Money, Money, Money? : Economic weakness, Eurovision success

Adrian Kavanagh, 29th May 2012

The 2012 Eurovision Song Contest was won by Sweden, a country with one of the highest GDP per capita levels in Europe, while the 2009 and 2010 contests were also won by countries that rank amongst the most economically developed in Europe, namely Norway and Germany. However, the general trend in Eurovisions since the introduction of televoting in 1998 has been for the contest to be dominated by the more economically underdeveloped countries in the eastern part of the continent, meaning that there is a largely inverse relationship between levels of economic well-being (GDP per capital levels) and Eurovision success (as measured by the average number of points won by countries in all Eurovision contests competed in since 1998).  

Figure 1: Scatterplot showing the relationship between average Eurovision points (1998-2012) GDP per capita (Source: CIA World Factbook 2012) by country

Indeed, this inverse relationship has been underpinned in recent years by the improved Eurovision performances of countries, such as Ireland (qualifying for three Eurovision finals in a row between 2010-12 after only managing to do so on one occasion between 2005-09) and Spain (who achieved their best Eurovision result since the early 2000s in the 2012 Final), that have undergone a period of serious economic recession in the past few years.

Some of the most economically developed, or richest, Eurovision countries have achieved very poor results in the contest over the past decade and a half, including Monaco (failing to qualify for any Eurovision final in their three semi final appearances in the mid-2000s), Switzerland (qualifying on only two occasions from a Eurovision semi final since the introduction of these in 2004 and achieving the worst result statistically in any Eurovision contest in the 2004 semi final), the Netherlands (failing to qualify for a Eurovision final in every semi final, bar the first of these in 2004) and Austria (just one Eurovision final appearance since 2004). The relationship here is somewhat skewed by the relatively strong Eurovision performances by the economically developed Scandinavian countries during this period, with Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden all achieving Eurovision victories during the 2000s, as well as the improved Eurovision results for Germany in the late 2000s.

At the other end of the scale, the relationship here is strongly underpinned by strong Eurovision performances of Europe’s most economically under-developed countries during the same period. Moldova, Armenia and Georgia have all managed to qualify from every Eurovision semi final, bar one, that these countries have contested and all these countries have achieved a number of Top 10 finishes in Eurovision Finals since they entered the contest for the first time over the 2005-07 period. Both Ukraine and Bosnia and Herzegovina have both managed to qualify from every Eurovision semi final that these countries have contested since 2004. Another country with one of the lower GDP per capita levels in Europe, Albania, achieved that country’s best ever Eurovision result in the 2012 Final. The only Eurovision countries falling amongst those with the lower GDP per capita levels to have had poor Eurovision results during the 2000s are Montenegro (failing to qualify from a Eurovision semi final on four attempts) and Belarus (just two appearances in the Eurovision Final since first joining the contest in 2004).

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