Eurovision Song Contest
|Eurovision Song Contest|
Logo since 2015
|Also known as|
|Created by||European Broadcasting Union|
|Based on||Sanremo Music Festival|
|Presented by||Various presenters|
|Theme music composer||Marc-Antoine Charpentier|
|Opening theme||Prelude to Te Deum, H. 146|
|Country of origin||Various participating countries|
|Original language||English and French|
|No. of episodes|
|Production locations||Various host cities|
(in 2021, Rotterdam, Netherlands)
|Production companies||European Broadcasting Union|
Various national broadcasters (in 2021, NPO/NOS/AVROTROS)
|Original release||24 May 1956|
The Eurovision Song Contest (French: Concours Eurovision de la chanson) is an international song competition organised annually by the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) and featuring participants representing primarily European countries. Each participating country submits an original song to be performed on live television and radio, transmitted to national broadcasters via the EBU's Eurovision and Euroradio networks, with competing countries then casting votes for the other countries' songs to determine a winner.
Based on the Sanremo Music Festival held in Italy since 1951, Eurovision has been held every year since 1956, with the exception of the cancelled 2020 edition, making it the longest-running annual international televised music competition and one of the world's longest-running television programmes. Active members of the EBU, as well as invited associate members, are eligible to compete in the contest, and as of 2019[update], 52 countries have participated at least once. Originally consisting of a single evening event, the contest has expanded greatly as new countries joined, leading to the introduction of relegation procedures in the 1990s and eventually the creation of semi-finals in the 2000s. As of 2020[update], Germany has competed more times than any other country, having participated in all but one edition, while Ireland holds the record for the most victories, with seven wins in total.
Performing at the Eurovision Song Contest often provides artists with a local career boost and in some cases long-lasting international success. Several of the best-selling music artists in the world have competed in past editions, including ABBA, Celine Dion, Julio Iglesias and Olivia Newton-John, and some of the world's best-selling singles have received their first international performance on the Eurovision stage. The contest has been broadcast in countries across all continents, and has been available online via the official Eurovision website since 2000. Eurovision features among the world's most watched non-sporting events every year, with hundreds of millions of viewers globally, and has spawned and inspired similar contests internationally.
The contest has received criticism for its artistic quality, spanning ethnic and international styles, and claims regarding a geopolitical element in the voting system and the competing entries, with varying relations between both participating countries and other territories' broadcasters. Several controversial moments, such as participating countries withdrawing at a late stage, censorship of segments of the contest by broadcasters, and political events impacting contest participation, have also been experienced in past editions. Eurovision has gained great popularity for its kitsch appeal and emergence as part of LGBT culture, resulting in a large active fan base and influence on popular culture, including television and film, both in Europe and worldwide. Several varient contests have since been developed in the same mode, both by the EBU and by other organisations.
Origins and history
The origins of the Eurovision Song Contest stem initially from a desire to promote cooperation between European countries in the years following World War II through cross-border television broadcasts, which gave rise to the founding of the European Broadcasting Union in 1950 for this purpose. The word "Eurovision" was first used in relation to the EBU's network by British journalist George Campey in the London Evening Standard in 1951, when he referred to a BBC programme being relayed by Dutch television. A number of events were broadcast internationally via the Eurovision transmission network in the early 1950s, including the Coronation of Elizabeth II in 1953, and a series of international exchange programmes in 1954. Following this summer season of programmes, an EBU committee, headed by Marcel Bezençon, was formed in January 1955 to investigate new initiatives for cooperation between broadcasters; this committee approved for further study a European song competition, from an idea initially proposed by Sergio Pugliese. The EBU's General Assembly agreed to the organising of the song contest in October 1955, under the initial title of the European Grand Prix, and accepted a proposal made by the Swiss delegation to host the event in Lugano in the spring of 1956. The Italian Sanremo Music Festival was used as a basis for the initial planning of the contest, with several amendments and additions introduced given its international nature.
Seven countries participated in the first contest, with each country represented by two songs of between 3 and 3½ minutes in length, the only time in which multiple entries per country has been allowed. The first winning song was "Refrain", representing the home nation Switzerland and performed by Lys Assia. Voting during the first contest was held behind closed doors, with only the winner of the contest being announced on stage. Taking inspiration from the BBC's Festival of British Popular Songs held in August 1956, which featured a scoreboard and voting by regional juries, the EBU decided to incorporate this idea into its own contest, so that the audience and television viewers could follow the voting at home. Initially the host country of the contest was decided ahead of time by the contest organisers, but with the increase in numbers of countries taking part, from 1958 the contest was now to be staged in the country that had won the previous year, setting a precedent which, barring a number of exceptions, continues to the present day. New and improved technologies in broadcasting would soon be introduced to the contest, with the 30th contest the first to be broadcast via satellite in 1985, and the 45th edition the first to be broadcast live via the internet in 2000.
Eurovision began to expand rapidly as new countries expressed an interest in joining, with between 16 and 18 countries regularly competing each year by the 1960s. Countries from outside the traditional boundaries of Europe would soon begin entering the contest, with countries in Western Asia and North Africa first competing in the 1970s and 1980. Changes in Europe following the end of the Cold War saw an influx of new countries from Central and Eastern Europe looking to join the contest for the first time. The 1993 contest featured a separate pre-qualifying round, with seven of these new countries competing for three places in the event. From 1994, a relegation system was introduced to manage the number of competing countries, with the poorest performing countries being barred from entering the following year's contest and replaced by those that had missed out in previous editions. From 2004, the contest expanded to become a multi-programme event, when the 49th contest featured the introduction of a semi-final, which allowed all interested countries to compete in the contest each year; a second semi-final was eventually added to each edition from 2008.
64 contests have been held since its first broadcast, making Eurovision the longest-running annual international televised music competition as determined by Guinness World Records. A total of 52 countries have taken part in the contest's history, with a record 43 countries taking part in a single contest in 2008, and subsequently matched in 2011 and 2018. In 2015 Australia become the first non-EBU member country to enter when they were invited by the EBU to compete in the contest's 60th edition. Initially announced as a "one-off" to celebrate the contest's anniversary and to honour Australia's history of broadcasting the contest—the Australian broadcaster the Special Broadcasting Service (SBS) having broadcast the contest since 1983—the country was invited back the following year, and in 2019 secured participation rights until 2023.
Eurovision had been held every year until 2020, when that year's contest, planned to be held in Rotterdam, Netherlands, was cancelled in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. No competitive event was able to take place due to the uncertainty caused by the spread of the virus in Europe and the various restrictions imposed by the governments of the participating countries. In its place, a special broadcast Eurovision: Europe Shine a Light, was produced by the Dutch organisers, which honoured the songs and artists that would have competed in the 2020 contest in a non-competitive format.
Over the years the name used to describe the contest, and used on the official logo for each edition, has evolved. The first contests were produced under the name of Grand Prix Eurovision de la Chanson Européenne in French and as the Eurovision Song Contest Grand Prix in English, with similar variations used in the languages of each of the broadcasting countries. From 1968, the English name dropped the 'Grand Prix' from the name, with the French name soon being aligned as the Concours Eurovision de la Chanson, first used in 1973. The contest's official brand guidance specifies that translations of the name may be used depending on national tradition and brand recognition in the competing countries, but that the official name Eurovision Song Contest is always preferred; the contest is also commonly referred to in English by the abbreviations 'ESC' and 'Eurovision'.
On only four occasions has the name used for the official logo of the contest not been in English or French: when Italy hosted the contest in 1965 and 1991 the contest used the Italian names Gran Premio Eurovisione della Canzone and Concorso Eurovisione della Canzone respectively; at the 1976 and 1980 contests held in the Netherlands, the contest used the Dutch name Eurovisiesongfestival.
The format of the contest has changed over the years, but many aspects have remained consistent since its inception. Participating countries submit original songs to be performed in a live television programme broadcast via the Eurovision and Euroradio networks simultaneously to all countries. A "country" as a participant is represented by one television broadcaster from that country, a member of the European Broadcasting Union, and is typically, but not always, that country's national public broadcasting organisation. The programme is hosted by one of the participant countries and is broadcast from an auditorium in the selected host city. During the programme, after all the songs have been performed, each participating country proceeds to cast votes for the other countries' songs—nations are not permitted to vote for their own song—and at the end of the programme, the song which has received the most points is declared as the winner. The winner receives, simply, the prestige of having won—although it is usual for a trophy to be awarded to the winning performers and songwriters, and the winning country is formally invited to host the event the following year.
The contest is a non-profit event, and financing is typically achieved through a participation fee from each participating broadcaster, contributions from the host broadcaster and the host city, and commercial revenues from sponsorships, ticket sales, televoting and merchandise.
