An OGAE song for Europe – behind the scenes

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Following a chat I had last summer with the BBC’s producer of all things Eurovision, Guy Freeman, we were delighted to be asked to have a role in the shortlisting of songs which were hoping to represent the UK at Eurovision 2016.

Alongside entries submitted by the songwriters’ association BASCA and record labels, the BBC decided that the third route of entry should be an open public submission. But with hundreds of songs expected to be sent in by budding songwriters and singers, how should they be shortlisted?

It was decided that given their expertise in all things Eurovision, a panel of OGAE members should have this key role. Emails were sent out to the club, with around 500 people expressing an interest. As much as we would have liked to have every member have a say, this would be ever so slightly impractical – given the huge size of the club these days!

We decided to set a limit of 45 people – lower than we would have liked, but more than originally proposed. With around 500 songs submitted to the BBC it would have been impractical for every panellist to listen to every song, so we divided the panel into five groups, with each group being given an equal number of songs to listen to.

And so to the important question – who would be on the panel? To ensure balance, each member who expressed an interest was put into pots covering each region of the UK, and then within those pots were split into age groups (18-30, 30-50 and 50+). Each person was given a number and then, thanks to a random number generator the lucky panellists were selected!

So, after all that, each of the five groups had nine members, three from each age group and ensuring as wide a spread of regional make-up as possible. Simple!

And now the fun began!

The BBC sent all members a secure link to view the songs that had been submitted, with no possibility of downloading or sharing.

This is my chance to just say how pleased I was that all panellists were incredibly tight-lipped and there appeared to be no leaking of songs from our side. The threat of expulsion for miscreants obviously proved to be a strong enough warning!

As for the songs submitted, well it’s fair to say there was a wide variety. Everything from acoustic bedroom demos recorded on a phone to professionally produced videos and studio clips. And the participants included rank amateurs, well-known names, well known-songwriters, and more than a few people who had graced a Eurovision stage or two in the past. But I’ll say no more….

Each member submitted their Top 5 to the BBC, giving us 25 songs – five from each group – to go to round 2.

This took place in a top secret location somewhere in London and was made up of 10 people who had been unsuccessful in the original ballot. Again it was made up of a mix of ages and location, as well ensuring gender diversity.

This lucky group of members gathered around a video screen and watched the performances of the 25 songs and then voted each song out of 30 – with 10 points for song, 10 for performance, and 10 for overall impact. As chairman of the panel I collated the scores and the Top six went to a further and final round of viewing.

Once these six had been watched, each panellist ranked them in order to find our overall winner.

And by some distance our winner was……Karl William Lund!

Although Miracle didn’t end up the victor of Eurovision You Decide he gave a great performance, and I have a feeling this won’t be the last we’ve heard of him.

All in all it was a thoroughly enjoyable, eye-opening and interesting process. As well as thanking everyone all those members who took part in the shortlisting I’d like to give a big vote of thanks to Guy, Helen and Caroline at the BBC, as well as Hugh Goldsmith, for putting their trust in OGAE UK. Let’s hope this is a sign of greater things to come!

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