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.
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.
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.
The 65th Eurovision Song Contest will be at the Ahoy in Rotterdam.
Rotterdam has been seen as the front-runner since the victory of Duncan Lawrence with ‘Arcade’ in Tel Aviv. The Dutch tourism industry has been looking to promote locations outside of the capital for some time now, and Eurovision’s overlap with the return of the Formula 1 Grand Prix Circus to the nearby Circuit Zandvoort, Eurovision in Amsterdam would have be crowded to say the least.
As the second largest city in The Netherlands, Rotterdam features one of the largest European ports, as well as direct access to three of the key rivers in Europe (the Rhine, the Meuse, and the Scheldt). The gateway to Europe will be bringing us the Eurovision Song Contest’s Grand Final on May 16th.
Eurovision Song Contest Trophy (Thomas Hanses/EBU)
2020 will be the fifth time that the Eurovision Song Contest has been hosted by The Netherlands, although not all of the shows took place after a victory. Corry Brokken’s 1957 victory saw Hilversum hosting the following year; 1975’s Teach-In saw the 1976 Contest in The Hague, and of course Duncan Lawrence has brought the ‘Arcade’ to Rotterdam.
Amsterdam hosted in 1970 after the four-way tie in 1969 which involved Lenny Kuhr’s ‘De Troubadour’ tiring with the snags from Spain, the United Kingdom, and France. Spain had been the hosts in 1969, and the United Kingdom in 1968. That left France and The Netherlands to toss a coin to decide hosting duties.
Following Israel’s back to back victories in 1978 and 1979 decided that it could not budget the hosting of back to back Contest. Spain took second place in 1979 but passed on the duties, and reportedly the BBC – regarded in the twentieth century as the ‘backup broadcaster of choice’ declined.
Which is why we found ourselves back in The Hague in 1980, with the same set from 1976, a repeat of parts of the opening ceremony, and arguably one of the most ‘austerity Eurovisions’ of all time.
I wonder if the staging is still in storage?
Also announced were the dates for the Contest. These are the Tuesday May 12th and Thursday May 14th for the Semi Finals, and Saturday may 16th for the Grand Final.
That means we’re looking at roughly the same timetable as the 2016, 17, and 18 Contests. With SVT having announced the Grand Final of Melodifestivalen as Saturday March 7th, expect the Heads of Delegation meeting and the deadline for all Eurovision entries to be submitted as Monday March 9th… and eight weeks until the acts begin rehearsing on stage.
The summer continues with lots of planning from delegations, hosts, and the EBU going on in the background. Not long until the major pieces are revealed, but until then, let’s catch up on the news and dates that are out there in the world of the Eurovision Song Contest.
Eurovision Insight News Podcast: Your First Eurovision Podcast For The Summer
We’re waiting for more details from The Netherlands on 2020, looking forward to Junior Eurovision 2019, and getting ready for the first selection shows of the season. Ewan Spence and the ESC Insight team cover the latest news from the world of the Eurovision Song Contest.
Listen to Second Cherry and 12 Points From America, at these links.
During the quiet months, 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.
Our summer series of musical maroonings returns for a third year. Join Ellie Chalkley at the customs desk on the Île de Bezençon as we meet more Eurovision fans and extract their stories.
Eurovision Castaways with Alice Beverton-Palmer
The ESC Insight crew and friends are off to Île de Bezençon for the summer with their favourite Eurovision related songs and stories. Podcaster & social media maven Alice Beverton-Palmer brings a basket full of bangers, an inspirational Austrian, and an examination of the manners and etiquette around lanyards to the Island.
Alice’s podcast, The Dorothy Project celebrates the women who’ve found themselves within gay male society – her guests include Amy Lamé, female drag artist Minka Guides, author Juno Dawson and (coming soon) Eurovision’s very own Nicki French.
As we wait patiently for the new season, 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.