Posts Tagged ‘esc’

On Reaching D2: Tonight I’ll Be The US Commentator For The Eurovision Song Contest

Saturday, May 12th, 2018

Not long after attending my first Eurovision Song Contest (Moscow 2009) I wrote this:

Terry Wogan’s continuous thirty-year run as Commentator for Eurovision started in 1980, when he was 42. Graham Norton started commentating on Eurovision in 2009, aged 46. Paddy O’Connell started commentating on the Eurovision Semi Finals aged 38. Ken Bruce started commentating on Eurovision for Radio 2 aged 37.

For the record, I’ll be 35 in May next year, which gives me some time (not that I’m counting) but if anyone down at Wood Lane [Television Centre] wants to give me a call…

So, let’s add a few more data points to add to that list:

Scott Mills started commentating on the Eurovision Semi Finals aged 37.

Ewan Spence started commentating on Eurovision aged 43.

In just over an hour,  I’ll be taking to the airwaves across America as part of the first Eurovision Song Contest commentary team for the US radio broadcast. I’ll going to tell the longer story of this adventure over the next week or so, but I do want to put a marker down before the show starts, and type this out in full.

Tonight, I’ll be a commentator for the Eurovision Song Contest.

The list of thank you’s to get to this point is huge, but for now; Dave Cargill, Tony Currie, Lisa-Jayne Lewis, Ana-Filipa Rosa, Sharleen Wright, Ellie Chalkley, John Egan, John-Paul Lucas, Vikki Spence, Eilidh, Mairi, my family, to everyone else I’ve met and who has helped me on this journey… Thank you.

And now… let the Eurovision Song Contest begin!

On Publishing Five Hundred Podcasts

Tuesday, September 26th, 2017

Last Friday saw one of the moments where numbers conspired to mean something. Over on ESC Insight, I posted the five hundredth episode of my Eurovision Song Contest podcast. There was nothing particularly special about the contents, it was a regular episode of ‘ESC Insight News’, covering the last two weeks of news in the world of the Song Contest.

The only concessions to the episode number was a sad party twizzler sound effect at the end of the show, and the subtle use of a Fiat 500 as the key image in the post and shared social images.

And while it is podcast #500 on the RSS feed of ESC Insight, I’ve done more Eurovision podcasts and audio that have been sent down other channels – the podcasts and radio shows for the SBS Eurovision pop-up radio station, the work with Radio Six International, the syndicated radio preview shows each year, and even the commentary work I’ve done have all been part of the audio adventure. These shows are not in the core 500, but they all arose because I podcast about something I love and became one of the ‘go to voices’ in the space.

This is the point where inspirational posts would suggest some grand lessons over the last six years of ESC Insight. I’m not sure there are any, beyond find a passion, keep the quality as high as possible, always ask if you can do more, and say yes to every opportunity you get.

The ESC Insight podcast has taken me on some amazing journeys, from a midnight flight into Yerevan to armed guards blocking my path into Azeri press centres; from commentary booths around the world to talking to TV and Radio executives across Europe and beyond; to be welcomed by a community and to create a new community, it has delivered all that and more.

As for what comes next, I’d highlight podcast #499. This is part of a series called ‘Eurovision Castaways’, where host Ellie Chalkley interviews members of the Song Contest community about their favourite records and finds out more about them. That episode arrived in my podcast player with no input at all from me.

I may have started the Eurovision podcast many years ago, I may still contribute, but the podcast is now something much bigger than just myself, a microphone, and some passion.

Now that personal passion is the shared passion of tens of thousands.

The start of another Eurovision season means a new podcast

Monday, September 11th, 2017

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Imagine if the only football you watched was the FA Cup Final in May? If the only baseball game of interest was the World Series. If the only American Football match was the Superbowl. And imagine the delight if you found out that there was a season’s worth of action…

Well, it’s time for the Eurovision Song Contest season to start. Sure, everyone will tune in on Saturday May 12th for the Grand Final, but there’s a world of music before that point. IT;s one I follow with the team at ESC Insight, and the first podcast of the season is now online.

Its going to run fortnightly for a few weeks, so don’t worry about being overwhelmed, but it’s a great place to jump on board this year’s fun.

You can follow the ESC Insight podcast through its RSS feed, or subscribe in iTunes.

Trivial Posts #23: A Jukebox, A Fridge, And An Immortal Dragon

Monday, September 5th, 2016

Hello subscribers to Trivial Posts, it’s been a while…. lets see if I can get back into the swing of things with links out to curious stories, items that make me think, and stuff that’s just interesting.

