Eurovision 2021 live backup tape recordings

Just one day after revealing that it would retain the semi-final allocations from 2020, the EBU has dropped another nugget of information about Eurovision 2021. In a press release published on 18 November, the song contest organisers confirm that all 41 competing acts will be required to record “live-on-tape” backup performances.

This is just one of the measures which is being implemented in order to ensure that the show will go on regardless of the COVID-19 situation.

Eurovision 2021: All 41 acts to record “live-on-tape” backup performances

All of the participating broadcasters will need to create a “live-on-tape” recording prior to Eurovision in May. If a delegation is unable to travel to Rotterdam or an artist is forced to quarantine on-site, this will be used in place of a live performance on the Ahoy stage.

The EBU explains what exactly a “live-on-tape” performance entails:

All the participating broadcasters have been asked to record a live performance of their act in their own country. This recording will be delivered prior to the event and will take place in a studio setting. The recording will take place in real time (as it would be at the Contest) without making any edits to the vocals or any part of the performance itself after the recording.

Organisers are branding this move as “OpenUp to Variety”. Thus, unlike Junior Eurovision 2020, broadcasters will not have to meet specific staging guidelines. This is so that the contest can “embrace the artistic freedom, creativity, ambition and style of each of the 41 countries”.

However, it must be stressed that this is merely a backup option. It is hoped that all 41 delegations will be able to travel to Rotterdam and perform live on stage without any issues. This failsafe is to ensure that the show will not have to be cancelled as happened in 2020.

Live-on-tape performances at Eurovison 2021 – FAQs

In addition to the press release, the EBU has also published a series of FAQs on the matter. Here are some of the questions answered.

Do all the live-on-tape back-ups have to look the same in each country?

Rather than trying to impose a strict format for the live-on-tape back-ups, the EBU and Host broadcasters NPO, NOS and AVROTROS decided to fully embrace each country’s diversity in creativity, ambition, and style.

Beyond a set of basic guidelines and minimal limitations, each participating broadcaster will have maximum freedom to create a performance they are proud of and they feel will best represent their country.

How will you ensure fairness when it comes to the live-on-tape recordings?

Before the recording each participating broadcaster will meet with a co-ordinator from the Host Broadcasters and submit a recording session schedule, studio set up, camera plan and signed Declaration of Compliance with the Production Guidelines.

The Head of Delegation must be onsite during the 60-minute recording session of the permitted three takes and, either alone or together with someone who has the appropriate mandate, make the final decision on which take is selected.

A live connection will be set up during the recording to allow the ESC Executive Supervisor and a representative from the Independent Voting Observer (E&Y) and the Host Broadcaster to observe the recording session, to provide assistance and support, but also to ensure the integrity of the Contest.

Who has the final sign off on the live-on-tape recording?

All materials will be checked for approval by the Host Broadcasters and the EBU. The Host broadcasters will perform on a final sound mix and any image enhancements to ensure uniform levels and quality. A copy of that final mix will be sent to the respective Head of Delegation for approval (not to be unreasonably withheld)

Is there a limit on how many rehearsals can take place before the live-on-tape recording?

No, the number of rehearsals prior to the recording session is up to the participating broadcaster.

What are the basic guidelines for producing the live-on-tape recording?

The live-on-tape recording should be produced in line with the Eurovision Song Contest Rules and essentially be a recording of a single 3-minute live stage performance. It should not be a music video.

The back-up should be recorded in a studio or studio-like environment without an audience present or audience sounds.

The use of a recognisable set of an existing protected TV format is not allowed. The recording should be unique and should not be published before the event in May.

What familiar ESC elements can the broadcasters use in their performances?

Each broadcaster may use any of the elements that they would benefit from if they were performing live on stage in Rotterdam. For example (but not exclusively); a multicamera set up, LED video content, projection, pyrotechnics, smoke and wind machines and certain props.

What can’t broadcasters use in their performance?

The live-on-tape recordings should not contain any augmented or virtual reality, overlays, confetti, drone shots, water, use of chromakey or green screen.

Can autotune be used on the live-on-tape recordings?

No, autotune or any other alteration of live vocals, is not permitted on the recording.

Should the live-on-tape performance be similar to the planned stage performance?

