Credits: EBU

Eurovision for Dummies

Occasionally we get so caught up in the Eurovision action that we forget some people are still new to the whole competition. If that’s you there’s no need to worry – we’ve got our guide to how the competition works right here!

The Format

Verka Serduchka performs for Ukraine at Eurovision 2007 Credits: Indrek Galetin via Nagi at Wikimedia Commons
Verka Serduchka performs for Ukraine at Eurovision 2007
Credits: Indrek Galetin via Nagi at Wikimedia Commons

The Eurovision Song Contest is essentially a massive performing and singing competition held each year in May. All songs are performed live and must be no more than 3 minutes long. Generally winners try to entertain with a good song performed well live, although occasionally they will rely on other gimmicks (novelty lyrics, interesting stage props, outlandish costumes) in order to get more attention.

The Contestants

All 37 participants of Eurovision 2014 Credits: EBU
All 37 participants of Eurovision 2014
Credits: EBU

Any country that is a member of the European Broadcasting Union may send a song to the competition. These may be selected through national, televised competitions or privately selected by a group of experts in that country. Most countries will then compete in one of two semi finals, held on the Tuesday and Thursday before the competition with the Top 10 acts from each semi (those who get the most votes) going through to the grand final on the Saturday. These 20 songs join the Big 6 countries (France, Germany, Italy, Spain, The UK and the previous year’s winning country) to create a 26-strong line up on the big night.

The Voting

After all the songs have been performed there is usually a 15 minute window in which you can cast your vote by phoning or texting in. You cannot vote for the country which you are currently in (so if you’re in the UK you can’t vote for the UK to win). Only countries who submitted a song to the competition can vote, usually meaning about 35-40 countries in total. A few years ago people were getting upset that votes were generally going to neighbour/allied countries and not the best songs, so to beat this the competition introduced teams of 5-man juries for each country. These juries are made up of music industry experts (for example song writers, managers, performers, journalists) who will also vote on each song, creating a ranking of all 26 performances. These two combined (50% public phone votes, 50% jury votes) will give each country a Top 10.

The Results

Participants et Eurovision 2013 listening to the results in the Greenroom Credits: Sander Hesterman EBU)
Participants at Eurovision 2013 listening to the results in the Greenroom
Credits: Sander Hesterman (EBU)

Once the phone lines are closed, and the votes counted and verified, we will begin the long process of vote counting. This is a major part of Eurovision and can usually be expected to last over an hour. In turn (usually alphabetically) the hosts will contact each voting country where a representative will announce the Top 10 in reverse order. Sometimes this gets sped up by the first 7 being shown in advance and only the Top 3 being announced by the representative. Each time a country is ranked in a Top 10 they get points 1st = 12 points, 2nd = 10 points, 3rd = 8 points, 4th = 7 points, 5th = 6 points and so on until 10th = 1 point. These points create a leadership table that is updated in real time, showing where each of the 26 songs ranks in the competition so far.

The Winner

Swedens Loreen claims her prize at Eurovision 2012 Credits: Thomas Hanses EBU)
Sweden’s Loreen claims her prize at Eurovision 2012
Credits: Thomas Hanses (EBU)

Once all the votes are in, the winner is simply the song with the most points. In the case of a tie, the song that received the highest number of 1st place (12 point) rankings will win. This country can then claim the prize and will host the competition the following year (unless they are already hosting this year, in which case the second place country will normally get to host, but the first place country is still considered the winner). The show will normally close with the winner performing their song again, in case you managed to forget what it sounded like after all that time spent voting!

What else do I need to know?

Finland takes a pro-LGBT stance at Eurovision 2013 Credits: Sander Hesterman EBU)
Finland takes a pro-LGBT stance at Eurovision 2013
Credits: Sander Hesterman (EBU)

Eurovision on the surface is just a big international talent competition but underneath it is also a massive gay extravaganza and a lesson in European geography and politics. The divas, OTT costumes and general leaning towards better LGBTQ inclusion generally make it something of a stereotypical gay paradise, and therefore a breeding ground for homophobia-driven boycotts (the governments of Russia and Turkey tend to make a big deal of it, but generally their complaints go largely ignored, even in their own countries). This tends to only make the LGBTQ community even more drawn to it, and thus makes the competition itself even more keen to make them feel included.

On the other side of things, most fans (even the Europeans) often find themselves learning a little bit more about the continent’s history and politics each year, in a common occurrence also known as the who-votes-for-who effect. These two things combined, alongside the inherent ‘novelty’ factor displayed each year, mean many people write off Eurovision as a joke. However a show that can attract millions of viewers, from Svalbard to Australia, and that can create heroes overnight, means everyone else thinks Eurovision is basically an example of ‘The Greatest Show on Earth’.

In a Nutshell

The Aussies love it so much they got to do the half time show Credits: Sander Hesterman EBU)
The Aussies love it so much they got to do the half time show
Credits: Sander Hesterman (EBU)

In a nutshell, Eurovision is massive talent competition adored by the gays and the Australians alike that aims to provide a full night’s entertainment and a geography lesson to millions of people all over the world once a year.

And now you know how it all works, why not find out who deserves your 12 points this year? Or take a look at our Eurovision 2014 conversation hints and really get to know your stuff!

Leave a Reply