Since 2008 each contest is typically formed of three live television shows held over one week: two semi-finals are held on the Tuesday and Thursday of "Eurovision week", followed by a grand final on the Saturday. All competing countries compete in one of the two semi-finals, except for the host country of that year's contest and the "Big Five" countries—France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom—who, as the contest's biggest financial contributors, automatically qualify to the final. The remaining countries are split between the two semi-finals, and the 10 highest-scoring entries in each semi-final qualify for the grand final; this means that 26 countries in total compete in the grand final each year.
The contest is invariably compered by one or more presenters, who welcome viewers to the show and guide the voting process. In recent years the Grand Final has typically begun with a "Parade of Nations", also called a "Flag Parade", with the competing artists entering the stage behind their country's flag in a similar manner to the procession of competing athletes at the Olympic Games opening ceremony. Other performances are usually featured alongside the competing songs, with one or more interval acts typically performing following the last competing song and before the presentation of the votes.
Each participating broadcaster has sole discretion on the process they may employ to select their entry for the contest, although the EBU strongly encourages that broadcasters engage the public with the selection of their act. Typical methods in which participants are selected for the contest include a televised national selection process using a public vote; an internal selection by a committee appointed by the broadcaster; and through a mixed format where some decisions are made internally, typically the performing artist, with the public engaged in selecting the competing song. Among the most successful televised selection shows is Sweden's Melodifestivalen, first established in 1959 and now one of Sweden's most watched TV shows each year.
As national broadcasters join and leave the Eurovision feed transmitted by the EBU, the EBU/Eurovision network logo ident (not to be confused with the logo of the song contest itself) is displayed. The accompanying music (used on other Eurovision broadcasts) is the Prelude (Marche en rondeau) to Marc-Antoine Charpentier's Te Deum. Originally, the same logo was used for both the Eurovision network and the European Broadcasting Union, however, they now have two different logos; the latest Eurovision network logo was introduced in 2012, and when the ident is transmitted at the start and end of programmes it is this Eurovision network logo that appears.
Active Members (as opposed to Associate Members) of the European Broadcasting Union are eligible to participate; Active Members are those who are located in states that fall within the European Broadcasting Area, or are member states of the Council of Europe. Active Members include media organisations whose broadcasts are often made available to at least 98% of households in their own country which are equipped to receive such transmissions. Associate Member broadcasters may also be eligible to compete in the contest, dependent on approval by the contest's Reference Group.
The "European Broadcasting Area" is bounded on the west by the western boundary of Region 1, on the east by the meridian 40° East of Greenwich and on the south by the parallel 30° North so as to include the northern part of Saudi Arabia and that part of those countries bordering the Mediterranean within these limits. In addition, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Ukraine and those parts of the territories of Iraq, Jordan and Syrian Arab Republic lying outside the above limits are included in the European Broadcasting Area.
Eligibility to participate in the contest is therefore not limited to countries in Europe, as several countries geographically outside the boundaries of the continent and those which span more than one continent are included in the Broadcasting Area. Many of these countries have taken part, including countries in Western Asia such as Israel and Cyprus, countries which span Europe and Asia like Russia and Turkey, and North African countries such as Morocco. Australia became the first country to participate from outside the European Broadcasting Area in 2015, following an invitation by the Reference Group.
EBU Members who wish to participate must fulfil conditions as laid down by the rules of the contest, a separate copy of which is drafted annually. A maximum of 44 countries can take part in any one contest. Broadcasters must have paid the EBU a participation fee in advance to the deadline specified in the rules for the year in which they wish to participate; this fee is different for each country based on its size and viewership.
Fifty-two countries have participated at least once. These are listed here alongside the year in which they made their debut:
- Represented West Germany until 1990; East Germany never competed. Presented on all occasions as 'Germany', except in 1967 as 'Federal Republic of Germany' and 1976 as 'West Germany'.
- Represented the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia until 1991, and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1992.
- Presented as the 'Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia' before 2019.
- Initially a one-off participant to commemorate the contest's 60th anniversary; has since gained participation rights until 2023.
Preparations for each year's contest typically begin at the conclusion of the previous year's contest. At the winner's press conference following the grand final, the contest's Executive Supervisor will traditionally provide the winning country's Head of Delegation with a welcome package containing information related to hosting the contest.
Once the participating broadcaster of the winning country confirms to the EBU that they intend to host the event, a host city is chosen by the broadcaster, which should meet certain criteria set out in the contest's rules. The host venue must be able to accommodate at least 10,000 spectators, space for a press centre for 1,500 journalists, and the host city should be within easy reach of an international airport. In addition, the location must also have hotel accommodation available for at least 2,000 delegates, journalists and spectators. The hotel and press facilities in the vicinity of the venue, and in particular the accommodation costs for the visiting delegations, journalists and fans, are typically an important consideration when choosing a host city; contest organisers and city officials have in the past had to negotiate special rates with hotel owners ahead of the contest. For these reasons, the contest is typically, but not always, held in a national or regional capital city. In recent years, bid processes have become a common occurrence, with a number of cities in the host country applying to stage the contest, followed by a consultation period, shortlisting and final selection according to criteria set out by the EBU and the host broadcaster.
The contest has been hosted in a variety of different venues, from small theatres and television studios in the early days of the contest, to large arenas and stadiums in the present day. The largest venue to host the contest is Parken Stadium in Copenhagen, which held the 2001 contest and was attended by almost 38,000 spectators. With a population of only 1,500 at the time of the contest, Millstreet, Ireland remains the smallest settlement to host the contest; the Green Glens Arena, the venue for the 1993 contest, is however capable of hosting up to 8,000 spectators.
The contest is considered to be a unique opportunity for promoting the host country as a tourist destination; ahead of the 2005 contest in Kyiv, Ukraine, visa restrictions were lifted for European Union member countries and Switzerland through the summer of 2005 in a bid to encourage travel to Ukraine.
Following the first two contests hosted in Switzerland and Germany, the tradition of the winning country hosting the following year's event was established in 1958, held in the Netherlands. A number of exceptions to this rule have occurred since, typically when the winning country had already hosted the event in the recent past. These exceptions are listed below:
- 1960—hosted by the BBC in London when the Netherlands' NTS declined due to expense, having previously hosted the 1958 contest. The United Kingdom was chosen to host after finishing in second place in 1959.
- 1963—hosted by the BBC in London when France's RTF declined due to expense, having previously hosted the contest in 1959 and 1961. The second- and third-placed Monaco and Luxembourg also declined when offered hosting duties.
- 1970—hosted by the NOS in Amsterdam following a ballot to determine the host after the 1969 contest produced four winning countries.
- 1972—hosted by the BBC in Edinburgh when Monaco's Télé Monte Carlo was unable to provide a suitable venue. The Monegasque broadcaster invited the BBC to host the event due to their previous experience.
- 1974—hosted by the BBC in Brighton when Luxembourg's RTL declined due to expense after hosting the 1973 contest.
- 1980—hosted by the NOS in The Hague when Israel's IBA declined due to expense after staging the 1979 event. The Dutch offered to host the contest after several other broadcasters, reportedly including runner-up Spain's RTVE and the BBC, were unwilling to do so.
With Australia's invitation to participate in the contest in 2015, it was announced that should they win the contest, Australian broadcaster SBS would co-host the following year's contest in a European city in collaboration with an EBU Member Broadcaster of their choice.
Eurovision logo and theme
Until 2004 each individual edition of the contest features its own logo and visual identity as determined by the respective host broadcaster. To create a consistent visual identity a generic logo for the contest was first introduced ahead of the 2004 contest. This is typically accompanied by unique theme artwork and a slogan designed for each individual contest by the host broadcaster, with the flag of the host country featuring prominently in the centre of the Eurovision heart. The original logo was designed by the London-based agency JM International, and received a revamp in 2014 by Cornelis Jacobs of the Amsterdam-based Cityzen Agency ahead of the contest's 60th edition.
An individual slogan has been associated with each edition of the contest since 2002, except in 2009. This slogan is decided by the host broadcaster and is then used to develop the contest's visual identity and design. This slogan is typically used by the producers in planning and formulating the show's visual identity, and is channelled into the contest's stage design, the opening and interval acts, and the "postcards", short videos interspersed between the entries which usually highlight the host country, and in many cases introduce the competing acts. Postcards were first introduced to the contest in 1970, initially as an attempt to "bulk up" the contest after a number of countries decided not to compete, but has since become a regular part of the show.
Each slogan used in the contest since 2002 is listed below:
|Year||Host country||Host city||Slogan|
|2002||Estonia||Tallinn||A Modern Fairytale|
|2003||Latvia||Riga||A Magical Rendez-vous|
|2004||Turkey||Istanbul||Under the Same Sky|
|2006||Greece||Athens||Feel the Rhythm|
|2008||Serbia||Belgrade||Confluence of Sound|
|2010||Norway||Oslo||Share the Moment|
|2011||Germany||Düsseldorf||Feel Your Heart Beat!|
|2012||Azerbaijan||Baku||Light Your Fire!|
|2013||Sweden||Malmö||We Are One|
|2019||Israel||Tel Aviv||Dare to Dream|
The "event weeks" refer to the weeks during which the contest takes place; the week in which the live shows are held and broadcast is typically referred to as "Eurovision week" by fans and the media. Physical preparations for the contest typically begin weeks before any of the artists or delegations arrive in the host city, with the host venue being prepared and the stage being built ahead of rehearsals. For this reason the contest organisers will typically request that the venue be available for approximately six weeks before the grand final. Young musicians and high school students from the host city act as stand-in performers to assist in the initial technical rehearsals, and also act as a guide for the delegations prior to their arrival in the host country in case any changes in staging need to be made.
