In May 2019, Duncan Laurence took hold of the Eurovision trophy after claiming victory for the Netherlands with his song “Arcade”. The first victory for the Dutch in 44 years, the country had to wait a long time for this moment.

Indeed, if we look back on the history of the Netherlands at Eurovision, it hasn’t always been an easy journey. From being a Eurovision grand power in the early years, to eight consecutive non-qualifications and now finally their fifth victory – there’s been some ups and downs.

We thought we’d take a look back at what the Netherlands has gone through over its 60 years of participation in the contest, how they ended up winning in 2019 and whether there’s anything that other nations could potentially learn from the country’s Eurovision journey.

A history of the Netherlands at Eurovision

The Netherlands, founding father of Eurovision (1956 – 1959)

Eurovision was founded by seven European countries, the Netherlands being one of them. At this point, everything is very clear and simple for the Netherlands. Choose a singer, write a Dutch song and off you go to the host city. The selection at that time was done via the national selection format Nationaal Songfestival and was organised by broadcaster NTS. This national selection format would be used by the Netherlands all the way up until 2012.

At the second edition of Eurovision, in 1957, the Netherlands secured their first victory with the song “Net Als Toen”, sung by Corry Brokken. Two years later, the country was victorious once again with the song ‘”n Beetje”, brought by Teddy Scholten.

Two more victories for the Netherlands  (1960 – 1975)

In the following years of Eurovision, the Netherlands had very little to worry about. Some last places aside (De Spelbrekers, Annie Palmen, Ronnie Tober), the Netherlands was doing relatively well in the contest.

Two more victories mark this era for the Dutch. Lenny Kuhr won Eurovision as part of the four-way tie of 1969 with “De Troubadour”. Six years later, Teach-In brought the Netherlands their fourth victory with “Ding-a-Dong” in 1975.

Thirty years of ups and downs (1975 – 2005)

In the thirty years after Teach-In’s victory, the Netherlands had some ups and some downs. The best result in this period was thanks to Edilia Rombley, who finished fourth in 1998 with “Hemel En Aarde”. Meanwhile, Willeke Alberti brought the country their worst result in 1994, placing 23rd with her song “Waar is de zon?”. Throughout this period, the Netherlands still used Nationaal Songfestival as their selection method.

Dutch broadcaster NOS was responsible for the Netherlands’ participation in Eurovision from 1970 until 2006. However, in 2006 the broadcaster decided that the Eurovision Song Contest would no longer be part of its core tasks. Additionally, the broadcaster had to financially reorganise itself.

It wasn’t initially so easy to find a broadcaster that wanted to take over the Eurovision responsibilities. In the end, TROS came forward and, as of 2009, became the Eurovision broadcaster for the Netherlands. However, TROS had no prior experience of handling the song contest and would have to learn it the hard way.

The dark eight non-qualifying years, an inexperienced broadcaster  (2005 – 2012)

From the early 2000s, it went downhill fast for the Netherlands. There are perhaps two reasons for this. Firstly, the introduction of the semifinal in 2004. Between 2005 and 2012, the Netherlands failed to qualify to the grand final eight years in a row – the longest non-qualification streak of any country.

The second reason is the change of broadcaster from NOS to TROS in 2009. The new broadcaster perhaps lacked experience. They took over Nationaal Songfestival from NOS, but they weren’t really ‘feeling’ and understanding Eurovision. Under TROS, the national selection brought forward De Toppers, Sieneke, 3Js and Joan Franka.

A particular low point for Dutch fans is how the 2010 selection unfolded. Songwriter Pierre Kartner had written the song “Sha-La-La-lie”, which was internally selected. The national selection was organised in order to choose the singer, but the results lead to a tie between Sieneke and the band Loekz. Pierre was asked live on television to make a decision, but he found it too hard. The presenter tried to convince Pierre to make a choice, but he continued to resist. Finally, out of despair, he chooses Sieneke. This final decision was based on no solid reasoning. Instead, Pierre made the choice just to put an end to it.

