Since 1951 the festival of the Italian song (known as Sanremo Festival), has been broadcast on Rai1 in prime time. Every year Italian authors and singers participate, but during the festival some well-known faces such as Sabrina Ferilli, Maria De Filippi, Fiorello (co-host for a year) and many others take part as well.
The songs in competition at the festival are selected in the months before by a special commission on the basis of the candidates. These songs, which must have been composed by Italian authors with texts in Italian or, alternatively, even in a regional Italian language, are proposed by several singers and must be absolutely new, that is never performed publically before the competition, otherwise they are disqualified.
The songs are voted by a public jury, by the audience, and by the radios. The 3 juries (with their votes) proclaim and award the three most voted songs.
During the years, 2 categories of singers have participated in Sanremo: the category “New proposals” or “Young” (these are little-known singers) and the category “Big” (successful singers).
Since 1956 (with the exception of the period between 1998 and 2010 and on many other occasions) the winner of the competition has gained the right to represent Italy at the Eurovision Song Contest, which takes its inspiration just from the Italian festival. However, this does not represent an obligation for the singer, who can give the Rai the decision to choose the Italian representative. Last year Maneskin participated and won the European festival, too.
Other special prizes are also awarded, such as the Critics’ Prize, created in 1982 by the specialized press to reward the quality of Mia Martini’s song “E non finisce mica il cielo”. This prize was named after the same singer since the edition following her death (1996).
During the editions of the first half of the ‘80s, the competing artists performed in playback, but it was only after the 1985 edition, during which Claudio Baglioni was invited to receive the award for the “song of the century” and performed live in a solo piano and voice in an edition characterized by playback, that all singers began to perform live.
Originally the seat of the festival was the ballroom of the Casino of Sanremo, and the period of the festival could be between January and March, whereas since 1977 it has been held at the Ariston Theatre of the Ligurian city, in the early days of February.