Eurovision Song Contest
The Eurovision Song Contest , sometimes abbreviated to ESC and often known simply as Eurovision, is an international songwriting competition organised annually by the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), 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 annually since 1956 (apart from ), 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, and 52 countries have participated at least once. +more Each participating broadcaster sends one original song of three minutes duration or less to be performed live by a singer or group of up to six people aged 16 or older. Each country awards two sets of 1-8, 10 and 12 points to their favourite songs, based on the views of an assembled group of music professionals and the country's viewing public, with the song receiving the most points declared the winner. Other performances feature alongside the competition, including a specially-commissioned opening and interval act and guest performances by musicians and other personalities, with past acts including Cirque du Soleil, Madonna and the first performance of Riverdance. Originally consisting of a single evening event, the contest has expanded as new countries joined (including countries outside of Europe, such as ), leading to the introduction of relegation procedures in the 1990s, and eventually the creation of semi-finals in the 2000s. has competed more times than any other country, having participated in all but one edition, while holds the record for the most victories, with seven wins in total.
Traditionally held in the country which won the preceding year's event, the contest provides an opportunity to promote the host country and city as a tourist destination. Thousands of spectators attend each year, and journalists are present to cover all aspects of the contest, including rehearsals in venue, press conferences with the competing acts, and other related events and performances in the host city. +more Alongside the generic Eurovision logo, a unique theme and slogan is typically developed for each event. The contest has aired in countries across all continents, and has been available online via the official Eurovision website since 2001. Eurovision ranks among the world's most watched non-sporting events every year, with hundreds of millions of viewers globally, and performing at the contest has often provided 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, Cliff Richard and Olivia Newton-John, and some of the world's best-selling singles have received their first international performance on the Eurovision stage.
While having gained popularity with the viewing public in both participating and non-participating countries, the contest has also been the subject of criticism for its artistic quality as well as a perceived political aspect to the event. Concerns have been raised regarding political friendships and rivalries between countries potentially having an impact on the results. +more Controversial moments have included participating countries withdrawing at a late stage, censorship of broadcast segments by broadcasters, and political events impacting participation. Likewise, the contest has also been criticised for an over-abundance of elaborate stage shows at the cost of artistic merit. Eurovision has, however, gained popularity for its kitsch appeal, its musical span of ethnic and international styles, as well as emergence as part of LGBT culture, resulting in a large, active fanbase and an influence on popular culture. The popularity of the contest has led to the creation of several similar events, either organised by the EBU or created by external organisations, and several special events have been organised by the EBU to celebrate select anniversaries or as a replacement due to cancellation.
Origins and history
The Eurovision Song Contest's founding stemmed from a desire to promote cooperation between European countries in the years following the Second World War through cross-border television broadcasts, which gave rise to the founding of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) in 1950. The word "Eurovision" was first used by British journalist George Campey in the London Evening Standard in 1951, when he referred to a BBC programme being relayed by Dutch television. +more Following several events broadcast internationally via the Eurovision transmission network in the early 1950s, including the Coronation of Elizabeth II in 1953, an EBU committee, headed by Marcel Bezençon, was formed in January 1955 to investigate new initiatives for cooperation between broadcasters, which approved for further study a European song competition from an idea initially proposed by RAI manager 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 by the Swiss delegation to host the event in Lugano in the spring of 1956. The Italian Sanremo Music Festival, held since 1951, was used as a basis for the initial planning of the contest, with several amendments and additions given its international nature.
Seven countries participated in the , with each country represented by two songs; the only time in which multiple entries per country were permitted. The winning song was "Refrain", representing the host country Switzerland and performed by Lys Assia. +more Voting during the first contest was held behind closed doors, with only the winner being announced on stage; the use of a scoreboard and public announcement of the voting, inspired by the BBC's Festival of British Popular Songs, has been used since 1957. The tradition of the winning country hosting the following year's contest, which has since become a standard feature of the event, began in 1958. Technological developments have transformed the contest: colour broadcasts began in ; satellite broadcasts in ; and streaming in . Broadcasts in widescreen began in 2005 and in high-definition since 2007, with ultra-high-definition tested for the first time in 2022.
By the 1960s, between 16 and 18 countries were regularly competing each year. Countries from outside the traditional boundaries of Europe began entering the contest, and countries in Western Asia and North Africa started competing in the 1970s and 1980s. +more Changes in Europe following the end of the Cold War saw an influx of new countries from Central and Eastern Europe applying for the first time. The included a separate pre-qualifying round for seven of these new countries, and from relegation systems were introduced to manage the number of competing entries, with the poorest performing countries barred from entering the following year's contest. From 2004 the contest expanded to become a multi-programme event, with a semi-final at the allowing all interested countries to compete each year; a second semi-final was added to each edition from 2008.
66 contests have been held making Eurovision the longest-running annual international televised music competition as determined by Guinness World Records. The contest has been listed as one of the longest-running television programmes in the world and among the world’s most watched non-sporting events. +more A total of 52 countries have taken part in at least one edition, with a record 43 countries participating in a single contest, first in and subsequently in and . Australia became the first non-EBU member country to compete following an invitation by the EBU ahead of the contest's in 2015; initially announced as a "one-off" for the anniversary edition, the country was invited back the following year and has subsequently secured participation rights until 2023.
