Eurovision Insight Podcast: The Greatest Song Show On Earth

Eurovision Insight Podcast: The Greatest Song Show On Earth

With more songs and performers released by delegations, line-ups and running orders set for National Finals, and the first details of the Semi Final draw coming out, it’s been a busy week for the Eurovision Song Contest.

Eurovision Insight Podcast: The Greatest Song Show On Earth

Another seven days of Eurovision action reported in the weekly Insight News podcast. This week memories of a caption, dreams of Duran Duran, and no Hugh Jackman; plus music from Conchita.

As the 2018 season builds up momentum, keep listening to the ESC Insight podcast 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.

Categories: ESC Insight


Making Sense Of The 2018 Semi Final Pot Allocation

Making Sense Of The 2018 Semi Final Pot Allocation

Germany did it for only the second time. As did Austria. And Portugal did it for the first time ever. Any broadcaster can win the Eurovision Song Contest in the twenty first century, whether it has ‘friends’ or not. And every winner that has qualified out of a semi-final did so with a commandingly high score and a top two finish in its semi-final.

In other words, Eurovision winners do very well in both their Semi Final and Grand Final appearances. No surprise there. But there’s another aspect to the Song Contest: participating and getting a placement that, on some level, corresponds to the calibre of what is sent. Something that did not happen as reliably in the years before a jury component was re-integrated into the scoring system.

This article is not about winning the Eurovision: it’s about qualifying from a Semi Final, and therefore getting a chance to appear on Saturday night. The implications of the possibility of qualifying from a Semi Final are significant. In the early years of the Semi Final system worthwhile entries sometimes struggled to qualify because of public voting patterns favouring friends and neighbours and offering a slight edge. If qualification chances were largely determined before performing, why should unaffiliated countries bother? What was the point?

If voting skews were seen as a problem, the first solution proffered were the pots.

ESC 2014 SF Draw

Friends, Neighbours And Family

Beginning with Belgrade 2008, Semi Final entries have been put in pots based on televote (rather than jury) history, and geographic location. There have been five or six pots per year: in years with five pots, two generally have seven members—otherwise most pots have five or six.

Mostly importantly, there have three pots that have been consistent in terms of their membership, with minor changes year upon year:

  1. Russophone: former Soviet Union republics that do not have any other more obvious neighbourly or shared linguistic support. Hence Moldova, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania often being allocated different pots.
  2. Scandinavia: the traditional Nordic countries, often with Estonia included.
  3. Yugosphere: former Yugoslav republics, often including Albania because of the large Albanian minorities in former Yugoslav republics such as Serbia, Montenegro and Macedonia.

The other pots mostly include pairs of countries that tend to swap votes (Romania/Moldova, Greece/Cyprus, Latvia/Lithuania) and some that perhaps might be expected to swap—but do not consistently do so (Belgium/Netherlands).

Half of the countries in each pot are randomly allocated to the first Semi Final, and the other half to the second (and to the first or second half of said Semi Final) at a random draw in January. As well, the pre-qualified Grand Finalists—The Big 5 members Spain, Germany, the United Kingdom, France, and Italy, plus whomever is hosting—draw to vote in either Semi Final. With some exceptions…which will be noted below when relevant.

If we have a clear system of pots, why do the pots change, year upon year?

Winners, Débutants, Departed, And Returnees

There are three reasons for the pots having to be adjusted: a non-Big 5 winner that temporarily leaves the pot system, the début of a new participating broadcaster, or the departure or return of a previous participating broadcaster.

When the host broadcaster is not a Big 5 member (the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Germany or Spain), that means one less Semi Final participant. Aside from the host entry being directly qualified for that year’s Grand Final (and while they will vote in one of the Semi Finals), the hosts are not allocated to a pot. Instead, like the big 5 that year’s hosts draw to vote in one the two Semi Finals—without consideration of how their previous “pot mates” have split across the Semi Finals.  Potentially, that can lead to an extra voting friend in a Semi Final.

Here’s how the host Semi Final votes were allocated over the previous five Contests:

YearHostPrevious potPot vote Semi-Final Split

Austria has never benefited from consistent neighbourly or shared linguistic support: they have always been allocated in one of two “miscellaneous” pots alongside former co-state Hungary.

In 2013 there was no Scandinavia pot since Denmark had requested to appear in the first semi-final and Norway the second. Pot 2 had Finland, Iceland and frequent Scandinavia pot member Estonia. For Copenhagen 2014 it was decided in advance to split Norway and Sweden across the two semi-finals, in order to maximise local fan Semi Final ticket chances. Pot 2 had Finland, Iceland and Estonia. In 2015 the Scandinavian pot included both Estonia and Latvia.

