Hello Dear Readers!
Eurovision continues is reaching a wider audience than ever before! I’d thought it would be a good idea to create a quick reference post for newbies to the Contest. 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. There are a total of 42 countries involved in ESC 2017, spanning the continent and beyond.
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 representative 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 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 fifteen minute window after the last song is performed.
8. Every competing country, regardless if they qualified for the Grand Final, vote for the winner. The results of the jury are revealed, country by country. The televoting is then revealed in ascending order, from least points to most points.
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.
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.
Want more information specific to ESC 2017? My country profiles will satiate your appetite as they cover information for each competing nation – their history and the background of their competing artists.
Wondering how you can hear great hits from Eurovision’s past? I have assembled playlists capturing different elements of Eurovision. This includes an Eurovision for Beginners playlist with twenty of the most influencial and historically important entries of all time.
Last year during the Second Semi-Final, two great productions were made wherein hosts Petra Mede and Måns Zelmerlöw explain the Contest in fun ways.
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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.