Eurovision had been held every year until 2020, when was cancelled in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. No competitive event was able to take place due to uncertainty caused by the spread of the virus in Europe and the various restrictions imposed by the governments of the participating countries. +more In its place a special broadcast, Eurovision: Europe Shine a Light, was produced by the organisers, which honoured the songs and artists that would have competed in 2020 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 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. +more From 1968, the English name dropped the 'Grand Prix' from the name, with the French name being aligned as the , 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 commonly referred to in English by the abbreviation "Eurovision", and in internal documents by the acronym "ESC".
On only four occasions has the name used for the official logo of the contest not been in English or French: the Italian names and were used when Italy hosted the and contests respectively; and the Dutch name was used when the Netherlands hosted in and .
Original songs representing participating countries are 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 that country's national public broadcasting organisation. +more The programme is staged by one of the participant countries and is broadcast from an auditorium in the selected host city. 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, followed by a final on the Saturday. All participating countries compete in one of the two semi-finals, except for the host country of that year's contest and the contest's biggest financial contributors known as the "Big Five"-, and the . The remaining countries are split between the two semi-finals, and the 10 highest-scoring entries in each qualify to produce 26 countries competing in the final.
Each show typically begins with an opening act consisting of music and/or dance performances by invited artists, which contributes to a unique theme and identity created for that year's event; since 2013 the opening of the contest's final has included a "Flag Parade", with 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. Viewers are welcomed by one or more presenters who provide key updates during the show, conduct interviews with competing acts from the green room, and guide the voting procedure in English and French. +more Competing acts perform sequentially, and after all songs have been performed viewers are invited to vote for their favourite performances-except for the performance of their own country-via telephone, SMS and the official Eurovision app. The public vote comprises 50% of the final result alongside the views of a jury of music industry professionals from each country. An interval act is invariably featured during this voting period, which on several occasions has included a well-known personality from the host country or an internationally recognised figure. The results of the voting are subsequently announced; in the semi-finals the 10 highest-ranked countries are announced in a random order, with the full results undisclosed. In the final the presenters call upon a representative spokesperson for each country in turn who announces their jury's points, while the results of the public vote are subsequently announced by the presenters. The qualifying acts in the semi-finals, and the winning delegation in the final are invited back on stage, and in the final a trophy is awarded to the winning performers and songwriters with the previous year's winner presenting the trophy followed by a reprise of the winning song. The full results of the competition, including detailed results of the jury and public vote, are released online shortly after the final, and the participating broadcaster of the winning entry is traditionally given the honour of organising the following year's event.
Each participating broadcaster has sole discretion over the process they may employ to select their entry for the contest. Typical methods in which participants are selected 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 and the public are engaged in others. +more 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.
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. +more Associate member broadcasters may be eligible to compete, dependent on approval by the contest's Reference Group.
The European Broadcasting Area is defined by the International Telecommunication Union as encompassing the geographical area between the boundary of ITU Region 1 in the west, the meridian 40° East of Greenwich in the east, and parallel 30° North in the south. Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia, and the territory of Ukraine, Iraq, Jordan and Syria lying outside these limits are included in the European Broadcasting Area.
Eligibility to participate in the contest is therefore not limited to countries in Europe, as several states geographically outside the boundaries of the continent or which span more than one continent are included in the Broadcasting Area. Countries from these groups have taken part in past editions, 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. +more Australia became the first country to participate from outside the European Broadcasting Area in 2015, following an invitation by the contest's Reference Group.
EBU members who wish to participate must fulfil conditions as laid down in 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. +more 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:
|Year||Country making its debut entry|
The winning country traditionally hosts the following year's event, with some exceptions since . Hosting the contest can be seen as a unique opportunity for promoting the host country as a tourist destination and can provide benefits to the local economy and tourism sectors of the host city. +more Preparations for each year's contest typically begin at the conclusion of the previous year's contest, with the winning country's head of delegation receiving a welcome package of information related to hosting the contest at the winner's press conference. Eurovision is a non-profit event, and financing is typically achieved through a fee from each participating broadcaster, contributions from the host broadcaster and the host city, and commercial revenues from sponsorships, ticket sales, televoting and merchandise.
The host broadcaster will subsequently select a host city, typically a national or regional capital city, which must meet certain criteria set out in the contest's rules. The host venue must be able to accommodate at least 10,000 spectators, a press centre for 1,500 journalists, should be within easy reach of an international airport and with hotel accommodation available for at least 2,000 delegates, journalists and spectators. +more A variety of different venues have been used for past editions, from small theatres and television studios to large arenas and stadiums. The largest host venue is Parken Stadium in Copenhagen, which was attended by almost 38,000 spectators in . With a population of 1,500 at the time of the , Millstreet, Ireland remains the smallest hosting settlement, although its Green Glens Arena is capable of hosting up to 8,000 spectators.
