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Eurovision Insight Podcast: One Of Us

Eurovision Insight Podcast: One Of Us

The biggest question this week after the UK National Final is which Swede is the bigger fan of The Wombles,  Zelmerlöw or Af Sillén? We can’t help you with that one, so ask us about National Final results, new songs, upcoming releases, the mysteries of Sanremo or the inevitable ‘Saturday Night’ puns at Dansk MGP…

Eurovision Insight Podcast: One Of Us

Seven days of Eurovision squeezed into just one podcast, hosted by Ewan Spence. This week, three new songs to love, a bad Whigfield pun, and trying to understand Sanremo; plus music from The Kolors.

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


Eurovision Insight Podcast: Power To All Our Friends

Eurovision Insight Podcast: Power To All Our Friends

Tonight will see the BBC’s ‘Eurovision: You Decide’ National Final take to the air, with six acts hoping to win through to represent the United Kingdom in Lisbon come May. With  bit of ‘home advantage’ in reporting a National Final for once, the ESC Insight team decided to meet the stars that will take to the stage, and some of those behind the scenes.

Eurovision Insight Podcast: Power To All Our Friends

Lisa-Jayne Lewis and Ewan Spence talk to the six acts performing at Eurovision: You Decide to decide who will represent the United Kingdom at the 2018 Eurovision Song Contest in Lisbon. Along the way they also talk to Head of Delegation Helen Riddell, Musical Director Hugh Goldsmith, and OGAE UK President Alasdair Rendall.

As the 2018 season continues to fill up the spreadsheet of songs, 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


How To Solve The Problem Of Tickets For The Eurovision Song Contest

How To Solve The Problem Of Tickets For The Eurovision Song Contest

For the vast majority of fans of the Eurovision Song Contest, the show is the televisual highlight of the year. For others it is a social event that requires planning, commitment, a sense of adventure, and the ability find tickets to be in the audience of the live shows. With the 2018 Song Contest arriving in a very desirable and easily reachable location, demand for tickets has been higher than normal, which has cast a light into the dark corners of scalpers, bots, and the secondary ticketing industry.

Why has it been harder than normal to get a ticket for the Lisbon shows, how can the EBU ensure more fans and less professionals receive tickets, and what methods are used by other high-profile events to achieve this?

Who left their wife at home? Eurovision's 1998 audience (image:

A year without bots, the audience are ready for the Eurovision Song Contest 1998 (image:

What Everyone Can See Happening

Within moments of tickets to the Eurovision Song Contest going on sale, they appear on secondary ticket selling sites such as Viagogo, Seatwave, and Getmein. The prices are inflated well above the listed price, fans who have followed the Song Contest through the year feel cheated, and there’s a sense that making money beats love of the Contest.

It’s not as simple as ‘the bots buy all the tickets and then sell them at a ridiculous mark-up,’ but it is close. Acting as a scalper for big events is a full-time profession with huge riches for those ticket brokers who make it. It is a constant battlefield for ticket sellers to allow genuine consumers to buy tickets while keeping out the secondary elements.

For the brokers this is their livelihood. Their job is to understand the websites and systems better than those who make them. Their profit can be found by shaving milliseconds off the transaction time through faster drop downs and text inputs. The average concert goer makes a handful of transactions a year. Brokers can make thousands a day.

If there’s an advantage, they have found it. And when they can’t find an advantage in the system, they will make one.

Eurovision 2018 Photoshopped Tickets (via Eurovision World)

Eurovision 2018 Photoshopped Tickets (via Eurovision World)

Take the usefulness of using a prepaid credit cards. Typically used by travellers worried about handing over details to their own bank accounts, or by consumers who need a card but have low credit ratings, ticket brokers have another use for them.

Many events now ask for the credit card used to purchase a ticket to be presented at the venue alongside the ticket. It is possible to ‘orders’ a ticket through an agency for a big event ahead of the box office opening. The vast digital infrastructure of bots and buyers used to capture as many tickets as possible now has a specific target concert and a specific buyer. The ticket is purchased by the prepaid credit card, and when the secondary sale is made the buyer will receive not just the ticket but also the credit card used to buy the ticket.