At that time the Dutch viewers and fans lost all hope. Polls showed that in some regions 59-95% of the Dutch population no longer wanted the Netherlands to participate in Eurovision. The Netherlands knew that changes needed to be made, but they didn’t really know how to go about doing so.

Anouk goes against TROS and revitalises the system (2013)

Even after another year of not qualifying in 2012, broadcaster TROS still wanted to use Nationaal Songfestival as their selection method for Eurovision 2013. However, Dutch superstar Anouk then entered the room. She was willing to participate for the Netherlands, but wanted to be selected internally. That meant a year without a national selection. Initially, TROS didn’t seem to be interested and wanted her to participate in the national selection. But Anouk refused and didn’t want to back down either. TROS and Anouk ended up facing off against each other, but it’s a tie, nobody wanted to give in.

During this period, there was also trouble internally at the broadcaster. TROS had worked with production company Talpa, owned by John De Mol, on the 2012 national final. But, the following year, Talpa attempted to put forward only its own artists for the selection. TROS tried to include some of its artists, but failed. The fight between TROS and Talpa reached a deep point. From then on, TROS subsequently wanted to organise the national selection with Eyeworks, a rival of Talpa.

However, Anouk was still a part of the story, and she wanted John De Mol to be involved. This divided the people at TROS into two camps: the people who wanted Anouk, with John De Mol, and those who wanted a national selection without Anouk. In the end, it was only because two TROS employees (Daniel Dekker and Remco Van Leen) dared to go outside the boundaries and secretly seek contact with Anouk’s manager that things started to move and Anouk was selected to sing “Birds”.

The Common Linnets: So close, yet the victory stays out of reach (2014)

Anouk’s qualification to the Eurovision grand final and top ten finish in 2013 set two things in motion. The first one is that TROS started to realise that selecting internally may be the better choice instead of a national selection.

The second thing is that artists already famous in the Netherlands started to take Eurovision seriously. They were no longer afraid to approach it. In that regards, Ilse DeLange and Waylon wanted to give it a try. They formed The Common Linnets and were selected internally with the song “Calm After The Storm”. The outcome was a second place finish in 2014. The Dutch Eurovision fans never saw this coming, but embraced it nonetheless.

The Netherlands becomes a strong Eurovision competitor (2014-2018)

In the years following, the Netherlands grew to become a fairly strong competitor at Eurovision. In the five years after Anouk’s participation, the Netherlands qualified to the grand final on four occasions – twice finishing in eleventh place, one second place, one time 18th. This was a luxury for the Netherlands compared to the eight years of non-qualifications that the country had previously endured. With the improvement in results, the Dutch public started to believe again that the country could be a big name in the contest.

Duncan Laurence with “Arcade”: The Dutch #DareToDream (2019)

In January 2019 it was officially announced that Duncan Laurence would represent the Netherlands at Eurovision that year. After Anouk, The Common Linnets, Douwe Bob and Trijntje, it was as a surprise that the broadcaster chose an unknown singer. Doubts started to run high. The question was raised of whether the national selection needed to come back.

However, Dutch Eurovision fans were assured a bit by the fact that Duncan was proposed to broadcaster AVROTROS by Ilse DeLange. The Netherlands had trust in Ilse, as she seemed to know what she was doing in 2014. Fans had to wait until March 7, and then “Arcade” was released. A fifth Eurovision victory later, and the rest is history.

What can other countries learn from the Netherlands’ Eurovision journey?

1. Never give up

The first lesson we can learn form the Netherlands? Literally, never give up and stick around. The Netherlands had times of doubt where Eurovision fans (and the whole nation for that matter) wondered if it still had a place in the song contest. Although viewing numbers remained high, the Dutch audience continued to lose faith in the possibility that they would ever lift the trophy once again.

The Netherlands, however, persisted and remained a part of the contest, even after eight consecutive non-qualifying years. For other countries, like the United Kingdom and Germany in particular, remaining persistent is the key element. A series of poor results now doesn’t mean things will never improve. It’s just a phase and it’s important to keep that in mind.