In 2013 Finland, Norway, Denmark, and Iceland all made the Grand Final; similarly, in 2014 Finland, Norway, Sweden, and Iceland did. In 2015 only Norway, Sweden and Estonia qualified. In 2016 only Latvia qualified from the semi-finals: Finland, Norway, Denmark, Iceland and Estonia all failed to do so.

Ukraine withdrew in 2015 because of war, but they have always been in the Russophone pot, including in 2016. Armenia, Russia, Azerbaijan, Ukraine and Georgia all qualified in 2016: Belarus was the only pot member who failed to.

In 2008 both Azerbaijan and San Marino made their débuts. Both were put in a “miscellaneous” pot, but the Azeris were moved into the Russophone pot the following year. Australia made their début in 2015 as a one-off special guest, but when they returned the following year they were allocated into the miscellaneous pot. It will be interesting to see where future débutants might allocated. The numerous North African (Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt) and Middle Eastern (Lebanon, Jordan) countries with EBU member broadcasters could lead to the creation of a la Francophonie pot… were enough of them to participate in a given year.

The dynamic that has impacted constitution of the pots most often has been the withdrawal or return of broadcasters to the Eurovision Song Contest. Trying to track all these changes gets rather messy rather quickly. Let’s focus on how the return of a broadcaster has impacted the pots:

YearReturnPrevious potReturn pot















2016Bosnia & Hercegovina


















In other words, those previously allocated to one of the three main pots have been returned to those pots. Those who were not have remained not. Mostly…

The Pots For Lisbon

Here are the pots for 2018. Changes are in bold:

Pot 1Pot 2Pot 3Pot 4Pot 5Pot 6



























Czech Republic


San Marino








In 2018 we have three changes: Ireland, Israel and Estonia have moved pots. Let’s look at each’s televote allocations across the most recent semi-finals to see if we can understand the changes, starting with Estonia, who this year they are in one of the miscellaneous pots.

Year12 points1087654321
2014NetherlandsUkraineHungaryLatviaSwedenRussiaSan MarinoIcelandArmeniaPortugal
2016RussiaAustriaNetherlandsFinlandCyprusHungarySan MarinoIcelandMaltaArmenia

There are arguments for including Estonia into the Scandinavian or Russophone pots. Across the Russophone pot the Estonian public have awarded 51 points. Across the Scandinavian pot they have awarded 40 points. There were 232 points available across these four years (58 points per year), so that works out to 22 and 17 per cent. The Russophone pot is around 15-20% of the participants in a given year; the Scandinavian pot usually 12-14%. So these are not outrageous levels of support. In the Russophone pot, core members tend to consistently give around half their televote points to fellow pot members.  In other words, the Estonian move makes sense.

Here are Israel’s recent semi-final televote allocations:

Year12 points1087654321

There are around 1.5 million Russian speakers living in Israel, representing almost 20 per cent of the population. Across the Russophone pot Israel has awarded a total of 30 televote points, representing 13 per cent of the total points awarded. Hence their shift out of the Russophone pot. Again, this move makes some sense—though there is another option for the Reference Group (see below).

Ireland is the intriguing one. Here are their recent semi-final televotes:

Year12 points1087654321

Ireland has awarded most of its televotes to three countries: Lithuania (46 of 48 points), Poland (32 of 36 points), and Latvia (15 of 24 points). Yet they are moved to the Scandinavian pot for 2018. To whose members they have awarded a total of 27 points: 12 per cent to a pot that represents around 12 per cent of the competitors. This makes little sense. Previously Ireland, Lithuania and Poland were in a pot, with Latvia joining them around half the time.

Let’s take a look at how many points Ireland received from the Scandinavian pot members over this same period:

  • 2014: Norway 4 points, Finland 2 points
  • 2015: Null points
  • 2016 : Denmark 4 points, Norway 2 points
  • 2017: Estonia 7 points, Denmark 5 points, Norway 2 points

These numbers are very low—so getting too much support from this pot’s traditional members cannot explain Ireland joining their pot. With Lithuania, Poland and Latvia in a different pot, there will be at least two and as many as four of Ireland, Lithuania, Poland or Latvia in one semi-final. It is unclear who will benefit from this.

