini, Paola e Chiara, and Gigliola Cinquetti. This past February marked the 67th annual Sanremo Music Festival where Francesco Gabbani was the winner of the contest’s main section performing the song “Occidentali’s Karma” while Lele received the first-place nod in the newcomer’s section performing the song “Ora Mai.” Tickets for the event ranged from 100 to 672 euros.