Does winning Eurovision matter?

Eurovision Trophy

Back in the day, for those taking part in the Eurovision Song Contest, there was one goal: victory. Runners-up sank without trace. But has that changed? OnEurope looks at how winning doesn’t always lead to the biggest hit.

Non winners selling well is not an entirely new phenomenon. There have been stray examples of the runner-up doing big business. Domenico Modugno finished third in 1958, but Volare went on to become a legend. Vicky Leandros and Mocedades didn’t need a win to enjoy hits.

They remained the exception to the rule.

It was something that happened outside the realm of Eurovision that really changed things. The incorporation of digital downloads (and more recently streaming) into the global pop charts was arguably the most revolutionary development for the contest since the introduction of televoting.

The ability to instantly buy or stream your favourite songs revitalised the contest’s relationship to broader popular culture. You no longer needed to win to see your song released anywhere other than your home country (and if you were lucky a few near neighbours).

Biggest seller

The first person to truly benefit from this change was Swedish singer Loreen. In 2012, she topped the charts in 17 countries. Her song spent several days on top of the UK iTunes chart, peaking at No 3 in the singles listings and selling more than 250,000 copies, despite being almost universally snubbed by mainstream radio stations. At the time of writing, Euphoria remains the biggest Eurovision digital seller of all time in the UK.

Winning Eurovision matters less. A well-managed singer or group can enjoy a digital boost by simply taking part.

Last year, Jamala may have walked away a winner, but it was Swedish Frans who had the biggest commercial hit. ‘If I were sorry’ was one of the most downloaded Eurovision songs on iTunes, along with pre-contest favourite Sergey Lazarev and jury winner Dami Im.

When Conchita won in 2015, ‘Rise like a phoenix‘ did reasonable business, but it was The Common Linnets who sold most copies of their song – and subsequent album. Belgian entrant Loïc Nottet did great business in France and Belgium.

Local prominence

And this is where limits appear. For most acts, international stardom remains elusive. The contest has yet to produce another big star in the style of Abba or Celine Dion. Recent entrants have certainly continued to do well in their home markets, but that’s where it ends. Even best-seller of all time Loreen has seen her recent releases struggle beyond Sweden.

Maybe 2017 will change this? Do you think any of the acts taking part have potential to stretch their appeal beyond the contest?

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