Eurovision logo and theme
Until 2004, each edition of the contest used its own logo and visual identity as determined by the respective host broadcaster. To create a consistent visual identity, a generic logo was introduced ahead of the . +more This is typically accompanied by a unique theme artwork and slogan designed for each individual contest by the host broadcaster, with the flag of the host country placed 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 the Amsterdam-based Cityzen Agency for the contest's .
An individual slogan and theme has been associated with most editions of the contest since 2002, and is utilised by contest producers when constructing the show's visual identity, including the stage design, the opening and interval acts, and the "postcards". The short video postcards are interspersed between the entries and were first introduced 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 and usually highlight the host country and introduce the competing acts.
Preparations in the host venue typically begin approximately six weeks before the final, to accommodate building works and technical rehearsals before the arrival of the competing artists. Delegations will typically arrive in the host city two to three weeks before the live show, and each participating broadcaster nominates a head of delegation, responsible for coordinating the movements of their delegation and being that country's representative to the EBU. +more 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. Present if desired is a commentator, who provides commentary of the event for their country's radio and/or television feed in their country's own language in dedicated booths situated around the back of the arena behind the audience.
Each country conducts two individual rehearsals, the first for 30 minutes and held behind closed doors, and the second for 20 minutes and open to accredited press; the latter is used as a recorded back-up if the country's representative artist is unable to perform in later rehearsals or the live shows. Technical rehearsals for the semi-finalists commence the week before the live shows, with countries typically rehearsing in the order in which they will perform during the contest; rehearsals for the host country and the "Big Five" automatic finalists are held towards the end of the week. +more Following rehearsals, delegations meet with the show's production team to review footage of the rehearsal and raise any special requirements or changes. "Meet and greet" sessions and press conferences with accredited fans and press are held during these rehearsal weeks. Each live show is preceded by three dress rehearsals, where the whole show is run in the same way as it will be presented on TV. The second dress rehearsal, alternatively called the "jury show" and held the night before the broadcast, is used as a recorded back-up in case of technological failure, and performances during this show are used by each country's professional jury to determine their votes. The delegations from the qualifying countries in each semi-final attend a qualifiers' press conference after their respective semi-final, and the winning delegation attends a winners' press conference following the final.
A welcome reception is typically held at a venue in the host city on the Sunday preceding the live shows, which includes a red carpet ceremony for all the participating countries and is usually broadcast online. Accredited delegates, press and fans have access to an official nightclub, the "EuroClub", and some delegations will hold their own parties. +more The "Eurovision Village" is an official fan zone open to the public free of charge, with live performances by the contest's artists and screenings of the live shows on big screens.
The contest is organised annually by the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), together with the participating broadcaster of the host country. The event is monitored by an Executive Supervisor appointed by the EBU, and by the Reference Group which represents all participating broadcasters, who are each represented by a nominated Head of Delegation. +more The current Executive Supervisor is Martin Österdahl, who took over the role from Jon Ola Sand in May 2020. A detailed set of rules is written by the EBU for each contest and approved by the Reference Group. These rules have changed over time, and typically outline, among other points, the eligibility of the competing songs, the format of the contest, and the voting system to be used to determine the winner and how the results will be presented.
Song eligibility and languages
All competing songs must have a duration of three minutes or less. This rule applies only to the version performed during the live shows. +more In order to be considered eligible, competing songs in a given year's contest must not have been released commercially before the first day of September of the previous year. All competing entries must include vocals and lyrics of some kind and purely instrumental pieces are not 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 specifying in which language a song may be performed have changed over time. No restrictions were originally enacted when the contest was first founded, however following criticism over the being performed in English, a new rule was introduced for the restricting songs to be performed only in an official language of the country it represented. +more This rule was first abolished in , and subsequently reinstated for most countries in , with only and permitted freedom of language as their selection processes for that year's contest had already commenced. The language rule was once again abolished ahead of the .
Artist eligibility and performances
The rules for the first contest specified that only solo performers were permitted to enter; this criterion was changed the following year to permit duos to compete, and groups were subsequently permitted for the first time in . Currently the number of people permitted on stage during competing performances is limited to a maximum of six, and no live animals are allowed. +more Since , all contestants must be aged 16 or over on the day of the live show in which they perform. Sandra Kim, the winner in at the age of 13, shall remain the contest's youngest winner while this rule remains in place. 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. No performer may compete for more than one country in a given year.
The orchestra was a prominent aspect of the contest from 1956 to 1998. Pre-recorded backing tracks were first allowed for competing acts in 1973, but any pre-recorded instruments were required to be 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. +more In 1999, the rules were changed again, making the orchestra an optional requirement; the host broadcaster of , Israel's IBA, subsequently decided not to provide an orchestra, resulting in all entries using backing tracks for the first time. Currently all instrumental music for competing entries must now be pre-recorded, and no live instrumentation is allowed during performances.
The main vocals of competing songs must be performed live during the contest. Previously live backing vocals were also required; since these may optionally be pre-recorded - this change has been implemented on a trial basis in an effort to introduce flexibility following the cancellation of the 2020 edition and to facilitate modernisation.
Since , the order in which the competing countries perform has been determined by the contest's producers, and submitted to the EBU Executive Supervisor and Reference Group for approval before public announcement. This was changed from a random draw used in previous years in order to provide a better experience for television viewers and ensure all countries stand out by avoiding instances where songs of a similar style or tempo are performed in sequence.