Delegations will typically arrive in the host city two to three weeks before the live shows, with the "event weeks" in the host city typically lasting for 15 days. Each participating broadcaster nominates a Head of Delegation, responsible for coordinating the movements of the delegate members, ensuring that the rules of the contest are respected by their delegation, and being that country's representative to the EBU. Members of each country's delegation include performers, composers, lyricists, members of the press, and—in the years where a live orchestra was present—a conductor. Also present if desired is a commentator, who provides commentary of the contest for their country's radio and/or television feed in their country's own language; the commentators are given dedicated commentary booths situated around the back of the arena behind the audience.
Rehearsals and press conferences
Rehearsals at the contest venue typically commence on the Sunday two weeks before the grand final, and all participating countries will rehearse individually on stage twice. Each country's first rehearsal lasts for 30 minutes and is held behind closed doors, with accredited press having no access to the venue but able to follow the rehearsals via a video-link to the nearby press centre. These are then followed by a "meet and greet", with the participants meeting with press and fans in the press centre. The second rehearsal for each country lasts for 20 minutes, with press being able to watch from the arena. This is then followed by a press conference with assembled press.
After each country has rehearsed, the delegation meets with the show's production team in the viewing room, where they watch the footage of the rehearsal just performed and where the producers or delegations make known any special requirements or changes which are needed. Rehearsals and press conferences are held in parallel, so as one country is rehearsing on stage another country is holding its press conference. A summary of the questions and answers which emerge from the press conferences is produced by the host press office and distributed to the accredited press.
The typical schedule for these individual rehearsals sees the semi-finalists conducting their first rehearsal from the first Sunday through to the following Wednesday, with countries typically rehearsing in the order in which they will perform during the live semi-finals. The semi-finalists' second rehearsals then usually take place from the Thursday to the Saturday in the week before the live shows. The delegations from the host country and the "Big Five" automatic finalists will arrive later, and typically hold their first rehearsal on the Friday or Saturday before "Eurovision week", and the second rehearsal on the Sunday.
Each live show is preceded by three dress rehearsals, where the whole show is performed in the same way as it will be presented on TV. The first dress rehearsal, held during the afternoon of the day before the live show, is open to the press. The second and third dress rehearsals, held the night before the contest and during the afternoon on the day, are open to the public, with tickets being sold in the same way as for the live shows. In addition, the second dress rehearsal is also used for a recorded back-up in case of technological failure, and performances during this show are watched and evaluated by each country's professional jury. Following the two semi-final shows, the delegations from the qualifying countries attend a qualifiers' press conference, and following the grand final, the winning delegation attends a winners' press conference. Further press conferences are typically held during the "event weeks", which typically include a press conference with the host broadcaster, a conference on the upcoming Junior Eurovision Song Contest, as well as a press conference featuring the automatic finalists. The most recent winner of the junior contest has typically made a guest appearance in the Grand Final of the contest since 2014 and is interviewed at the respective Junior Eurovision press conference during the "event weeks".
Receptions and parties
A number of receptions and parties are typically held during the "event weeks", held by the contest organisers as well as by the various delegations. Traditionally, a Welcome Reception is held on the Sunday preceding the live shows, which features a red carpet ceremony for all the participating countries. This is typically held at an opulent venue in the host city, with grand theatres and city halls having featured at recent contests, and is usually accompanied by live music, complimentary food and drink and a fireworks display.
Accredited delegates, press and fans have access to an official nightclub, the "EuroClub", during the "events week", which is not open to the public. The various delegations will typically throw their own parties over the course of Eurovision week, either at the EuroClub or at other venues in the host city. The "Eurovision Village" is the official fan zone during the contest, open to the public free of charge, where live performances by the contest's artists are held and where fans are able to watch the live shows on big screens.
In addition to the main Eurovision title, other prizes have traditionally been bestowed, both by the Eurovision organisers and by fan organisations. These include the Marcel Bezençon Awards, a set of additional prizes celebrating the best songs and artists in each contest's final as voted for by the accredited press, national commentators, and the assembled composers; the annual OGAE poll to determine the favourite act of members of the OGAE Eurovision fan organisation; and the Barbara Dex Award to determine the "worst-dressed" artist each year.
A detailed set of rules is produced for each contest, written by the European Broadcasting Union and approved by the contest's Reference Group. These rules have changed over time, and typically outline the eligibility of the competing songs, the contest's format, the voting system to be used to determine the winner and how the results will be presented, the values of the contest to which all participating broadcasters must agree, and distribution and broadcasting rights for both broadcasters participating in the contest and those which do not or cannot enter.
Organisation of the contest
The contest is organised annually by the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), together with the participating broadcaster of the host country. The contest is monitored by an Executive Supervisor, appointed by the EBU to oversee all aspects of the contest, and by the contest's Reference Group which represents all participating broadcasters, who are each represented by a nominated Head of Delegation.
The nominated Executive Supervisor is ultimately responsible for ensuring the contest is held fairly, and is tasked with scrutinising the voting procedure, upholding the contest rules, being a point of liaison for each country's Head of Delegation, and monitoring the TV production during the live shows. The current Executive Supervisor is Martin Österdahl, who took over the role from Jon Ola Sand in May 2020.
The Reference Group is the contest's executive committee and works on behalf of all participating countries in the contest. The group, which typically meets four to five times a year, is made up of several broadcast executives and producers from various EBU member organisations, and is tasked with approving the development and format of the contest, securing financing, managing the contest's branding, increasing public awareness, and overseeing the yearly preparations of the contest with the host broadcaster.
Song and artist eligibility
All songs competing at the Eurovision Song Contest must have a duration of three minutes or less. This only applies to the "Eurovision edit" of the song, i.e. the version that will be performed during the live shows, and other versions of the song may be released that are longer. In order to be considered eligible to be entered into a given year's contest, competing songs must not have been released commercially before the first day of September of the previous year.
The number of people on stage for competing performances is limited to a maximum of six, and no live animals are allowed on stage. Since 1990 all contestants must be aged 16 or over on the day of the live show in which they perform; this rule was introduced after two artists under the age of 12 competed at the 1989 contest, which now means that Sandra Kim, who won the contest for Belgium in 1986 at the age of 13, would remain the contest's youngest winner in perpetuity. There is no limit on the nationality or country of birth of the competing artists, and participating broadcasters are free to select an artist from any country; several winning artists have subsequently held a different nationality or were born in a different country to that which they represented in the contest. No performer may compete for more than one country at the contest in a given year.
The main vocals of the competing songs must be performed live on stage during the contest. Previously, all backing vocals were also required to be performed live, however for the 2021 contest this ban has been rescinded on a trial basis, and backing vocals may now be included on pre-recorded backing tracks; this change was implemented in an effort to make the contest more flexible to change following the cancellation of the 2020 event and to facilitate modernisation, and delegations are still free to provide live backing vocals if they prefer. Under current contest rules, all instrumental music for competing entries should be pre-recorded, with no live instrumentation during the performance allowed.
The orchestra was a prominent feature of the contest from 1956 to 1998. Pre-recorded backing tracks were first allowed in the contest in 1973, but any pre-recorded instruments were required to seen being "performed" on stage; in 1997, all instrumental music was allowed to be pre-recorded, however the host country was still required to provide an orchestra. In 1999, the rules were changed again, making the orchestra an optional requirement; the host broadcaster of the 1999 contest, Israel's IBA, subsequently decided not to provide an orchestra as a cost saving measure, meaning that all entries would use a backing track for the first time in the contest's history.
Given its nature as a song contest, all competing entries must include vocals and lyrics of some kind; purely instrumental pieces have never been allowed. Competing entries may be performed in any language, be that natural or constructed, and participating broadcasters are free to decide the language in which their entry may be performed.
Rules on which language a song may be performed have changed over time. The first restrictions on language were introduced in 1966; until then no rules were enacted to specify in which language a song may be performed, however after criticism that the 1965 Swedish entry was performed in English, a new language rule was introduced for the 1966 contest for all competing countries, preventing entries from being performed in any language other than one of the relevant country's officially recognised national languages. The language rule was first abolished in 1973, which allowed all participating countries to sing in the language of their choice; the language rule was reintroduced ahead of the 1977 contest, however as the process for choosing the entries for Belgium and Germany had already begun before the rule change was announced, they were permitted to perform in English for that year's edition. The language rule was once again abolished ahead of the 1999 contest.
As the contest is presented in both English and French, at least one of the contest's hosts must be able to speak French as well as English.
