If they’re not careful, Ireland are facing into a fifth consecutive Eurovision non-qualification. That would be a massive fall from grace for a country which once won the contest four times in five years. So, in a bid to avoid such a catastrophe, Irish broadcaster RTÉ convened the inaugural Eurovision Forum on Thursday 03 August. And we were there! Here’s what we learned.
And it's a wrap at RTE. Now we wait and see what emerges from the forum. ? #Eurovision pic.twitter.com/DgAT6PnsfR
— wiwibloggs (@wiwibloggs) August 3, 2017
What is the Eurovision Forum?
Billed as the first of its kind, RTÉ organised the Eurovision Forum as “a chance for interested people to gain a deeper insight into the present day contest… as well as hearing from key RTÉ decision makers”. The great and the good from the Irish music and entertainment industry, media and Eurovision fandom were all invited to attend.
Irish Head of Delegation Michael Kealy began proceedings by offering up details of his past efforts at Eurovision as well as his vision for the future. Austrian Head of Press Roman Horacek and Eurovision.tv’s Paul Jordan also regaled their song contest experiences.
But it was an interactive evening, and once all three speakers had finished the floor was opened to questions.
Does RTÉ want to win?
Short answer — Yes! Well at least that’s what Michael Kealy told us. Now five years into his role as HOD, Kealy rebuked the longstanding myth perpetuated by the 1990s sitcom Father Ted — that Ireland doesn’t want to win Eurovision again. The Emerald Isle may have endured dismal results in recent times, but apparently it’s not from lack of trying.
Can Ireland afford to host Eurovision?
It’s not just at Eurovision where RTÉ is struggling. The national broadcaster’s finances took a major battering during the economic crash of 2008 and have yet to recover. However, we were assured that the station would be able to cope with the costs of hosting in the event of Ireland winning. Albeit, it would be a less extravagant show compared to editions such as Baku 2012 and Copenhagen 2014.
We're in the depths of RTE studios for their #Eurovision Forum pic.twitter.com/R8sGdJCUlV
— wiwibloggs (@wiwibloggs) August 3, 2017
What are RTÉ’s plans for Eurovision 2018?
With the contest still almost a year away, talk of an Irish victory is more than a bit premature. Let’s backtrack to RTÉ’s plans for 2018. Somewhat disappointingly, the delegation has yet to decide on anything definite. However, Kealy insisted that Eurovision is not an entry-level competition. He would like to secure a seasoned performer and hold an open competition for songs. He also wants to expand the pool of people responsible for song selection. Instead of a panel of the usual suspects — Linda Martin, Louis Walsh, etc — there would be multiple juries consisting of people from a variety of backgrounds.
Another Internal Selection?
After decades of national finals, RTÉ took the power from the people in 2016. Inspired by the successes of Austria, the Netherlands, Belgium and Russia, the powers-that-be decided to send Nicky Byrne. Or rather he came to them with a song and they said OK. For 2017, Louis Walsh came up with a shortlist, from which Brendan Murray was chosen. Based on the HOD’s words on a national selection, yet another internal approach appears likely for Lisbon. Speaking of which…
No more Eurosong?
Due to RTÉ’s budgetary woes, a standalone national final is off the cards. Even a one-off show would cost hundreds of thousands of euros. The Irish advertising market is supposedly too small for a Eurovision selection to be attractive to sponsors, so no Ukrainian style Pepsi deals. Furthermore, it wouldn’t be possible for the network to piggyback off existing concerts and festivals as outside broadcast costs are too prohibitive.
Engaging the Music Industry
One of the main themes of the night was RTÉ’s desire to work with the music industry. Executives from the major record labels were present, as well as representatives from various music organisations. Kealy alluded to the contest’s tarnished reputation within the sector, attributing much of the blame to RTÉ itself. Almost a decade on, Dustin the Turkey’s infamous 2008 performance is still frightening high quality writers away. Of the 300 plus song submissions received in 2017, only about 20 were considered “serious” entries.