Since the creation of a second semi-final in , a semi-final allocation draw is held each year. Countries are placed into pots based on their geographical location and voting history in recent contests, and are assigned to compete in one of the two semi-finals through a random draw. +more Countries are then randomly assigned to compete in either the first or second half of their respective semi-final, and once all competing songs have been selected the producers then determine the running order for the semi-finals. The automatic qualifiers are assigned at random to a semi-final for the purposes of voting rights.
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 then randomly draw their competing half in the run-up to the final, except for the host country, whose exact performance position is determined in a separate draw. The running order for the final is then decided following the second semi-final by the producers. +more The running orders are decided with the competing songs' musical qualities, stage performance, prop and lighting set-up, and other production considerations taken into account.
In place since 2016, the current voting system used to determine the results of the contest 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, comprising five music professionals from that country; and a second set is based on the votes of the general public in the competing countries through telephone, SMS or the official Eurovision app. +more Each set of points consists of 1-8, 10 and 12 points to the jury and public's ten favourite songs, with the most preferred song receiving 12 points. This system is a modification of that used since 1975, when the "12 points" system was first introduced but with each country providing one set of 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, consisting at various times of members of the public, music professionals, or both in combination. With advances in telecommunication technology, televoting was first introduced to the contest in on a trial basis, with broadcasters in five countries allowing the viewing public to determine their votes for the first time. +more From , televoting was extended to almost all competing countries, and subsequently became mandatory from . A jury was reintroduced for the final in , 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.
Should two or more countries finish with the same number of points, a tie-break procedure is employed to determine the final placings. a combined national televoting and jury result is calculated for each country, and the country which has obtained points from the most countries following this calculation is deemed to have placed higher.
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, with a selected spokesperson assigned to announce the results of their country's vote. This spokesperson is typically well known in their country; previous spokespersons have included former Eurovision artists and presenters. +more Historically the announcements were made through telephone lines from the countries of origin, with satellite links employed for the first time in , allowing the spokespersons to be seen visually by the audience and TV spectators.
Scoring is done by both a national jury and a national televote. Each country's jury votes are consecutively added to the totals scoreboard as they are called upon by the contest presenter(s). +more The scoreboard was historically placed at the side of the stage and updated manually as each country gave their votes; in a computer graphics scoreboard was introduced. The jury points from 1-8 and 10 are displayed on screen and added automatically to the scoreboard, then the country's spokesperson announces which country will receive the 12 points. Once jury points from all countries have been announced, the presenter(s) announce the total public points received for each finalist, with the votes for each country being consolidated and announced as a single value. Since , the public points have been revealed in ascending order based on the jury vote, with the country that received the fewest points from the jury being the first to receive their public points. A full breakdown of the results across all shows is published on the official Eurovision website after the final, including each country's televoting ranking and the votes of its jury and individual jury members. Each country's individual televoting points in the final are typically displayed on-screen by that country's broadcaster following the announcement of the winner.
Participating broadcasters 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 final, in its entirety; this includes all competing songs, the voting recap containing short clips of the performances, the voting procedure or semi-final qualification reveal, and the reprise of the winning song in the final. 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. +more In exceptional circumstances, such as due to developing emergency situations, participating broadcasters may delay or postpone broadcast of the event. Should a broadcaster fail to air a show as expected in any other scenario 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.
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. +more 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.
The EBU now holds the recordings of all but two editions of the contest in its archives, following a project initiated in 2011 to collate footage and related materials of all editions ahead of the event's 60th anniversary in 2015. Although cameras were present to practice pan-European broadcasting for the first contest in 1956 to the few Europeans who had television sets, its audience was primarily over the radio. +more The only footage available is a Kinescope recording of Lys Assia's reprise of her winning song. No full recording of the exists, with conflicting reports of the fate of any copies that may have survived. Audio recordings of both contests do however exist, and some short pieces of footage from both events 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 resulted in a growing interest from new countries in the former Eastern Bloc, particularly following the merger of the Eastern European rival OIRT network with the EBU in 1993.
Pre-selections and relegation
29 countries registered to take part in the 1993 contest, a figure the EBU considered unable to fit reasonably into a single TV show. A preselection method was subsequently introduced for the first time in order to reduce the number of competing entries, with seven countries in Central and Eastern Europe participating in Kvalifikacija za Millstreet, held in Ljubljana, Slovenia one month before the event. +more Following a vote among the seven competing countries, and were chosen to head to the contest in Millstreet, Ireland, and, and were forced to wait another year before being allowed to compete. A new relegation system was introduced for entry into the 1994 contest, with the lowest-placed countries being forced to sit out the following year's event to be replaced by countries which had not competed in the previous contest. The bottom seven countries in 1993 were required to miss the following year's contest, and were replaced by the four unsuccessful countries in Kvalifikacija za Millstreet and new entries from , and .
