Our second summer of trips to the mysterious Île de Bezençon continues, where the time is always May, where the sun is always shining, and for thematic reasons you can only bring along eight Eurovision songs and a Song Contest luxury.
Eurovision Insight Podcast: Eurovision Castaways with Dave Goodman
We’re opening up Île de Bezençon for the summer, and inviting our favourite Eurovision people to bring their best loved Eurovision related songs and stories. Our next guest for the summer of 2018 is the EBU’s Dave Goodman with a treasure trove of synths, divas and barrellful of anecdotes.
Keep listening to the ESC Insight podcast as we face the summer months between season. 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.
The Eurovision Song Contest… it’s like the World Cup of music (or the Superbowl of Song, for our American readers wondering why soccer has suddenly become the most important sport on the sports channels). And there’s a lot of similarity between the two events – fans from numerous nations descending on the hosts, intra-country rivalries and politics on show, and a sea of flags filling the arenas.
But the World Cup is a heck of a lot larger than the Song Contest. What should the EBU be looking at from FIFA’s little event? At the highest level, it’s about connecting to the audience. And here, the Song Contest has the edge, because much as FIFA wants to say it is football that connects the world, it’s really music.
Me And Me Mum And Me Dad And Me Gran
If there’s one thing that has powered England fans through the last month, it’s been the music and it’s not difficult to understand why. Trying to bond over a specific goal or describe a moment between fans is not an easy thing to do – the closest you could probably get is either Kenneth Wolstenholme’s “they think its all over… it is now!” in the 1966 Word Cup Final, or Bjørge Lillelien’s “Your boys took a hell of a beating” in the 1982 World Cup Qualifying round.
The emotional connection comes through the songs that are associated with the World Cup. The anthems that were put together to show support for the teams back in the seventies, eighties, and nineties that were taken onto the terraces, and the musical anthems that can be used as a shorthand for emotions and experiences are everywhere.
If the Eurovision Song Contest wants to take just one simple lesson away from the World Cup it is this. If you capture emotion, you capture the hearts and minds of everyone involved…. and music is emotion. There’s no formula for the right football song (although ‘Vindaloo’s’ mess of almost non sequiturs and Na-na-na rhythmic chanting gets awfully close), neither is there one for winning the Song Contest. But the best songs tap into feeling.
Perhaps the lyrics of ‘Three Lions’ are a bit more forward and brash in their intentions compared to the sublet emotions of ‘Amar Pelois Dois’, but the connection is there.
Did You Know The Football Was On?
You know what FIFA is good at? Promotion. Everyone knows that the World Cup has been on, companies want to be involved either directly through promotion or subtle versions of guerrilla marketing that implies a connection to ‘football’ without any mention of FIFA’s event. Apple’s latest series of videos about editing video on the iPad in its ‘Berlengas Island Cup 2018’ promotional video is a key example.
With the best will in the world, The Eurovision Song Contest does not have that sort of support. Combined viewership numbers from around the world are great for PR purposes, but it’s hard to draw direct comparisons. Going for a smaller subset gives a much better idea of the difference in engagement.
UK broadcaster ITV saw a peak of 26.6 million viewers for the England vs Croatia Semi Final, and an 84 percent share of the viewers watching. Compare that to the 2018 Eurovision Song Contest in the UK, which had a peak of 8.1 million viewers and a share of around thirty percent. Ninety minutes of football is three times more popular than a well-crafted three minute pop song on a single night.
But its more than one night. The Song Contest is a long way behind the World Cup in terms of saturation coverage and the ability to dominate the news cycle for a month, but in the window of the Contest’s Semi-Finals and Grand Final the modern dynamics of news and social media does give Eurovision a strong foothold in the cycle.
Events in the host city do contribute to ‘Eurovision week’ but outside of the host city and the host broadcaster, what else is there for everyone who will be watching on the Saturday night?
The host broadcaster has an important part to play but the logistics of the modern Contest stretch the resources of a public broadcaster. If The Eurovision Song Contest is to step up to the next level and become more than ‘one night of event television’ (and I’m assuming that one achievable goal is to get a week of coverage around the world), then the challenge is for the EBU, its members, and the partner organisations that work on the Song Contest is to take that existing love of the Contest and work out how to build on it.
How Do You Get To Saturday Night?