Interestingly, these comments were met with an audible murmur of disagreement from the music insiders. Many of them were more than happy to get involved, but were never asked. Others pointed out RTÉ’s failure to publicise and allocate sufficient time to the song selection process. Established acts, songwriters and producers are often booked out for months in advance. By the time many are approached in mid-winter, they’re already unavailable for May.
Also, the majority of experts felt that the singer should be chosen first, rather than the song.
The issue of promotion came up too. As of 2017, RTÉ is one of the few broadcasters not to have a dedicated Eurovision account on any social media platform. This is something they will “forensically” look at.
When it comes to radio play, the delegation say it’s out of their hands. RTÉ may operate four FM radio stations and several more digital ones, but the broadcaster can’t force any of them to play Ireland’s Eurovision entry.
Furthermore, a member of RTÉ’s press team stressed the difficulty in building publicity for non-household names. The likes of Nicky Byrne and Jedward graced countless magazine covers, but the same publications weren’t interested in Brendan Murray or Molly Sterling.
ORF’s Head of Press gave some insight into Austria’s selection process. They spent months searching for a song for Conchita in 2014, while the broadcaster has employed a scouting team since 2016. The team chose all ten participants in the 2016 national final and Nathan Trent in 2017. They’ve already begun searching for 2018. Like this year, the entire process will take place behind closed doors. The delegation wants an experienced performer who is “ESC-minded”, but not necessarily a star.
Process behind Nathan's selection. pic.twitter.com/UpGJMMTgj6
— wiwibloggs (@wiwibloggs) August 3, 2017
What next for Ireland?
RTÉ hopes to make a formal announcement about its Eurovision selection earlier than in recent years — January for Stockholm, December for Kyiv. Stay tuned to wiwibloggs for any updates.
What do you think? Is the Eurovision Forum a sign that Ireland is really taking the contest seriously? Or has RTÉ just run out of ideas? Let us know in the comments below.
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Main Photos: Eurovision.tv
for me what I believe what Eurovision needs to do now is to find someone with the background in music
A With a wonderful voice that can sing well
B Someone who can write there one songs and represent there country
C And someone famous that we know off
D Maybe that someone could be Nathan Cartor
Kealy rebuked the longstanding myth perpetuated by the 1990s sitcom Father Ted — that Ireland doesn’t want to win Eurovision again…That was because the 2nd place song was too good and could have won, so RTE picked Nive Kavanah hoping she would loose, but there is a GOD and they were punished. Why not find the writers of that great song and get them to submit a winner?
I always love to listen to music whenever I have stress. It will make me stress-free and keep us relaxed.
I hate RTE. I really, really do. They waste money at the speed of light and then expect people not to complain when their lackluster efforts inevitably fall at the first hurdle. I remember once meeting a sound engineer who had worked at RTE for about a year. After sharing some less than pleasant anecdotes about his time there, he summed up his attitude to the national broadcaster with the following proclamation: “RTE is where creativity goes to die.” Those were his exact words. I didn’t ask him to elaborate because I didn’t need to. I knew exactly what he… Read more »
Ireland had some bad luck the past few years, but I think the country’s “fall from Eurovision glory” is greatly exaggerated. Don’t forget that Ireland did make top 10 in 2006 and 2011.
Thus, I don’t think it will be that hard for Ireland to get back into the top 10. Just put a bit more effort into it. It can be done.
It is good that they got inspiration from Austria. I believe that Ireland has the potential to achieve similiar results like Austria or The Netherlands. In the last years Austria has reached a 4 year qualifying streak after years of elimination. They developed and found a new way that ensures them to be in the final and get decent results. Ireland has this potential too.
Nevertheless winning the Contest has to do with a lot of luck and momentum
RTE is a very old fashoned broadcaster thats doesnt exactly understand that many of their practices are archaic, and not just when it comes to eurovision. Its quite fruatrating that they waste money on things that people just arent interested in and cant come up with money to do a show or concert when they obviosuly should at this point. Everyone but RTE wants a national selection pretty much is what i hear from people. Noone i know has any trust in what they chose. There has to be an option other than an internal selection or a national final… Read more »
Thank you Padraig, and Wiwibloggs – that was fascinating to read about. I’m particularly shocked that only 20-odd out of the 300+ songwriting entries were considered serious. As for timings and budgets and talent (or “TBT”), I hope it all works out for Ireland. There’s beautiful music to be found on that island – all you have to do is walk around the heart of Dublin in the evening and you will hear it! 🙂
They need to make sure artist and song fit together, bring something that sounds contemporary, or at least original, and prepare the young artists for the Eurovision stage. Molly and Brendan were qualifying-level artists, but either the song, the staging or their preparation prevented them from getting there, those are things that RTÉ needs to keep in mind.
