I did some actual proper data journalism for my employers at MSN on the Eurovision Song Contest. The main result of it all was this massive infographic about voting patterns and stuff, which is basically excellent – the below is an extra, UK-only add on that I did at the last minute…
Is the UK unfairly treated by the voting public of Eurovision? Is Britain hampered by simply having better taste than our European cousins? Or is it possible – just possible – that we actually perform badly because our songs just aren’t that good? Well, there’s a fairly simple way to test whether the UK’s Eurovision entries are unfairly overlooked by a European public who care more about regional politics than quality songs: look at whether or not the British public thought the songs were good enough to bother buying them.
If you do that over the past fifteen years (since phone voting was introduced to Eurovision), there’s quite a clear pattern that emerges: the UK’s performance in Eurovision does seem to track the songs’ performance in the UK charts. Rather than being treated unfairly by the Eurovision voters, we seem to broadly agree with them – when Europe thinks a song is an improvement on last year’s, more of us also buy it. And when we don’t bother shelling out our hard earned money for the track, the people of Europe can’t be bothered to vote for it either.
There are a couple of years where the trends diverge (1999 and 2007) and a stretch of years in the mid-2000s where all our Eurovision entries were reliable Top Twenty chart entries while underperforming in the contest – but whether you look at the number of points we get or our final ranking, the pattern mostly holds up.
And it’s worth noting that in the past 15 years, we’ve never had a Eurovision entry that made it higher than number 5 in the UK charts (Scooch in 2007 had that distinction), while poor Josh Dubovie in 2010 only limped into the chart at 179. Sweden’s winner last year, by contrast, was a huge number one hit all across Europe, and reached number 3 in the UK. The lesson’s fairly clear – the UK doesn’t really get a raw deal in Eurovision. If we want to do better with Europe’s voters, a good start is entering a song that we like.