How we keep Australia on the world's stage
When the 61st Eurovision Song Contest wrapped up this year, it ended - once again - with an unexpected triumph for Australia.
No, we didn’t actually win, but Australia’s Dami Im did manage to beat entrants from 40 other countries to take second place, with an estimated TV audience of 200 million fans watching on.
For a brief moment all eyes were turned Down Under as the entertainment world realised what global sports teams have known for a long time – if you invite the Aussies to play, be prepared for them to win.
But now that it’s all over and Dami’s runner-up trophy is tucked in the cabinet next to the fifth place gong won by Guy Sebastian in 2015, the big question remains. What happens next?
What lessons can we take from Eurovision to help keep Australia on the world stage?
1. JUST BECAUSE YOUR NAME’S NOT ON THE DOOR, DOESN’T MEAN YOU CAN’T GET IN THE CLUB.
It’s pretty obvious to anyone with access to an atlas that Australia isn’t in Europe. But so what? Neither is Israel and they’ve won Eurovision three times. The point is SBS is a member of the European Broadcast Union so we’re eligible. And inviting us helps make the contest global. We need to seek out other global contests we can join to keep our profile high.
2. POLITICS PLAYS A LARGE PART IN GETTING TO NUMBER ONE.
Every Eurovision the audience is split into three main camps – those watching the acts, those watching the craziness unfold (remember Lordi, the heavy metal band who won in 2006?) and those watching the voting. Like a game of chess with singers as the pawns, Eurovision voting blocs form and shatter as countries band together to keep a mutual enemy from winning or to push an ally forward. Australia has been getting by as the novelty factor, but we need to start taking the politics seriously.
3. IF IT WORKS FOR THEM, IT CAN WORK FOR US.
If Eurovision is the big daddy of the franchise, coming soon are the children - an American and Chinese version of the contest and (more interesting for us) Eurovision Asia, to be hosted in Australia in 2017. SBS, which will run the event with partners Blink TV, has said they’re looking at inviting competitors from at least 20 countries in our region, which is a huge windfall for venue operators, the tourist industry, lighting and sound companies etc etc. Keep in mind 10,500 people attended this year’s Eurovision finale. That’s Olympic-level crowds for one lucky city.
4. WE HAVE TO BE ABLE TO COMPETE WITH – AND BEAT – THE BEST THE WORLD HAS TO OFFER.
The best part of a regional contest such as Eurovision Asia is it will give the winner – hopefully Australia! – a contestant to send to the main game each year with a voting bloc to back them. So we need to make sure we have the best contestants we can find. And we already have the feeder contests with reality series including The Voice, X-Factor and Australia’s Got Talent. Winning any of those is an awesome opportunity for an act. Knowing they might go on to represent Australia will raise the stakes even higher... and open opportunities for a mega-contest of all the winners to air here as well.
5. THERE’S STILL A LOT OF CACHE IN BEING THE LAND DOWN UNDER.
The image of Aussies in Akubras throwing prawns on the barbie in between swilling beer and fighting sharks has thankfully faded for most of the world. They know we’re a modern country with facilities and infrastructure to rival anywhere else. But we’re still far enough away to be exotic. Like the 2000 Olympics, Eurovision Asia (and the chance for another Aussie to compete in the next Eurovision) will allow us to showcase the fact we have a lot to offer, a lot that international event planners can use.
By Scott Ellis