2. Have an internal locus of control

Secondly, it’s important to have an internal locus of control. The mistake the Netherlands made for a long time is that they blamed non-qualifying, or not winning, on external factors. For example, the Dutch fans pointed fingers on the fact that other countries bloc voted (despite the fact that the Netherlands has had a hand in that too…hello Belgium!).

Comments were also made that the Netherlands didn’t have a specific musical/cultural heritage like other countries do (Serbia, Russia, Poland …). This is again not relevant – Sweden generally doesn’t showcase its cultural heritage either but consistently performs well (unless you classify pop songs under heritage). Another argument was that the contest became too big. With too many countries involved it became impossible to stand out.

None of these reasons really qualify. Ultimately, the Netherlands either sent non-appealing songs, or just wasn’t trying hard enough. Anouk eventually came to the rescue and found the sweet spot for the Netherlands. Sometimes it just takes one strong woman with some attitude to tell you what you have been doing wrong all these years. The UK is currently making the same mistake, blaming the bad results on Brexit and other external factors. While in fact there are just simply many other internal reasons why the UK is having the worst of times at Eurovision.

3. Dare to experiment

This brings us to the last matter. It’s important that you dare to experiment. Nothing is more deadly for your participation in Eurovision than playing it safe and making Eurovision a routine. Anouk and her song came as a shock for the Netherlands. The song wasn’t Eurovision, people wondered if Anouk was even Eurovision. The national selection was suddenly off the table. The Common Linnets also did it their way, nobody saw them coming until they slapped us with a second place. In that regards: Salvador Sobral’s song was also out of the normal for Portugal in 2017, and we went to Lisbon the following year thanks it.

The United Kingdom also needs to dare to try other things. For example, the UK has a massive history in pop-punk bands and rock bands (Queen, The Rolling Stones, Greenday, Oasis, The Verve, Radiohead, …). Yet, they insist on sending light pop songs that don’t really leave an impression. Although the UK has sent some very talented singers, such as SuRie, Michael Rice and Lucie Jones, if the song they go to the contest with isn’t memorable then the votes still won’t come their way.

Maybe it’s time to have an introspective look and try to experiment a bit, just like the Netherlands did. Try a different type of music, or a different type of selection format. Call Simon Cowell and ask him if The X Factor can be a national selection. Anything. Just try to come out of your comfort zone, while you stick to something you are naturally good at, for example pop-rock for the UK.

The Netherlands has done best with simple staging, dreamy haunting songs and most importantly, dumping the national selection format. It dared to experiment and to search for what it’s good at. The result was a qualification after eight years (Anouk), a second place (The Common Linnets), six qualifications in seven years and finally a victory (Duncan Laurence). Seems like a pretty good outcome, if you ask us.

What do you think about the Dutch Eurovision journey? Do you think other countries such as the UK and Germany could learn something from The Netherlands? Let us know in the comment section below!

Read more Eurovision editorials here

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Vlad48
Vlad48
3 months ago

I don’t know it’s is a good advice but: just don’t try to be much Eurovision. Just make something country-team will embrace sincerly, something that will reach emotionnaly people. You can have the best stage, the best song and the best performer (hello Malta 2019), it doesn’t means it works. Why Netherland 2014 and Austria 2015 worked ? A magical experience on stage by effective and talented artist. But may I say bull… too !

Nitzan
Nitzan
3 months ago

The Netherlands is for sure the most improved country in Eurovision in the last decade and I love that. Anouk really turned things around for them

Vlad48
Vlad48
3 months ago
Reply to  Nitzan

Can we give runners up position to Belgium and France for that ?

Nitzan
Nitzan
3 months ago
Reply to  Vlad48

Obviously you can do whatever you want but imo not really. France is out of the question. Belgium maybe but not quite there yet. If anything, I would give runner up to Israel but that’s just me

Last edited 3 months ago by Nitzan
Mary Jane Poland
Mary Jane Poland
3 months ago
Reply to  Nitzan

I think Czech Republic also deserves some appreciation. Just compare their entries from 2007-2009 to now. It’s almost impossible to believe this is the same country that sent Mala Dama and Aven Romale

Bella
Bella
3 months ago
Reply to  Vlad48

France? Besides one 6th place (4 years ago), what have they achieved exactly? Sure they went from placing 24th on average to placing 12th on average, but calling that “turning things around” is quite the stretch. Also they were pretty much set up for a bottom 5 placing this year.