This system was used again in 1994 for qualification for the , but a new system was introduced for the , when an audio-only qualification round held in the months before the contest in Oslo, Norway; this system was primarily introduced in an attempt to appease Germany, one of Eurovision's biggest markets and financial contributors, which would have otherwise been relegated under the previous system. 29 countries competed for 22 places in the main contest alongside the automatically-qualified Norwegian hosts, however Germany would ultimately still miss out, and joined Hungary, Romania, Russia, and as one of the seven countries to be absent from the Oslo contest. +more For the , a similar relegation system to that used between 1993 and 1995 was introduced, with each country's average scores in the preceding five contests being used as a measure to determine 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, an exemption from relegation was introduced for France, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom, giving them an automatic right to compete in the 2000 contest and in all subsequent editions. This group, as the highest-paying EBU members which significantly fund the contest each year, subsequently became known as the "Big Four" countries. +more This group was expanded in 2011 when Italy began competing again, becoming the "Big Five". Originally brought in to ensure that the financial contributions of the contest's biggest financial backers would not be missed, 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 debate on whether this status prejudices the countries' results, based on reported antipathy over their automatic qualification and the potential disadvantage of having spent less time on stage through not competing in the semi-finals, however this status appears to be more complex given results of the "Big Five" countries can vary widely. This status has caused consternation from other competing countries, and was cited, among other aspects, as a reason why had ceased participating after .
Introduction of semi-finals
An influx of new countries applying for the resulted in the introduction of a semi-final from 2004, with the contest becoming a two-day event. 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 qualification spots. +more The in Istanbul, Turkey saw a record 36 countries competing, with new entries from, and and the return of previously relegated countries. The format of this semi-final remained similar to the final proper, taking place a few days before the final; 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 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; however, with 42 countries competing in the in Helsinki, Finland, the semi-final had 28 entries competing for 10 spots in the final. Following criticism over the mainly Central and Eastern European qualifiers at the 2007 event and the poor performance of entries from Western European countries, a second semi-final was subsequently introduced for the in Belgrade, Serbia, with all countries now competing in one of the two semi-finals, with only the host country and the "Big Four", and subsequently the "Big Five" from 2011, qualifying automatically. +more 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.
Entries and participants
The contest has been used as a launching point for artists who went on to achieve worldwide fame, and several of the world's best-selling artists are counted among past Eurovision Song Contest participants and winning artists. ABBA, the winners for Sweden, have recorded an estimated 380 million albums and singles sales since their contest win brought them to worldwide attention, with their winning song "Waterloo" selling over five million records. +more Celine Dion's win for Switzerland in helped launch her international career, particularly in the anglophone market, and she would go on to sell an estimated 200 million records worldwide. Julio Iglesias was relatively unknown when he represented Spain in and placed fourth, but worldwide success followed his Eurovision appearance, with an estimated 100 million records sold during his career. Australian singer Olivia Newton-John represented the United Kingdom in 1974, placing fourth behind ABBA, but went on to sell an estimated 100 million records, win four Grammy Awards, and star in the critically and commercially successful musical film Grease.
A number of performers have competed in the contest after having already achieved considerable success. These include winning artists Lulu, Toto Cutugno, and Katrina and the Waves, and acts that failed to win such as Nana Mouskouri, Cliff Richard, Baccara, Umberto Tozzi, Plastic Bertrand, +moreA. T. u. '>t. A. T. u. , Las Ketchup, Patricia Kaas, Engelbert Humperdinck, Bonnie Tyler, and Flo Rida. Many well-known composers and lyricists have penned entries of varying success over the years, including Serge Gainsbourg, Goran Bregović, Diane Warren, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Pete Waterman, and Tony Iommi, as well as producers Timbaland and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo.
Past participants have contributed to other fields in addition to their music careers. The Netherlands' +more_G. _Schmidt'>Annie Schmidt, lyricist of the first entry performed at Eurovision, has gained a worldwide reputation for her stories and earned the Hans Christian Andersen Award for children's literature. French "yé-yé girls" Françoise Hardy and contest winner France Gall are household names of 1960s pop culture, with Hardy also being a pioneer of street style fashion trends and an inspiration for the global youthquake movement. Figures who carved a career in politics and gained international acclaim for humanitarian achievements include contest winner Dana as a two-time Irish presidential candidate and Member of the European Parliament (MEP); Nana Mouskouri as Greek MEP and a UNICEF international goodwill ambassador; contest winner Ruslana as member of Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine's parliament and a figure of the Orange Revolution and Euromaidan protests, who gained global honours for leadership and courage; and North Macedonia's Esma Redžepova as member of political parties and a two-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee.
Competing songs have occasionally gone on to become successes for their original performers and other artists, and some of the best-selling singles globally received their first international performances at Eurovision. "Save Your Kisses for Me", the winning song in for the United Kingdom's Brotherhood of Man, went on to sell over six million singles, more than any other winning song. +more "Nel blu, dipinto di blu", also known as "Volare", Italy's third-placed song in performed by Domenico Modugno, is the only Eurovision entry to win a Grammy. It was the first Grammy winner for both Record of the Year and Song of the Year and it has since been recorded by various artists, topped the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States and achieved combined sales of over 22 million copies worldwide. "Eres tú", performed by Spain's Mocedades and runner-up in , became the first Spanish-language song to reach the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100, and the Grammy-nominated "Ooh Aah. Just a Little Bit", which came eighth in for the United Kingdom's Gina G, sold 790,000 records and achieved success across Europe and the US, reaching #1 on the UK Singles Chart and peaking at #12 on the Billboard Hot 100.
