Not since 2011 has the UK entry finished in the top half of the Grand Final (the proverbial left hand side of the table) with Blue’s ‘I Can’. The last five results read 24-24-15-24-26. With BMG’s help, so the fan theory goes, that’s all going to change in Rotterdam.
Before you start singing something better than “It’s coming home” and booking hotels around the Harrogate International Centre, let’s take a breath and look at the situation with some words of caution.
Where Is Harroaget? (EBU/BBC)
Say Wonderful Things
First up, words are important, so let’s take a closer read at the press release not for what it says, but what it doesn’t say:
Following a process in which BBC Studios approached a number of record labels to pitch ideas for 2020, it was clear that BMG shared the BBC and BBC Studios’ vision of selecting a song with broad international appeal and securing an artist who embodies the spirit and values of the Eurovision Song Contest.
BBC Studios will be working alongside BMG’s UK music publishing and frontline recordings team based in London to select the United Kingdom’s Eurovision 2020 entry which will then be released and published by BMG.
Everything is focused on the selection process. There is nothing that confirms that BMG will be heavily involved after the process of song selection. The natural assumption is that the act’s record label would be actively involved in the journey to the Ahoy, but the question is by how much? It could swing from doing little more than a minimal publication by uploading the track to digital services (and signs over the required rights to Universal for the Eurovision album), right up to a multi-million pound promotional campaign across the voting countries.
Knock, Knock, Who’s There
BMG has rather a lot of artists signed to it, and many more under consideration. The press release may mention acts such as Lewis Capaldi, George Ezra, Kylie Minogue, and Mans Zelmerlow, but I suspect that BMG are not going to offer up a big name to the BBC. A big name would be unlikely to risk the productive part of their career to disappear for six months into the Eurovision world, as discussed previously on ESC Insight:
Ultimately every performer who enters Eurovision will lose, apart from the single winner from the Grand Final (and then they have a short window to capitalise on that success). As of January 31st , I’ve been able to confirm 8,427 acts who have submitted a song to a national broadcaster. All of them must dream of taking to the stage in Copenhagen and winning the Contest, and all of them must know that’s an incredibly long shot. Losing at Eurovision is as close to being guaranteed as being a certainty.
It’s more likely that names further down the list are going to be put up for a National Final (presuming there is a National Final, although as we went to press BBC News was reporting this would be an internal selection). We’re more likely to get acts of the calibre of Maid, Goldstone, and Darline than Little Mix, HAIM, or First Aid Kit.
Presumably whoever wins through the selection process will need to sign a contract with the BBC to represent the United Kingdom at the Song Contest, and it’s going to be a similar contract to previous years. In which case let’s remind ourselves of Surie’s thoughts on the restrictions:
Despite not being a BBC employee, SuRie has also been obliged to adhere to the corporation’s impartiality rules while competing. “I’m allowed no political opinions, but there are a lot of political questions at Eurovision, and I have to stay completely neutral,” she says. “I can’t give opinions as it doesn’t align with the BBC way.”
From what we can see today, BMG’s participation does not enhance the argument for an established act to represent the United Kingdom at the Eurovision Song Contest. Do you think that this collaboration between the BBC and BMG will improve the standing of the Song Contest in the mainstream press? Will The Sun suddenly be happy to support something European because a record label is involved? Will it open up new avenues for artists to help develop their career beyond the televised show?
SuRie, BBC You Decide 2018 (image: BBC/Joel Anderson)
In the profile, Surie also subtly brought up the issues around budgets:
Back in London, I’d brought up the financials of representing Great Britain with SuRie, having assumed there would be a substantial contract and pay package given the workload she has to take on. “I get a one-off fee for the show itself, but that’s it,” she’d told me bluntly. “I just need to survive. If I had a waitressing job they’d have said, ‘Keep your shifts and we’ll work around it.'”
The BBC is funded by the public and is limited in what it can spend its money on. It has money to put on the Song Contest (and a reserve fund for big ‘surprise’ events each year such as royal weddings, general elections, and hosting the Contest if it were to win). It is allowed to spend a sensible amount of money promoting its own shows to a UK audience, but the BBC can’t justify promoting a privately owned song to a German audience.
If this new collaboration is going to have a significant impact on the UK’s final result, BMG is going to need to spend money. Lots of money. Lots of its own money. It’s going to have to promote the Song Contest entry hard. I suspect the last time that that happened with a UK entry was in 2009 with Andrew Lloyd Webber and Jade Ewen’s ‘It’s My Time’, which was the last Top Ten entry for the UK.
Love Enough For Two
I can see all of these problems, yet my heart is still a-flutter. This is, after all, the Eurovision Song Contest, and I want every country to deliver the best possible entry into the competitive side of the event – even if it is at its very heart just a big flashy TV show with lots of pyro and not enough guitars.
Collaboration is a good thing. The BBC know the TV and Radio landscape. In the UK the Song Contest is a huge ratings winner, capturing the top slot in that week’s ratings and one of the few TV broadcasts that everyone in the country watches live. The BBC instinctively knows how to promote TV shows to get the UK public watching. The BBC does not instinctively know how to create a hit song.
If the staff in the BBC knew music as well as they knew TV, well, …they’d be working at companies like BMG. So connecting TV expertise with music expertise for me is one of the key value exchanges in today’s news.