Nudiecrudi
Nudiecrudi
3 months ago

I think the only countries that could teach something to the others are Italy and Sweden, both for different reasons.
Italy. Very very strong selection. Proper music haritage. Language. No Esc addicted songs.
Sweden. Very very strong selection. Commercial and a without identity music haritage,MF songs could be easily apply to everyone . English language. Completly esc addicted songs.

Bella
Bella
3 months ago

This article provides some interesting bits of history but the conclusion is kinda dull, lol… None of these “lessons learnt” are directly related to the Netherlands or their latest success. They’re very generic and could actually be applied to almost every single country in the ESC.

Kosey
Kosey
3 months ago

The article was all going so well until we got to “Green Day” and “UK”.

Oh dear.

Jonas
Jonas
3 months ago
Reply to  Kosey

Well…they didn’t want to be American idiots, maybe they took up UK citizenship.

Kosey
Kosey
3 months ago
Reply to  Kosey

The other problem is the image Eurovision has in the UK. None of the artists you mention would touch Eurovision with a barge pole, it would be severely career-limiting. Perhaps COVID-19 might change things though – perhaps new artists will be forced into it because they need the exposure because they won’t be able to get it via the usual festival circuit?

Ieva
Ieva
3 months ago

Anouk gives me goosebumps <3

Ed ed
Ed ed
3 months ago

Enjoyed reading the article ?

Tibor
Tibor
3 months ago

I don’t think selection method matters. The Netherlands have had good and bad results with internal selection. When they had good results they had at least decent, sometimes outstanding songs. Non-qualification for Sieneke or The Toppers had nothing to do with the selection method but with the abysmal songs. Shaking up things can sometimes be a smart idea, but you can shake it up and have a national selection nonetheless, just look at what the Czech Republic has achieved with their approach – musically and resultwise. Germany and the UK have shaken things up enough, they tried millions of different… Read more »

Jack Pricefield
Jack Pricefield
3 months ago

Fantastic article, well written and insightful! The Netherlands will always give hope to other countries you can still achieve good results and later win following years of terrible outcomes. Anouk was not only a game-changer for the Dutch but also Eurovision itself attracting more serious singer-songwriters to the contest. Of course UK is a prime example as to take note from the Dutchies, as a fellow Brit I feel we should stick to internal selections (like the Dutchies we can’t properly pull off a national final in the 21st) I’d love to see us send an Electro, Synth-pop, Chillwave, soft… Read more »

Iván el Conquistador
Iván el Conquistador
3 months ago

Since my point of view, there are two ways to achieve a good result in Eurovision: I call them “Lordi Method” and “Loreen Method”. The Lordi Method is offering something unique and different from other contestants musically and aesthetically at the same time (just like Finland in 2006). Other examples of this method are Verka Serduckha (Ukraine 2007), Buranovskiye Babuskhi (Russia 2012) and Salvador Sobral (Portugal 2017). The Loreen Method is bringing a song with potential to become a summer hit, which big sales and a lot of radio airplay (just like Sweden in 2012). Other examples of this method… Read more »

Erasmus
Erasmus
3 months ago

It depends on the country! But I do think internal selections help (I’m one of the rare ones who usually prefers internal selections to NFs). Country in which Eurovision isn’t popular – should do an internal selection (in most cases) – one of them is UK.

Tom
Tom
3 months ago

I only have 2 countries in mind that need this. Latvia and The UK

Iván el Conquistador
Iván el Conquistador
3 months ago
Reply to  Tom

Spain can also be included in your sentence.

Jack Pricefield
Jack Pricefield
3 months ago
Reply to  Tom

Aminata carried Latvia in the 2010s, without her the country would have gone through last decade without ever qualifying once!