There are a multitude of reasons for Eurovision’s ‘Big Five’ to be given an automatic place in Saturday night’s Grand Final – which are beyond the scope of this article – and of course the hosts are also allowed to skip the Semi Finals. That leaves 20 slots to fill from the Eurovision Semi Finals, and I’d argue that selecting the countries for the Saturday night means the Song Contest Semi Finals are more like the qualifying rounds for the World Cup. And here things could get very interesting.
A quick recap on the two formats…
All the countries that enter the Eurovision Song Contest (minus the Big Five and that year’s hosts) are placed into six pots, before being drawn into two Semi Finals. The pots ensure a spread of counties that have exhibited cultural diaspora over the years, and is the method of choice to reduce neighbourly voting that skew results away from quality and towards geography.
All the countries that enter the World Cup submit entries to their FIFA Confederations (of which there are six). Each Confederation is awarded a number of entries to the Finals, and organises an intra-member competition to fill these slots. Some go with a league based approach, some go with a knockout.
This is complicated by some Confederations having half a slot, resulting in Inter-Confederation games to decide on these half slots (so the Oceanic Confederation saw New Zealand play the CONMEBOL’s Peru for a slot in the World Cup Finals).
The EBU should not be afraid to experiment with the Eurovision Song Contest. It has to evolve and change to meet the challenges of the current broadcast environment. We don’t sit around as an invited audience in tuxedos and evening gowns in respectful silences, we don’t have an orchestra being forced to recreate the sound of ‘Midnight Gold’, and we no longer rely on juries to determine the winner.
Things have to evolve to stay fresh, and the Eurovision Song Contest should not recoil from change.
One thing that the World Cup organisers focus on is bringing a diverse mix of countries from around the world to play football… not necessarily the best 24 teams in the world at that time (after all, Chile are in the Top Ten world rankings, but were not in Russia). Should one goal of the EBU be to present a representative mix of countries on the Eurovision stage on Saturday night?
Arguably the ‘six pot’ system that splits up the Semi Finals guarantees a good mix of geography on show during the current Tuesday and Thursday night shows, but it still leaves a question mark over the composition of the Saturday night show with entire regions potentially not taking to the stage (which also has an impact on the scoring as cultural norms for a region can be focused on a single song or diluted over many).
Could the idea of the World Cup group stage be taken and tweaked for the Song Contest? Instead of six pots for the Semi Final allocation, we could have four groups of roughly seven countries, with the top five in each group winning qualification to Saturday night.
This shakes up the Semi Final format, offers a broader mix of countries for Saturday night, and allows some interesting decisions to be made. The pots are currently based on historical voting patterns, which is broadly speaking down to geography. This could be one way to create the ‘Semi Final groups. You could commit completely to geographical selections, to the already used voting patterns, or look at previous Saturday night qualification records to ‘seed’ the groups to have either a mix of quality in each group, or group together countries with weaker qualifying records.
Having two ‘Qualification Contests’ taking place during each Semi Final night would be a huge break in format, but it could be the refresh that the mid-week shows need. It creates a new dynamic in the competition, it offers more ‘peaks’ of excitement with two Contest results to be declared, and it allows the Semi Final shows to be a more unique experience, rather than a carbon copy of the Grand Final.
Do We Need More Saturday Night Action?
The World Cup is played over 64 matches, while Eurovision is played out over three matches. For the Football that means a month of coverage potential once it starts, more stories to tell to the public, more opinion columns and engagement in the mainstream, and the ebb and flow of competition.
How can the Eurovision Song Contest achieve a similar impact if it is compressed in an incredibly short timescale of five days of public attention over three shows?
Given the viewing figures of the Song Contest, focusing on the single Saturday night show is the safest option. This is a show that delivers a significant increase in viewership for the EBU’s broadcast partners, creates one of the biggest musical showcases in the world, and offers countless opportunities for EBU members to share knowledge and learn from others.
What would happen if it changed from two mid-week shows followed by one Saturday night, to three Saturday night shows?
Yes there would be more logistical challenges, there would be more time needed ‘on the ground’ and there would be extra costs involved – discussion with the EBU’s own members is critical to work through the impact on financial and technical resources – but three spectacular Saturday night with increased viewing figures and engagement is surely worth examining?
What’s On The Screen?
Play football for ninety minutes, show it on TV around the world. Sing a lot of three minute songs with thirty second postcards (which is ninety one minutes), show it on TV around the world. Again, the parallels are fun. The trick is to make it exciting to the viewers at home, and to continue to look at new ways of doing old things.
