Posts Tagged ‘eurovision song contest’

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!

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.

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.

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

Silence of the Eurovision Song Contest Lambs

Thursday, January 17th, 2013

This year’s ‘theme’ for the Eurovision Song Contest has been announced. The key phrase is “We Are One” and the marketing image is… well, it’s a butterfly that looks like it’s been attacked by a Dulux factory.

Eurovision Song Contest is a shared project that unites millions of people in the east, west, north and south. Beyond all the glitter, there is a thought. A big idea that is 100% relevant for Public Service. It’s about togetherness, diversity and happiness.

Eurovision Song Contest might appear as a trivial matter. But a trivial matter that engages over one hundred million people of all ages in more than 40 countries all over the world. And today science knows that sometimes small matters can start powerful and big movements. This phenomenon is called ”the Butterfly Effect”. A flap from one butterfly can – at least in theory – start a hurricane.

Butterflies have one common name, but exist in thousands of different shapes and colours. Just like the Eurovision Song Contest – one strong identity, with rich national diversities. If we all engage and work together, we can achieve anything – We are one.

If you have to spend three paragraphs explaining the visuals, then your visuals aren’t getting the message over. Or you’ve been watching too much Twenty Twelve.

Eurovision Podcast riding high in iTunes Chart

Monday, May 3rd, 2010

Even after just a week in iTunes, The Unofficial Eurovision Song Contest Podcast is gathering subscribers and recognition. It’s been bouncing around the performing Arts category and has, so far, peaked at number 6.

TUEP in iTunes

I’d always planned the first week of the Eurovision Podcast to deal with two issues – the first was to kick the tyres, get all the RSS feeds and directory listings sorted, and generally make sure it works before opening the taps up on the bigger shows.

The second issue was how to bring up to speed those people who are new to Eurovision, or perhaps just watch it out of habit once a year. The later podcasts are going to be a bit more specialised and in-depth, so I wanted to provide an entry route for those new to the Song Contest.

So “The Quick Guides to Eurovision” filled up the first with with an introduction to the show, discussions about the songs, the rules, scoring, and of course what is Political Voting. neatly covering the two issues highlighted above.

Now that everyone is at least in the same building in knowledge of the contest, the fun stuff really starts. Tomorrow will see me start the traditional forced fan march that is previewing each song… but I think I can bring some flair and excitement to that as well.

Stand by, Eurovision Juke Box Jury is just around the corner!

Eurovision 2010 Podcast: Scoring, Voting and Douze Points

Thursday, April 29th, 2010

Scoring, Voting and Douze Points (MP3 5.6MB 5 minutes 57 seconds)
DOWNLOAD the podcast by right clicking on this link, or press play and listen in your browser.


The short guides to the Eurovision Song Contest section of the podcast continues with a look at how the Semi-Finals and the Grand Final select the winners. The mix of public voting (by SMS and phone votes) and a selected jury in each country worked well in the final last year. Now this style is going to be used in the semi finals for the first time.

But how does it really work? What other new rules have been brought in? When can you start voting for your chosen country? Let’s find out.

Stay up to date with The Unofficial Eurovision Podcast by subscribing using the RSS feed for all the shows, or Apple fans can use iTunes to get the show automatically downloaded to your computer.

Eurovision 2010 Podcast: What the rulebook says about the songs

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

What the rulebook says about the songs (MP3 5.0 MB, 5 minutes 19 seconds)
DOWNLOAD the podcast by right clicking on this link, or press play and listen in your browser.


In the second short guide to the 2010 Eurovision Song Contest, I take a look at the rules around the songs that can be performed at Eurovision. How long must the songs be, who can compose the and perform them, what language do they have to be in and how old can they be?

Or in other words, this is why the United Kingdom can’t send Bohemian Rhapsody to the Telenor Arena in Oslo.

If you’ve not yet subscribed to the Unofficial Eurovision Podcast, then you can use either add the direct RSS feed to you podcast application, or if you use iTunes, it’s now been approved so you can subscribe to the podcast via iTunes.

Eight weeks till Eurovision 2010

Monday, April 5th, 2010

In eight weeks time, this year’s Eurovision Song Contest will be over, and I’ll be back from Oslo in Edinburgh.

Just as last year, I’ll be covering the event online from inside the stadium not just on the night of the Grand Final (May 29th) but also the two semi finals (May 25th and 27th), but also in the run up to the ‘Eurovision Week’ of staging, rehearsals, backstage fun and everything else that goes into one of the world’s most popular TV show in the world.