The Boys Are Always Back In Town

Really the title says it all, but keep reading. Not only an exercise in humanity, but a wonderfully written story as well:

Over the course of these past few months, I have come upon two bits of forbidden knowledge: One, this bar does not have a working “kill switch” (which allows the bartender to change a song in case someone plays, I dunno, the entire A-side of 2112). Two, this jukebox permits the same song to be played back-to-back if each instance was paid for with a separate bill.

It was 3 AM on a recent Tuesday when, standing in the dark outside my train station, these truths reconciled themselves within me. My compulsion became explicit and inescapable: I needed to stay up and play “The Boys Are Back in Town” as many times as I could. The thorns from the road ahead cleared themselves, and I walked toward the future amid roses to share the gospel with the other patrons of this unlikeable bar.

The boys were back.

I Played ‘The Boys Are Back in Town’ on a Bar Jukebox Until I Got Kicked Out

6 Megabytes, 150 Requests, One Word

The New York Times manages to get away with a one-word story, as long as it doesn;t count the headline. Here’s the curious thing about that one-word story. The amount of crap, clutter, advertising, and screen real estate that accompanies the body text.

When I’m Mistakenly Put on an Email Chain, Should I Hit ‘Reply All’ Asking to Be Removed?

Chilling Out With Some Tech

The history of what we all call ‘The Internet of Things’ started with the idea of the Internet-connected Fridge. Nobody has every explained why this was a good idea (“it can order milk when you run out!” is the usual argument), but that hasn’t stopped Samsung. At last week’s IFA conference in Berlin, the South Korean company revealed… an internet connected fridge!

Samsung Electronics Australia chief marketing officer Phil Newton said the company’s Family Hub Refrigerator not only featured three connected cameras to let you check on its contents while at the supermarket, but users would be able to leave notes and watch TV shows on its 21-inch touchscreen.

The four-door, 671 litre fridge would cost $7499-

…and I’m out.

Samsung Unveils Smart Fridge

Arming The Science Of Queuing Theory

America has a gun registry. America does not allow the gun registry to be computerised. America relies on billions of sheets of paper and a human-powered index. America scares me sometimes

For five years Charlie took it upon himself to create a new workflow system for the tracing center, breaking down each step in the tracing process into equations, doing time-motion studies for actions as minute as how long on average it takes the ladies to go from their desks to the roll room. Every step was analyzed and rethought, the numbers crunched.

…Despite no increase in budget, no new technology, no new staff: “I’m doing twice as many guns, twice as fast, and almost twice as accurately as we did when I got here in 2005.”

The Federal Bureau Of Too Many Guns.

The Battle Of Rallos Zek

When tales are told of battle, when the Gods change the destiny of man, when the rag tag army can see an unlikely victory, stories will be told. Does it matter that the battlefield was a digital server when Cecillia D’Anastosio can tell the tale of the attack on Everquest’s last unkillable Dragon:

On EverQuest, in November of 2003, nearly 200 players came together to defeat the apparently invincible dragon Kerafyrm, known as “the Sleeper,” against Sony Online Entertainment’s designs. The story has everything: warring factions, a tomb, an invulnerable dragon, surprising partnerships and a panicked multinational corporation; and, as of a few days ago, it would have remained relatively unknown had I not received an encrypted PGP message from the moniker “Master Control Program.”

The Surprising And Allegedly Impossible Death Of EverQuest’s ‘Unkillable’ Dragon.

The Start Of The Eurovision Song Contest Season

One from my stable of writing to finish off this week’s newsletter. Although the televised Grand Final for the Eurovision Song Contest doesn’t take place until late May 2017, the cut-off date for songs passed on September 1st… any new song now aired is eligible to be sung at the Contest. ESC Insight will tell the story of the Contest this year, and my regular podcast (follow via RSS or through iTunes) will keep you updated in a fifteen minute burst of news – currently airing every two weeks as the season comes to life.

ESC Insight: discussion and commentary around the Eurovision Song Contest.

‘Trivial Posts’ is a mostly weekly series of posts that brings together interesting posts, ideas, video clips, essays, images, and anything else that catches my eye on the Internet. Read it online, or subscribe to the email newsletter version here.

Reprinting the delights of singing for your Superbowl

Saturday, February 6th, 2016

Popbitch looked at the most dangerous moment in the American music calendar this week… singing the National Anthem at the Superbowl. With Superbowl 50 taking place this weekend in Santa Clara (…I can read a map and it’s miles away from San Francisco) the moment is coming around once more, and Lady Gaga has picked up the poison-filled chalice:

Lady Gaga has performed for millions of people all around the planet, but never all at once. This Sunday’s Super Bowl will be one of the biggest audiences she has ever played for – and even a huge star like Gaga will no doubt be feeling the pressure.

