A Word on the Juries
And we’re back! The official split votes have been released by the EBU and fans are in an uproar. A third of them sing the praises of the 50/50 system, despite the fact some of their favorite songs were eliminated, a third of them love the juries and want only jury voting, and some detest the juries (with a fiery passion, I might add) and want them to be promptly removed from future Contests.
Before we begin looking into the results, I think I will take a moment to explain who the juries are and what their purpose is.
- Juries are comprised of five music related persons from each country, and must represent various age and professional demographics. Typically, juries are comprised of record company executives, professional musicians, former participants, music professors/researchers, and music graduate students. Essentially, the juries are supposed to reflect those at all positions of the music industry within each country.
- Jurors are not allowed to be connected to any of the competing performers, songwriters, or composers, regardless of whether they compete in the Final or not. This is particularly to protect against jury members who may be from a multi-national record company voting for artists signed to their company in another country.
- The names of jury members tend to be released, ever so slowly, by each individual broadcasting company and can usually be found on Wikipedia.
- Juries are specifically instructed to judge songs based on music quality, lyrical quality, and the “hit potential” (that is, chance that the song will become widely popular throughout the continent). As professionals, jurors are supposed to be able to balance these three aspects.
- The juries make their votes during the second dress rehearsal, not the final performance shown on television. Remember, each performer has at least five rehearsals, two practice runs the week prior to the Contest (during which they have a forty minute period and a thirty minute period to perfect their stage show) and three dress rehearsals – two the day before the performance and one the day of the performance. Songs qualifying from a semi-final have to go through three more dress rehearsals before the Final. That means that performers can have a lot of fatigue going into the televised show, which may or may not be evident during a rehearsal. This accounts for some of the disparity between televoters and jurors.
- Common misconceptions about the jury:
- “The juries are unprofessional and their make-up is clandestinely kept hidden.” – I think I just dispelled that belief
- “The juries are susceptible to being bribed.” – It is true that a record company or a broadcasting executive could do this, but why? Time has shown over and over again that most of the songs that are successful after the Contest are not necessarily the ones that place well, but have the most promotion before the Contest, so, if these people are going to sink money in anything, it will be pre-Contest promotion, not bribery. Additionally, most broadcasters do not actually want to win, the Contest has always been a bigger investment than payout (especially this year).
- “The juries do not know which songs will be hits, just look at X.” – This year’s big example is France, which has spent almost three weeks atop the French pop charts, spent time in the top ten of several border countries, and charted in the top 100 of several others. Allons! Ola! Olé! would have been eighth if televoting alone was considered, but was drag down to twelfth (which is a very respectable finish) due to a meager twenty-second place from the jury. However, this song has gained popularity due to the fact it was created for the French World Cup coverage. Belgium has seen much more international success across Europe and was given much higher marks by the jury than by televoters.
- “The juries are morons! How could they like Y over Z!” – The Contest is, always has been, and will remain, a matter of taste. As I said earlier, what may taste (or in this case, sound) good during the second dress rehearsal to the jury may not be as good during the televised performance, and vice versa.
- “The juries are biased/vote politically.” – And the televoters don’t? Diaspora has been a part of the Contest since the beginning. Whether votes are given by juries, the general public, or a combination of the two, Diaspora voting will thrive. For those who do not know what “Diaspora voting” means, essentially, it is both, when immigrants vote for their home country and when countries vote for those with similar cultures/music industries (i.e., their neighbors). The former is exemplified in the fact that Turkey receives so many votes from Germany, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Belgium, and France. The latter is demonstrated by the historic voting blocs, the Nordic coutnries, the former Yugoslav countries, the former USSR, Greece & Cyprus, and (traditionally) Malta-Ireland-UK (despite themselves). These votes are obviously not political (go to the streets of Sarajevo and ask a Bosnian to give you his opinion of Serbia, or go to Belgrade and ask a Serb what she thinks of the Bosnians) so please stop calling them such!
- “The juries and the 50/50 voting system is the only thing keeping the Contest from collapsing” – This is a quintessential hyperbole (i.e. a really big exaggeration). I think the thing keeping the Contest from collapsing is that long list of sponsors that we see at the end of the Final, the dues paid by the participating broadcasters, and the taxpayers who give those broadcasters their money. It is a stretch to say that broadcasters would pull out if not for the voting system (with Austria being the only country to withdraw due to the televoting process – all other countries withdrew due to financial reasons or really poor showings (looking at you Czech Republic)) as most realize that success comes and goes for everyone unless you’re Greece, then it just comes.
If you want to know more, the official rules regarding juries can be found here: Jury Rules.