How has TikTok taken over Eurovision 2023

·5 min read
Eurovision hosts Julia Sanina (L) and Hannah Waddingham (R) prepare to announce the countries that will go through to the Grand Final on the stage in the first semi-final during the 67th annual Eurovision Song Contest at the M&S Bank Arena in Liverpool
Fans have already been going wild on TikTok about Hannah Waddingham (right) presenting Eurovision

If you already thought Eurovision was all over TikTok, this year's contest has taken it to another level.

Content for the 2023 competition has already been seen 1.5 billion times - the same as all of last year's views combined.

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But the frenzy isn't just centred on the big final.

It starts early, as countries try to tap into the hype and find acts who already have big fanbases on the app.

So instead of having just three minutes to pick up douze points, singers now have months to go viral - ideally winning friends and votes along the way.

But how does it happen, and is TikTok really taking over Eurovision?

Well, if it feels like your For You page is wall-to-wall Mae Muller and co at the moment, that's no accident.

Sam Ryder pointing to the crowd as he holds a microphone in his other hand and smiles and sings
Sam Ryder sang Space Man at last year's contest - not that you'd be able to guess from his shirt

A big reason is that TikTok is Eurovision's official entertainment partner for the second year running.

James Stafford, one of the app's UK bosses, says the two work well together because they're both "about inclusion and creative expression".

"We are sometimes really serious, sometimes really weird, but always really entertaining," he says.

But it goes a bit deeper than that - James says TikTok gets to know acts early on to prepare them for their social media "journey".

He tells Newsbeat the app works with artists to help them be discovered and build a fan base.

So when they hit the stage in Liverpool, James says, "it's not just three minutes that they've got to convince the world to vote for them".

James points to Sam Ryder as an inspiration.

The UK's most successful entry in years, Sam got his break on TikTok and now has more than 14 million followers.

And Mae Muller also had a healthy fan base on the app before she was selected to follow Sam in 2023.

Someone who's had a similar route into the contest this year is the Cyprus entry Andrew Lambrou.

Andrew Lambrou wearing a white vest waving to the crowds and holding a microphone at the Eurovision turquoise carpet event in Liverpool
Andrew Lambrou will be singing for Cyprus and is pretty big on TikTok

Andrew was also selected to sing for his country because of his social media presence.

He admits it's been key to him swapping singing at home for belting out his track Break A Broken Heart in Liverpool.

Although he didn't quite believe it when he was first contacted about performing.

"I saw this email in my inbox, I went and spoke to mom and dad and I was like 'do you think this is real?'

"And then we connected the dots and worked out that it was very much legitimate and here we are."

'Little bit of pressure'

Andrew, who's Australian-Cypriot, posts a lot of covers for his 700,000 TikTok followers.

He says singing and music has always been his passion, but the reaction from fans worldwide made it feel "even more special".

"It gives me a lot of motivation, seeing all the positive, fantastic comments coming through," he says.

"And it kind of solidified in my mind that this is what I want to do forever."

But it isn't all likes and laughs - Andrew says the constant online scrutiny of Eurovision means he's always under pressure to be at his best.

Liverpool sign in Eurovision Song Contest colours, 18 April 2023
Eurovision is in Liverpool this year... in case you hadn't already heard

Andrew says behind-the-scenes activity like rehearsals is usually "the space where you're allowed to stuff up".

"But when things are public, you kind of feel like 'I don't really want to make any mistakes at all' just because people are going to be seeing this and comments will be shared.

"It's just there's a little bit of pressure.

"But at the end of the day, you want to give it your all throughout every single rehearsal."

James, who is TikTok's general manager of operations and marketing in the UK, tells Newsbeat they want everyone to feel safe on the app.

He says this applies "especially [in] a partnership with Eurovision", and TikTok's community guidelines are clear about what is and isn't ok.

Helen Groothuis smiling for a selfie at the Eurovision semi-final in Liverpool with the stage behind her
Helen was lucky enough to go to one of the semi-finals earlier this week

Eurovision superfan Helen Groothuis thinks its social media rise has had an impact all over the world.

She was living in the US about 10 years ago when she first got into the contest, when it was "still very much an unknown quantity".

But as social media activity increased, Helen says, it started to catch the attention of bigger and bigger TV stations.

And she's seen a real rise in "the number of people engaging with it, not just in Europe, but really across the globe."

Helen, who's in Liverpool covering the contest for That Eurovision Site, accepts blanket coverage "might take some of the initial enjoyment" out of the final night.

"It depends on how you want your experience of the contest to be," she says.

"A lot of times, acts such as Sweden tend to copy and paste their national final performance to the Eurovision stage with some minor tweaks.

"So it's a double-edged sword because you get to see a performance that you love again, just elevated on the Eurovision stage."

Eurovision 2023 banner
Eurovision 2023 banner

It seems unlikely that the partnership will stop any time soon.

Over the last couple of years TikTok's seen a "huge upswing" in Eurovision interest from people in their 20s all "discovering the joy of competition", says James.

Andrew agrees, and says he can feel "the momentum growing for my song and my performance".

As for whether TikTok's taken over Eurovision, he's not sure. But when you look at it the other way around?

"It's just completely being taken over by Eurovision which is really a crazy thing," he says.

"Now we've gotten to the point where my TikTok is basically a curated Eurovision page."

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