Feast up, fans of niche geopolitics. Eurovision is soft power in sequins, with key changes.
Scottish Secretary Alister Jack was quick out the gate nominating Scotland for hosting duties next year, issuing a statement reading: “With our rich musical history, great venues and friendly spirit, Scotland would be a fantastic place to hold the contest.”
Hard to disagree with any of that. However, given 2023 has been pencilled in on the calendar for a referendum on Scottish independence, and vocal support for unionism is thin within cultural industries, it’s not surprising the UK Government would seize upon any flag-waving opportunity it can to remind Scotland, in front of a European audience, we’re still part of the UK – for now.
As Bucks Fizz sagely sang in their 1981 winning song, soon you will find that there comes a time for making your mind up.
British music and its international success seems to be making headlines frequently these days. One example is the shock success of Sam Ryder, the likeable guy whose pleasant song came second to Ukraine in this year’s Eurovision.
If not to his legion of TikTok fans, this was to the surprise of anyone who has observed the UK’s dismal Eurovision trajectory over recent decades, where, if not languishing among the bottom scorers with their measly few points each, the UK came dead last.
So likely is the UK to score a grand total of ‘nul points’, in this competition designed to boost European connectivity, that doing so has become a mark of perverse pride, something to smirk about and put a fiver bet on.
This might go some way to explaining why the UK sends the crappest of acts most years. Ryder, performing post-Brexit, at least projected a convincing air of gratitude to be there. But perhaps some of the votes amassed by the UK were also, in their own way, cast ironically.
Trade body the British Phonographic Industry recently revealed exports by British artists hit an annual high in 2021, with radio-friendly pop charters Adele, Dua Lipa and Ed Sheeran contributing to a total of £590 million.
If not quite the heady days of Britpop, Brand Britain has stage presence. All well and good for the small number of artists who manage to reach stratospheric levels of success, amassing millions of downloads. But beyond looking for opportunities to wave a Union flag in Edinburgh, Glasgow or Aberdeen, what is the UK actually doing to foster its talent?
Working musicians have been crystal clear about how detrimental Brexit is to touring. With streams of singles paying tiny fractions of pennies, gigging and merch sales are an essential revenue stream cut into prohibitively by new expenses and tedious administration.
Elton John summed up a situation so stark that "if I had faced the financial and logistical obstacles facing young musicians now when I started out, I'd never have had the opportunity to build the foundations of my career”.
Alister Jack is right when he says Scotland has rich musical history – but this generation of talent is being dragged down with Brexit Britain.