Marionette
Marionette
3 months ago

The takeaways already applied to Austria, Portugal and Israel, the three underdogs that came before Duncan dared to dream.

Marc
Marc
3 months ago

There’s no formulas or rules. Every country is different. Every year is different. And now even more with the voting system where you can win sort of by default like Netherlands in 2019. It’s complex and we never know.

Last edited 3 months ago by Marc
RavensHeart
RavensHeart
3 months ago
Reply to  Marc

Exactly it’s a little awkward talking about the Dutch “win” when they won neither the televote or the jury vote. They were a middle of the way compromise that was all.

Una
Una
3 months ago

I was going to tell something similar in the line of a previous comment – why write an article about the Netherlands but try give advice to the UK? IMO this article does not consider that the UK had finally started doing a good internal selection. A household name in the UK even not the biggest ever but a talented songwriter and performer with the most amazing male voice of 2020. A decent song that screams “British music scene”. An interesting video with a tribute to the host of 2020 with the presence of Wim H. According to some short… Read more »

Erasmus
Erasmus
3 months ago
Reply to  Una

I agree that it was an improvement… But still – it just wasn’t daring, I don’t think he would’ve finished above 20th place… Their best act since Molly tho!

Last edited 3 months ago by Erasmus
Jack Pricefield
Jack Pricefield
3 months ago
Reply to  Erasmus

BBC stepped up in 2020 indeed but I felt the problem was ironically the song would’ve sounded better by a different artist despite UK actually sent a self-written entry, “My Last Breath” should’ve been for a woman, in MGP 2020 there was a similar song “Pray for Me” which wouldn’t have sounded as good if a bloke sung it.

Erasmus
Erasmus
3 months ago

Uhh loved “Pray for Me” and maybe I have a hard time imaging it with a woman singing it.. could be better

Last edited 3 months ago by Erasmus
Whisker
Whisker
3 months ago

Oh no, I love James’ voice so much, I can’t possibly imagine “My Last Breath” in a version sang by a woman.

RavensHeart
RavensHeart
3 months ago

It doesn’t matter what the UK send people will just it dismiss out of hand.

If you don’t like the UK it doesn’t matter what they send to Eurovision you’re not going to pick up the phone and spend money on them.

2005 UK and Greece sent the exact same song, however Greece won and UK came about 19th. 2007 UK and Ukraine both send camp joke acts. One came 2nd and the other came 22nd.

stommie
stommie
3 months ago
Reply to  RavensHeart

In 2008 Sweden send the same song as the Netherlands a year earlier, although the Dutch song had a better singer. (Funny enough Charlotte criticised OTOTW a year earlier in the Nordic preview show for being not funky enough). The difference is that the Swedish song was predicted to win, but had to be rescued by the juries to qualify.

edit: the opinion of a bunch of schlager singers about OTOTW is rather hilarious:
https://web.archive.org/web/20080117204600/http://www.esctoday.com/specials/read/8225

Last edited 3 months ago by stommie
Erasmus
Erasmus
3 months ago
Reply to  RavensHeart

ain’t true. Start doing something that isn’t in the middle. Someone who is relevant to the music scene, the act doesn’t have to be super famous, but also it shouldn’t be completely unknown to the British audience – perhaps Sam Fender! Or at least pick an unknown artist, but pair him with songwriters who work with superstars such as Dua Lipa or so.

Or even better let Paloma Faith and Hurts enter Eurovision since they shown interest.

Iván el Conquistador
Iván el Conquistador
3 months ago
Reply to  Erasmus

I think MNEK and Bastille can be suitable representations for UK.

Erasmus
Erasmus
3 months ago

not a fan of MNEK, but Bastille would be soo good!

Mr Vanilla Bean
Mr Vanilla Bean
3 months ago

Simon Cowell’s star is sinking. Why not try a rising or shining star for once? As if Walsh wasn’t bad enough already.

