The country is still riding high after reaching the grand final for the first time in five years last May. But Irish broadcaster RTÉ is already looking forward to the 2019 contest, convening the second annual Eurovision Forum on Friday 03 August.
Billed as a “unique chance for interested people to hear from International experts”, the Forum’s lineup included Irish Head of Delegation Michael Kealy, Ireland’s 2018 singer Ryan O’Shaughnessy, academic Dr Karen Fricker and our very own William Lee Adams.
Meanwhile, the audience was made up of figures from the Irish music and entertainment industry, media and the Eurovision fandom. Our correspondents Renske and Padraig were amongst their number.
So, what did we learn?
1. Ireland is trying to win
Like at last year’s inaugural Forum, Michael Kealy insisted that the oft-repeated claim that RTÉ doesn’t want to win Eurovision is a “myth”. The national broadcaster is always trying to win — otherwise it wouldn’t enter.
However, he did acknowledge that victory at the contest would be an “existential threat” for any small broadcaster, including RTÉ. Nonetheless, the problem of organising the contest would be a challenge that could be dealt with. He highlighted RTP’s hosting this year as a successful example.
2. RTÉ wants to change the contest’s perception in Ireland
Attendees heard how Eurovision is an integral part of the global music industry. RTÉ wants and needs to change the perception that it is a competition for amateurs rather than serious artists.
Kealy believes that the music industry is slowly realising the opportunities presented by Eurovision. Taking 2018 winner Netta as an example, he zoned in on her record YouTube views and appearance on American TV.
However, artists still need to be won over.
3. The youth market is key
Eurovision is extremely popular with younger demographics. Typically, the contest attracts four times more young people compared to regular programming. As such, in the age of digital TV and online streaming, it is hugely important to a broadcaster like RTÉ. The youth market also needs to be remembered when selecting the act and song.
4. The selection process for 2019 has yet to be finalised
Based off feedback from the 2017 Forum, RTÉ revised its selection method for 2018. Most notably, the station utilised an increased number of panels when selecting the song. These panels contained a broader range of people than those used in the past. The process also began earlier in the season, while the broadcaster reserved the right to select an artist and/or song from outside the public submission process.
As the broadcaster has yet to formally confirm its participation, a selection process for 2019 has yet to be finalised. However, the powers that be were very happy with the 2018 method.
5. The goal is for Ireland to return to a televised national final
One of RTÉ’s key functions is to make TV programmes. Therefore, the long-term goal is to return to a selection process that includes a televised national final. And this will come about quicker if the calibre of interested artists continues to improve.
6. RTÉ is not in favour of a cultural boycott
Along with Iceland, Ireland has been the country with the loudest public rumblings regarding Israel hosting next year’s contest. Politicians from Sinn Féin and Eurovision personalities such as Carrie Crowley and Charlie McGettigan have all called for Ireland to boycott the 2019 contest.
Michael Kealy is not in favour of a cultural boycott, stating that it would be the antithesis of what Eurovision is all about.
However, in response, Hamlet Sweeney of Dublin’s The Nucleus songwriting Hub warned that RTÉ may struggle to find artists willing to compete in Israel. Sweeney and his team worked with Ryan O’Shaughnessy in Lisbon, and have already reached out to potential acts for next year. Many were willing to take part as songwriters but not as performers.
Kealy hopes this won’t make it difficult to find an Irish representative for 2019.
7. Ryan O’Shaughnessy won’t rule out a Eurovision comeback
While he’s unlikely to pull a Jedward and return to Eurovision for a second year running, Ireland’s 2018 singer refused to rule out a comeback in the future — “It all depends”. He’s particularly keen to be involved with the songwriting process.
8. Ryan’s new single will be called “Civil War”
Speaking to William after the conference, Ryan shared some details on his post-Eurovision plans. A new single — “Civil War” — is imminent, while the singer-songwriter will embark on a nationwide tour later in the year. As previously reported, he will also compete in Romania’s Golden Stag festival.
Watch the interview below.
9. Be authentic
Several people, both on the panel and in the crowd, stressed the importance of authenticity. Ireland has a strong singer-songwriter tradition, and the consensus was that this should be capitalised on when choosing an entry. Kealy himself is not a fan of soulless songs manufactured by crack teams of songwriters in Sweden and elsewhere.
— wiwibloggs (@wiwibloggs) August 3, 2018
10. Ireland’s only hope is to get more people like Ryan involved
As an established performer with experience performing on big stages and dealing with media, Ryan’s participation offered many advantages to RTÉ. But aside from practicalities, he was also able to deliver an authentic performance, helping him to stand out from the crowd.
What do you think? Is Ireland heading in the right direction for Eurovision 2019 success? Let us know in the comments below.