Would less be more

The changes for Estonia and Israel make sense, based on the televote numbers in recent years: the benefit of shifting Ireland in the Scandinavian pot seems less clear. One conclusion to make from these changes is that the Reference Group seems to be avoiding the creation of one or two somewhat larger pots, for the Yugosphere and Russophone networks.

The Russophone pot could include Israel and the Baltics (as former Soviet states) as well—even if none consistently delivers the massive televote scores this pot’s core members often do. There could be as few as four pots:

Yugosphere +Scandinavia +RussophoneMiscellaneous
1.     Albania

2.     Croatia

3.     Macedonia

4.     Montenegro

5.     Serbia

6.     Slovenia

7.     Switzerland

8.     Austria

9.     [Bosnia & Hercegovina, if they return]

10.  Greece

1.     Denmark

2.     Finland

3.     Iceland

4.     Norway

5.     Sweden

6.     Ireland

7.     Australia

8.     Malta

9.     Cyprus

1.     Armenia

2.     Azerbaijan

3.     Belarus

4.     Georgia

5.     Russia

6.     Ukraine

7.     Israel

8.     Estonia

9.     Latvia

10.  Lithuania

11.  Moldova

1.     Bulgaria

2.     Hungary

3.     Romania

4.     Poland

5.     Netherlands

6.     Belgium

7.     Czech Republic

8.     San Marino

Pot one adds Austria (significant ex-Yugoslav minorities), Greece (significant Albanian minority). Pot two adds Australia (shared televote love with Sweden), along with Cyprus and Malta (strong ties to Nordic music industry). Pot 3 includes all former Soviet states plus Israel. Pot 4 is everyone else.

It is worth noting that currently the pot system does not require pairs of countries that vote for each other persistently to be split across the two semi-finals. There’s currently no barrier to Moldova and Romania being in the same semi-final. And pairs of countries swapping douze points has not led to a poor entry qualifying over a strong one.

This Is Why The Pots Are Important

In its current iteration the scoring system weights the televote and jury votes equally. There’s no averages, no combinatorics: the top 10 place entries for both the jury members and public in each country allocates 58 points during a semi-final or Grand Final. The EBU presumes that professional juries might have some biases, but expects jurors as professionals, to judge entries based on merit against the proscribed criteria. Hence the pots being focused on televoting patterns only.

Since the pot system was introduced the qualification records for several countries have improved (Estonia, Belgium, the Netherlands) while others have waned (Macedonia). Only Russia, Ukraine and Romania have maintained perfect qualification records (excluding withdrawals) and every currently participating broadcaster has qualified at least once from a semi-final. It remains a struggle for participants like San Marino and Czechia (who have each qualified once), though perennial also-rans Bulgaria have achieved two top five results in the last two years.

On a fundamental level, strong entries do reasonably well. Significantly because the pot system increases the statistical chance of qualifying for unaligned and smaller countries. It is this somewhat levelling of the playing field that has made it worthwhile for Cypriot, Austrian, Bulgarian, and Dutch broadcasters to aim higher. And it is entirely plausible that our next Lena, Conchita or Salvador will represent San Marino or Czechia.

Categories: ESC Insight


Eurovision Insight Podcast: Let’s Go To See The Sea

Eurovision Insight Podcast: Let’s Go To See The Sea

With even more songs and performers released by delegations, line-ups and running orders set for National Finals, drama from Belarus and Cyprus, it’s been another busy week for the Eurovision Song Contest.

Eurovision Insight Podcast: Let’s Go To See The Sea

Let Lisa-Jayne Lewis fill you in on the latest news of who’ll be joining us aboard the good ship Eurovision, and what we can expect when we reach the port of Lisbon. 

As the 2018 season builds up momentum, keep listening to the ESC Insight podcast 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.

Categories: ESC Insight


Moldova’s broadcaster reveals songs for national final

Moldova’s broadcaster reveals songs for national final

SunStroke Project (Moldova 2017)

TRM MD, Moldova’s official broadcaster, has just made public the 28 songs that will compete to represent the country at this year’s Eurovision Song Contest. 

Moldova will surely have a lot of eyes on them, after lasts years success and have a lot to offer in its national final.

Sunstroke Project brought Moldova the country’s best result ever in the Eurovision Song Contest last year with the smash Hey Mamma. In 2018, the country will surely want to continue its good reputation. The country has now presented the 28 hopeful songs for this year’s competition.

All of the songs were made available by the broadcaster – TRM MD – in its Youtube channel. All of them will now go through three different stages. First will be the live auditions where fourteen songs will make it to the semifinal to be held on February 22. Eight songs will make the grand final to be held on February 24.