Each broadcaster is free to either produce a recording of their planned stage performance or an alternative performance. However, the audio track should be similar.

Can a country submit their national selection performance where appropriate?

No, the live-on-tape backup should be unique recording and not be publicly available before the event in May. A national selection set can be used, however, and similarities are fine.

Will broadcasters be given assistance by the Host Broadcaster in making their Live on Tape recording?

Yes. It is up to each Participating Broadcaster to develop a creative concept for their live-on-tape recording. as they would for their on-stage performance for Rotterdam. The ESC 2021 Contest team will be available to advise, guide and support.

The Contest team will oversee all the creative concepts, lighting, and LED content, to ensure diversity across the 41 acts and to avoid significant similarities.

When do all the live-on-tape recordings have to be delivered by?

Each participating broadcaster must submit their live-on-tape recording by 26 March 2021.

What do you think of the new measures? Are they a good idea? Let us know below.

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ESCJudge
ESCJudge
6 days ago

So it’s better not to go to Rotterdam… especially when you are Russia, Sweden… If you let them do what they want countries that have best abilities (and money) to make a best tv production will have an obvious advantage of not coming. They’ll leave everybody else far behind with their extraodrdinary live-tape-recorded productions full of technology and special effects that any others just can’t afford. Great. ESC is now not even on knees. It’s crawling. Thanks EBU. You killed it. It’s official.

Whisker
Whisker
4 days ago
Reply to  ESCJudge

I don’t have all relevant information, but I doubt that individual countries have all the technology that will be available in Rotterdam. Add the stage into the equation. Also, the goal is to perform in Rotterdam and have the full Eurovision experience.

Jonas
Jonas
6 days ago

If a back-up performance is used, qualifies, and then goes on to win…is that the same performance three times? Will we get to see any reaction to the win?

Una
Una
6 days ago
Reply to  Jonas

Good question.
Scenario:
1st peformance: country uses the live-on-tape recording for the *semi* because artist is unavailable – the co(sh(it19 related.
2nd peformance: same live-on-tape recording for the *GF*.
3nd performance: same live-on-tape recording for the winner’s performance, maybe with the words in karaoke style because why not?
Question:
What if a Fuego-style performance is not possible because of the dancers’ co(sht19 makes them unavailable? Live-on-tape or perform without dancers? Or be that rich to have extra dancers on stand-by and extra hotel rooms and all the extras because one can?

Sabrina
Sabrina
6 days ago
Reply to  Jonas

I imagine those who can’t travel to Rotterdam will be appearing by satellite in their own green rooms. So… no trophy lifting and a possibly awkward live encore performance. Maybe with images from the taped performance playing from time to time.

Kim
Kim
6 days ago

How is an ESC observer able to enforce the rules over here in OZ. There is no international travel to Australia until mid next year. If we were that type of country we could cheat our asses off with taping after taping . Travel into Australia is only nationals returning and the only way internationals can fly in is by privately chartered planes and quarantining for 14 days.I can’t see them chartering a plane to the other end of the world for 1 or 2 people then pay for 2 weeks of quarantine in a hotel plus the cost of… Read more »

Samo
Samo
5 days ago
Reply to  Kim

As mentioned in the article, taping will be live-streamed to the production team of the ESC. Multiple tapings are therefore not possible.

Yes, Australia goes with very different strategy than Europe, but that wouldn’t affect 2021 participation as that can be done remotely. I’m more worried about the long term. Australia and Europe pursue very different strategies (elimination vs suppresion) and it may take years until Australia actually accepts travel to/from Europe. It is likely that Europe will be back to normal in 2022 (hence no remote-participation options) but Australia won’t.

Kredential
Kredential
6 days ago

I get why this is being implemented but where is the equity? Countries like San Marino and Moldova are not going to be able to finance a performance set the way the UK or Germany could

James
James
6 days ago
Reply to  Kredential

Sponsorships for smaller broadcasters. It’s how Serhat was able to deliver a stunning music video for “Say Na Na Na”. The MV was filmed in Turkey. Meanwhile, brand deals helped Eleni and Tamta get their respective music videos made alongside their record label.

Safeguards are in place to allow an even playing field for everyone.

