Monday 15th December 2014 was not just an ordinary Monday before Christmas for many Eurovision fans. They were wishing for a present to arrive that morning with the first release of tickets for the Eurovision Song Contest 2015 in Vienna. Many fans have been left frustrated by missing out on tickets in this first rush and the interest in the 2015 Contest seems bigger than previously. Ben Robertson investigates the rationale and reasoning behind the tears and turmoil.
Going on sale at 09:00 CET were the tickets for Eurovision 2015 from the Wiener Stadthalle and once again the tickets were sold out within minutes. The European Broadcasting Union (EBU) later confirmed that all the available tickets for the three live shows had gone, and only limited availability of pricing brackets was available for even the Jury and Family rehearsals.
There is a caveat here that only twenty-five percent of the available tickets have been released in this first batch (which included 12,000 tickets packaged together for OGAE members). The final volume on seat numbers and capacity are unlikely to be confirmed until after the stage work and camera angles are planned out so tickets are released in groups running closer to the Contest. Nevertheless many fans have now parted with significant sums of money to attend the 2015 Eurovision Song Contest. The majority of tickets for the Grand Final for example this year will cost over 200 Euros.
However for just a fraction more at a total price around 350 Euros you could have had the opportunity to buy tickets for all six evening shows from Monday to Saturday. That is if you were a member of the official network of OGAE Eurovision fan clubs ahead of the ticket sale.
Even Being In A Fan Club Doesn’t Guarantee Anything
We wrote previously about the impact of OGAE in the Eurovision bubble after meeting OGAE’s Maiken Mäemets. The fan ticket packages have now existed for a few years and with stable fan club leadership the system has been functioning well through the same basic process each year.
OGAE receive 2000 ticket packages for fans which they are then able to distribute appropriately to all the membership groups around the world based on interest. For example with the Malmö Contest, the full allocation of these was not given out, meaning a tiny handful of lucky people got the chance to buy tickets in the glittery mosh-pit just weeks before the Contest.
That number wanting tickets this year has increased drastically. This year across the entire organisation OGAE received 3539 requests for these tickets. It is rare for fan club members not to be fortunate to receive ticket offers and thus forums across Europe were this week left with baffled and concerned members who were now split from their friends for one of their most anticipated weeks of the year.
As an example of the chaos, the full numbers from Melodifestivalklubben (OGAE Sweden) have been released. Of the 146 applications made for Vienna’s fan packages only 96 got accepted. A similar ratio appears in the UK where 210 individual ticket packages have been awarded, just over 10 % of the total compilation. A further drama is that some of these fan tickets have been awarded as seats, and some as standing. The Swedish requests gave 43 standing places and 103 seating places but were allocated 77 standing and 19 seating.
Clearly the entire OGAE network has been overwhelmed by the influx of supporters wanting to be a part of the contest meaning that the usual successful arrangements have not been possible to grant. We asked International Co-ordinator Maiken Mäemets to respond:
“This year there was a record amount of ticket requests among OGAE fans, which shows that the interest towards both the Eurovision Song Contest and our organisation is growing quickly.
Once again we were able to guarantee 2000 ticket packages for the most hardcore fans, and that co-operation continues to be very valuable to us and OGAE-members.”
Maiken is clear to label the positives of the experience for fans and the opportunities that a voluntary organisation such as OGAE International can provide. However with their hands tied as well by broadcasters, ticketing companies and the EBU often the fan collective have a difficult deal which needs lots of late deals and emails to members. Fans were finding out less than 48 hours before the official ticket launch if they were lucky enough to be included in the official OGAE numbers for this year. People have had to make difficult decisions on whether to stay or go linked to the ticket information, with little news about any of the other parts of the Eurovision Experience in Vienna (such as the Eurovision Village or Fan Club) available yet.
This confusion and distress is obviously a shock to many, but nevertheless Maiken hints at this charade is a positive problem at the end of the day. After all it means that interest in Eurovision and interest in OGAE has risen sharply.
Building Bridges To Welcome New Faces
Behind the rush and scramble this year may have been caused by the location. Vienna’s central stop as a meeting point across Europe (that’s where Building Bridges came from, remember?) and the fact it should be slightly cheaper than the Öresund hotel-wise means it is more accessible to many fans of the Song Contest. Many of these fans attending will already have pre-booked their hotel accommodation and transport which is relatively easier than the Nordics or Azerbaijan for the majority. Also we have to factor in the impact of the returning countries to the Eurovision circus, with in particular Serbia possessing an active fan base for the Eurovision Song Contest. Germany’s closer links to Austria will also see an increase in demand.
Another factor may be the success of recent Eurovision events from a fan perspective which has gone above and beyond previous levels. Malmö was a Eurovision that lead the way for engagement. Not only was the contest a relatively cheap one to run but the inventive ideas from the SVT production were used to change many ways of the Eurovision culture. Fans now stood around the centre of the arena making it look better and more fun on TV if worse for your feet. Stand-in artists from high schools tried out the big stage first and played a significant role in making the rehearsals run smoothly for all acts.
For fans it was a revolutionary step forward and the feeling of We Are One shone through. The Euro Fan Cafe in its full branding appeared as a well desired hangout where you could sip a beer and watch the rehearsals on a huge screen. We also saw SVT massively over-estimate on the required size for the EuroClub, but their gesture to offer fans a F2 level accreditation to be able to join the fun made it possible for the connection between fans and the artists to fall.
Steps like this put pressure on neighbours Denmark to continue many of the good news stories and from there pass on many of Malmö fantastic attributes. The entertainment of fans is now a part of the Eurovision culture that nobody wants to shake off. Acts will perform in town squares for those who don’t have tickets. Sponsors will fight for the best places to give out freebies. Eurovision will be shown in a big screen party with people from across the continent out to party. What was a one-off idea to drive the fan experience to the next level became a part of the culture associated with being a part of the Eurovision Song Contest.
All This Bad News Is Actually Good News
What the 2013 Eurovision Song Contest did for the fans is I am certain a part of the reason fans have had their problems over the last week. Of course there are others factors which can be as simple as price and ease of transport options to the fact that Conchita’s charisma may draw new fans as well as the successful experience provided by even the tiny-in-comparison Junior Eurovision in Malta. Whatever the factors are the contest is once again proving itself as a growing not shrinking brand in global entertainment.
For the fans now feeling at a loss, remember that for however wonderful being there actually is, remember that part of that beauty is being able to share it with friends wherever they are, and fans are being creative with their ideas. UK fans are openly discussing the idea of bringing back another EuroGlitz party to re-create the festival atmosphere on the British Isles together as Stockholm is also in talks to hold the contest on a big screen. There are many ways to have a good time and being on the front row and fighting to squeeze into every camera shot for the Grand Final is just one of many ways to do so. Perhaps you could instead attend Estonia’s final followed by Latvia’s the day after for a February weekend away and then hold a massive party back home in May or indulge in the football stadium experience of Friends Arena for a 12-song Melodifestivalen final. There are a fountain of opportunties out there for fans to take up or mould themselves, the ticketing nightmares some have need not be the end of their 2015 Eurovision saga.
However frustrating the last few days have been, with information arriving late in the day and ticket websites seemingly designed to be unhelpful, remember that this shows that the Eurovision Song Contest as a brand is becoming more powerful every day. Hopefully the set-backs from this period will settle into creating a Eurovision that continues to get more fans every day and furthermore can justify more support and opportunity for them to experience it from every single angle of fabulous-ness.