Take a look at this year’s Selecția Națională list where you’ll be able to find a good balance between English and Moldovan entries.

 ArtistSong Title
ViorelaThe Gates of Love
Vera TurcanBlack Heart
Tudor BumbacNumai pentru Tine
TolikBroken Glass
ShvetsThe World
Sasha BognibovLove
Sandy C & Aaron SibleyOnce Upon a Time
SaidyBeauty Song
Ruslan TaranuCome to Life
Pelageya StefogloLet’s Start Together Right Now
Nicoleta SavaEsencia del Sur
Marina CudalbBianco e nero
Lavinia RusuAltundeva
Laura BagriiDa bucuriei
Ilia Sorocean & Dasha DaGroMinds & Veins
Formația „5 stele”Maldavian Dance
Felicia DunafAlien
DoReDosMy Lucky Day
Doinița GhermanDance in flames
Dima GaiturOne Moya
Denny FeytonMaybe It’s Love
Codreanu MariaZâmbește soarelui
Cobîlean ConstantinNumai Tu
Che MDInima-n stînga
Anna TimofeiEndlessly
Anna OdobescoAgony

While waiting for the semifinal, why not remind yourself of Sunstroke Project’s interview to EuroVisionary last year at the show’s backstage?

Categories: Eurovisionary


Tommy Seebach’s music once again hot in Denmark

Tommy Seebach’s music once again hot in Denmark

His music will never die. He tragically passed away in 2003, but if Tommy Seebach can look down on us from the sky, he will see that a new revival of his music has increased the sale significantly. The triple Eurovision participant remains a lost friend in the hearts of many Danes.

It was the 31st of March 2003. Tommy Seebach collapsed with a heart attack he didn’t wake up from. Too much alcohol had taken the life of the happy curly-haired man, who represented Denmark at the Eurovision Song Contest three times. He was only 53 years old. The country was in chock, and those who had turned their back on him would have to ask themselves if they played a part in this.

Six years later, his son Rasmus broke through as a singer with the smash hit Engel. He has been Denmark’s best selling artist ever since, breaking record after record. But things hasn’t always been easy for Rasmus. Having seen his dad’s ups and downs first hand, Rasmus struggled to find himself in the role as singer. He also faced record companies turning him down, if he didn’t throw away the name Seebach.

The story about the Seebach family has been turned in to a musical. Since it’s premiere in September 2017, Fredericia Teater has extended it several times, and when it soon finish here, the show will go to Århus and later Copenhagen. It is a very popular show which has been praised by everyone who have seen it. (Your writer has seen it twice, with four months in between, and she warmly recommends it).

Musical led to increased sale

Rasmus kept his last name. He finds inspiration in his dad’s music. In many of his songs, it is clear that he is proud of his last name. As he should be. It took some years after his death, but Tommy is finally getting the recognition he deserves. That can also be seen in the interest for his music.

Fredericia Dagblad has talked to Lars Bennike from Warner Music who says that they now see a significantly increase in the interest for Tommy’s music. He is not allowed to mention numbers nor any specific albums or songs from Tommy, which is more popular, but he says that they after comparing the sales to the same period last year “can clearly see an increase”. He mentions that it mostly online purchases.

It is added that as Rasmus already sold a lot before the premiere of the musical, and afterwards released another album,  it is not possible to say anything about the effect this musical might have had on his music. Your writer can however tell that on both occasions, she saw the musical, Rasmus’ crew sold a lot of souvenirs. As the show has basically been sold out every evening since the premiere in September, that probably has been good for his sales.

Rasmus has recorded a few of his dad’s songs, but also written some ‘tribute’ songs to him. On one of those, Den Jeg Er (Who I am) from his debut album, he tells his dad how the family is doing, and that the dad shouldn’t be too sad.

It took me 29 years, but I get it now. I have done like you said I should – sing boy, just sing – so that’s what I do. Can you hear me?

… I drop by. Should say hello from mum, Nicolaj and Marie (Rasmus’s brother and sister). We all miss you every day, but we are fine.

… You don’t need to say ‘I’m Sorry’ because you made me who I am… promise me you won’t say ‘I’m Sorry’, because you made me who I am.

… I dream and hope and believe that we will all see each other on the other side.

Rasmus Seebach – Den Jeg Er

(Translated to English for our readers).