The order in which the competing countries perform had historically been decided through a random draw, however since 2013 the order has been determined by the contest's producers, and submitted to the EBU Executive Supervisor and Reference Group for approval before being announced publicly. This change was introduced to provide a better experience for television viewers, making the show more exciting and allowing all countries to stand out by avoiding cases where songs of similar style or tempo were performed in sequence. Under the current method, during the Semi-final Allocation Draw each country competing in a semi-final is drawn into either the first half or second half of that semi-final; once all songs have been selected the producers will then determine the running order for the semi-finals. Semi-final qualifiers make a draw at random during the winners' press conference to determine whether they will perform during the first or second half of the final; the automatic finalists will also randomly draw their competing half in the run-up to the grand final, except for the host country, whose exact performance position is determined at random in a separate draw. The running order for the final is then decided following the second semi-final by the producers, taking into consideration both the competing songs' musical qualities as well as stage performance, to best work around how to set up any props, lighting and other production considerations.
The process change in 2013 led to a mixed reaction from fans of the contests, with some expressing concern over potential corruption in allowing the producers to decide at which point each country would perform, while others were more optimistic about the change. The order in which competing countries perform is considered an important factor in the potential of winning the contest, and statistical analysis on this subject has been shown to corroborate that in a random draw songs which perform later in the contest have a better chance of being scored highly. Performing second in the final is particularly considered detrimental to a country's chances of winning the contest, and no song performing in this position has ever won the contest in its history.
The current voting system used to determine the results of the contest has been in place since 2016, which works on the basis of positional voting. Each country awards two sets of points: one set is based on the votes of each country's professional jury, consisting of five music professionals from that country; and a second set is based on the views of the general public in the competing countries conducted through telephone and SMS voting or via voting conducted through the official Eurovision app. Each set of points consists of 1–8, 10 and 12 points to the jury and public's 10 favourite songs, with the most preferred song receiving 12 points. National juries and the public in each country are not allowed to vote for their own country, a rule first introduced in 1957.
Historically, each country's points were determined by a jury, which has at times consisted of members of the public, music professionals, or both in combination. With advances in telecommunication technology, televoting was first introduced to the contest in 1997 on a trial basis. At that year's contest, broadcasters in Austria, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom allowed their viewing public to determine their votes for the first time, and from 1998 televoting was extended to almost all competing countries. The 2004 contest was the first to make televoting mandatory for all competing countries, however each country was obligated to provide a "backup jury", which would be used in case of voting failure, or if the number of votes registered did not pass a set threshold to be considered valid. A jury was reintroduced for the grand final of the 2009 contest, with each country's points comprising both the votes of the jury and public in an equal split; this mix of jury and public voting was expanded into the semi-finals from 2010.
The current voting system is a modification of that used in the contest since 1975, when the "1–8, 10, 12 points" system was first introduced. Until 2016, each country provided one set of points, representing the votes of either the country's jury, public or, since the 2009 grand final, the votes of both combined.
Presentation of the votes
Since 1957, each country's votes have been announced during a special voting segment as part of the contest's broadcast. After each country's votes have been calculated and verified the presenter(s) of the contest will call upon a spokesperson in each country in turn to invite them to announce the results of their country's vote. This spokesperson is typically a musician, broadcaster or journalist who is well known in their country, and previous spokespersons have included former Eurovision artists and hosts. Prior to 1994 the announcements were made through telephone lines from the countries of origin, with the audio piped through into the auditorium for the audience to hear and over the television transmission; the 1994 contest saw the introduction of satellite links for the voting, which has allowed the spokespersons to be seen visually by the audience and TV spectators.
The votes from each country are tallied via a scoreboard, first introduced in 1957, which shows the total number of points each country has so far received, as well as the points being given out by the country currently being called upon by the presenter(s). This scoreboard was historically situated physically to the side of the stage and was updated manually as each country gave their votes; a graphical representation of this scoreboard was first introduced at the 1988 contest.
Historically, each country's spokesperson would announce sequentially the number of points being given to a specific country, which would then be repeated by the contest's presenter(s) in both English and French. With the increase in the number of competing countries, and therefore the number of countries voting in the final, the voting sequence soon became a lengthy process. From 2006, to save time, only each country's 8, 10 and 12 points were announced by their spokesperson, with points 1–7 displayed on-screen and then automatically added to the scoreboard. Since the introduction of the new voting system in 2016, the spokespersons now announce only their country's 12 points, with their 8 and 10 points now also being shown and added automatically.
Since 2016, the voting presentation begins with each country's spokespersons being called upon in turn to announce the points of their country's professional jury. Once the jury points from all countries have been announced, the contest's presenter(s) will then announce the total public points received for each finalist, with the votes for each country being consolidated and announced as a single value. From 2016 to 2018, the public points were announced in order from last to first, with the country with the lowest total score announced first; since 2019, these points have been announced in order according to their placing by the juries, with the country which received the fewest points from the juries receiving their public points first. The full televoting results, and the votes of each country's jury and individual jury members, are published on the official Eurovision website after the show; each country's individual televoting points are also typically displayed on-screen towards the end of the show by that country's broadcaster.
Ties for first place
Should two or more countries have the same number of points at the end of the voting, a tie-break method is employed to determine the final placings. The first tie-break rule was introduced following the 1969 contest, when four of the sixteen countries taking part—France, Spain, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom—all finished the voting with an equal number of votes. As there was no rule in place to break the tie, all four were declared joint winners. This result led to complaints from a number of other competing countries, and several countries refused to take part in the 1970 edition of the contest in protest. The current tie-break rule has been in place since 2016: a combined national televoting and jury result is calculated for each country, and the country which has obtained points from the highest number of countries is deemed to have placed higher.
As of 2020[update], on only one occasion since 1969 has there been a tie for first place: in 1991, the entries from Sweden and France had received 146 points each at the end of the voting. The tie-breaking rule in place at the time specified that the country which had received the most sets of 12 points would be declared the winner; if there was still a tie, then the 10 points received, followed by 8 points, etc. would be used to break the tie. Both France and Sweden had received four sets of 12 points, however as Sweden had received more individual 10 points than France, Sweden's Carola was declared the winner.
Validation and observation
Each country's professional jury, as well as individual jury members, must meet a set criteria to be eligible, regarding professional background, and diversity in gender and age. A set criteria against which the competing entries should be evaluated is published by the EBU, and all jury members pledge in writing that they will use this criteria when ranking the entries, as well as stating that they are not connected to any of the contestants in any way that could influence their decision. Additionally, jury members may only sit on a jury once every three years. Each jury member votes independently of the other members of the jury, and no discussion or deliberation about the vote between members is permitted.
Since 2004, the televoting in each country has been overseen by the contest's official voting partner, the German-based Digame. This company gathers all televotes and, since 2009, jury votes in all countries, which are then processed by the company's Pan-European Response Platform, based out of their Voting Control Centre in Cologne, Germany. This system ensures that all votes are counted in accordance with the rules, and that any attempts to unfairly influence the vote are detected and mitigated. The entire voting process is overseen by independent observers from an external auditing company, which for the 2019 contest came from professional services firm EY.
Participating broadcasters from competing countries are required to air live the semi-final in which they compete, or in the case of the automatic finalists the semi-final in which they are required to vote, and the grand final, in its entirety, including all competing songs, the voting recap which contains short clips of the performances, the voting procedure or semi-final qualification reveal, and in the grand final the reprise of the winning song. Since 1999, broadcasters who wished to do so were given the opportunity to provide advertising during short, non-essential hiatuses in the show's schedule. In exceptional circumstances, such as due to developing emergency situations, participating broadcasters may delay or postpone broadcast of the event. In any other scenario, should a broadcaster refuse to broadcast a show as expected, they may be subject to sanctions by the EBU. Several broadcasters in countries that are unable to compete have previously aired the contest in their markets, with past editions of the contest having aired in Canada, China, Kazakhstan, New Zealand and the United States.
An archiving project was initiated by the EBU in 2011, aiming to collate footage from all editions of the contest and related materials from its history ahead of the contest's 60th anniversary, in 2015. In collaborating with member broadcasters, the EBU now holds all editions of the contest except for the 1956 and 1964 editions, of which no video footage is believed to exist.
The first contest in 1956 was primarily a radio show, however cameras were present to broadcast the show for the few Europeans who had a television set; any video footage which may have been recorded has since been lost over time, however audio of the contest has been preserved and a short newsreel of the winning reprise has survived. Conflicting reports of the fate of any video footage of the 1964 contest in Copenhagen have been recanted over the years: one claim is that footage of the contest was destroyed in a fire at the studios of Danish broadcaster DR in the 1970s, with no footage from other broadcasters known to exist; other claims include that footage of the contest was lost when the tape was wiped by DR management for use in recording new programming, or that DR did not record the show at all due to a lack of available tape recorders. As with the 1956 contest, audio recordings of the 1964 contest, and some footage of the opening sequence and winning reprise have survived.