Also the HoD could try not to put his foot in his mouth as he did this year talking about Brendan and “real music without gimmicks” while putting a random air balloon on stage.
I think that they need to select the singer internally and find a new composer for their songs. Since they got rid of the NF’s thgeir songs where really uninteresting.
Hm, well this forum doesn’t necessarily inspire me with optimism. At least they seem to be open to ideas, budget allowing. It’s totally disingenuous to say that they can’t afford a national final, when they have plenty of money for other projects such as national ploughing championships, outside broadcasts on rural farms, beauty pageants such as the annual “Rose of Tralee” festival, numerous sporting occasions – rugby, football, hurling, golf, two identical (and banal) weekend talkshows…not even mentioning the ridiculously high salaries paid to the mediocre presenters. Also didn’t RTÉ recently just sell acres of their land for many millions… Read more »
Pretty much agree.
Not to mention shows like Dancing With The Stars, The Voice of Ireland, four weekly episodes of their own soap opera – they in fact do have the $$$, they just spend it on other things. I’ve been living in Ireland a while now, and I don’t even mean to be so down on RTÉ, they do actually provide a pretty good service and I truly value public broadcasters. It’s just a shame that they have fallen so low in the Eurovision stakes – for me, they did an incredible job not only in winning four out of five contest,… Read more »
The reality is its all about priorities, if they actually wanted a selection they would find the money if it wasn’t their.
Jonas! You pretty much hit the nail on the head. I’m not inspired either but hopeful that somebody saves them coz let’s face it, RTE don’t really have a clue right now, in spite of good intentions.
That is why next year they will have as many non-qualifiers as winners.
They already do. 2005, 2008, 2009 and since 2014.
I think Ireland should change the Head of Delegation from Michael Kealy to someone else tbh. Michael’s efforts are getting wasted and it’s evident from when he took the role in 2013.
2013: Last in the final
2014: Failed to Qualify
2015: Failed to Qualify
2016: Failed to Qualify
2017: Failed to Qualify
IMO their song entry this year was authentic. Brendan was a fresh face with a unique voice. I quite liked the staging concept involving an air balloon ride and vocal helium. Only element that brought it down was the dark backdrop. Anyways best of luck to the Irish. Someday they’ll find that four leafed clover. UK is still looking for theirs but they seem to be getting there.
BTW I wonder what they meant by “an experienced performer who is ESC-minded”?
esc-minded= an artist that fits into the whole esc scene, like Zoë or Nathan did and not outcast artist like the Makemakes or Trackshittaz.
By ESC-minded they mean someone like Conchita, Zoe or Nathan. People who love the ESC experience and everything that it involves – the parties, the promo, the interviews… by contrast they said that the Makemakes weren’t ESC-minded. They were happy to go, but they didn’t embrace the contest. And ORF felt that maybe this was why they didn’t connect with audiences at home.
One of Ireland’s problems these last few years is that the singer wasn’t prepared enough for the stage. Molly Sterling was so nervous she could barely look at the camera. Nicky Byrne couldn’t sing “Sunlight” period. His choreography was off as well. And Brendan Murray this year was very nervous and was quite shaky. RTÉ need to make sure the artist sounds good outside the studio as well as in it and is confident on stage. Staging also needs to improve drastically but if they start with looking for quality songs that make a statement and are sung well, Ireland… Read more »
Maybe we should change our HoD
Yep, that was actually raised – unfortunately I couldn’t mention everything. ORF’s HOP said that’s exactly what they do. People wanted transparency about the process, but not necessarily a completely open song submission process.
