2021 Eurovision to Allow Pre-Recorded Backup Vocals

Eurovision’s gone through plenty of changes since its inception, and here’s yet another one. Although, according to ESC Executive Supervisor Martin Oesterdahl, this latest change is meant to prepare the ESC contest for eventualities like the 2020 pandemic. Like all rule changes, the new rule isn’t set in stone just yet. After the 2021 contest, a decision will be made on whether to keep the rule going forward. 

Eurovision used to forbid any kind of recordings to be used during the contestants’ performances. In 1998, they changed that rule to allow the use of a recorded backing-track for the music. All vocals still had to be performed live.   For 2021, for the first time in Eurovision history, countries are allowed to use pre-recorded backing vocals in their performance.

Preparations for 2021

Asked how ESC plans to guarantee that there even will be a contest in 2021, Oesterdahl says that the rules of ESC are being updated so that, if necessary, modifications can be made to the current format of the show and organization, which would allow the contest to still take place despite restrictions.  One of those adjustments is permitting the use of pre-recorded backup vocals. 

Martin Oesterdahl
ESC Executive Secretary Martin Oesterdahl

The European Broadcast Union (EBU) added that the new rule will offer “participating broadcasters the possibility to explore new creative ideas, travel with a smaller delegation for 2021, and reduce the technical burden on the host broadcaster.” 

The use of recorded backing vocals will be entirely optional, and combinations of live and recorded backing vocals are permitted. Oesterdahl adds that “the backing track cannot contain Lead vocals, lead dubs, and/or any other vocals that would have the effect of, or aim at, replacing or unduly assisting the lead vocals.

The EBU believes that using pre-recorded backup vocals “allows songwriters and producers to present their work as close as possible to their original composition.”

While some music professionals, including former ESC participants criticize this new rule as taking the show ‘one step closer to karaoke’, others feel this update will allow participants to add more dancers to their performances, making for a more colorful stage performance.  We’ll just have to see how it pans out, if we have a live show in 2021.  The dates for next year’s show finals have been set for May 22nd.


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