Expansion of the contest
From the original seven countries which entered the first contest in 1956, the number of competing countries has steadily grown over time. 18 countries participated in the contest's 10th edition in 1965, and by 1990 22 countries were regularly competing each year.
Besides slight modifications to the voting system and other contest rules, no fundamental changes to the contest's format were introduced until the early 1990s, when events in Europe in the late 1980s and early 1990s precipitating the formation of new countries resulted in a growing interest in the contest from countries in the former Eastern Bloc, particularly after the cessation of the Eastern European rival OIRT network and its merger with the EBU in 1993.
Pre-selections and relegation
1993 saw a marked increase in the number of countries wishing to compete in the contest: 29 countries registered to take part, which the EBU considered too many to fit reasonably into a single TV show. The contest organisers implemented a preselection method for the first time in order to reduce the number of entries that would compete at the contest in Millstreet, Ireland. Seven countries in Central and Eastern Europe looking to take part for the first time competed in Kvalifikacija za Millstreet (Preselection for Millstreet), held in Ljubljana, Slovenia one month before the contest, with the top three countries qualifying for the main contest. Following a vote among the seven competing countries, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Slovenia were chosen to head to Millstreet, with Estonia, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia being forced to wait another year before being allowed to compete. A new relegation system was introduced in 1993 for entry into the 1994 contest: the lowest-placed countries each year would be forced to sit out of the following year's contest, to be replaced by new countries and those that had previously had to sit out. The bottom seven countries in 1993 were asked to miss out the following year, to be replaced by the four unsuccessful competing countries in Kvalifikacija za Millstreet and new entries from Lithuania, Poland and Russia.
This system was used again in 1994 for qualification for the 1995 contest, but a new system was introduced for the 1996 contest. Primarily in an attempt to appease Germany, one of Eurovision's biggest markets and biggest financial contributors which would have otherwise been relegated under the previous system, the 1996 contest saw an audio-only qualification round held in the months before the contest in Oslo, Norway. 29 countries would compete for 22 places in the main contest, with the Norwegian hosts automatically qualified. However Germany would ultimately still miss out, and joined Hungary, Romania, Russia, Denmark, Israel, and Macedonia as one of the seven countries to be absent from the Oslo contest. 1996 marked the only use of the audio-only qualifying round, and for the 1997 contest a similar relegation system to the one used between 1993 and 1995 was brought in, based upon each country's average scores in the preceding five contests as a measure against which countries would be relegated. This was subsequently changed again in 2001, back to the same system used between 1993 and 1995 where only the results from that year's contest would count towards relegation.
The "Big Four" and "Big Five"
In 1999 the rules on country relegation were changed to exempt France, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom from relegation, giving them the automatic right to compete regardless of their five-year point average. This group, as the highest-paying European Broadcasting Union members which significantly fund the contest each year, subsequently became known as the "Big Four" countries. This group was expanded in 2011 when Italy returned to the contest, becoming the "Big Five". This rule was originally brought in to prevent the contest's biggest financial backers from being relegated, and therefore their financial contribution would have been missed; however, since the introduction of the semi-finals in 2004, the "Big Five" now instead automatically qualify for the final along with the host country.
There remains some debate around whether this status prejudices the countries' results in the contest, based on reported antipathy over their automatic qualification, as well as the potential disadvantage of having performed less on stage because they have not had to compete in the semi-finals. However, this status appears to be more complex as results of the "Big Five" countries can vary widely: at the 2019 contest, for example, Italy finished in second place whereas three other members of the "Big Five", namely Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom, placed outside the top 20 countries. This status has also caused consternation for some of the other competing countries, and was cited, among other aspects of the contest, as a reason why Turkey had ceased competing in the contest after 2012.
Introduction of semi-finals
An influx of new countries for the 2003 contest caused a rethink among the contest's Reference Group on how best to manage the still-growing number of countries looking to enter the contest for the first time. As it was deemed not possible to eliminate 10 countries each year, an initial freeze was placed on new applications for the 2003 contest while organisers determined a solution. 25 countries were originally scheduled to take part at the contest in Riga, Latvia, however Ukraine was added to the participants list at a late stage, making their debut appearance. The other new applicant countries, rumoured to include Albania, Belarus, the Czech Republic and Serbia and Montenegro, were therefore required to sit out for another year.
In January 2003, the EBU announced the introduction of a semi-final, expanding the contest into a two-day event from 2004. The top 10 countries in each year's final would qualify automatically to the following year's final, alongside the "Big Four", meaning all other countries would compete in the semi-final to compete for 10 spots in the final. The 2004 contest in Istanbul, Turkey, saw a record 36 countries competing, with new entries from Albania, Andorra, Belarus and Serbia and Montenegro and return of the previously relegated countries from 2003. The format of this semi-final remained similar to the final proper, taking place on the Wednesday during "Eurovision week". Following the performances and the voting window, the names of the 10 countries with the highest number of points, which would therefore qualify for the grand final, were announced at the end of the show, revealed in a random order by the contest's presenters.
The single semi-final continued to be held between 2005 and 2007, now held the Thursday prior to the final, however by 2007, with over 40 countries competing in that year's contest in Helsinki, Finland, the semi-final featured 28 entries competing for 10 spots in the final. Subsequently, in response to criticism of the mainly Eastern European qualifiers at the 2007 event and the apparent snubbing of the entries from Western European nations, the EBU announced in October 2007 that for the 2008 contest in Belgrade, Serbia, a second semi-final was to be introduced. All countries would now compete in one of the two semi-finals, held on the Tuesday and Thursday of "Eurovision week", with only the host country and the "Big Four", and subsequently the "Big Five" from 2011, qualifying automatically; 10 qualification spots would be available in each of the semi-finals, and a new system to split the competing countries between the two semi-finals was introduced based on their geographic location and previous voting patterns, in an attempt to reduce the impact of bloc voting and to make the outcome less predictable. Voting in each semi-final is conducted only in the countries competing in that semi-final, as such only those countries are obligated to broadcast that semi-final. Automatic finalists are also obligated to air and provide votes to one of the two semi-finals. For the 2008 and 2009 contest, nine of the ten qualifiers in each semi-final were decided by the televoting public in each country, with the 10th qualifier being filled by the highest non-qualifier as determined by the results of the back-up juries; this system was subsequently discarded in 2010 with the introduction of split jury-public voting in all shows.
Full voting results from the semi-finals are withheld until after the grand final, when they are subsequently published on the official Eurovision website. As of 2019[update], only two countries have qualified from every semi-final in which they have participated: Australia and Ukraine; conversely, Andorra remains the only country to have never competed in a grand final.
67 songs have won the Eurovision Song Contest as of 2019[update], representing 27 countries. Ireland holds the record for the most wins, with seven in total, followed by Sweden with six wins, and France, Luxembourg, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands with five wins each. 24 countries have participated in the contest but have yet to win. On only one occasion has multiple winners being declared in a single contest: in 1969, four countries finished the contest with an equal number of votes and all four countries were declared winners due to the lack of a tie-break rule at the time .
The United Kingdom holds the record for the highest-number of second-place finishes, having come runner-up in the contest 15 times. Norway, meanwhile, has come last more than any other country, featuring at the bottom of the scoreboard on 11 occasions, including scoring nul points four times.
Only two countries have won the contest with their first appearance: Switzerland, by virtue of being declared the winner of the first contest in 1956; and Serbia, which won the contest in 2007 in their first participation as an independent country, following entries as a constituent part of the now-defunct Yugoslavia and Serbia and Montenegro in previous editions.
On four occasions a country has recorded back-to-back wins: Spain was the first country to do so, as the winner of the 1968 contest and one of the four shared winners in 1969; Luxembourg was the first to do so without sharing the title, with wins in 1972 and 1973; Israel did likewise in 1978 and 1979; and Ireland became the first country to win three consecutive titles, winning the contest in 1992, 1993 and 1994. Ireland's winning streak in the 1990s also includes the 1996 contest, giving them a record four wins in five years.
A number of countries have had relatively short waits before winning their first contest; Ukraine were victorious on their second contest appearance in 2004, while Latvia won with their third entry in 2002. Other countries have conversely competed in the contest for years, sometimes decades, before recording their first win; Greece set the record for the longest wait for a win in the contest with their victory in 2005, 31 years after Greece's first appearance; the following year Finland broke this record and ended a 45-year losing streak. Over a decade later Portugal broke this record once again, recording their first win in 2017 53 years after the country's first participation in the contest.
Many countries have also had to wait many years to win the contest again; Switzerland went 32 years before winning the contest for a second time in 1988; Denmark held a 37-year gap between wins in 1963 and 2000, and the Netherlands waited 44 years to win the contest again in 2019, their most recent win having been in 1975. The current record is held by Austria, which won its second contest in 2014, 48 years after their first win in 1966.
The majority of the winning songs have been performed at the contest in English, particularly since the language rule was abolished in 1999. Since that contest, only five winning songs have been performed either fully or partially in a language other than English.