Anyone using this approach to obtain a ticket will realise they are trying to game the system of ID checks, so it’s unlikely to be offered on the open market, but it is an option for those who have a relationship with a broker.


Attending Eurovision 2008

Then there’s the ultimate ‘confidence’ move, where secondary sellers list a ticket without yet actually having the ticket to sell. In this scenario a ticket is listed on the secondary sites at a very high price, with delivery promised a few days to a week before the concert. Once the ticket is ‘purchased’ the vendor now has time (and budget) to go out and source a ticket to supply to the wide-eyed consumer who thinks their ‘show of a lifetime’ is guaranteed.

The Eurovision Song Contest is no different to any other event… a small number of seats and a much larger fan base to exploit means there is easy profit for the shady end of the market.

We Do This Every Year, Why Have Tickets Not Changed?

This is a situation that happens ahead of every Eurovision, so the obvious place to start is to ask why the Song Contest is susceptible to this.

I think this is down to the small amount of time that a host broadcaster has to organise the event. There is a huge emphasis on the size of the arena, transport links in the host city, hotel beds available, the amount of electrical power required, and other details around the show. Ticketing for the live shows has to come after many logistical elements are decided; even then the feeling is that the goal of the host broadcaster is ‘pack in as many people as possible, as quickly as possible, while spending as few resources as possible.’

The EBU is not in a position to build and provide its own ticketing system to the Eurovision family of events. While it can provide many services for its members, offering a bespoke ticketing system is not a cost effective way forward. In the same way that the EBU and the host broadcaster each year will tender for services from building the lighting rig above the stage to supplying coffee to the press room, ticketing for the Song Contest events also comes under the tender process.

That means that even though there is the potential for a different broadcaster each year to be involved in the process, and a different company each year that will be handling the process, the EBU can insist on certain conditions and base-line expectations to be implemented.

The live experience of the Eurovision Song Contest should be more than ‘just get the stadium filled with the lowest expense spent on selling the tickets’. It’s time for the process to receive the same attention to detail as the televised product receives.

MEO Arena from the sky.

Lisbon 2018’s Atlantic Arena from the sky.

Three Ticketing Suggestions For Distribution, Denial, And Demand

Arguably, the reason that there is so much demand for tickets (and an apparently vibrant secondary ticketing market) is that the tickets are still too cheap. In a perfectly capitalistic world you would keep lifting the price of the tickets until you reached a point where all the tickets sold out and nobody who could afford a ticket was still wanting for one.

This would have the knock on effect of offering the Song Contest much more funds for the show’s budget.

Of course we don’t live in that sort of world – the EBU wants the Contest to be accessible to as wide an audience as possible. That means creating a scheme where everyone has a chance of obtaining a ticket, and the impact of the secondary ticketing market is reduced.

Thankfully the live music an theatre/concert world has been addressing these problems for some time, and it is far better to look at practical changes that have already been made to understand what the Song Contest’s ticketing tender could target in the future.

The Credit Card Of The Beast

One of the leading campaigners against secondary ticket sales is the rock band Iron Maiden. The last few tours organised by the band have seen the number of tickets resold dropping by more than ninety-five percent. In 2010, the day after tickets for the band’s 2011 tour went on sale almost 7000 tickets were listed on secondary ticketing platforms. In 2016 that number had dropped to 207.

The bands management acknowledge that fans have to jump through one extra hoop to achieve this – they do not get issued the ticket until they arrive at the concert. When they do, they must have the original credit or debit card with them along with photo ID. Their name is verified, payment is checked, the ticket is issued, and then validated as they enter the venue.

A similar system is in place at the Victoria Theatre in London for ‘Hamilton’ tickets. Your ID and card needs to match that submitted at the time of booking, and any exceptions must be discussed well in advance with (in this case) Ticketmaster.