It’s great to see both organisations looking at ways of improving the presentation. The recent change in splitting the jury vote and the televote into two sections has kept the traditional ‘douze points’ in the script but also creates a level of tension that can rival moments in reality TV if your hosts can build up the sense of occasion.
Melodifestivalen 2013 Voting (image: SVT Direkt)
FIFA is also looking at some presentational changes – there’s not much you can do in the ninety minutes or extra time, but switching the penalty shoot out from ‘turn about’ (the ABAB system) to something closer to tennis where teams exchange the right to ‘kick first’ in a pair of penalties reduces the advantage of going first, and allows the system to be called ABBA.
But FIFA did introduce VAR to the World Cup this year – the Video Assistant Referee. This allowed a team of referees to analyse certain plays to confirm if any rules had been broken, or to alert the on-pitch referee that they might want to look at something again to see if anything had been mixed. In general VAR has been a success in reducing bad calls on the pitch.
Watching over the Contest (image: Ewan Spence)
Maybe it’s time for Eurovision to consider its own version of VAR? Obviously in extreme circumstances the EBU will offer acts the chance to perform once more for the public (an option some countries have taken up recently, and others have not), but I’m looking more towards the Jury than the public. Currently the jury members all watch the ‘backup tape’ as it is recorded during the second all-up dress rehearsals of the Semi Finals and Grand Final. No commentary, no explanations, once through.
Isn’t it right that the jurors are officially given the chance to watch the performances more than once? The EBU has already passed the point of the jurors voting on a different performance, so why not give them the scope to examine performances more than once to come to a conclusion. The built in recaps are not enough if they do not capture the key moment of a song or the point where stagecraft is to be closely examined, a jury note listened, or choreography is to be timed.
Why is the World Cup as big as it is? Partly because of Football’s place in the world, but also because FIFA decided to make it the biggest event in the world, took every opportunity to ‘big up the cup’. The World Cup has taken the sporting element and made it more entertaining, more engaging, and more mainstream.
The Eurovision Song Contest can do the same. It starts from a point of entertainment, but by building up the competitive side of the Song Contest and increasing the engagement and opportunity it offers, it can aim to deliver more value to the EBU’s members, to the musicians who take part, and to the cultural impact it can offer.
Wyn Hoop. A very successful European basketball player, a kind of Lebron James? Nope. Known to his mother as Winfried Lüssenhop, Wyn Hoop represented Germany – or more accurately West Germany – in 1960 with the song ‘Bonne Nuit, Ma Cherie’.
Wait a cotton-picking moment, isn’t that French? Indeed it is, a French title for a German language song. It might have been early in the Song Contest’s development, but delegations were still trying to maximise their votes from the jury.
Did it work?
Well, his 11 points meant fourth place for Hoop. So he did really well. The song was a stately lullaby interspersed with trumpet and brass from the Orchestra. At over four minutes minutes, it was one of the longer songs in Eurovision – there was no three-minute rule back then – and lyrically Wyn tells his lover that that he will never forget her whilst she is asleep.
How Did He Get To London?
I presume you don’t mean by ferry. Actually, it was a bit of a shock when Hoop won in Wiesbaden. The clear favourite to win the pre-selection was Heidi Bruhl, who ended up finishing second. However, Heidi had a massive chart success with her song, ‘Wir woollen niemals auseinander geh’n’, reaching Number 1 in the German charts in May 1960, staying there for seven weeks, ending up going Gold, and rated the fifth biggest seller of the year. Bruhl herself went on to represent West Germany on the Eurovision stage in 1963.
For Hoop, the jury voted in his favour, preferring the song written by Franz Josef Breuer and Kurt Schwabach to the other nine songs in the pre-selection.
A Bit Of An Unknown Then?
Well he learnt to play the piano and the guitar in his childhood years, and formed a jazz band called The Capitellos whilst working at the Post Office in the early Fifties. It was only later on that they started to make records, and when the band split up Hoop started his solo career. However, he did release singles under different names (‘Fred Lyssen’ and ‘Fried Lussen’) until settling on Wyn Hoop. So he had some form, but was certainly not as well known as others in the pre-selection.
