Momentum: Reading the tea leaves from this year’s first #Eurovision semi-final

Once again we had a semi-final with more worthwhile entries than spots in the Grand Final. Part of the Eurovision obsessant fan experience is joy when an entry you love does well…and heartbreak when they do not. *glancesthroughtearsatIreland*

What is done is done, and top worthwhile entries have progressed to this year’s Grand Final. As is custom, each then drew an allocation for either the first or second half of the performance order. Since the advent of the producer led performance order in 2013 the element of randomisation has been largely eliminated. Artists still draw for a half of the semi-final—and the host country always randomly draws an actual Grand Final slot since they are involved in creating the performance order—but the production team still gets to sequence 12 or 13 entries in each half.

That’s a lot of power…and a lot of scope for influence or bias. We don’t like it.

But if you are inclined to try and ascertain who has come out of this first semi-final with momentum, there are a few data points on offer. Several of these are found on the brilliant Eurovision Tracker website, which is refreshed annually with the current class of participants. In addition to the Eurovision Tracker website, this nifty Korb site draws in iTunes, Apple Music and Spotify data globally, regionally and nationally (depending on what data each platform makes available).

In other instances you need to web search around to find data. You could do this out of curiosity, or a desire to place a wager, or to ascertain how hopeful you should be about your favourites’ Grand Final fortunes.

In this article we take a look at some of the data points we use and their strengths and weaknesses. Then we *gulp* try to read this year’s Semi-Final One tea leaves. Time permitting we’ll update and refresh this after Semi-Final Two—but there’s a much narrower window between Thursday and Saturday.

Spotify

None of this year’s entries are currently hitting the global daily Spotify top 200. Ditto the UK, Germany, the Netherlands, Israel, France, or Australia. There’s no data for Russia or Ukraine. Hooverphonic are 191st on their domestic Spotify with The Wrong Place. The Eurovision Tracker Spotify aggregate has Italy getting a bit of traction in Lithuania (21st), Iceland (30th) and on their own domestic list (39th after many months as a hit single in Italy). If you exclude artists’ home markets, no one from Tuesday is in another market’s Spotify top 10.

Thus Spotify is not a data source we give much attention to.

Apple Music streams and iTunes

Apple Music’s European chart has Russia entering the chart at 159th and Cyprus at 181st.

iTunes is a different story:. Russia has leapt from 198th to 54th! Malta’s a new entry at 19, followed by Ukraine (24th), Azerbaijan (34th), Norway (36th), Cyprus (44th), Lithuania (50th), Sweden (61st). Belgium (86th), Israel (116th) and new on the chart. There’s your 10 qualifiers.

If we use top 50 as an (admittedly arbitrary) cut-off, we have Malta, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Norway, Cyprus and Lithuania (with Russia just outside).

Betting odds

In some ways the betting trends are very reliable: those who consistently wager on results for the Eurovision tend to be dispassionate about what they like and instead try to follow what is liked. Suffice to say, we at 58points.com are terrible Eurovision gamblers…

The Eurovision Tracker site has a neat feature on its odds page. You can enter a start date and it will show you how an entry’s fortunes have changed over time. I put in the earliest date available (18 April) and compare it to 19 May, the noteworthy changes from our first group of qualifiers are:

  • Malta: down from 1st to 3rd
  • Ukraine up from 18th to 4th
  • Cyprus up from 12th to 8th
  • Lithuania down from 7th to 10th
  • Sweden down from 6th to 12th
  • Norway down from 9th to 15th.
  • Russia’s moved up one spot to 14th.

Suffice to say the six non-qualifiers have all dropped to the bottom of the odds. So these data are also a bit useful.                  

YouTube. And YouTube.

In the pre-rehearsal period the YouTube tracker on the Eurovision Tracker site can be informative…so long as you are mindful of a few things. First, any relatively large non-anglophone country (30+ million) that is large enough to support relatively self-sufficient, national language cultural industries (Russia, Italy, Poland, Ukraine) tends to have pumped up view counts of official or preview videos. As well, if a song is popular in parts of the Eurovision viewing world that has somewhat lower wages, things like YouTube become much more important in terms of accessing culture—often at the expense of subscription only services like Apple Music. As a result, each year the Italian, Russian and Polish entries run up their pre-rehearsal view counts.

But a more useful metric for right now is the official Eurovision YouTube channel. Click into the Videos tab, then sort by Date added (newest). Now scroll down to each of performances from Semi-Final One (if you try sorting by view count, you end up with a bunch of entries from earlier years).

Here’s the top five by view count from Tuesday:

  1. Russia 4.9 million views
  2. Ukraine 3.5 million views
  3. Cyprus AND Azerbaijan 1.9 million views (It’s a “banger-off”!)
  4. Croatia 1.1 million views (non-qualifier)

Correct, one of the non-qualifier’s clips has more views that 6 of the qualifiers.

Given it’s free to access and play things on YouTube—assuming YouTube is available where you live—it’s one of the more reliable metrics for a given year. These are, after all, the actual live performances rather than a preview video.

The Draw Performance Order

Since 2013 (the first year of the producer-led draw) the winners have performed in the following slots:

  • 2013 Denmark performed 18th
  • 2014 Austria performed 11th
  • 2015 Sweden performed 10th
  • 2016 Ukraine performed 21st*
  • 2017 Portugal performed 11th
  • 2018 Israel performed 22nd
  • 2019 the Netherlands performed 12th

For first half winners, they each were given slot 10th, 11th or 12th. For second half winners they have been allocated 18th, 21st or 22nd.

However in 2016 Jamala’s 1944 won the Grand Final after having only finished second in its semi-final, behind Australia who drew first half and were given slot 13. Russia won the other semi-final and were allocated 18th.

We did a more detailed extensive analysis of this in 2019: click here if you’re curious.

Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow

To sum up:

  • iTunes data are favourable to Malta, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Norway, Cyprus, Lithuania and Russia.
  • Ukraine and Cyprus have betting momentum, though Malta was already near the top of the odds
  • Russia is crushing it on YouTube, followed by Ukraine; Cyprus and Azerbaijan are further back, but ahead of the rest of the pack
  • We don’t know the performance order for Saturday night, which will be released a couple of hours after the results from today’s Semi-Final Two.

But keep an eye on where Russia, Ukraine, Malta, Azerbaijan and Cyprus are put in the running order. Any song in 10-12, or 18th, 21th or 22nd might well have won its semi-final.  

We will update this article after the performance order for Saturday night is published.

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