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EBU has announced pre-recorded backing vocals will be allowed in Eurovision 2021

Yesterday, the European Broadcasting Union has announced that some changes are being made to the rules of the Eurovision Song Contest to ensure that there will be no chance of a cancellation due to COVID-19.


The new Executive Supervisor of the Eurovision Song Contest, Martin Österdahl, has announced that for the 2021 contest, delegations will be permitted to use pre-recorded backing vocals. This rule change is not a permanent change and might be revised after the 2021 contest.

The use of pre-recorded backing vocals will be optional. Delegations can continue to use live backing vocalists if they wish, or a mixture of live and pre-recorded backing vocals. By allowing this, the EBU states that this will mean delegations can save money by having smaller delegations with fewer performers as well as keeping the contest safer in times of the ongoing global pandemic.

In addition, the EBU mentions that as the musical landscape progresses, this change will allow the live performances be even closer to their studio counterparts. Examples of songs that have been forced to adapt due to the previous set of rules include Poli Genova’s “If Love Was a Crime” and JOWST’s “Grab the Moment”.

"The lessons learned from the spring of 2020 are that we need to plan for a global crisis, and we have tailored the rules of the Contest to that effect. We must be able to be more flexible and to make changes even to the format itself and how we organize the event in these challenging times,"

said Martin Österdahl, the Eurovision Song Contest’s new Executive Supervisor.

"As organizers of the world’s largest live music event we are determined and united in our mission; to bring back a Contest, a new winner and a handover to a new Host Broadcaster. These elements are in our DNA and part of our legacy,"

he added.

The Rules for the Eurovision Song Contest 2021 have been approved by the Reference Group, the Contest’s governing board and distributed to the EBU Members wishing to participate in next year’s event. As part of the measures to ensure the sustainability of the Eurovision Song Contest, the Reference Group has decided on a one-year trial basis to lift the ban of backing vocals (harmonies) from the backing tracks. The idea behind the change is to offer participating broadcasters the possibility to explore new creative ideas, to travel with a smaller delegation for 2021 and reduce the technical burdens on the Host Broadcaster. It also allows songwriters and producers to present their work as close as possible to their original composition and, importantly, ensures the Contest moves with the times. "In 2013 and 2016, when I was Executive Producer for the Contest at SVT in Sweden, we implemented changes to how the running order of songs is chosen and later the way the voting is presented,"

explained Martin.

"Both of these adaptions to one of TV’s oldest entertainment formats helped to create a more exciting show for viewers." The use of recorded backing vocals will be entirely optional. Each delegation can choose to use backing singers, whether on or off stage. A combination of live and recorded backing vocals is also allowed. All lead vocals performing the melody of the song, including an eventual use of a so-called lead dub, shall still be live on or off stage in the arena. "When making the rule change maintaining authenticity and fairness has always been front of mind,"

Martin underlined.

With the dates for the Eurovision Song Contest 2021 announced this week, the core team from NPO, NOS and AVROTROS in the Netherlands are working hard with the European Broadcasting Union on planning for all eventualities next year.
"We have to adapt," Martin emphasized, "even if, as preferred, we are able to come back with our A-scenario; a Contest as we know and love it, in a packed arena with fans and delegations."
"It is my mission, as I step into the big shoes left by Jon Ola Sand, to ensure the Eurovision Song Contest remains agile but true to its traditions, its values, and its history. When we bring the Contest back in 2021, we are bringing it back for good."

You can read more information and Q&A from Eurovision's official web site.