Wyn Hoop (archive image)
‘Bonne Nuit, Ma Cherie‘ wasn’t a big hit despite finishing fourth. But Hoop went on to further success covering American hits with German lyrics. Perhaps his biggest hit was a cover of ‘Are You Lonesome Tonight?’. He also finished fourth in the 1962 Deutschen Schlager-Festspiele, which that year was the pre-selection for the Eurovision Song Contest. As well as singing, Hoop also ventured into films, but his most significant career move was marrying the Austrian singer Andrea Horn in 1961.
For most of the rest of the Sixties and through the Seventies, the married couple performed and recorded as ‘Horn and Hoop’.
Wyn Hoop at sea
Anything Else Of Note?
Musically, how about the fact that Wyn Hoop discovered The Goombay Dance Band and so was responsible for the delightful ‘Seven Tears’?
Or how about the fact that Horn and Hoop are expert sailors and noted publishers of the sea? In 1978 they retired from the music industry and set up the Horn-Hoop-Maritim, publishing travel guides for sailors, writing a number of guides themselves about the Mediterranean.?
Wyn Hoop had a long career with Jazz bands, numerous solo hits and hits with his wife, then started a second career running for the last forty years sailing and writing travel books. And he was fourth in the Eurovision Song Contest1960.
The second year of trips out to the mysterious Île de Bezençon continues, where the time is always May, where the sun is always shining, and for thematic reasons you can only bring along eight Eurovision songs and a Song Contest luxury.
Eurovision Insight Podcast: Eurovision Castaways with Wiv Kristiansen
We’re opening up Île de Bezençon for the summer, and inviting our favourite Eurovision people to bring their best loved Eurovision related songs and stories. Our next guest for the summer of 2018 is Wiv Kristiansen of ESCXtra, who is full of stories of unsolicited doorstep singing, intense French jazz and the power of language.
Keep listening to the ESC Insight podcast as we face the summer months between season. 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.
Why is there such a discrepancy in the televote and the jury vote? It’s a question asked by many after each edition of the Eurovision Song Contests (and also asked after many National Finals). Following another Eurovision first that happened in Lisbon we can add another piece of evidence to this question.
It’s also a fun opportunity to strip back the Song Contest, remove one of the senses that contributes to the experience, and take a different look at the Contest.
Eurovision Song Contest Trophy 2018 (Thomas Hanses/EBU)
“Doesn’t He Look Tired?”
But first, let’s turn briefly to one of the most notable and competitive events where TV and Radio offered different angles – the 1960 US Presidential debate between Richard Nixon and John F Kennedy.
The more experienced debater in Nixon (at that time the sitting Vice President) took on the issues of the day and strongly argued many points – mostly on foreign policy in the first debate – that many called the debate a victory for Nixon. At least those who were listening on the radio.
Sen.John F.Kennedy (l) and Vice President Richard M.Nixon from NBC studios 10/7
Thanks to his experience of political debate on radio, Nixon understood the format, knew how to measure his voice, understood how cadence and pitch could be used to make subtle points, and why he needed to be less of an attack-dog to soften his image. What he didn’t consider was how well his suit jacket blended into the background of the set, how his failure to ask for TV makeup emphases a ‘five o’clock shadow’, and the impact of his slumped physical shape.
The victory on TV, and arguably the overall victory, went to Kennedy.
Even today, when test groups are gathered to measure the difference between the TV and the Radio presentation, Nixon takes the radio while Kennedy takes the television (The Power of Television Images: The First Kennedy-Nixon Debate Revisited; James N. Druckman; The Journal of Politics; Vol. 65, No. 2 (May., 2003), pp. 559-571):
I find that television images have significant effects—they affect overall debate evaluations, prime people to rely more on personality perceptions in their evaluations, and enhance what people learn. Television images matter in politics, and may have indeed played an important role in the first Kennedy-Nixon debate.
The Euroradio Song Contest
Even though we all know what is meant when the public says ‘Eurovision’, strictly speaking Eurovision is just the transmission network that connects the member broadcasters of the EBU. This isn’t the only network maintained by the EBU, there is also Euroradio. The EBU’s members not only had the option to broadcast the Eurovision Song Contest on television, they also had the option to broadcast the Song Contest on radio (although it would still be called the Eurovision Song Contest, not the more technically accurate Euroradio Song Contest).