Una
Una
6 days ago
Reply to  James

Even Susanne managed to get sponsorship for Andorra. Oh well …

Sabrina
Sabrina
6 days ago
Reply to  Kredential

Maybe some smaller broadcasters could partner up with bigger ones. For example, San Marino recording in Italy, making use of the same studio and professionals. This is something EBU should stimulate and facilitate.

ESCJudge
ESCJudge
6 days ago
Reply to  Sabrina

Yes! Whoopie! Whole exSoviet counties will record in Moscow with Russian technology and production! Great . I told you… EBU killed it.

ESCJudge
ESCJudge
6 days ago
Reply to  Kredential

Don’t worry for Moldova as long as Kirkoroff is producing 😉 They’ll record it in Moscow, I bet.

Luk
Luk
6 days ago

Listen new song Alicja Szemplinska Na pamiec

Me!
Me!
7 days ago

Glad the upcoming year’s Eurovision is secured, let’s all be happy with this! 🙂

Azaad
Azaad
7 days ago

I’m glad that this exists as a precaution but I hope they can perform live in Rotterdam itself! The only question I have relates to different recordings for the semis and the final- do they exist. If only one recording is used, it could lead to interesting results (not a criticism, just an observation).

Sabrina
Sabrina
7 days ago

If we want a guarantee that Eurovision 2021 will happen, we needed something like this, so kudos to EBU for thinking carefully. I tend to agree with Robyn, I believe recording in a studio has advantages and disadvantages. Though if for some reason we don’t have an audience, the empty arena could make things colder than a tight studio cut. So, to keep things in the same level, open shots should be avoided. In any case, let’s hope everyone can sail to Rotterdam and that we can have an arena with lots of fans.

Samo
Samo
7 days ago

What bothers me are the three takes, that’s an unfair advantage for those who perform from home. It doesn’t make sense – acts that perform in Rotterdam will not get a chance to perform three times and pick one of the recordings to be used for the competition.

On the other hand, I’m very happy about the overlay ban and I really hope that will eventually become a rule for the regular ESC performances.

James
James
7 days ago
Reply to  Samo

It is expected that all 41 participating countries will film live-to-tape performances so they all have three takes before sending the one they’ll use as back-up.

Samo
Samo
5 days ago
Reply to  James

I know. But those that end up performing live will get one shot, while those that use home recordings get to chose from multiple takes. That is the problem.

Rich
Rich
7 days ago

I hope the broadcasters release the videos after the contest, if they weren’t used, so we can still see what they would have done

Dawid
Dawid
7 days ago

Suuuuuure. They need back up tapes to cut amount of back up singers due to covid. But you can still bring 5 dancers with you. Dancers can’t have corona, right? Idk if they think people are that stupid or that naive to believe this.

Samo
Samo
7 days ago
Reply to  Dawid

What are you even referring to? This article is about backup recording to be used in case the delegation can’t travel to Rotterdam.

Regarding the prerecorded background vocals, that was already planned for 2020 and no one claims it’s related to Covid.

Jonas
Jonas
7 days ago
Reply to  Samo

It was not planned for 2020.

James
James
7 days ago
Reply to  Dawid

The use of back-up vocalists became an optional feature. It was never reduced.

Also arguing about this benefitting the use of another performance feature, i.e. the use of dancers, doesn’t correlate with the option of using backing vocals.

Una
Una
6 days ago
Reply to  James

I guess only one option should be available: the maximum number of people participating in the act should be the same for everyone: artist(s) and/or backing vocals and/or dancers.
Examples:
A. country XX has one male singer and 5 backings on stage.
B. country YY has one male singer, 2 backings on stage, 3 backing vocals recorded.
C. country TT has one male singer, 2 backings on stage, 3 dancers, and 3 backings recorded.
Say country TT wins because of the “enhanced” performance. As they could afford six people on stage plus the 3 backings recorded.

James
James
6 days ago
Reply to  Una

Depends if there is even a need for dancers for the song. The tricky part with an ESC performance involving dancers is that a lot of the time, they’re just there. Plus, dancers sweat too so I think that might pose a health risk just as well as having backing vocals onstage.