The easiest way to follow me is going to be on Twitter (follow @Ewan), where I’ve been providing the ever popular live textual commentary to the Song Contests for the last four years worth of contests. Here’s last year’s Top Ten tweets, as voted for by readers of the site

Other than that, keep popping back here,as I’ll be linking out to articles, features and interviews that I’m doing for a number of sites and publications – more on those as we get closer to the date – plus I’ll be offering as much opportunity to get your questions answered, the return of the Beginners Guide to Eurovision, and there’s a couple of new bits of Web 2.0 stuff that could work well in Oslo!

Moscow's Eurovision Warmup

Remember, Eurovision is more than just the show on the Saturday night, there’s more than enough fun to keep a smile on your face for all of May!

Charts Could Seal the Fate of UK’s 2010 Entry

Sunday, June 7th, 2009

I think that this week’s UK Charts pretty much answers the question of what happens to Jade Ewen post Eurovision. Around Europe, her Eurovision song “It’s My Time” charted at #75 (Germany), #34 (Sweden) and  #75 (Switzerland).

Becoming a success in Europe was one option after her appearance in the song Contest with the Lloyd Webber/Warren penned song. The other was to become a big name in the UK. Unfortunately the bottom line, chart success and single sales, hasn’t happened. She entered the Top 50 last week at #27, and this week has dropped out of the Top 75. Not good.

One of the reasons for the relatively good showing of the UK in this year’s Eurovision was the promotional efforts around the continent, and this was primarily driven by her record company. Alongside the involvement of a top song-writing team and the credible media reports in the UK, Colin Barlow and the support of Polydor was key.

And if you think that’s par for the course, glance over at Alexander Rybak – probably one of the most commercially successful Eurovision songs across Europe since Katrina and the Waves. Top 10 in the UK (through digital downloads, not even an official release), number one in Belgium, Denmark, Greece, Norway and Sweden, and still going strong (plus the album is flying off the shelves where it has seen a release).

Without the record companies involved, the strong foundation built by the UK this year may crumble – but will they get involved again after potentially  having quite a bad return on their investment with the parachuted into the selection Jade Ewen?

Or is this going to be a repeat of Jessica Garlic (3rd in 2002) to Jemini (nul points 2003) at next year’s Eurovision?

How To Get Tickets For the Eurovision Song Contest

Monday, May 25th, 2009

A question I’ve asked by a few people over the last week or so is “how can I get to next year’s Eurovision Song Contest?” Some of them have been above board, some have come in quiet back channels where their love of Eurovision can’t be traced back to them (you know who you are!) but it’s cropped up enough times that the best place for me to answer this is in a blog post.

In almost every case I would recommend you join the Official Eurovision Fan Club that has branches around the world, The Organisation Generale des Amateurs de l’Eurovision. As well as branches in every Eurovision country there is also a “Rest of the World” branch for anyone missing.

They will be able to discuss tickets closer to the event, act as your primary contact to buy them, and of course make sure you’re slap bang in the middle of a large group of like minded travelling fans when you get there.

Tickets should also be available through the official site closer to the event, and don’t forget tickets are sold not just for the live shows but for the three dress rehearsals of each semi final and final as well. Tickets for the Moscow shows in 2009 started at around 20 Euros and rising to 650 Euros for the live shows, and 7-40 Euros for the dress rehearsals.

It’s very likely that the concert will be in Norway in 2010, and it’s likely to be in Oslo. As with any trip, once the venue is announced there’ll be a scramble for hotels close by to whichever venue is chosen. You’re on your own for that!

See you in Oslo!

(I’ve also added a page linking to all my Eurovision 2009 coverage around the web, you can find it here)

One In Ten Tweets during Saturday Mentioned Eurovision (and some #media140 Thoughts)

Thursday, May 21st, 2009

Yesterday was the first #media140 conference in London, talking about the use of Twitter and over instant short form methods of communication in journalism. I had hoped to get down to it, but it was so close to getting back from the Eurovision Song Contest (Moscow) that I just kept half an eye on it.

Typical of the medium, I started getting pings on Twitter that I was getting mentioned from the panel on “The 140 Character Story…” So I pinged back to ask what was being said (which is a horrible Web 2.0 feedback loop, I know);

  • Documentally: you were mentioned with love earlier for your amazing Eurovision coverage;
  • darrenwaters: [Darren was on the panel, he said] that it rocked;
  • billt I said it was great but I preferred it without listening to the songs!