So in order to help her out, we’ve done a bit of research on her behalf. We’ve looked back into the history of Super Bowl performances over the last 25 years to see how The Star Spangled Banner has been attempted, and if there is anything she can learn from those artists who have gone before her.

Sure, it’s a reprint with a light edit from a few years ago, but then what’s changed since Sam wrote ‘Why the Eurovision Song Contest and the Superbowl Are Practically Family‘ for ESC Insight (except now it’s posted on Medium’s ESC channel…)


The Book Of Eurovision Souls

Thursday, September 3rd, 2015

The new Iron Maiden album, ‘The Book Of Souls‘ has been released, and my copy just arrived. Most of me cannot wait to devour the 92 minute long album, but part of me runs through the checklist; released after September 1st, check; a maximum of six performers on stage, check; any tracks under three minutes…


Eurovision songs reach the Top 40, Radio One holds its nose and has to play them. Win!

Monday, May 19th, 2014

I’ve been quiet about my Eurovision activities on this blog over the last two or three weeks (on the assumption that you all know where to find me, or saw the Twitter action), but I want to highlight this little fact.

Four Eurovision songs reached the Top 40 yesterday, and 12 tracks made the Top 100.

The power of social media and the ability to instantly buy digital music online has once more been able to show that the music does have an impact. The old-school gatekeepers might not hand tracks like ‘Undo’ or ‘Calm After The Storm’ a physical release, but that is no longer a barrier to getting on the hit parade.

Tonight’s the night I head into the history books of Eurovision commentary

Saturday, November 30th, 2013

Starting at 6pm tonight in the UK (7pm Central Europe, and 8pm local time in Ukraine) is the Junior Eurovision Song Contest 2013. For once I won’t be in the Press Centre, or directly in front of the stage. Tonight, I’ll be with Luke Fisher in the Commentary Booth for the European Broadcasting Union.

The Eurovision Song Contests have had free and official streams for many years, but until now they have been the pictures and the stage audio only – the traditional commentators role has not been part of the EBU’s stream. That’s changed for this Song Contest. My good friend Luke Fisher (currently managing the website) will be taking the lead commentator role, while I’ll be on the analysis and statistics side of things. Anyone who’s heard me talk about presenting Eurovision as less of a variety show and more as a marquee sporting event will probably recognise this set up – Yes, I’m going to be the John Madden / Colour Commentator for Eurovision!

Providing the international commentary from the organisers does lead to a few interesting bullet points in the remit, but the one that will be most noticeable is to remain impartial and to not influence the Contest, something that Terry Wogan and Graham Norton never really worried about. So if you’re expecting snark, you might need to look elsewhere (can I suggest @ewan and @escinsight).

This also means the traditional ‘Hello Internet‘ is going to need to be an Easter Egg somewhere in the commentary, but I’ll just add that to some of the traditional calls that fans expect…

The Junior Eurovision Song Contest 2013 will be broadcast online at 1900 CET on Fans in Edinburgh and The Lothians can listen on 98.8 Castle FM.

Welcome to Eurovision Island, where everything is douze points

Monday, September 2nd, 2013

The 2014 Eurovision Song Contest will be held in a MacGyvered hall, which is part of a refurbished shipyard, on an island just off the coast of Denmark, relativly near to Copenhagen

Honestly, the jokes write themselves. What will the Eurovision circus do when trapped on our own Charlie Brooker-esque Daily Mail Island?

Daily Mail Island, a reality TV show where several normal people are deposited on an island and not allowed access to any media other than the strongly right-wing and conservative Daily Mail newspaper, leading to them becoming progressively more irrational and brutal as the series progresses – for example, tying teenage lovers together with sacks on their heads and beating them, or sealing a teenager caught masturbating into a coffin filled with broken glass and dog faeces and throwing it over a cliff and their language devolving into rhetorical questions and sarcastic snorts

Some thoughts on podcasting and what engages me

Tuesday, June 25th, 2013

Last week I had the opportunity to experience podcasting from the other side, as a listener looking in to a world and being guided by experts on the other side of my headphones, and it remind me just how powerful podcasting can be when it finds the right environment.

The event was the 24 Heures du Mans, and my guides were the team at Radio Le Mans. In the build up to the event they previewed the four classes of cars that were racing, reported daily on the practices around the circuit, covered the scrutineering, the damp fizzle that was qualifying, and when it was time for the race they switched to live streaming for every minute of the event.