Una
Una
6 days ago
Reply to  James

Well, I was talking about *maximum number* of artist, backings, dancers in all the combinations one likes. Just as a “maximum”. More voices or dancers can *enhance* a performance. And that limit of 6 was there for a reason up to now – logistics or not, all countries were in the same situation.
This maximum number of on-stage people and recorded voices should be made clear for everyone to understand. Otherwise we could see situations with 10 voices choir-style for one act alone.

Whisker
Whisker
4 days ago
Reply to  Dawid

#dancerscanthavecorona #lol

Denis
Denis
7 days ago

Now we know we will have an ESC and that is good! I hope this only stays a back-up plan and that all acts will be on stage!

Eurovision fan
Eurovision fan
7 days ago

As I understood this is in case of scenario D. Good thing is that vaccines could come before New Year, so there is a chance we have normal Eurovision, but it’s too early to say anything.

Leo
Leo
7 days ago
Reply to  Eurovision fan

I think that there will be 8-10 thousand spectators. The vaccines will be rolled in gradually, so we will have a semblance of normality but COVID will still spread, as some will still be yet to be vaccinated. I suspect most spectators will be Dutch, British, Belgian and from Niedersachsen and NRW in Germany, with mass travel being phased in slowly.

Samo
Samo
7 days ago
Reply to  Leo

I highly doubt it will be based on nationality. NL never had restrictions on entry for EU citizens, so if they allow audience, anyone from the EU will be able to come under same conditions.

Leo
Leo
7 days ago
Reply to  Samo

I hope that free movement will be available for all fans, and that there is no discrimination by nationality, but would some be required to quarantine due to their country’s Covid rate? That’s why I have listed parts of Europe from which you can travel to Rotterdam by car, which will probably account for the majority of a 40-60% crowd relative to 2020’s would be capacity. I hope that this crowd will account for more than just a small range of nationalities, but I think some will still be reluctant to travel too far for what would be one of… Read more »

Denis
Denis
6 days ago
Reply to  Eurovision fan

Even if we get a vaccine 2021 will be restrictions. Less so than 2020 but still.
And you know there are going to vaccine elderly and vulnerable first, meaning that the rest of us will have to wait until 2022 to get it. So I do think we are looking at scenario B which at least is better than scenario D

raw
raw
7 days ago

I think it would be very unfair if some artists could perform in a TV studio, acquaintances next to the stage and having rehearsed several times before, and some would have to get nervous live, all the tension that precedes their performances in a live show.

Robyn Gallagher
Admin
7 days ago
Reply to  raw

Hey, artists get to rehearse at Eurovision too. But yeah, there’s less pressure recording in a live studio than for a live broadcast. On the other hand, the artists only get three shots at nailing the performance. And they don’t get to feed off the live energy of an audience. So it has its advantages and disadvantages.

raw
raw
7 days ago

I meant that there is a possibilty to rehearse in a TV studio endless times right before the TV recording (this is probably not forbidden by the EBU if the artist and the national broadcaster wish so), while in Eurovision, each country’s stage rehearsals are set.

Una
Una
7 days ago
Reply to  raw

IDK. Artists rehearse a lot before they get on the Eurovision stage. Broadcasters submit the staging concept/plans in March and artists rehearse and rehearse for what might be the biggest opportunity of their careers.

Robyn Gallagher
Admin
7 days ago
Reply to  Una

Yep, they can rehearse as much as they like in their home country. As well, before the artists arrive in the host country, there are tech rehearsals with stand-ins to get all the cameras, lighting, effects, etc ready.

Una
Una
6 days ago

Yep. So much goes into that 3-minute act.

Grft
Grft
7 days ago
Reply to  raw

This is why I predict none of the countries will want to perform live, unfortunately. So to me the news today made scenario D official. :/

Malo
Malo
7 days ago
Reply to  Grft

Unless the artist has Covid in May, or their country is on strict lockdown (no international travel), I don’t think broadcasters will be allowed to just use their tape and skip the live contest, so your comment about scenario D is a bit premature.

Last edited 7 days ago by Malo
Malm
Malm
7 days ago
Reply to  Grft

Do you really think artists want to perform in a small TV studio without an audience? Rotterdam has a huge stage with the best possible TV technology and probably a screaming crowd to encourage. I wouldn’t think twice which one I would choose.