That also means that the rights for radio broadcast are available to passive broadcasters – an option that was taken up in the US this year by Dave Cargill (Executive Producer at Cargill Gardiner). Along with the support of the EBU, Portuguese broadcaster RTP, lead US station WJFD, and the legendary production team of Radio Six International’s Tony Currie and Leo Currie; Ewan Spence, Lisa-Jayne Lewis, and Ana Filipa Rosa took to the American airwaves with the first US radio broadcast of the Eurovision Song Contest.
You never want a blank monitor during a broadcast (image: Ewan Spence)
Which meant that this year there was an interesting option to have a group of professionals in the music and radio business the chance to sit down and listen to the Song Contest without the visuals from the Altice Arena, but with a professional commentary team guiding them through the process. Naturally we took notes…
What The Panel Thought
Like many of those listening in America, the radio panel (which may be the closest we get to an ‘American Jury’ at the Eurovision Song Contest for many years) had not been following the Song Contest in excruciating depth – they covered people who knew and listened to the Song Contest because it reminded them of their family’s home, those who were aware of the Contest in a broad sense, and some who were new to the entire concept of the Contest. In other words a relatively representative slice of the population.
Of the twenty-six songs in the Grand Final, there was a clear winner from the panel, with all bar one of the top spots going to Austria. Perhaps unsurprisingly the audio performance from the Netherlands all scored highly and was the only other country to top a panellist’s list, and was second with those who rated Austria first.
Three other songs had very strong reactions – the Czech Republic, Lithuania, and Germany. At the other end, Hungary, Serbia, and Australia picked up the ‘nul points’ from our panel.
The feedback also had some delightful questions, with my favourites including ‘When does Armenia come on’, requiring a quick nod to the semi-finals and reminding our Armenian panelist that Sevak did not qualify; and ‘what does the crowd do when waiting for the next song?’ Which is a good question…
This year thirteen EBU members broadcast the Song Contest on their radio networks, but there is no clear way to break out the votes in each country to those watching on TV, those watching on radio, and arguably those watching online through other methods such as the EBU’s YouTube channel or those preferring to watch another broadcaster (e.g. expat Swedes watching the SVT stream). Every country has one main number for the public to call in and vote on.
In terms of Eurovision winning strategies, there’s not a large enough audience tuning into the radio that would merit a specific strategy – the mix of visuals with the singing remains key to the televote – but it’s worth noting that the songs that performed well to the radio listeners also scored highly in the jury voting during the Grand Final. While juries see the EBU TV feed and can see the full package, the US panel only had the audio to judge. There is a clear trend towards the juries following a similar pattern and focusing on the singing.
At one point, each jury member voted live on screen (EBU)
When the split results come in each year, there are always questions about why certain songs have such a wide discrepancy between jury and televote scores. Part of that could be down to the difference between Friday night and Saturday night, but Eurovision’s radio presentation in the USA suggests something more fundamental.
The professional juries are putting a greater focus on what is heard over what is seen.
Do Try This At Home
Due to rights issues, Eurovision’s US radio broadcast is not available online to ‘listen again’. EBU members who broadcast the show on radio may have it available on catch-up services.
Or you could head over to the official Eurovision channel on YouTube, pick a year (here’s 2016), and minimise the window just after you hit play. Maybe go back a few years so you can’t remember the exact results, score the songs, and see if you are closer to the televote or the jury vote.
For the second year, ESC Insight partnered with Radio Six International in the hour before the Grand Final of the Eurovision Song Contest 2018 to preview the show on radio stations around the world. Now you can have the chance to listen again to the show online.
We’ve made a few edits to the broadcast to cut out the full-length music track, but you can still picture the scene. Lisbon… 2018… one hour to go…. and as the excitement builds, Ewan and Lisa-Jayne preview the upcoming show, invite some guests into the studio, and generally get all excited ahead of the Song Contest.
With special thanks to Tony Currie and Radio Six International, Ade Bradley, and Gianluca Allaria.
Eurovision Insight Podcast: Lisbon 2018’s Radio Preshow
Join Ewan Spence and Lisa-Jayne Lewis and a cavalcade of Eurovision guests including Australia’s Jessica Mauboy, Germany’s Michale Schulte, the EBU’s Jon Ola Sand, and RTE’s Marty Whelan… but there are many more, enjoy the journey. First broadcast on Radio Six International and affiliate stations on Saturday 12th May 2018.
Lisbon is be over, but we have Junior Eurovision 2018 and Eurovision 2019 to look forward to. Keep listening to the ESC Insight podcast over the summer for more Eurovision news, fun, and chat. 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.