Throughout my tenure with ESC United, I have been privileged to learn about the exciting fandom that Eurovision captures through its faithful followers from across the world. At the same time, it is incredible to hear that I am one of the 195 million people that were estimated to have watched the 2014 edition.


My tenure at ESC United has affected the way I watch Eurovision. Before 2013, I was a casual viewer that had never heard the songs until the semi-finals. There was something exciting about it, the novelty of hearing what a country had been preparing for the past three to six months, without a single preconceived bias. So winning songs never really disappointed me. When Germany won in 2010, I was actually disappointed because Denmark sucked me in the most. In 2011, when Azerbaijan won, I thought, well this is a cute song, only to

now realize how many fans really did not like “Running Scared.”

"In a moment like this" left a good first impression (Denmark 2010)
“In a moment like this” left a good first impression (Denmark 2010)

However in 2013, upon beginning my work with ESC United, I switched over to following the national finals. As a result, by the time I arrived in Sweden, I knew all the songs rather well and
was singing along in the arena. In April 2014, my playlist at the office was nothing but the 2014 entries. I loved being able to watch the shows to see how the artists and their respective
national broadcasters were able to take the music and transform it into a full-fledged performance.

In a sense, I had represented the two types of fans (and I know I am completely generalizing, so please bear with me). The first are the hard-core fans, who help detect the early favorites, who know the songs inside and out, who are singing loudly alongside Conchita during the live shows.Then we have the casual viewer, who tune into Eurovision and hear the majority of the songs
for the first time during the semi-finals, or perhaps even the finals.

This dichotomy of viewership and its potential effect on one’s interest in a song is something I have touched upon before. I believe as hard-core fans, we may be prone to holding bias for
certain songs because of their reputation, whether it be because they are early favorites or a song that one feels should not have won the national selection. After Denmark won in 2013, I
admitted that I hated the song. However, upon further contemplation, I realized that rather than hating the song itself, I rather hated everything that surrounded the song, such as it being
such the clear favorite and the fact that the Danes knew it! Had I been a casual viewer, I would have instantly marked it as my favorite. You can read my thoughts about that here

At the same time, I have found that after repeated listens, certain songs have grown on me and other songs have not. You can read about my thoughts of two such songs here

I admit that as much as I loved knowing the songs beforehand in 2013 and 2014, I sort of miss the old cold-turkey approach I had as a casual viewer. There was an excitement of having a week of almost 40 new songs to hear for the first time and judge on first impressions. It was partially for this reason that I went back and watched the 1970-2002 editions over the past two
years: to recapture that novelty.

For the 2015 edition of Eurovision, I wanted to try something different. For this reason, in my work with ESC United over the next six months, I will be covering Eurovision 2015 in a way that I think has not been done previously in recent years. Whereas most people covering Eurovision will already have their early favorites, I will instead be entering the live-shows (or the rehearsals if I make it to the press center) cold-turkey, that is without ever hearing the songs prior. I am hoping that this will provide a new and exciting perspective that perhaps elicits a different point of view of the songs.

Of course, there are certain bias that will be hard to let go of. For example, if a returning artist that I enjoy is at Eurovision in Vienna, it will be difficult to stay objective. I question at times whether the casual viewers themselves even recognize returning artists, unless the commentator makes a specific mention of it. As someone following Eurovision, I will also be fully aware of who are the early favorites leading into Vienna. However, it is my hope that having this cold-turkey approach will allow me to remain as neutral as possible.

This social experiment could be a wonderful undertaking. Or it could be a total disaster. But time will tell. The first thing I can say at this point is that I am so happy to have the support of Matt in this. But if you know Matt, you would not expect anything less. He was great support as I meandered my way through the press center in Sweden. He was constant encouragement in my personal life, as I completed my PhD and made a move to a new city in late December. Matt has been there, and I am thrilled to know he is backing me up again.

So we shall see how this goes. I can tell you it is already killing me. I so want to go to YouTube to listen to the winning song from 2015 Skopje Festival. Argh!

Keep the conversation going! Is Zack’s social experiment going to do him any good, or just drive him bonkers? Is he going to actually have a unique point of view, or will he be just a waste of space if he makes it to the press center? What about you? Were there any instances you remember in which your prior knowledge of songs caused you to like or hate them more when they were performed on the Eurovision stage?

The views expressed in this editorial are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of ESC United, its editorial board, its readers, or any other person, entity, or organization.

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  1. Edwin

    December 12, 2014 at 01:42

    Like most of us, I also started as a casual viewer. My first semi-final was 2011 and before that I didn’t even recognise that they existed. But this meant missing out on songs, and lots of songs completely passing me by (these being “underrated” songs). After that, I started listening to a great deal of the songs before the competition. Now I know the competition inside out by the night of the final so I get to bemuse my friends talking over Graham Norton with esoteric facts. I love it and I feel my weekends would be empty without even the worst of national finals.

  2. Sean Tarbuck

    November 14, 2014 at 02:04

    My favourite songs in 2010 didn’t qualify (Lithuania and Sweden) so it was a pretty bad year! Not to mention that the UK entry was horrific. It’s up to you if you want to do it but it’s fairly brave for a Eurovision fan to abstain so we’ll see how you do!

  3. Zack Kerr

    November 13, 2014 at 23:28

    Thanks Sean!
    Is it wrong to admit that I’m already having second thoughts!? 2010 was rough for me since my two fav songs that year were first and last in the line up. But I’m curious to see how this year will turn out with the non random line ups!

  4. Sean Tarbuck

    November 13, 2014 at 20:50

    I last did this in 2010, and I didn’t really have much interest in that contest in the end, but best of luck!

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