Data visualization reveals success by gender at Eurovision

By Eshan Wickrema and Lachlan James

With the 60th edition of the infamous Eurovision Song Contest set to be held across the 19th, 21st and 23rd of May 2015, there’s one age-old battle-of-the-sexes question on the lips of every Eurovision enthusiast: Which gender has experienced the most success at the iconic Eurovision Song Contest?

All-time Eurovision winners by gender (1956 – 2014)

Note: Throughout this piece, ‘Mixed Group’ acts are those containing at least one male and one female participant(s). ‘Female’ and ‘Male’ entrants contain both female and male solo artists, as well as all-female and all-male group acts.

Insights:

  • Female acts have been the most successful Eurovision contestants, winning 35 times (56% of all Eurovision Song Contests to date)
  • Male acts are historically the second most successful type of Eurovision contestant, claiming 24% of Eurovision titles to date with 15 wins
  • Group acts have enjoyed the fewest Eurovision triumphs, taking out 12 titles (19%)
  • Celebrating its 60th anniversary in 2015, the contest has been running for 59 years, awarding a total of 62 winners (there were four joint winners announced during the 1969 event)

Female domination at Eurovision
Using Business Intelligence and data visualizaiton, it’s easy to see that women have dominanted the Eurovision Song Contest over its 59-year history. With female particpants winning more than twice the number of Eurovision titles compared to their male counterparts (35 to 15), will a female performance again receive critical and mass acclaim at Eurovision 2015?

A side note: Austrian pop star and drag queen, Conchita Wurst (Thomas Neuwirth), won Eurovision 2014 for her song Rise Like a Phoenix. For the purpose of this gender-based examination of Eurovision over time, we have categorized Conchita as a woman in the above chart.

For the uninitiated: New to Eurovision? Eurovision is an annual song contest broadcast by the European Broadcasting Union to more than 43 counries worldwide. Each member country enters one act to perform one song to a live television and radio audience. For more on the annual Eurovision Song Contest, GO HERE >

A voting system, comprised of viewer and expert votes, then determines the most popular song of the competition. You can find out a little more about the voting system HERE >

The nation that wins the Eurovision contest then has the honor of hosting the event the following year.

Group Eurovision performances often provide some of the best visual entertainment, while arguably the competitions’ most well-known international success story, ABBA, won the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest as a Mixed Group entrant. Curiously though, Mixed Group performances have experienced the least outright success, claiming just 19% (12) of Eurovision titles to date.

Given the strong performances of women, is it possible that Austria urged its nominated entrant, Thomas Neuwirth, to perform as his infamous female drag queen alter-ego, Conchita Wurst? And, has the history of female success at Eurovision impacted countries decision-making processes when selecting national representatives for Eurovision 2015? Or, have the apparent lopsided gender success rates at Eurovision been exaggerated?

Eurovision entrants by gender over time (1998 – 2014)

Have more women won Eurovision simply because more female performers have been entered in the competition?


Insights:

  • Countries have entered more female acts than male (197 compared to 164) over the last 17 years
  • Female acts have still had more proportional success than male (35 female acts have won from 197 entrants, compared to 15 male-only victors from 164 entrants) over the last 17 years
  • Despite the relative low number of Mixed Group entrants (58), Mixed Group acts have actually enjoyed the highest proportion of success (12 wins) compared to male and female acts over the last 17 years
  • There have been two male drag entrants who competed as female artists at Eurovision (Conchita Wurst of Austria in 2014, and Sestre of Slovenia in 2002)

Group success rates dismiss battle of the sexes theory at Eurovision
After assessing Eurovision success rates by gender over the last 17 years (1998 – 2014), it becomes apparent that Eurovision isn’t really a battle of the sexes at all…

Whilst it’s true that there have been more female entrants since 1998 (197) compared to male competitors (164), all-female acts (solo or group) have also experienced better porporational success rates copmared to all-male acts (solo or group). With 35 female performances crowned as Eurovision winners, that means that’s one female victory for every 5.62 female entrants. With just 15 male performances winning a Eurovision title, that’s one all-male triumph for every 10.93 male-only acts. On that basis, women have been almost twice as succesful as men over the last 17 years of Eurovision.