Hamlet: The Mild Ballot Solution

Take Tom Hiddleston’s recent appearance in Hamlet at the Jerwood Vanbrugh Theatre. With just 160 seats each performance, this was going to be a very exclusive and sought after ticket. How to create a fair and equitable distribution of the small number of seats compared to the demand was the issue faced by RADA.

It’s choice was to move to a full ballot system. Everyone who wanted a ticket submitted their name, and an online ballot wold pick names at random and offer them a specific time-slot to buy one or two ticket. The registration period was open over six days, and included a name verification step. Either the ticket buyer or a named individual (who was named at the point of purchase) had to attend the show, reducing the ability to re-sell the tickets.

RADA also worked with its ticketing partners to make a dedicated ticketing website that was designed around the ballot method to ensure a simple user experience.

The Swinging Swifties

Hiddleston’s Hamlet was very much a one-off, but Eurovision not only happens every year, but has an engaged fan base that is active all year round. I personally think that mixing the principle of a ballot, along with the ‘ID at the door’ requirements are solid ideas that should feature as part of the ticketing process of the Eurovision Song Contest.

But it is worth noting the logical extreme that this could be taken to. Tickets to ‘golden’ sections of the Semi Finals and Grand Finals could be regarded as rewards and thank yous to engaged fans who help promote Eurovision throughout the year. In a sense this already happens with the OGAE ticket packages, but I’m talking about supercharging this idea, bypassing OGAE, and going for the full Tay Tay.

Before tickets went on public sale for Taylor Swift’s ‘Reputation’ Concert, some fans were invited to register into a pre-sale process. Once registered, you could boost your place in the virtual queue for the allocated one-hour windows to buy your tickets. Boosting activities included sharing news and links on social media, watching Taylor Swift videos and listening to tracks on streaming music services, purchasing the album through the website, and buying Taylor Swift merchandise.

If only there was some sort of house where fans could buy Eurovision merchandise and could “…connect and integrate the global Eurovision fan base with the Eurovision Song Contest, on a year-round basis.”

A Little Difference Goes A Long Way

There will be an audience for all of the live shows of this year’s Eurovision Song Contest, so in a broad sense the system that is in place now is one that works. Yet the system does not feel fair and equitable towards those who follow the Contest all year round.

It is within the remit of the EBU to request specific conditions in the tender process for ticketing, and there are methods that can be used that have proven successful with other major productions around the world. Tweaking the ticketing system for 2019 and beyond will lead to a slight increase in complexity for fans and the host broadcaster, but this marginal win would deliver a far better emotional experience to the Eurovision Song Contest.

Further Reading

  • How U2 Fans Are Squeezed By Ticket Sellers.
  • The Man Who Broke Ticketmaster
  • The Concert Ticket Industry Is Broken
  • Beating The Ticket Touts
  • Iron Maiden Reports Success In Fight Against Ticket Touts

Categories: ESC Insight


Newsletter: Results Of The Semi Final Allocation Draw Held In Lisbon

Newsletter: Results Of The Semi Final Allocation Draw Held In Lisbon

One of the key milestones on the road to the 2018 Eurovision Song Contest took place in Lisbon this morning, as the Mayors of Kyiv and Lisbon symbolically exchanged the iconic Host City Insignia at a special press event which also served as the random draw for which countries will vote and perform in the Semi Finals

While the running order of the two shows will be determined by producers in the weeks immediately preceding this year’s Song Contest, the random draw sees the 37 semi-finalists placed into the top and bottom halves of the two Semi Finals (which aids scheduling rehearsals and arrival times for the delegations). The Big Five and hosts Portugal also learned which Semi Final they will be able to vote in.

19 countries will compete in Semi Final One on Tuesday 8th May, while the remaining 18 will compete in Semi Final Two on Thursday 10th May.

Semi Final One – Top Half

  • Albania
  • Azerbaijan
  • Belarus
  • Belgium
  • Bulgaria
  • Czech Republic
  • Estonia
  • Iceland
  • Israel
  • Lithuania

Semi Final One – Bottom Half

  • Armenia
  • Austria
  • Croatia
  • Cyprus
  • Finland
  • Greece
  • Ireland
  • Macedonia
  • Switzerland

Portugal, Spain and the United Kingdom will vote in this Semi Final.