This will require commitment and trust on both sides. The best way for this to work, in my opinion, is that the BBC focuses solely on putting on the TV show, and leaves every musical and artistic choice to BMG. If I had just one question to ask about all of this, it would be simple. Who is at the top of the chain of command of the UK entry to the Eurovision Song Contest in 2020. Not the televised show, but the three minutes on stage. Does the ultimate power belong to BMG or with the BBC? When there is a conflict of vision regards the music, the staging, the video, or the promotion of the song, who makes the final call?
Looking High, High, High
The mark of a good organisation is working out where your weaknesses are, and finding a way to address them. A collaboration between the BBC and BMG for the Eurovision Song Contest in 2020 is a good start, although it would be remiss to not point out that other broadcasters have similar and stronger relationships with music companies.
The UK now has a renewed approach, there is a wider pool of music to find 2020s Song For Europe, and with new voices in the team that means different choices can be taken with the UK’s entry to find success.
Eurovision: You Decide has been scrapped. The broadcaster BBC will team up with record company BMG to hopefully find the winning formula to bring success back to the United Kingdom at the Eurovision Song Contest. Is this a step in the right direction for the U.K?
It’s been 22 years since the United Kingdom has lifted the Eurovision trophy and in recent years the nation has experienced pretty dismal results at the contest. Last year was no exception when this year’s entry Michael Rice finished in a disappointing last place with his entry Bigger Than Us. In a shock move the BBC has decided to scrap the selection show Eurovision: You Decide and opt for an internal selection with the help of record company BMG.
BMG has had some impressive artsits on their books including Kylie Minogue, Lewis Capaldi and Mabel. It is hoped that BMG will bring fresh ideas to the BBC Eurovision camp.
“Our commitment to finding the right song has never been higher and this collaboration with BMG, who have access to world class songwriters, is a genuinely exciting prospect and I am certain that together we can find the best song and artist possible for 2020.” Kate Phillips, BBC controller of entertainment commissioning
You can remind yourself of this year’s entry for the United Kingdom by watching our video of Michael Rice performing Bigger Than Us at Eurovision in concert.
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ESC Armchair’s Ann Squires is next at the customs desk as Ellie Chalkley works through another collection of Eurovision songs and memories as see prepares to visit Île de Bezençon.
Eurovision Castaways with Ann Squires
Podcaster, educator and long time home-based contest appreciator Ann Squires of ESC Armchair and the Keep Dancing Podcast talks lost rave classics, the joy of niche linguistics, and keeping Georgia weird.
The momentum is building up around the latest season, so keep listening to the ESC Insight podcast to stay up to date with Eurovision, Junior Eurovision, and all the National Finals. You’ll find the show in iTunes, and a direct RSS feed is also available. We also have a regular email newsletter which you can sign up to here.
Vlado Kalember and Srebrna Krila, who previously represented Yugoslavia in the Eurovision Song Contest, are back together as they this summer launched a new song. Last Friday, they also released the video for the song which recalls the memories of young days.
66-years-old Vlado Kalember took part at 1984 Eurovision Song Contest held in Luxembourg. Together with Izolda Barudžija he performed the song Ciao Amore, which finished 18th in the final.
Srebrna Krila (Silver Wings) participated at 1988 contest in Dublin. Their song Mangup came 6th. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s the band went through a series of different incarnations. When their founder, Mustafa Ismailovski Muc, died back in 2000, Srebrna Krila disappeared from the Croatian music scene.
Vlado Kalember and Srebrna Krila have always had a special connection as Vlado was the lead singer when the band was created in 1978. However, Vlado left the band 8 years later as he started his solo career.
Srebrna Krila and Vlado reunited in 2012, when they played a number of concerts in the former Yugoslav republics. Since then they have released two singles: Još Da Mi Te Jednom Ljubit (2017) and Opušteno (2018).
The new song Je Li Ti Žao Zbog Nas, which translates to Are You Sorry For Us, is a very emotional ballad – a look back on those days when we were young. With his recognizable, crispy voice Vlado is reflecting on the early days of childhood with sadness – like he wants to turn back time – as he describes it to the best period in his life.
Je Li Ti Žao Zbog Nas was written by Neno Ninčević, while Vlado Kalember composed the song. Ninčević has earlier been part of the Eurovision circuit as he co-wroted Croatian Eurovision entry Kada Zaspu Anđeli back in 2000.
In the link below, you can watch Vlado Kalember’s and Srebrna Krila’s latest video:
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The summer is over! The unofficial start of the Eurovision Song Contest 2020 year gets a nod from the EBU and the Dutch organisers with the announcement of the host city timed for the new season.
Eurovision Insight News Podcast: Ahoy Rotterdam!
As the Eurovision Song Contest says ‘Happy New Year”, lets round up the latest news, dates, thoughts, and our first National Final name for Rotterdam 2020. Ewan Spence and the ESC Insight team cover the latest news from the world of the Eurovision Song Contest.
As the season gets under way, stay up to date with all the Song Contest news by listening to the ESC Insight podcast. You’ll find the show in iTunes, Google Podcasts, and Spotify. A direct RSS feed is available. We also have a regular email newsletter which you can sign up to here.