Last edited 7 days ago by Malm
Grft
Grft
7 days ago
Reply to  Malm

Of course I agree for the artists. But for the delegation, putting so much risk in a live performance when you have a pre-recorded tape you have spent time on which can be used… idk. I hope I’m wrong, because a scenario D would be a bit of a disappointment even if it’s still better than nothing.

Robyn Gallagher
Admin
7 days ago
Reply to  Malm

Indeed, imagine a song like “Cleopatra” performed in front of a live audience vs a quiet, empty studio. A delegation would be nuts to pass up the opportunity to perform a song like that in front of a live audience, if it were safe to do so.

Denis
Denis
6 days ago
Reply to  Grft

You honestly think no one wants to perform live? That is a bit of a stretch..
Every artist wants to perform live and get some contact with an audience. Who would stay in a studio? Especially for fast up-tempo songs like “Uno” or Cleopatra”. Any delegation would be out of job if they even suggest those be performed in a studio..

Grft
Grft
7 days ago

Wtf…… I’m afraid this will be really unfair. And how much will it cost the countries to record a performance at home in a studio PLUS organize the live performance in Rotterdam?! I’m sure a lot of delegations will make everything they can not to have to go to Rotterdam to spare money if their recorded performance can be a participation in itself. Ugh.

Robyn Gallagher
Admin
7 days ago
Reply to  Grft

For Junior Eurovision, some broadcasters flew to Warsaw to record their performance so we could see similar. Or we might see one broadcaster let other broadcasters film at their studio. E.g., Italy might let San Marino use their studio to film their performance.

Leo
Leo
7 days ago

Do the recordings have to be done in the country the act is representing?

Heyey
Heyey
7 days ago
Reply to  Leo

Ooh, that’s a good question! I can imagine San Marino filming their performance in a theatre 😉

Last edited 7 days ago by Heyey
esc2021rotterdam
esc2021rotterdam
7 days ago
Reply to  Heyey

I think that senhit will record her performance in Italy (she is also living there if I’m right)

Una
Una
7 days ago

EBU, this is great. Reading this article has been such a relief!! So there is the same standard for all broadcasters – some with bigger possibilities and expertise and whatnot than others. But it looks like it’s quite even playing field. The only thing missing *for me* is how the juries will be asked to vote, should the live-on-tape recording be used. I like a lot the oversight and integrity aspect – recording of one hour, max three takes, HoD on site etc. Hopefully solid team work and not too much trouble. I hope all broadcasters will make the best… Read more »

Jonas
Jonas
7 days ago
Reply to  Una

This is what I was talking about when I said the Strictly Come Dancing situation wasn’t really comparable.

Una
Una
7 days ago
Reply to  Jonas

I still think they are comparable – article talks about the use of the live-on-tape recording including in a situation when someone must pull out because of the c(sh(it19 and I quote: “an artist is forced to quarantine on-site”.
The comparison with Strictly was valid in the sense that a couple had to withdraw because of the c(sh(it19. Meaning no more show for them. It went on *without them*. We’ll have Eurovision no matter what with all artists.
In case I misunderstood you, please explain to me what you meant.

Jonas
Jonas
7 days ago
Reply to  Una

I meant that a Covid diagnosis would result in withdrawal for one, but not for the other. Strictly Come Dancing requires multiple performances over many weeks, so a back-up plan was not possible – for Rotterdam, it is.

Una
Una
7 days ago
Reply to  Jonas

Tack så mycket 🙂 Point taken but there are rehearsals, dress rehearsals, family show, jury show and the GF (I think I counted 7 live performances including the GF excluding the rehearsals for those countries that make it to the GF – not including the big 5 and host country). So I maintain my point and strictly understand yours. You are right about the need for the back up.

Heyey
Heyey
7 days ago

This actually gives me hope that the contest will happen no matter what. I, of course, hope the situation will be better by May and all the participating countries can travel to Rotterdam. But who knows, maybe something good will come out of this? Maybe Eurovision will evolve into something better. I also like the fact that each broadcaster could perfect their entry and send a performance they’re fully happy with.

