Rules of the Eurovision Song Contest

The official rules of the Eurovision Song Contest are long, technical, and ever-changing. Many of the rules cover technical aspects of the television broadcast itself. However, a few of the more important rules affecting the conduct and outcome of the Contest follow.

Number of songs

Each country in the Eurovision Song Contest is entitled to enter just one song. The Contest final is limited to 26 songs (only exception being in 2015 when Australia participated in the contest and 27 songs competed in the final). They consist of the following:

At the first Contest, each country was allowed to submit two songs each with a maximum duration of three minutes. Nowadays, it is still required that each song not exceed three minutes in length, although many artists record the song in a longer version, simply performing a shorter version at the Contest. The number of participating countries has grown throughout the Contest's history, and since 1993 the rules have been changed several times to both limit the number of finalists and to allow for participation by former Soviet and Yugoslav republics, Warsaw Pact nations and others.

No previously published music

The entering song is also not allowed to be a cover version, and is not allowed to sample another artist's work. All songs must be completely original in terms of songwriting and instrumentation, and may not have been released publicly before 1 September of the year preceding. If released publicly, it may only be released in the entrant country's market until after the contest.

Voices and instruments

No entirely instrumental composition has ever been allowed in Eurovision contests. Latvia did their act a cappella in 2006, as did Belgium in 2011. Austria's entry in the 2011 contest started a cappella but then the instruments started as well. This rule also played a vital role in Moldova's entry in 2010, as SunStroke Project's saxophonist Sergey Stepanov's famous Epic Sax Guy internet phenomenon happened because he had to synchronize his movement with a pre-recored track that was played during the live performance.


Current rules state that countries are allowed to have up to six performers on stage. Performers must be aged 16 or older, on the day of the semi-final in the year of the Contest.[1] This rule was introduced in 1990, as two contestants the year before had been 11 and 12 years. The introduction of this rule means that Sandra Kim, who was 13 when she won for Belgium in 1986, will remain the youngest winner unless the age limit is lowered. No restriction on the nationality of the performers exists, which has resulted in countries being represented by artists who are not nationals of that country. One of the most well-known winning artists, Canadian Céline Dion represented Switzerland in 1988. It should also be noted that the performer only needs to be 16 when the event takes place and not when they are selected, as proven when Lindsay Dracass was selected to represent the United Kingdom in 2001 and again when Triinu Kivilaan was selected to represent Switzerland in 2005, despite both of these performers only being 15 at their respective times of selection. In Dracass' case, she had to be issued a special visa to enable her to travel to Copenhagen.[2]


From the first Contest in 1956 until 1965, and again from 1973 until 1976 there was no restriction on language. From 1966 until 1972, and again from 1978 until 1998, songs were required to be performed in a national language. The national language rule was actually instituted shortly before the 1977 Contest, but some countries had already selected non-national language entries, and they were allowed to enter without any changes.

As of the 1999 Contest, the restriction was again lifted, and songs may be performed in any language. As a result, many of the songs are performed partially or completely in English. In 2003, Belgium made full use of the so-termed free language rule, and entered a song, "Sanomi", in an artificial language created especially for the song. This proved successful as the country finished second, only two points behind Turkey. The same tactic was used in 2006 by the Dutch entry Treble which is partially sung in an artificial language and once again by Belgium with their 2008 entry "O Julissi".

Dialects and regional languages notes per year

On some occasions, dialects of a language or a very rare language have been used in a song entry:

Language issues and English-language prevalence

Many European countries were founded on ideas of linguistic unity and because of the sometimes unwelcome dominance of the English language in modern pop music, the language of a country's Eurovision entry can be a contentious issue.[3] Some entries are performed in English to reach broader audiences, though this is sometimes looked upon as unpatriotic. In recent years up to 2007 the number of non-English language entrants has decreased, with mostly Ex-Yugoslavia, French language countries, Spain and Portugal performing in their native language. In terms of recent Contest performance, most non-English songs have been far less successful than those in English. Until 2007, the last wholly non-English language winner was Israel's Dana International, who performed Diva in Hebrew in 1998. The 2004 winner, Wild Dances performed by Ruslana, was partially sung in Ukrainian. After 2007 when Marija Šerifović won, singing in Serbian, the number of non-English contestants increased again in 2008. Almost half of the performers contested in their native language.

In some cases, the lyrics are written and recorded in two different versions (usually English and a national language) or a single multi-language version. Examples include:

Rule changes by year

See also


  1. "Rules of the 2005 Eurovision Song Contest". (EBU). 2005. Archived from the original on 2006-02-10. Retrieved 2008-08-17.
  2. Terry Wogan, Eurovision Song Contest 2001
  3. Ivković, D. (2013). The Eurovision Song Contest on YouTube: A corpus-based analysis of language attitudes. Language@Internet, 10, article 1. (urn:nbn:de:0009-7-35977)
  6. "Eurovision Song Contest invites Australia to join 'world's biggest party'". The Guardian. 11 February 2015. Retrieved 10 February 2015.
  7. "Australia participate in the 60th Eurovision". EBU. 11 February 2015. Retrieved 10 February 2015.
  8. SVT Article, 20 Feb 2016 (Swedish)
  9. "Australia To Return To The Eurovision Song Contest". EBU. Retrieved 17 November 2015.
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