The turn of the century has also seen numerous competing songs becoming successes. "Euphoria", Loreen's winning song for Sweden in , achieved Europe-wide success, reaching number one in several countries and by 2014 had become the most downloaded Eurovision song to date. +more The video for "Occidentali's Karma" by Francesco Gabbani, which placed sixth for Italy in , became the first Eurovision song to reach more than 200 million views on YouTube, while "Soldi" by Mahmood, the Italian runner-up in , was the most-streamed Eurovision song on Spotify until it was overtaken by that year's winner for the Netherlands, "Arcade" by Duncan Laurence, following viral success on TikTok in late 2020 and early 2021; "Arcade" later became the first Eurovision song since "Ooh Aah. Just a Little Bit" and the first Eurovision winning song since "Save Your Kisses for Me" to chart on the Billboard Hot 100, eventually peaking at #30. The saw the next major breakthrough success from Eurovision, with Måneskin, that year's winners for Italy with "", attracting worldwide attention across their repertoire immediately following their victory.
Johnny Logan remains the only artist to have won multiple contests as a performer, winning for Ireland in with "What's Another Year", written by Shay Healy, and in with the self-penned "Hold Me Now". Logan was also the winning songwriter in for the Irish winner, "Why Me?" performed by Linda Martin, and has therefore achieved three contest victories as either a performer or writer. +more Four further songwriters have each written two contest-winning songs: Willy van Hemert, Yves Dessca, Rolf Løvland, and Brendan Graham. Following their introduction in , Alexander Rybak became the first artist to win multiple Eurovision semi-finals, finishing in first at the second semi-finals in and ; he remains the only entrant to have done so to date.
69 songs from 27 countries have won the Eurovision Song Contest has recorded the most wins, with seven in total, followed by with six, and, the and the with five each. Of the 52 countries to have taken part, 25 have yet to win. +more On only one occasion have multiple winners been declared in a single contest: in , four countries finished the contest with an equal number of votes and due to the lack of a tie-break rule at the time, all four countries were declared winners. A majority of winning songs have been performed in English, particularly since the language rule was abolished in 1999. Since that contest, seven winning songs have been performed either fully or partially in a language other than English.
Two countries have won the contest on their first appearance: , by virtue of being declared the winner of the first contest in 1956; and , which won in 2007 in their first participation as an independent country, following entries in previous editions as part of the now-defunct and then . Other countries have had relatively short waits before winning their first contest, with victorious on their second contest appearance in and winning with their third entry in . +more Conversely, some countries have competed for many years before recording their first win: recorded their first win in , 31 years after their first appearance, while ended a 45-year losing streak in . waited the longest, recording their first win in , 53 years after their first participation. Countries have in the past had to wait many years to win the contest again: Switzerland went 32 years between winning in 1956 and ; held a 37-year gap between wins in and ; the Netherlands waited 44 years to win again in , their most recent win having been in ; and won its second contest in , 48 years after their first win in .
The United Kingdom holds the record for the highest number of second-place finishes, having come runner-up in the contest sixteen times. Meanwhile, has come last more than any other country, appearing at the bottom of the scoreboard on eleven occasions, including scoring nul points four times. +more A country has recorded back-to-back wins on four occasions: recorded consecutive wins in and 1969; Luxembourg did likewise in and ; Israel won the contest in and ; and Ireland became the first country to win three consecutive titles, winning in , and . Ireland's winning streak in the 1990s includes the , giving them a record four wins in five years.
The winning artists and songwriters receive a trophy, which since 2008 has followed a standard design: a handmade piece of sandblasted glass with painted details in the shape of a 1950s-style microphone, designed by Kjell Engman of the Swedish-based glassworks Kosta Boda. The trophy is typically presented by the previous year's winner; others who have handed out the award in the past include representatives from the host broadcaster or the EBU, and politicians; in 2007 the fictional character, Joulupukki (original Santa Claus from Finland), presented the award to the winner Marija Šerifović.
Interval acts and guest appearances
Alongside the song contest and appearances from local and international personalities, performances from non-competing artists and musicians have been included since the first edition, and have become a staple of the live show. These performances have varied widely, previously featuring music, art, dance and circus performances, and past participants are regularly invited to perform, with the reigning champion traditionally returning each year to perform the previous year's winning song.
The contest's opening performance and the main interval act, held following the final competing song and before the announcement of the voting results, has become a memorable part of the contest and has included 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" at the held in Greece; other performances have been more comedic in nature, featuring parody and humour, as was the case with "Love Love Peace Peace" in , a humorous ode to the history and spectacle of the contest itself. +more Riverdance, which later became one of the most successful dance productions in the world, first began as the interval performance at the 1994 contest in Ireland; the seven-minute performance of traditional Irish music and dance was later expanded into a full stage show that has been seen by over 25 million people worldwide and provided a launchpad for its lead dancers Michael Flatley and Jean Butler.