Nicolas
Nicolas
7 days ago

This is what most people was asking for ESC 2020 that could have been aired that way this month for example just to declare a winner for the 2020 songs and of course due to the short delay between the 2021 contest the winning country would not host 2021 but still the Netherlands.

KESC
KESC
7 days ago
Reply to  Nicolas

And what would’ve happened with the winner of 2020? Should’ve they hosted the 2022 contest and the 2021 winner the 2023 edition?

I mean, I would’ve loved to see a 2020 edition as well, but it was almost impossible to hold it.

Jonas
Jonas
7 days ago
Reply to  KESC

If the Junior contest is possible, then so could the main one have been.

Una
Una
7 days ago
Reply to  Jonas

The rules did not allow for shows that were not live in 2020. The world was in sho**ck back then. We’ll have a tenfold Eurovision in 2021, hopefully. Many people are working on that.

Jonas
Jonas
7 days ago
Reply to  Una

I’m not blaming anyone, just saying that with hindsight, a delayed 2020 contest could have been possible. I’d have gladly sacrificed the Junior contest instead.

Una
Una
7 days ago
Reply to  Jonas

I am with you – I would have loved to have Eurovision 2020 no matter what. And JESC altogether.

KESC
KESC
7 days ago
Reply to  Jonas

Yeah, but you are comparing an event that is taking place in November with one that would’ve taken place in May where everyone was by far more unexperienced with the pandemic. I mean, there is still some inexperience, if you look at the infection rates in Europe and around the world, but at least, most of the countries know now much more what to do than they did back in May. The only way that the 2020 edition could have taken place would’ve been by postponing it, which wouldn’t have made much sense. Also, don’t forget that the one event… Read more »

Last edited 7 days ago by KESC
Jonas
Jonas
7 days ago
Reply to  KESC

I should be over this by now. 🙁

James
James
7 days ago
Reply to  Nicolas

No, you can’t say this is what “most” people are asking for. The EBU had weeks to change course at the last minute because not only have resources been spent on a contest that never happened, the scenarios of what we’re getting know could not have been thought of with the short time frame. The EBU now has an entire calendar year now to plan ahead for 2021 with all possible situations considered to make the contest happen no matter what.

Erasmus
Erasmus
7 days ago

hmm. in a way great, I still hope all the delegations will be able to travel to Rotterdam.
the part I don’t understand is this one: The live-on-tape recordings should not contain any augmented or virtual reality, overlays, confetti, drone shots, water, use of chromakey or green screen.
so what is the reason behind this?

stommie
stommie
7 days ago
Reply to  Erasmus

It has to look like a performance that could be done on the actual stage. At least that is how I read it.

Erasmus
Erasmus
7 days ago
Reply to  stommie

that’s stupid, because augmented reality/green screen could make the performance look more impressive. and also I thought that in 2020 they were planning to use AR?

Una
Una
7 days ago
Reply to  Erasmus

Maybe not all broadcasters can do that. Remember they are not made all the same.

Erasmus
Erasmus
7 days ago
Reply to  Una

yeah for sure but since there isn’t any limits of what the size of stage should be or how many lights, how big the led screen should etc. why implement this restriction, it’s going to be unfair either way.

Una
Una
7 days ago
Reply to  Erasmus

I am satifsfied with the “looser” standard because there is already pressure on broadcasters with this novelty thing on top of preparing for Rotterdam. Fans want a nice show – fancy technology is not necessary for great performances. We can’t expect they all will have the technology or *money* to buy expensive services for a 3-minute recording.
Having said that, I do think that some will come up with the biggest everything, everywhere. Like always.

James
James
7 days ago
Reply to  Erasmus

From what I could tell from their press release, the Host Broadcaster will be responsible in adding further editorial changes like visual and audio effects the same way they would so if the act manages to perform live in Rotterdam, in order to achieve the desire look of the performance by their respective delegation. So the finished taped performance that the broadcasters will send should be, for the most part, raw. And there should also be split audio, with separate layers for the backing track and vocal mixes (lead vocals and backing vocals would be separate as well). That is… Read more »

Erasmus
Erasmus
7 days ago
Reply to  James

oh ok thank you for further clarification!