Semi Final Two – Top Half

  • Australia
  • Denmark
  • Moldova
  • Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Romania
  • Russia
  • San Marino
  • Serbia

Semi Final Two – Bottom Half

  • Georgia
  • Hungary
  • Latvia
  • Malta
  • Montenegro
  • Poland
  • Slovenia
  • Sweden
  • Ukraine

France, Germany and Italy will vote in this Semi Final.

Keep an eye on ESC Insight for full analysis of the draw over the next few days.

The full online version of the ESC Insight newsletter is available here. You can also subscribe here to receive the newsletter direct to your inbox.

For all the latest Eurovision-related news and analysis, you can also follow ESC Insight on Facebook and Twitter.

Categories: ESC Insight


Eurovision Insight Podcast: The Luck of the Draw

Eurovision Insight Podcast: The Luck of the Draw

We’re in the thick of the 2018 National Final season. Hold on to your hats, because there’s a thrilling torrent of news coming your way.

Eurovision Insight Podcast: The Luck of the Draw

We’re steadily filling up the spreadsheet for Lisbon, with internal selections and national finals providing us with a great batch of songs and artists. Does this make analysing the results of the semi-final draw more than a crystal-ball gazing exercise? Lisa-Jayne Lewis takes you through the news and gives you hints on what’s to come, too.

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


Winners And Losers In The Eurovision 2018 Semi Final Draw

Winners And Losers In The Eurovision 2018 Semi Final Draw

Be in no doubt, the delegations hungry for the win will be looking at the draw and using this to build up PR campaigns, to target resources on fans, street teams, television appearances, social media sites, and all the other tricks that you can bring to bear in a media campaign with a fixed deadline.

It also means that we can see which countries already have a slight advantage, and which are walking out to the stump with a broken cricket bat.

But first, a recap of the actual draw:

EBU's Lisbon 2018 Semi Final Draw (image:

EBU’s Lisbon 2018 Semi Final Draw (image:

Semi Final 1

Top Half:
Albania, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Iceland, Israel, and Lithuania.
Bottom Half:
Armenia, Austria, Croatia, Cyprus, Finland, Macedonia, Greece, Ireland, and Switzerland.

Semi Final 2

Top Half:
Australia, Denmark, Norway, Moldova, Romania, Russia, San Marino, Serbia, and The Netherlands.
Bottom Half:
Hungary, Georgia, Malta, Montenegro, Latvia, Poland, Slovenia, Sweden, and Ukraine.

And for those of you keeping track of the votes of the Big 5 and our hosts; Spain, Portugal, and the United Kingdom will vote in Semi Final 1; while France, Italy, and Spain will vote in Semi Final 2.


Finland: All The Boxes Ticked

Thanks to some quick thinking from YLE, the Finnish broadcaster switched from a full selection to a nominated artist. This of course leads to the question of who will spend time to apply next year and risk being usurped by Mikael Saari wanting a similar set up to Saara Aalto – but that’s something for after Lisbon.

Saara’s career over the last eighteen months has been very much focused on the UK and Ireland thanks to her run to second place in The X-Factor, going from ‘the kooky one from Finland’ to ‘can we adopt her’ in the mainstream media. With both the UK and Ireland voting in heat one, alongside close musical neighbours Estonia and Iceland, Finland heads to Lisbon with a solid foundation of existing support.

It wouldn’t surprise us if Saara gets more coverage in the UK tabloid press than the winner of the UK selection.

Bulgaria And Austria: A Modern Partnership

With the power of Symphonix (a Vienna based musical production company) working with BNT to give Bulgaria their last two placings, and now Cesar Sampson, who has been the backing singer for Bulgaria for the past two year, fronting the Austrian entry this year – it was important for both countries to be in the same Semi Final to continue this modern partnership. There’s a slight added bonus for Austria of having both Switzerland and Czech Republic in Semi Final 1 as well.

