Eurovision for Beginners

ESC for Beginners - stylized

Hello Dear Readers!

As more and more folks from around the world begin to tune in to Eurovision, I thought it would be a good idea to have a more permanent introduction to ESC.

Here are the top ten things you need to know in order to understand and enjoy Eurovision.

1. The Contest began in 1956 in order to bring together war-torn Europe. Starting with just seven countries, the Contest has exploded as Europe welcomed new countries. Since about 2013, roughly 40 countries take part each year.

2. The participating countries are randomly split in half based on their voting history and must compete in one of either two semi-finals. Ten songs qualify from each semi-final and meet the automatic qualifiers in the Grand Final.

3. The automatic qualifiers are the host country, which is the defending champion, and the Big Five. These are the countries with the five largest television audiences in Europe and pay the most to the EBU (the organization that runs Eurovision). These countries are: France, Spain, Italy, Germany, and the United Kingdom.

4. The competitors are broadcasting companies (typically government-run) that select a song and artist to fly the flag. Countries can choose their entries any way they like. Some opt for a competition in which artists compete with songs, some choose an artist and song internally, and some do a combination of these things.

5. Songs can be in any language, but most choose English (or partially English) to broaden their entry’s appeal. Songs cannot have offensive, overtly sexual, political, or overtly religious lyrics. All lyrics can be found, in English and French, on the official website: eurovision.tv.

6. All performers (singers, backing singers, and dancers) must be at least 16 on the day of their first night of competition. No animals are allowed on stage. All music must be provided by a backing track, but all singing must be done live. Songs must be no longer than three minutes.

7. Voting results are a 50/50 combination of professional juries and public vote (televoting). Each country provides a jury of five music professionals; they watch the second dress rehearsal (the evening before the televised show) and cast their votes then. Televoting occurs during the televised show during a voting window that starts after the last song is performed.

8. Every competing country, regardless if they qualified, vote in the Grand Final. The results of the jury are revealed, country by country. The televoting is then revealed in ascending order, according to the juries’ final ranking.

9. The winning song has the honor of being reprised at the end of the show. The winning artist gets a crystal trophy shaped liked a microphone. The winning composers and lyricists receive plaques. The winning broadcaster and country get to host the Contest the following year.

10. The Eurovision Song Contest is for EVERYONE. Despite the stereotypes, Eurovision is enjoyed by all kinds of people across the world and has the goal of uniting us ALL through music for one week a year.

Wondering how you can hear great hits from Eurovision’s past? I have assembled playlists capturing different elements of Eurovision. This includes a Eurovision for Beginners playlist with twenty of the most influential and historically important entries of all time.

In 2016, during the Second Semi-Final, two great productions were made wherein hosts Petra Mede and Måns Zelmerlöw explain the Contest in fun ways.

Annual Notes

This section will be updated annually with the relevant notes.

Craving for more information about Eurovision? Check out my ESC Notes that give a look at the history, rules, and notable quirks about the Contest. They were written with a particular eye towards those new to the Contest.

ESC 2019 – Updated Write-ups

Want more information specific to ESC 2019? My country profiles will satiate your appetite as they cover information for each competing nation – their history and the background of their competing artists.

Updated – 2019 Country Profiles

2019 Country Profiles – Grand Final Only

Follow @escobsession on Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube, and Sporcle