In winning the contest, the artists and songwriters receive a trophy, which since 2008 has featured a standard design. This trophy is a handmade piece of sandblasted glass with painted details in the shape of a 1950s-style microphone, and was designed by Kjell Engman of the Swedish-based glassworks Kosta Boda. The songwriters and composers of the winning entry receive smaller versions of this trophy.
The trophy is typically presented by the previous year's winner, however other individuals have been called upon in the past to hand out the award, including representatives from the host broadcaster, the EBU, politicians, and even fictional characters, as was the case in 2007 in Helsinki, Finland, when Joulupukki, known internationally as Santa Claus, presented the award to the winner Marija Šerifović. As of 2019, this is the last occasion when the trophy was not presented by the previous year's winner.
Winning artists and songs
Winning performers from the Eurovision Song Contest feature as some of the world's best-selling artists, while a number of the contest's winning songs have gone to become some of the best-selling singles globally. ABBA, the winners of the 1974 contest for Sweden, have sold an estimated 380 million albums and singles since their contest win propelled them to worldwide fame, with their winning song "Waterloo" having sold over five million records. Celine Dion, the French Canadian singer who won for Switzerland in 1988 with "Ne partez pas sans moi", has sold more than 200 million records worldwide. "Save Your Kisses for Me", the winning song at the 1976 contest for the United Kingdom's Brotherhood of Man, is one of the contest's most successful winners, selling over six millions singles, more than any other winning song in the history of the contest. More recently, "Euphoria", performed by Loreen and the winning song for Sweden in 2012, achieved Europe-wide success following the contest, featuring in singles charts across Europe and being counted among the most downloaded Eurovision songs.
Several past winners have gone on to achieve continued success, both locally and internationally: Bucks Fizz, formed especially for the 1981 contest and the eventual winners for the United Kingdom with "Making Your Mind Up", continued to release hit songs through the 1980s; France Gall, the French singer who won for Luxembourg in 1965 as a 17-year-old with the song "Poupée de cire, poupée de son", had a long career and recorded and performed into the 1990s; and Vicky Leandros, the Greek singer who won for Luxembourg in 1972 with "Après toi", continues to record and release albums, particularly in the German language market, including an attempt to represent Germany at the 2006 contest held in Athens. Other winning artists have gone on to contribute to other fields: Dana, Ireland's winner at the 1970 contest with "All Kinds of Everything", went on to serve as a Member of the European Parliament and ran unsuccessfully in two Irish presidential elections.
Several non-winning songs have also gone on to achieve great success: "Nel blu, dipinto di blu", popularly known as "Volare", the third-placed song in the 1958 contest for Italy and originally performed in the contest by Domenico Modugno, has been recorded by various artists over the years, with combined sales of over 22 million copies worldwide; "Eres tú", performed by Spain's Mocedades and runner-up at the 1973 contest, went on to achieve success worldwide, becoming the first Spanish-language song to reach the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States; The Grammy Award-nominated "Ooh Aah... Just a Little Bit", which originally came eighth in the 1996 contest for the United Kingdom, reached #1 on the UK Singles Chart (the last Eurovision song to achieve this as of 2020[update]) and achieved success across Europe and the US, selling 790,000 records and peaking at #12 on the Billboard Hot 100. The video for "Occidentali's Karma" by Francesco Gabbani, the sixth-placed song in the 2017 contest for Italy, became the first Eurovision song to reach more than 200 million views on YouTube, while "Soldi", the runner-up at the 2019 contest, by Italian entrant Mahmood was for a time the most-streamed Eurovision song on Spotify, having subsequently been replaced in this feat by that year's winner "Arcade" by Duncan Laurence following viral success on TikTok in 2020.
Johnny Logan remains the only artist to have won multiple Eurovision titles as a performer, winning the contest for Ireland in 1980 with "What's Another Year", written by Shay Healy, and in 1987 with "Hold Me Now", written by Logan himself. Logan was also the winning songwriter at the 1992 contest when he wrote another Irish winner, "Why Me?" performed by Linda Martin, and has therefore achieved three victories in the contest as either a performer or writer. Four further songwriters have also each written two contest-winning songs: Willy van Hemert, Yves Dessca, Rolf Løvland, and Brendan Graham.
Interval acts and guest appearances
Alongside the song contest the television broadcast regularly features performances from artists and musicians which are not competing in the contest, as well as appearances from local and international personalities. Guest performances were first featured at the contest's first edition, and have become a staple of the live show since the 1960s. Interval performances have varied widely, with music, art, dance, and circus performances having featured in past editions. Past participants of the contest are also regularly invited to perform, and the reigning champion will traditionally return each year to perform the previous year's winning song, as well as sometimes to perform a new song from their repertoire.
The interval act, held after the final competing song has been performed and before the announcement of each country's votes, has become a memorable part of the contest and has featured both internationally known artists and local stars. Contest organisers have previously used these performances as a way to explore their country's culture and history, such as in "4,000 Years of Greek Song", performed at the 2006 contest held in Athens, Greece; other performances have been more comedic in nature, featuring parody and humour, as was the case at the 2016 contest when "Love Love Peace Peace", a humorous ode to the history and spectacle of the contest itself, was performed by the contest's hosts Petra Mede and Måns Zelmerlöw and featured several of the contest's most memorable moments and past winners.
The first public appearance of Riverdance was as the Eurovision Song Contest interval performance at the 1994 contest held in Dublin, Ireland; the seven-minute performance featuring traditional Irish music and dance was later expanded into a full stage show that has since been performed at over 450 venues worldwide and seen by over 25 million people, becoming one of the most successful dance productions in the world and a launchpad for its lead dancers Michael Flatley and Jean Butler. Riverdance was subsequently invited the perform as the interval act at both the contest's 50th and 60th anniversary specials in 2005 and 2015 respectively.
Recent contests have seen a number of world-renowned artists take to the Eurovision stage in non-competitive performances: Danish Europop group Aqua performed a music medley, which included their worldwide hit "Barbie Girl", at the 2001 contest held in Copenhagen, Denmark; Russian duo t.A.T.u., who had previously represented Russia at the contest in 2003, performed their hit song "Not Gonna Get Us" alongside the Alexandrov Ensemble at the 2009 contest in Moscow, Russia; American entertainer Justin Timberlake gave the first televised performance of the Grammy Award-winning "Can't Stop the Feeling!" as part of the interval act at the 2016 contest; and the self-styled "Queen of Pop" Madonna featured at the 2019 contest in Tel Aviv, Israel, in a controversially political performance featuring her songs "Like a Prayer" and "Future". Montreal-based circus company Cirque du Soleil has also performed at the song contest, opening the contest's grand final in 2009. The contest also has featured guest appearances from well-known faces from outside the world of music, including actors, athletes, as well as serving astronauts and cosmonauts.
Guest performances have also previously been used as a channel in response to global events happening concurrently with the contest. The 1999 contest in Jerusalem closed with the contest's presenters inviting all competing acts onto the stage to sing a rendition of the English version of "Hallelujah", the Israeli winning song from 1979, as a tribute to the victims of the ongoing war in the Balkans. In 2016, part of the interval act for the first semi-final featured a dance performance entitled "The Grey People", choreographed by Fredrik Rydman and devoted to the European migrant crisis.
Criticism and controversy
The contest has been the subject of criticism regarding both its musical contest and what some believe to be a political element to the contest, and several controversial moments have been witnessed over the course of its history.
Musical style and presentation
Some criticism has been levied against the musical quality of past competing entries, with a perception that certain music styles seen as being presented more often than others in an attempt to appeal to as many potential voters as possible among the international audience. Power ballads, folk rhythms and bubblegum pop have been considered staples of the contest in recent years, leading to allegations that the contest has become formulaic. Other traits in past competing entries which have regularly been mocked by media and viewers include an abundance of key changes and lyrics about love and/or peace, as well as the pronunciation of English by non-native users of the language. Given Eurovision is principally a television show, over the years many performances have attempted to attract the viewers' attention through means other than music, and elaborate lighting displays, pyrotechnics, and extravagant on-stage theatrics and costumes having become a common sight at recent contests; criticism of these tactics have also been levied as being a method of distracting the viewer from the weak musical quality of some of the competing entries.
Although many of these traits are ridiculed in the media and elsewhere, for some these traits are celebrated and considered an integral part of what makes the contest appealing. Although many of the competing acts each year will fall into some of the categories above, the contest has seen a diverse range of musical styles in its history, including heavy metal, jazz, country, electronic, R&B and hip hop.
As artists and songs ultimately represent a country, the contest has seen several controversial moments where political tensions between competing countries as a result of frozen conflicts and, in some cases open warfare, are reflected in the contest's performances and voting.