There is no doubt in my mind that Twitter was one of the places to be during Eurovision. While I was busy working during the event, Nick Burcher had half an eye on the Twitter statistics and came up with this delightful fact-let: 9.95% of every twitter during the time of the contest contained the word “Eurovision”

One in ten twitters were about the Eurovision Song Contest!

And in all of that, I have to thank everyone that labelled me as one of the “goto people” on Twitter for Eurovision. I could see all the RT’s of my commentary being passed around, I could see the discussions and questions coming at me, which is almost like instant feedback – something that Terry Wogan never had, and an impromptu community had sprung up.

Eurovision was set up back in the 50’s to push new technology and ideas to broadcasters – it looks like it continues to do so in the 21st century?

And it leaves another problem for the broadcaster. How do you pitch your Eurovision coverage next year when you have this on the sidelines waving its banner? Adam Tinworth, who gave his blog readers a heads up regarding my coverage summed it up nicely:

Around an event like the Eurovision, the main broadcast is in real danger of becoming just a social object that people interact about elsewhere.


Report on the Eurovision 2009 Final

Monday, May 18th, 2009

This went up on The Stage’s website this afternoon, my thoughts on the results of the Eurovision Song Contest:

Not only did Rybak win, but he won in style. Scoring a massive 387 points, he smashed through the previous highest points scored record of 298 points, which belonged to Finnish Rockers Lordi in the 2006 competition. There will be a lot of Eurovision fans happy they don’t need to see Lordi mentioned as the highest scoring song ever now.

It’s not quite the greatest song ever, though. Adjusting scores to take account of total points available each year, it’s beaten into third place by both Katrina and The Waves and The Brotherhood of Man — he would have needed 388 points to overtake the former and 396 for the latter. But in terms of modern Eurovision, with the dual semi-final format and 40-plus countries voting in the final, Rybak is sitting on top of a pile of douze points.

I also particularly love the headline that they left intact… Norway Brought a Gun to a Knife Fight.

Download My Commentary Track for Tonight’s Eurovision Song Contest

Saturday, May 16th, 2009

More temporal reporting from the modern Internet as I present my commentary for the 2009 Eurovision Song Contest final. It’s the Grand Final tonight, with 25 countries battling it out for the right to, well, host the contest next year.

As I’m still here, reporting on the Song Contest in Moscow, while watching the dress rehearsals I’ve recorded a commentary track for those who (a) are watching on the free internet stream at and have no commentator, or (b) who would like something a little bit different to the regular TV commentators.

Please note that the commentary is very much a neutral affair, with little bias towards any country and more factual and eyebrow raising humour than out and out bitching and catty calls about the songs.

After you grab the MP3 files, you need to start the track at the correct time. Start the MP3 before Eurovision starts, I’ll remind you of what I’m about to write.

After the introduction music and my first comments, you’ll hear a beep on the track. At that point press pause. When Dima Bilan stops singing “Believe” (last year’s winning track) and the audience begin to applaud, un-pause the track, and we’ll be away. My guess is that should have everyone synced up within one second.

Now for the rest of the show. Timing is a tricky one here, as the show is running to a timetable but could slip, so you have a choice of two tracks. Both should work, but choose the track that fits best with your watching habits.

Option One (Download MP3 by right clicking here)

A 105 minute long track that covers all the songs, with hopefully the right gaps between songs, adverts and visits to the green room. Once you’ve unpaused after the Dima Bilan stops singing “Believe”, leave your MP3 player running. The easier track to listen to, but more likely to slip out of sync

Option Two (Download MP3 by right clicking here)

After syncing at the end of Dima Bilan’s singing, after each of my introductions you’ll hear the same beep. That’s your cue to pause the MP3 and enjoy the song. Un-pause as the song ends, you’ll get my introduction, and then another beep. And so on through the contest. Note that you only pause at a beep, not a silence (so leave the track running through the commercial break and the two trips to the Green Room).

Whichever track you download, do let me know how you get on. I’ll be doing textual commentary on Twitter (which will be live!)  so follow @ewanspence for the full audio, text and pictorial commentary from 54th Eurovision Song Contest!

And once it’s all over, your feedback either in the comments or by email ( would be very much appreciated.

My “Ones To Watch” in tonight’s Eurovision Final

Saturday, May 16th, 2009

The final of the Eurovision Song Contest is nearly here, so to make sure you don’t miss anything “wow” during your evening, I’ve another highlights of the show over at The Stage’s TV Today blog.

As with the semi-final posts, these are not the ones to win, these are ones to watch – a subtle difference at Eurovision!

Cirque Du Soleil, France, Portugal, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Malta, Norway and The United Kingdom

The full post, with preview videos, can be found here.