Among other artists who have performed in a non-competitive manner are Danish Europop group Aqua in , Russian pop duo +moreT. u. '>t. A. T. u. in , and American entertainers Justin Timberlake and Madonna in and respectively. Other notable artists, including Cirque du Soleil , Alexandrov Ensemble , Vienna Boys' Choir ( and ) and Fire of Anatolia , also performed on the Eurovision stage, and there have been guest appearances from well-known faces from outside the world of music, including actors, athletes, and serving astronauts and cosmonauts. Guest performances have been used as a channel in response to global events happening concurrently with the contest. The in Israel closed with all competing acts performing a rendition of Israel's winning song "Hallelujah" as a tribute to the victims of the war in the Balkans, a dance performance entitled "The Grey People" in 2016's first semi-final was devoted to the European migrant crisis, and the featured known anti-war songs "Fragile", "People Have the Power" and "Give Peace a Chance" in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine that same year.
Criticism and controversy
The contest has been the subject of considerable criticism regarding both its musical content and what has been reported to be a political element to the event, and several controversial moments have been witnessed over the course of its history.
Musical style and presentation
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 event has become formulaic. +more 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 competing 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 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 others 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 rock, heavy metal, jazz, country, electronic, R&B, hip hop and avant-garde.
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 performances and voting.
The continuing conflict between and has affected the contest on numerous occasions. Conflicts between the two countries at Eurovision escalated quickly since both countries began competing in the late 2000s, resulting in fines and disciplinary action for both countries' broadcasters over political stunts, and a forced change of title for one competing song due to allegations of political subtext. +more Interactions between and in the contest had originally been positive, however as political relations soured between the two countries so too have relations at Eurovision become more complex. Complaints were levied against 's winning song in , "1944", whose lyrics referenced the deportation of the Crimean Tatars, but which the claimed had a greater political meaning in light of Russia's annexation of Crimea. As prepared to host the , Russia's selected representative, Yuliya Samoylova, was barred from entering the country due to having previously entered Crimea illegally according to Ukrainian law. Russia eventually pulled out of the contest after offers for Samoylova to perform remotely were refused by Russia's broadcaster, Channel One Russia, resulting in the EBU reprimanding the Ukrainian broadcaster, UA:PBC. In the wake of the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine and subsequent protests from other participating countries, was barred from competing in , where went on to win. 's planned entry for the in Moscow, Russia, "We Don't Wanna Put In", caused controversy as the lyrics appeared to criticise Vladimir Putin, in a move seen as opposition to the then-Russian prime minister in the aftermath of the Russo-Georgian War. After requests by the EBU for changes to the lyrics were refused, Georgia's broadcaster GPB subsequently withdrew from the event. ' planned entry in , "Ya nauchu tebya (I'll Teach You)", also caused controversy in the wake of demonstrations against disputed election results, resulting in the country's disqualification when the aforementioned song and another potential song were deemed to breach the contest's rules on neutrality and politicisation.
's participation in the contest has resulted in several controversial moments in the past, with the country's first appearance in , less than a year after the Munich massacre, resulting in an increased security presence at the venue in Luxembourg City. 's first win in proved controversial for Arab states broadcasting the contest which would typically cut to advertisements when Israel performed due to a lack of recognition of the country, and when it became apparent Israel would win many of these broadcasters cut the feed before the end of the voting. +more Arab states which are eligible to compete have declined to participate due to Israel's presence, with the only Arab state to have entered Eurovision, competing for the first, and the only time, in when Israel was absent. Israeli participation has been criticised by those who oppose current government policies in the state, with calls raised by various political groups for a boycott ahead of the in Tel Aviv, 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 who take issue with perceived pinkwashing in Israel. Others campaigned against a boycott, asserting that any cultural boycott would be antithetical to advancing peace in the region.
Political and geographical voting
The contest has been described as containing political elements in its voting process, 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 this subject, which have corroborated that certain countries 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. +more Other views on these "blocs" argue that certain countries will allocate high points to others based on similar musical tastes, shared cultural links and a high degree of similarity and 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 which indicate voting preferences among countries based on shared religion, as well as "patriotic voting", particularly since the introduction of televoting in , where foreign nationals vote for their country of origin.
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, resulting in a number of calls for countries to boycott the contest over reported voting biases, particularly following the where Eastern European countries occupied the top 15 places in the final and dominated the qualifying spaces. +more The poor performance of the entries from more traditional Eurovision countries had subsequently been discussed in European national parliaments, and the developments in 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 . In response to this criticism, the EBU introduced a second semi-final in , with countries split based on geographic proximity and voting history, and juries of music professionals were reintroduced in , in an effort to reduce the impacts of bloc voting.
Eurovision has had a long-held fan base in the LGBT community, and contest organisers have actively worked to include these fans in the event since the 1990s. Paul Oscar became the contest's first openly gay artist to compete when he represented in . +more 's Dana International, the contest's first trans performer, became the first LGBT artist to win in . In , Nikkie de Jager became the first trans person to host the contest.