Last edited 3 months ago by Mr Vanilla Bean
Jofty
Jofty
3 months ago

I wonder how much Waterman was paid (from licence payer money) for that nonsense in 2010? No way was it a new track probably a 30 year old Astley B-side reject. Karen Harding had a lucky escape, Dubovie did his best and was naive enough to think he would do well bless him.

Mr Vanilla Bean
Mr Vanilla Bean
3 months ago
Reply to  Jofty

They were begging for last place. But hey, what a name. A name from the musical graveyard.

Azuro
Azuro
3 months ago

Why did an article on Netherlands success became an article on bashing the UK?

The UK is the biggest musical industry in Europe and other countries enjoy knocking us down a peg or two. For one night only a year they can pretend they have better music than the UK.

We send Andrew Lloyd Webber, Blue and Bonnie Tyler but lose to no names. ALW did OK, but Blue and Bonnie didn’t even make the Top 10.

Even in Junior Eurovision where we compete as Wales we come last and 2nd to last.

Mr Vanilla Bean
Mr Vanilla Bean
3 months ago
Reply to  Azuro

So what? Since when does a big name automatically produce the best music? ALW’s song SUCKED, in my opinion. It was boring and anonymous and it placed way too high. Bonnie is awesome but her performance wasn’t. Are we supposed to vote for a name, no matter what?

Jack Pricefield
Jack Pricefield
3 months ago

Strongly disagree about “It’s My Time” sure it sounded very Oscar-bait(never a bad thing in my book) but was beautifully written and courageous and Jade Ewen totally elevated the song connecting with audiences and juries, 5th place was very deserved! Imagine if the newer voting system was used back in 2009 and UK receiving the first 12 points (from either Spain or Serbia – previous hosts) would’ve been such a moment!

Jofty
Jofty
3 months ago

I agree with you Jack

Jonas
Jonas
3 months ago

The song was let down by its lyrics. I don’t think Diane Warren knew much about the contest, she just churned out a stereotypical reality show sentiment. By commission. Hardly her best work, far from it.

ESC8
ESC8
3 months ago
Reply to  Azuro

Oh please, not that again. This argument is far too old. That nobody likes UK and they don’t vote for it. Send a good song and they’ll vote for you. I have to remind you that in 2011 the public ranked UK 5th but it was because of the juries that UK finished 11th People expect a lot from the UK, not songs like the 2010 one or the 2015 or even the 2018. I agree that in 2005 you had a good song and it deserved better but it was a year full of ethnic sounds and it just… Read more »

ESC8
ESC8
3 months ago
Reply to  ESC8

And as I’ve said below it is NEVER about the name. It’s the song that matters. And the staging. Get this 2 correctly in 2021 and you’ll get the victory

ESC8
ESC8
3 months ago
Reply to  Azuro

I’m really sorry, I posted my comments as an answer to your post. I intended to answer to the post of @RavensHeart. So sorry!

James
James
3 months ago
Reply to  Azuro

What is “no names” to you is subjective. Many either are at the beginnings of their careers like Duncan Laurence (Netherlands 2019) or Kristian Kostov (Bulgaria 2017), or at the height of it (Loreen, Mans, Sanna, Dima, Sergey), or have left behind a lasting legacy/global impact (Cascada, Blue, Bonnie Tyler). At the end of the day, it is still a song contest, not a contest where the name of an artist should only matter. If a song and how it is performed is well-liked, people across Europe will vote for it. If it ticks the right boxes, the national juries… Read more »

ESC8
ESC8
3 months ago

A very important thing that should be noted is that at Eurovision it’s never about the name. In the 2010’s (2013 and on to be exact) the Netherlands sent big names of their music scene. But the victory came when they sent an unknown artist. I believe that in order to win Eurovision you need two things: 1. A good song 2. A good staging Everything else is irrelevant. It’s true that throughout the years we’ve had winners that had neither. But at least from 2009 and on every winning song had one of these elements, or both on some… Read more »

stommie
stommie
3 months ago

instead Pierre, who had no previous relationship with Eurovision”

Pierre Kartner was the composer of the 1973 Dutch song “De oude muzikant”.