The Seebach musical ends with a Rasmus ‘concert’. While it isn’t allowed to film or take photos from the musical itself, it can be done during this concert. We bring you hear a performance of the song mentioned above, Den Jeg Er written by Rasmus to Tommy.

Tommy Seebach represented Denmark three times at the Eurovision Song Contest. In 1979, 1981 and in 1993.

Categories: Eurovisionary


Former Eurovision participants in the running – Festival da Canção 2018 acts presented

Former Eurovision participants in the running – Festival da Canção 2018 acts presented

Who will represent Portugal on home field at this year’s Eurovision Song Contest? Today, the acts for the 2018 Festival da Canção were presented. Expectations and ambitions are high in Portugal after last year’s victory.

While keeping most focus on the production of the Eurovision Song Contest that will be held in Lisbon this year, broadcaster RTP is not forgetting its national selection. Back in October 2017, the country announced when, where and which songwriters that were to take part in this year’s Festival da Canção. They have set expectations high with an impressive and wide selection of genres and composers.

See alsoNorway: Three Eurovision participants return as Melodi Grand Prix 2018 acts were presented

Today, the broadcaster has officially unveiled in a press conference who is actually going to take the stage within a month, when the country’s national selection begin with its first semi-final. The 26 composers – and their chosen singer can be found in the list below along with the respective semifinal:

Song title (semifinal)PerformerComposer
A Mensageira (2)Susana TravassosAline Frazão
O Voo das Cegonhas (2)LiliArmando Teixeira
Zero a Zero (1)Joana EspadimBenjamim
All Over Again (2)SequinBruno Cardoso
Sobre Nós (2)TaminCapicua
Só Por Ela (1)Peu MadureiraDiogo Clemente
Canção do Fim (2)Diogo PiçarraDiogo Piçarra
Amor Veloz (2)David PessoaFrancisco Rebelo
Para te Dar Abrigo (1)Anabela (ESC 1993)Fernando Tordo
O Jardim (2)Cláudia PascoalIsaura
Anda Daí (2)Rita RuivoJoão Afonso
Sem Medo (1)Rui DavidJorge Palma
O Som da Guitarra é a Alma de Um Povo (1)José Cid (Portugal 1980) & Gonçalo TavaresJosé Cid
Alvoroço (1)JP SimõesJP Simões
Para Sorrir Eu Não Preciso de Nada (1)Catarina MirandaJúlio Resende
Eu Te Amo (1)Beatriz PessoaMallu Magalhães
Arco-Íris (2)Dora FidalgoMiguel Ângelo
Anda Estragar-me os Planos (1)Joana Barra VazFrancisca Cortesão
Austrália (1)Bruno VasconselosNuno Rafael
Patati PatataMinni & RhayraPaulo Flores
A Mesma Canção (1)Maria AmaralPaulo Praça
Bandeira Azul (2)Maria Inês ParisTito Paris
(sem título) (1)JaneiroJaneiro
Para Lá do Rio (2)Daniela OnisDaniela Onis
Sunset (2)Peter SerradoPeter Serrado
Com Gosto Amigo (1)Rita DiasRita Dias

Festival da Canção will take place on the 18th and 25th of February where the songs will fight for a place in the final to be held in Guimarães, during RTP’s anniversary, on the 4th of March.

In a recent interview to Diário de Notícias, RTP’s Nuno Galopim stated that “it is important that Portugal’s choice is a reflection of the good music that is produced in the country (…) no matter the formula.” According to the show’s consultant the formula “is to have no formula”.

In the video below, take a look at a special Full Stage View of Portugal’s 2017 Eurovision winner. How did the background and the lights compliment the song? See it all in the video.

Jury and presenters of Festival da Canção 2018 were also revealed

Besides the acts and the song titles, the press conference today also covered other news by making it official who will be part of the judging panel, and the presenters.

Júlio Isidro is back as the head of the jury and, this year, on his side are:

Ana Bacalhau (singer), Ana Markl (journalist), António Avelar Pinho (composer), Carlão (singer), Luísa Sobral (Salvador’s sister who was stand-in for the the first rehearsals in Kyiv), Mário Lopes (music journalist), Sara Tavares (ESC 1994) and Tozé Brito (music producer).
As for the presenters, the first semifinal will be presented by men (Jorge Gabriel and José Carlos Malato) and the second semifinal by women (Tânia Ribas and Sónia Araújo).
The show’s grand final will be hosted by Filomena Cautela (also one of the Eurovision presenters) with Pedro Fernandes.

Categories: Eurovisionary

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