Several open members of the LGBT community have since gone on to compete and win: Conchita Wurst, the drag persona of openly gay Thomas Neuwirth, won the for ; openly bisexual performer Duncan Laurence was the winner of the 2019 contest for the ; and rock band Måneskin, winners of the 2021 contest for , features openly bisexual Victoria De Angelis as its bassist. Marija Šerifović, who won the 2007 contest for , subsequently came out publicly as a lesbian in 2013. +more Past competing songs and performances have included references and allusions to same-sex relationships; "Nous les amoureux", the winning song, contained references to the difficulties faced by a homosexual relationship; Krista Siegfrids' performance of "Marry Me" at the included a same-sex kiss with one of her female backing dancers; and the stage show of 's Ryan O'Shaughnessy's "Together" in had two male dancers portraying a same-sex relationship. Drag performers, such as 's Verka Serduchka, 's DQ and 's Sestre, have appeared, including Wurst winning in 2014.
In more recent years, various political ideologies across Europe have clashed in the Eurovision setting, particularly on LGBT rights. 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. +more , once a regular participant and a one-time winner, first pulled out of the contest in , citing dissatisfaction in the voting rules and more recently Turkish broadcaster TRT have cited LGBT performances as another reason for their continued boycott, refusing to broadcast the 2013 event over 's same sex kiss. LGBT visibility in the contest has been cited as a deciding factor for 's non-participation since , although no official reason was given by the Hungarian broadcaster MTVA. The rise of anti-LGBT sentiment in Europe has led to a marked increase in booing from contest audiences, particularly since the introduction of a "gay propaganda" law in Russia in 2013. Conchita Wurst's win was met with criticism on the Russian political stage, with several conservative politicians voicing displeasure in the result. Clashes on LGBT visibility in the contest have occurred in countries which do not compete, such as in , where broadcasting rights were terminated during the 2018 contest due to censorship of "abnormal sexual relationships and behaviours" that went against Chinese broadcasting guidelines.
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 is included as a topic of parody in television sketches and in stage performances at the Edinburgh Fringe and Melbourne Comedy festivals among others. +more Several films have 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 EBU and starring Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams.
Eurovision has a large online following and multiple independent websites, news blogs and fan clubs are dedicated to the event. 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. +more 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, known as the "pre-parties". 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. +more Eurovision in Concert, held annually in Amsterdam, was one of the first of these events to be created, holding its first edition in 2008. Other events held regularly include the London Eurovision Party, PrePartyES in Madrid, and Israel Calling in Tel Aviv. Several community events have been held virtually, particularly since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in Europe in 2020. EurovisionAgain, an initiative where fans watched and discussed past contests in sync on YouTube and other social media platforms, was launched during the first COVID-19 lockdowns and subsequently became a top trend on Twitter across Europe, 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 for the first time on their YouTube channel, and over £20,000 was raised for UK-based LGBTQ+ charities.
Special events and related competitions
Several anniversary events, and related contests under the "Eurovision Live Events" brand, have been organised by the EBU with member broadcasters. In addition participating broadcasters have occasionally commissioned special Eurovision programmes for their home audiences, and a number of other imitator contests have been developed outside of the EBU framework, on both a national and international level.
The EBU has held several events to mark selected anniversaries in the contest's history: Songs of Europe, held in 1981 to celebrate its twenty-fifth anniversary, had live performances and video recordings of all Eurovision Song Contest winners up to 1981; Congratulations: 50 Years of the Eurovision Song Contest was organised in 2005 to celebrate the event's fiftieth anniversary, and featured a contest to determine the most popular song from among 14 selected entries from the contest's first 50 years; and in 2015 the event's sixtieth anniversary was marked by Eurovision Song Contest's Greatest Hits, a concert of performances by past Eurovision artists and video montages of performances and footage from previous contests. Following the cancellation of the , the EBU subsequently organised a special non-competitive broadcast, Eurovision: Europe Shine a Light, which provided a showcase for the songs that would have taken part in the competition.
Other contests organised by the EBU include Eurovision Young Musicians, a classical music competition for European musicians between the ages of 12 and 21; Eurovision Young Dancers, a dance competition for non-professional performers between the ages of 16 and 21; Eurovision Choir, a choral competition for non-professional European choirs produced in partnership with the and modelled after the World Choir Games; and the Junior Eurovision Song Contest, a similar song contest for singers aged between 9 and 14 representing primarily European countries. The Eurovision Dance Contest was an event featuring pairs of dancers performing ballroom and latin dancing, which took place for two editions, in 2007 and 2008.
Similar international music competitions have been organised externally to the EBU. The Sopot International Song Festival has been held annually since 1961; between 1977 and 1980, under the patronage of the International Radio and Television Organisation (OIRT), an Eastern European broadcasting network similar to the EBU, it was rebranded as the Intervision Song Contest. +more A Ibero-American contest, the OTI Festival, was previously held among hispanophone and lusophone countries in Europe, North America and South America; and a contest for countries and autonomous regions with Turkic links, the Turkvision Song Contest, has been organised since 2013. Similarly, an adaption of the contest for artists in the United States, the American Song Contest, was first held in 2022 and featured songs representing U. S. states and territories. Adaptions of the contest for artists in Canada and Latin America are in development.