The continuing conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan has affected the contest on numerous occasions since both countries begun competing in the late 2000s. In 2009 a number of people in Azerbaijan who voted for the Armenian entry were reportedly questioned by Azeri police. Armenia's entry to the 2015 contest received a name change following claims that it contained a call for recognition of the Armenian Genocide, in contradition to the contest's rules regarding political messaging in competing songs. Controversy erupted again in 2016 when Armenia's Iveta Mukuchyan was shown waving the flag of the Republic of Artsakh, also known as Nagorno-Karabakh, a breakaway state internationally recognised as a part of Azerbaijan but largely inhabited by ethnic Armenians, at the contest's first semi-final. This again contravened Eurovision rules on political gestures and resulted in disciplinary action being levied against Armenian broadcaster ARMTV.
Interactions between Russia and Ukraine in the contest had originally been positive in the first years of co-competition, however as political relations soured between the two countries following the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014 and the prolonged conflict in Eastern Ukraine, so too have relations at Eurovision become more complex. In 2016, Ukraine's Jamala won the contest with the song "1944", whose lyrics referenced the deportation of the Crimean Tatars. Given the recent events in Crimea, many saw this song as a political statement against Russia's actions, however the song was permitted to compete given the perceived historical nature of the song despite protests from the Russia delegation. Calls for a Russian boycott of the 2017 contest in Ukraine were dismissed, however their selected representative for the contest in Kyiv, Yuliya Samoylova, was subsequently banned from entering Ukraine due to having performed in Crimea in 2015 and entering the region illegally according to Ukrainian law, by entering the region directly from Russia rather than going through Ukraine. Offers for Samoylova to compete remotely from a venue in Russia or for a change of artist were rejected by Russia's Channel One, with Russia eventually pulling out of the contest and the EBU reprimanding Ukrainian broadcaster UA:PBC and threatening to exclude Ukraine from future contests.
Georgia's planned entry for the 2009 contest in Moscow, Russia also caused controversy: in the aftermath of the Russo-Georgian War in 2009, Stephane & 3G were selected to compete with the song "We Don't Wanna Put In", however the EBU objected to the lyrics as they appeared to criticise Russian leader Vladimir Putin. Requests by the contest's organisers for the lyrics of the song to be changed were refused by the group, and Georgian broadcaster GPB subsequenty withdrew from the event. A number of boycotts of the same event were considered by the Baltic states over Russia's actions in Georgia, however none eventually occurred, with Estonian broadcaster ERR hosting a poll on its website to gauge public opinion on competing in Russia.
Israel's participation in the contest has resulted in several controversial moments in the past. The country's first appearance in 1973, less than a year after the Munich massacre, saw an increased security presence at the contest's venue in Luxembourg City, with armed guards stationed at the venue and the audience in attendance warned not to stand during the show at risk of being shot. Israel's first win in 1978 proved controversial for the many Arab nations broadcasting the contest which did not recognise Israel; typically these broadcasters would cut to advertisements when Israel performed in the contest, however when it became apparent Israel would win, the broadcast in many of these countries was cut short before the end of the voting. In one widely reported moment, Jordan's JRTV concluded its transmission with an image of daffodils and later announced that Belgium, the eventual runner-up, had won instead Israel's participation in the contest has precluded many Arab states which are eligible to compete from doing so; Morocco remains the only Arab nation to have entered Eurovision, competing for the first, and as of 2021[update] the only time, in 1980, when Israel withdrew due to the contest being held on the same night as Yom HaZikaron.[a] Other Arab states have attempted to compete in past editions, but entries from Tunisia in 1977 and Lebanon in 2005 eventually failed to materialise.
Most recently Israeli participation has been criticised by those who oppose current government policies in the state. The 2019 contest held in Tel Aviv resulted in calls for a boycott of the event by various political groups, including proponents of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement in response to the country's policies towards Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, as well as groups which opposed what some see as Israeli "pinkwashing". Many other groups campaigned against a boycott of the event, asserting that any cultural boycott would be antithetical to advancing peace in the region.
"Political" and geographical voting
The contest has been accused of what has been described as "political voting": a perception that countries will give votes more frequently and in higher quantities to other countries based on political relationships, rather than the musical merits of the songs themselves. Numerous studies and academic papers have been written on the subject, which have corroborated evidence that certain countries tend to form "clusters" or "cliques" by frequently voting in the same way; one study concludes that voting blocs can play a crucial role in deciding the winner of the contest, with evidence that on at least two occasions bloc voting was a pivotal factor in the vote for the winning song. Other views on these "blocs" argue that certain countries will allocate disproportionately high points to others based on similar musical tastes, shared cultural links and a high degree of similarity and, in some cases, mutual intelligibility between languages, and are therefore more likely to appreciate and vote for the competing songs from these countries based on these factors, rather than political relationships specifically. Analysis on other voting patterns have revealed examples in some countries which indicate voting preferences based on shared religion, as well as a so-called "patriotic vote", particularly since the introduction of televoting in 1997, where large groups of foreign nationals in other countries are seen voting for their country of origin en masse.
Voting patterns in the contest have been reported by news publishers, including The Economist and BBC News. Criticism of the voting system was at its highest in the mid-2000s, and the apparent voting biases resulted in a number of calls for countries to boycott the contest, particularly following the 2007 contest where Eastern European countries occupied the top 15 places in the final and dominated the qualifying spaces. This apparent snub of the entries from more traditional Eurovision countries had even featured in debates in European national parliaments. The apparent political nature of the voting was cited as among the reasons for the resignation of Terry Wogan as commentator for the UK, a role he had performed at every contest from 1980.
With the introduction of a second semi-final in 2008 the EBU introduced a system which splits countries between the two semi-finals as a direct result of some of the aspects of bloc voting. Based on research into televoting patterns in previous contests, countries are placed into pots with other countries that share similar voting histories, and a random draw distributes the countries in each pot across the two semi-finals, meaning that countries which traditionally award points to each other are separated. The 2008 and 2009 contests also featured one of the qualifying countries in each semi-final being decided by the back-up juries, which in theory would be less susceptible to the kinds of bloc voting seen in the public vote. From 2009, juries of music professionals have been given a 50% stake in the result of each country's vote, an initiative which has been welcomed by some as a means of diminishing the effects of voting patterns while maintaining involvement of the viewing public in the decision.
The contest has had a long-held fan base in the LGBT community, and Eurovision organisers have actively worked to include these fans in the contest since the 1990s. Paul Oscar became the contest's first openly gay artist when he represented Iceland at the 1997 contest, and Israel's Dana International, the contest's first trans performer, became the first LGBT+ artist to win the contest in 1998. Dana International's selection for the 1998 contest in Birmingham was marked by objections and death threats from orthodox religious sections of Israeli society, and at the contest her accommodation was reportedly in the only hotel in Birmingham with bulletproof windows. Several open members of the LGBT+ community have since gone on to compete and win the contest: Conchita Wurst, the drag persona of openly gay Thomas Neuwirth, won the 2014 contest for Austria; and openly bisexual performer Duncan Laurence was the winner of the 2019 contest for the Netherlands. Marija Šerifović, who won the 2007 contest for Serbia, subsequently came out publicly as a lesbian in 2013.
Past competing songs and performances have included references and allusions to same-sex relationships. One of the contest's earliest winning songs, Luxembourg's 1961 winner "Nous les amoureux", was confirmed by its performer Jean-Claude Pascal as containing references to a homosexual relationship and the difficulties faced by the pair, considered controversial during the early 1960s when in many European countries homosexual relations were still criminalised. Krista Siegfrids' performance of "Marry Me" at the 2013 contest featured a same-sex kiss with one of her female backing dancers, and Ireland's stage show of Ryan O'Shaughnessy's "Together" in 2018 featured two male dancers portraying a same-sex relationship. Several drag performances have featured in Eurovision performances, including Austria's Conchita Wurst, Ukraine's Verka Serduchka, and Slovenia's Sestre; the latter's selection sparked protests and debate on LGBT rights in Slovenia at the time and resulted in concerns raised at the European Parliament ahead of Slovenia's upcoming accession to the European Union.
In more recent years, various political ideologies across Europe have clashed in the Eurovision setting, particularly on LGBT rights. Turkey, once a regular participant in the contest and a one-time winner, first pulled out of the contest in 2013, citing dissatisfaction in the voting rules; more recently when asked about returning to the contest Turkish broadcaster TRT have cited LGBT performances as another reason for their continued boycott. After initially planning on airing the 2013 contest, TRT eventually pulled its broadcast of the event in response to Krista Siegfrids's same-sex kiss. It has also been reported that LGBT visibility in the contest was also a deciding factor when Hungary chose not to enter the 2020 contest amid a rise in anti-LGBT sentiment in the Hungarian government of Viktor Orbán, although no official reason has been given by the Hungarian broadcaster MTVA.