Yes, I can enjoy Le Mans without them, but having excited experts, fans, and reporters talking to me every day made for a much more engaged and exciting event. For me, this is where podcasting works. It’s social, it’s engaging, and it gets multiple expert voices (and switch on lay fans) in discussion.

It’s also given me a big checklist of things that I need to be careful of when the Edinburgh Fringe podcasts start coming out nearer the end of July and into the daily shows during August… making sure the introduction to the podcast is strong and acts as an index to what is coming up in the rest of the show; remembering the different levels of knowledge listeners will have; and that while all the guests and news will vary, the host is the constant that will keep people coming back for the next show.

And while the Eurovision Song Contest podcasts go on a much slower schedule now (two fifteen minute episodes per month for June through September, compared to a daily 30 minute show leading up to the Contest in May), the principles are the same.

When people ask me about the differences between audio podcasts and videos, the safe and quick answer is ‘time’ – video online needs to be much shorter, and audio can offer more time to get involved. But if you want to expand on that, an audio podcast offers a chance for more education, more entertainment, and more information. While there are moments when short podcasts are ideal, the podcasts that work well for me are the news magazine style of shows, rather than the breaking news bulletins.

Part of my #back2blog community series of blog posts.

Language, words, and meanings, within MLB and Eurovision

Monday, May 27th, 2013

There’s a nice article on the evolving English language between US English and UK English on BBC News today. The medium is Football (okay, and straight away I need to say ‘Soccer’ for US readers), and the language used by the commentators to describe different facets of the game, and how the US sports broadcasters have their own vocabulary which has no influence from the UK commentators.

It’s something I’ve seen directly around the Eurovision Song Contest. I have a bundle of spreadsheets I use to track country performance in the Contest, with variables such as SPA (Semi Final Placing Average), GPA (Grand Final Points Average), and QR (qualification ratio). There are rather a lot more, but this will be enough to make my point.

For example, pre 2013 Contest, Georgia was QR .800, SPA 7.20, GPA 106.5. That’s great for me when commentating, and its clear that Georgia under-performed this year (with a 2013 SP of 10, and a 2013 GP of 50), but if I hand the spreadsheet over to almost anyone in the Eurovision Press Room, they need a crib sheet to get the names and then a good few minutes of explanation as to the impact.

Show these to an American reporter though, especially one versed in sports such as Major League Baseball, where these look remarkably like batting statistics, and they get it instantly.

We might be one language in word, but in  meaning the continents are very far apart.

It’s time to do some Eurovision Commentary

Saturday, May 18th, 2013

Looking for four experience Eurovision experts talking about the Contest live? Head over to ESC Insight and you can download the mobile app, or listen live through a (quick and dirty hack of a) web player. See you on the other side!

Download the Live Commentary iOS app for Eurovision

Tuesday, May 14th, 2013

A big thank you to The Lab at O2 for all their help in the last few weeks as they developed ESC Commentary, an IOS app to support the Eurovision Song Contest communities at ESC Insight and EscXtra. What does it do?

You’ll get a live commentary from the team in the press room (and it’s not the same as our long running Alternative Commentary MP3, which you can find here).

During each Eurovision show you can hit the green thumbs up button, or the red thumbs down button, to share your view on the song, and the worm will show the combined thoughts of everyone using the app.

Its a free download from the Apple App Store. Head to to download the app for your iOS device. Or you can search for ‘ESC Commentary‘ in the store.

What are you waiting for?

All the 2013 Eurovision songs rated hit, miss, or maybe

Saturday, May 11th, 2013

With this year’s Eurovision Song Contest happening next weekend, if you’ve not been following my podcasts, there’s a single page on ESC Insight where you can listen to all eight shows that cover all thirty nine performers. Enjoy!

Who gets your douze points this year at Eurovision?

Saturday, April 6th, 2013

It’s probably escaped the notice of many of you , but the Eurovision Song Contest is getting closer. Before you ask, the Grand Final is on Saturday May 18th, so you have six weeks to plan your party. Of course in four weeks I fly to Malmo to cover the Contest from backstage as the rehearsals start.

Even though the UK media like to make fun of the Contest, with a peak viewership of over nine million last year, the public (that means you) still love it. So why not sneakily subscribe to the Eurovision Podcast that I host on ESC Insight. We’re currently working through the songs in the Juke Box Jury format on a weekly basis. If you;re keeping count there’ll be eight previews in total.

Episode 1Episode 2Episode 3RSSiTunes Link