Kitsch doesn’t always come cheap. And as they don’t come much more kitsch than the Eurovision Song Contest, putting on the event can be quite an expensive undertaking. Last year’s hosts, Azerbaijan, spent an estimated 34 million euros on the show, not counting the 75 million euros cost of a spanking new concert venue, which at least remains as part of the legacy.
The end of extravagance?
The ongoing European economic crisis will make this year’s Contest less lavish. Sweden – this year’s organisers – have announced severe budget cuts that will bring visual production spending down to below 15 million euros, half the amount splashed out by Azerbaijan.
The changes are not only driven by financial pressures. Organisers hope to bring back those nations hardest-hit by austerity and aspire to make the event, which attracted 125 million viewers last year, more intimate and more focused on the music.
The temptation to try and outdo rival countries with the latest technologies and glamorous effects has contributed to the inflated production costs. Consequently the role of ‘host’ has become a heavy burden. Countries once the backbone of Eurovision have had to abandon the contest: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Poland, Portugal and Slovakia won’t be sending participants this year. They simply can’t afford to run the risk of winning.
According to Martin Osterdahl, the 2013 Contest’s executive producer, “The survival of the Eurovision contest depends on the small nations’ hosting ability…Someone has to break the trend” he said.
Less is More
The Swedes’ readiness to be the ones to “break the trend” is itself perhaps the reason it remains one of Europe’s most stable economies. Even last year’s winning performance by Loreen was relatively austere: she managed to win over the audience by voice and song alone, and without expensive or extravagant effects.
Similarly, Sweden will spend less on lighting, use a smaller venue, hold fewer rehearsals and propose less lavish receptions. There will be less extravagance to draw the attention away from the songs and the performances themselves.
Organisers hope to prove that you don’t have to be rich to be kitsch.