Following the introduction of a "gay propaganda" law in Russia in 2013, as well as developments in Ukraine, the 2014 contest saw a marked increase in booing from the audience, particularly during the Russian performance and during the voting when Russia received points. Conchita Wurst's win in the contest was also met with criticism on the Russian political stage, with several conservative politicians voicing displeasure in the result. In response to the booing, the producers of the 2015 contest installed "anti-booing technology" for the broadcast, and the contest's presenters repeatedly called on the audience not to boo; the Russian participant, Polina Gagarina, was interviewed by Conchita in the green room during a break in the voting, and attracted criticism from Russian conservatives when she posted a backstage video to social media of herself hugging Conchita.
Clashes on LGBT visibility in the contest have also occurred in countries which do not compete in the contest. Eurovision had been broadcast in China for several years, however in 2018, the rights held by Mango TV were terminated during the 2018 contest. The live broadcast of the first semi-final featured censorship by Mango TV of Ireland's Ryan O'Shaughnessy, whose performance reportedly went against Chinese guidelines that prohibit "abnormal sexual relationships and behaviours" due to the same-sex dancing, as well as Albania's Eugent Bushpepa due to the open display of tattoos, which broke guidelines around the featuring so-called "sub-cultures" and "dispirited cultures". As a result of the termination, the Chinese broadcaster was unable to broadcast the second semi-final or the grand final of the 2018 contest or any future contests.
The Eurovision Song Contest has amassed a global following and sees annual audience figures of between 100 million and 600 million. The contest has become a cultural influence worldwide since its first years, is regularly described as having kitsch appeal, and has featured as a topic of parody in television sketches and in stage performances that have featured at the Edinburgh Fringe and Melbourne Comedy festivals among others. Several films have also been created which celebrate the contest, including Eytan Fox's 2013 Israeli comedy Cupcakes, and the Netflix 2020 musical comedy, Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga, produced with backing from the contest organisers and starring Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams.
The contest has a large online following and multiple independent websites, news blogs and fan clubs are dedicated to the contest. One of the oldest and largest Eurovision fan clubs is OGAE, founded in 1984 in Finland and currently a network of over 40 national branches across the world. National branches regularly host events to promote and celebrate Eurovision, and several participating broadcasters work closely with these branches when preparing their entries.
In the run-up to each year's contest, several countries regularly host smaller events between the conclusion of the national selection shows in March and the contest proper in May. These events typically feature the artists which will go on to compete at that year's contest, and consist of performances at a venue and "meet and greets" with fans and the press. "Eurovision in Concert", held annually in Amsterdam, was one of the first of these events to be created, holding its first event in 2008. Other events held regularly include the "London Eurovision Party", the "ESPreParty" in Madrid, and the "Eurovision PreParty" in Riga. Community events have also been held virtually, particularly since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. #EurovisionAgain, an initiative where fans watched old contests in sync via YouTube and contributed to discussions via Twitter started during the first COVID-19 lockdowns and subsequently became a top trend on Twitter across Europe, soon catching the attention of Eurovision organisers who began to broadcast the contests through their official YouTube channel. Through the EBU, the initiative was able to secure the rights to show several older editions of the contest for the first time on their YouTube channel, and over £20,000 was raised for UK based LGBTQ+ charities during the initial run of the event.
Anniversary shows and special events
The EBU has organised several special gala events in cooperation with member broadcasters to mark important anniversaries in the contest's history. Individual broadcasters have in the past also commissioned special broadcasts for audiences in their own countries.
Songs of Europe
Songs of Europe was an event held to celebrate the contest's twenty-fifth anniversary, held during the summer of 1981 in Mysen, Norway, as part of Momarkedet, an annual charity concert held at Mysen's Momarken racecourse and organised by the Mysen Red Cross. Songs of Europe was organised by the Norwegian host broadcaster NRK and broadcast through the Eurovision network, and featured live performances and video recordings of all Eurovision Song Contest winners up to 1981.
Congratulations: 50 Years of the Eurovision Song Contest
Congratulations: 50 Years of the Eurovision Song Contest was a television programme broadcast on 22 October 2005, organised by the EBU and produced by Danish broadcaster DR. Held at the Forum Copenhagen in Frederiksberg, Copenhagen, Denmark and hosted by former Eurovision contestants Katrina Leskanich and Renārs Kaupers, 14 songs from the contest's first 50 years, chosen by Eurovision fans through an online vote and by the contest's Reference Group, took part in a competition to determine the most popular song in the contest's history. Alongside the competition, the programme also featured highlights from Eurovision Song Contest history, special performances from former participants, and video medleys from past contests.
Broadcast live to 31 countries which had taken part in the Eurovision Song Contest up to 2005, the winner was crowned by the combined votes of juries and the viewing public through televoting over two rounds: in the first round, the number of competing songs was reduced to five, with each country giving points to their top 10 songs through the standard Eurovision voting system; in the second round, the winner was declared following a second round of voting, where only six points and above were given out. The winning song, announced at the end of the show, was "Waterloo" by ABBA, the winning song from the 1974 contest for Sweden.
Eurovision Song Contest's Greatest Hits
Eurovision Song Contest's Greatest Hits was a concert celebrating the sixtieth anniversary, held at the Eventim Apollo in Hammersmith, London, United Kingdom on 31 March 2015 and hosted by Graham Norton and Petra Mede. Organised by the EBU and produced by the British broadcaster BBC, the event was recorded and broadcast by over 20 Eurovision participating countries between April and May in the run-up to the Eurovision Song Contest 2015.
The non-competitive concert featured 15 past Eurovision artists from 13 countries performing songs from the history of the contest, with video montages of several other Eurovision songs and behind-the-scenes footage of historical contests featuring in addition to the on-stage performances.
Eurovision: Europe Shine a Light
Eurovision: Europe Shine a Light was a live television programme held on 16 May 2020, organised by the EBU and produced by the Dutch broadcasters NOS, NPO and AVROTROS. Broadcast from Studio 21 of Media Park in Hilversum, Netherlands, the programme was held as a replacement to the 2020 contest, originally planned to be held at the Rotterdam Ahoy in Rotterdam on the same date, but cancelled in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The programme provided a showcase for the 41 songs which would have competed at the 2020 contest in a non-competitive format, and was hosted by Chantal Janzen, Edsilia Rombley and Jan Smit, with Nikkie de Jager providing online content. The two-hour long show also included appearances from past Eurovision artists via live video linkups and through pre-recorded footage, including a live performance on-location by the most recent winner Duncan Laurence. In the final performance of the evening the artists of Eurovision 2020 came together as a virtual choir to perform "Love Shine a Light", the winning song of the 1997 contest for the United Kingdom.
As a result of the contest's popularity, a number of spin-offs and imitators have been developed over the years, on both a national and international level. The European Broadcasting Union has organised a number of related contests which focus on other aspects of music and culture, as part of their "Eurovision Live Events" brand.
Eurovision Young Dancers
First held in 1985, Eurovision Young Dancers is a dance competition for non-professional performers between the ages of 16 and 21. Dancers perform as part of a couple or solo, performing one or more pre-prepared dance performances, with a jury panel representing the elements of ballet, contemporary, and modern dance styles giving a score based on their performance.
15 contests have taken place as of 2020[update] and a total of 36 countries have taken part on at least one occasion. The most recent contest was held in 2017, hosted in Prague, Czech Republic and organised by Czech broadcaster Česká televize (ČT).
Eurovision Young Musicians
Eurovision Young Musicians is a classical music competition for European musicians between the ages of 12 and 21, first held in 1982. Musicians perform pieces of classical music of their choice, usually accompanied by the local orchestra of the host broadcast but previously also solo or with piano accompaniment, and a jury panel of individuals from the world of classical music score the musicians based on technical accuracy, quality of sound, interpretation and performance.
19 contests have been held in its history, with 43 countries having taken part at least once. The most recent contest was held in 2018 in Edinburgh, United Kingdom; the 2020 contest, which was scheduled to be held in Zagreb, Croatia in June 2020, has been indefinitely postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Junior Eurovision Song Contest
The Junior Eurovision Song Contest is considered the Eurovision Song Contest's "little brother", with singers aged between 9 and 14 representing primarily European countries. Based upon the Scandinavian contest MGP Nordic, the EBU has organised this international song contest since 2003, typically held in November or December and following many of the same rules as the adult contest: each participating broadcaster sends an original song of no more than three minutes in length to be performed by a chosen singer/group, with no more than six people on stage. The winning song is then decided by national juries and the viewing public through internet voting.
In all, 18 contests have been organised since its first broadcast, with 40 countries having competed at least once. The most recent contest was in 2020, held in Warsaw, Poland and organised by Polish broadcaster Telewizja Polska (TVP). The most recent winner of the junior contest has typically featured in a segment during the following year's adult contest, and several former artists have gone on to compete at the adult contest.
Eurovision Choir is a biennial choral competition for non-professional European choirs produced in partnership between the EBU and Interkultur and modelled after the World Choir Games. First held in 2017 and held as part of the European Choir Games, the contest sees choirs perform an unaccompanied choral set, with a three-member jury panel determining a winner. Two contests have been held, the latest taking place in 2019 in Gothenburg, Sweden and produced by Swedish broadcaster Sveriges Television (SVT).
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