Perhaps, instead of focusing either on the song or the artist first, they should be looking for both at the same time. A great, charismatic singer/band with an already written, but yet unpublished song that wasn’t necessarily written for Eurovision, but was still intended to be released to a wider audience. A song that was written from the heart and not just a bi-product of a massive pandering to what they believe Eurovision should be. Artist that is: – a great vocal – confidant on stage – into their music – has a connection with the audience Song that is:… Read more »
is Rte aiming too high, aim for qualification, winning is a by product. The last two entries were awful. Get a good singer the find a song. I don’t agree with them over budgets. They can find the budget and audience if they wanted for a national final.
In recent years RTE’s aim has just been to qualify. Nicky even explicitly said it in 2016 and that anything else would be a bonus. They need to have a winner’s mentality. I doubt any of this year’s qualifiers were merely aiming to make the final. They were all in it to win it, as should Ireland!
That type of talk was very negative and defeatist. Talk about setting the bar too low – if the sole aim is to qualify, it’s no wonder the entries are falling short and not even getting out of the semi.In any given year, the aim should be to go top 10 in the final, otherwise why are we even bothering to compete?
It was noticeable this year with Brendan as well, he obviously didn’t say we just aim to qualify but in his interview’s he would regularly say ” hopefully we qualify”.
This is very true! If they keep their eyes on the prize, qualification should come much easier; it’d make much more sense to fall short of the ultimate goal rather than falling short of the minimum. I’m glad they’re looking past “the usual suspects” too. At this point in the competition’s history, I don’t think their experience has caught up to how the contest has evolved and changed. Once they get an artist/singer, they just need to find an entry they’re proud of as a country. Most come out of a NF, but if they can’t afford that, even a… Read more »
To add Australia in 2016 were asked about what they would like in their semi final draw and they simply said they didn’t care as they are focused on winning eurovision…and they win the semi final, aiming high and qualification will take care of itself.
As much as I hate to say it…the Irish-produced entries just aren’t working. Take the safe route and go Swedish, it’ll guarantee at least a respectable entry and likely a qualification. If that all goes well it could bring much more attention to ESC within Ireland which could get the public/media/artists more interested. That’s what happened in Bulgaria.
To be fair, Bulgaria’s new tactic of just using Swedish songs doesn’t do a lot to endear them to fans looking for something beyond polish and decent quality- this year they were lacking in authenticity for many fans. When the Azeri song has more domestic production than yours (50%) you know that you need more homegrown talent working on your song.
Ireland has a very good music scene- the problem is that they’re just not interested in Eurovision.
Dying to Try was written by Jörgen Elofsson, a Swedish songwriter who worked at Cheiron Studios. Heartbeat was also written by Swedes. And Waterline too for that matter.
In Eurovision 2017, 12 songs were written or co-written by Swedes (not counting Emelie). 7 of those qualified. 6 performances were staged/choreographed by Swedes. 3 of those qualified.
So it’s actually a bit of a mixed bag. And there just might be a decline in Swedish fortunes. (Last year saw 9 out of 11 songs co-written by Swedes reach the final.) People seem to be a bit fed up by now. ^^
If Turkey will participate, and if will be Fatma Turgut, it means that Turkey is trying DiHaj style. Maybe this is what Ireland needs too.
Wouldn’t be a bad idea. Ireland would do well to come 14th, and their alternative music scene is a lot richer than Azerbaijan’s.
The song comes first. Focus on the songwriter, then you can find a singer.
Cases like Conchita’s aren’t very common.
One person made a rather good point regarding that – Beyonce came first. The songs come to her. Same should happen for Ireland’s entries.
Yes, and then the song that she/label rejected goes to another artist.
except not everyone can be beyonce.
If they’re going to choose their entry through Louis Walsh again, I’m afraid they’re most likely not going to qualify.
They specifically said they want to move away from the usual suspects and I’ve written that above 🙂
Then fire him! Period. Simple enough, yes?
They’re still…trying to die, they’re trying to die.
The Netherlands since 2013 and Bulgaria since 2016 have had a lot of success with internal selection so I really wonder what they’re doing that Ireland isn’t doing with its national selection?
RTÉ are really annoying now alll I want is for us to qualify…