Performing on Monday and Tuesday also is an advantage, should you make it through to the Grand Final, because you then get a slight breather before having to do it all again on the Friday and Saturday. With Bulgaria in the first half and Austria in the second half of the draw that mixes things up a little bit, but could it be that Bulgaria will provide a dynamic and colourful show opener?

Ireland: Sneaking In

Ireland managed a streak of luck too, with the United Kingdom being able to vote for them, assuming the Irish artist choice resonates with the UK audience. If RTE play it right they could certainly garner points from the UK which may see their first qualification since 2013 – being in the larger Semi Final slightly reduced their chance but being in the second half could balance that out. As it stands Ireland could still sneak into Grand Final, it very much depends on singer and song choice.

Montenegro: Will Take All The Help It Has Been Given

Montenegro also managed a small win from yesterday’s draw as it was drawn in the bottom half of the second Semi Final, and also being in the same voting mix as Serbia & Slovenia. Neither of these are big wins, but for Montenegro any slight advantage needs to be capitalised on to try and get the Saturday night ticket. In a perfect world Albania would have been in the same Semi Final, but you can’t have everything!


Latvia: The Lonely Baltic

Looking over the countries in Semi Final 2, there’s a glut of reliable qualifiers in the shape of Russia, Sweden, Ukraine, Romania and Poland. Below them are countries who arguably ‘sneak’ into Saturday night with an especially strong strong or performance. Out of the gate a number of countries look isolated without any major diaspora to kick start their campaigns, but the biggest worry must be Latvia with its Baltic brothers all over in Semi Final 1.

Malta, San Marino, And Georgia: Missing Their Friends

Also losing out its normal friends of the UK and Ireland is Malta. Along with San Marino and Georgia, the Mediterranean island looks to be on shaky ground in terms of votes but it has a small advantage of Italy voting as part of Semi Final 2. Unfortunately the votes that are going to be drawn up by the big hitters above leaves Malta very little space to sneak in and grab enough to get over the line.

San Marino would have wanted to be in the same Semi Final as Austria because of the partnership with Global Rockstar in Vienna and Georgia stands alone for the Caucus region; whilst Armenia and Azerbaijan are sure to give each other 0 points, both of them usually have a few points for their Georgian neighbours which this year will be missing.

Scandinavia: Splitting The Region

Let’s just put Sweden, Norway, and Denmark together here. Even though Sweden has an almost perfect qualification record, and the numbers ever so slightly favour SVT, when these three are grouped together the votes between them become a little bit more fractured resulting in lower than average scores. With Semi Final 2 having more of the big hitters than Semi Final 1 any drag on your score will be felt more keenly on Thursday than Tuesday.

Sweden does get the bottom half ticket, so is Norway or Denmark is going to push the other onto a sticky wicket?

Australia: Needing An Audience Connection

Our biggest concern over all the draw is for Australia. There are not enough years of voting patterns to be able to comfortably make a prediction here. Australia struggled in the televote last year and was kept afloat by the juries. A first half draw is also concerning unless the already nominated Jessica Mauboy has an outstanding show opener in her back pocket – but in amongst Norway, Denmark, Serbia and Russia, Australia could get lost in the mix.

The obvious answer would be to prioritise the pre-party season and try to get Jess on TV in France, Italy, and also try to remind the Danish and Dutch audiences that she was on stage in Copenhagen, which was the year that the Netherlands also did outstandingly well – playing up the ‘feel good factor’. But with commitments to the Commonwealth Games and filming on The Secret Daughter promotional opportunities will be limited.

Final Thoughts From January

Whatever happens on the nights of the two Semi Finals, as always they’ll be nights to remember – tickets to all the Semi Final shows are on sale now, the sole authorised ticket agent is Blue Ticket tickets bought from anywhere else may not be authentic and you may end up disappointed.

Contributions from John Lucas, Sharleen Wright, Lisa-Jayne Lewis, and Ewan Spence.

Categories: ESC Insight

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