However, despite the relatively small number of Mixed Group acts (those containing at least one male and one female participant) entered in the Eurovision Song Contest since 1998, Mixed Group acts actually boast the best success rate. Of the 58 Mixed Group entrants of the last 17 years, 12 have gone onto claim the title – that’s one Mixed Group victory for every 4.83 Mixed Group acts entered.

So have such success rates by gender (or entrant type) at Eurovision resulted in decernable trends in the way particpating countries have selected their national representatives over time?

Eurovision entrants by type per year (1998 – 2014)


Insights:

  • There is significant fluctuation in the ratio of entry types (Female, Male and Mixed Group) each year over the last 17 years of Eurovision competition
    • Years with a high number of female performances, tend to have a low number of male performances and vise versa
  • The fluctuation in the ratio of entry types seems to have consistently narrowed over the last 17 years of Eurovision competition (with the exception of 2009)
  • There has not been a single year, over the last 17 years of Eurovision competition, where the number of female acts has equalled the number of male acts
  • The number of single gender performances has been greater than the number of mixed gender group acts every year over the last 17 years of Eurovision competition

Countries not crunching the numbers when submitting Eurovision entrants?
Despite identifying the high success rates of mixed gender group acts at Eurovision over the last 17 years of competition, the number of single gender performances has been greater than the number of Mixed Group acts every year over the same time period. Does this suggest that countries are failing to ‘crunch the numbers’ when submitting their respective Eurovision entrants? And, if the power of data analysis is employed in future Eurovision selection processes, does this mean we’ll see a larger number – and therefore great proportion – of mixed gender group acts at Eurovision moving forward?

Regardless of what these findings might mean for the future, it’s interesting that despite the higher overall number of female entrants and winners at Eurovision over time, there have still been more all-male acts compared to all-female acts at eight of the last 17 competitions (2001, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2010, 2011, 2013 and 2014). Does this shift – combined with a narrowing in the difference between the number of all-female and all-male acts from 1998 to 2014 (with the exception of 2009) – indicate a desire by participating countries and event organizers to equalize gender representation at Eurovision? If so, this surely speaks to the inclusive and inviting nature of the event, as we’ve already proven that all-female entrants have experienced greater proportional success, winning 35 times from 197 entrants, compared to just 15 all-male winners from 164 entrants.

Eurovision: Popular for its inclusivity

Having been broadcast every year since 1956, the Eurovsion Song Contest is one of the world’s longest running TV programs. And, with the inclusive nature of the event at the heart of its popularity – now broadcast to more than 43 countries with 2014 international viewership estimated at 195 million – it seems appropriate that Mixed Group Eurovision entrants boast the best success rate. That is, the data shows that when guys and girls join forces, they have a higher chance of claiming the Eurovision title. Now that’s a great message about inclusion and equality. Heck, maybe that’s why Conchita Wurst won last year, as the performance literally embodied female and male components in one act!

Eurovision Song Contest 2015: The basics

For those just jumping aboard the Eurovision express (bandwagon), the 2015 competition will be held in Vienna, Austria, because Austrian entrant Conchita Wurst claimed the 2014 title with her song Rise Like a Phoenix.

Austria has hosted the contest once before, also in Vienna, in 1967. The format will consist of two semi-finals, held on May 19 and 21, with the final to be held on May 23.

Other talking points, whilst huddled around the television set, include:

  • The first Eurovision Song Contest was held in Switzerland on May 24, 1956
  • Songs cannot be longer than three minutes, with a maximum of six performers allowed on stage per act
  • There was a four-way tie in 1969, which saw France, Spain, the UK and the Netherlands crowned joint winners
  • Australia will take place in Eurovision for the first time in 2015
  • The youngest ever winner was Belgium’s Sandra Kim in 1986 at just 13 years old
  • 28 female solo artists have won the competition, compared to just seven solo male artists

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