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How much are Austrians into Eurovision?

Aaron Burnett
Aaron Burnett - [email protected]
How much are Austrians into Eurovision?
Members of the band "LUM!X feat. Pia Maria", perform on behalf of Austria during the first semifinal of the Eurovision Song contest 2022 on May 10, 2022 in Turin. (Photo by Marco BERTORELLO / AFP)

The annual Europe-wide festival of music and kitsch that is Eurovision has a relatively small but very dedicated Austrian fanbase – especially this year, with national act Teya & Salena predicted to have a strong finish.

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Eurovision is hard to escape in Austria – even for those not watching.

Radio stations are filling local airwaves with songs from previous competitions, including those by previous Austrian winners Udo Jürgens and Conchita Wurst. Already in January, EUROfansCLUB in Vienna hosted a big party that brought six former contestants from around Europe, just a few days ahead of the big reveal for this year’s Austrian competitors.

Various bars, especially LGBT ones, will put on viewing parties. Many Austrians will host Eurovision watch parties at home.

Eurovision has an outsized cultural impact in Austria – especially because relatively fewer people watch it in the alpine republic than in other European countries. In 2022, just 500,000 people watched Eurovision in Austria. That compares with over two million in Eurovision powerhouse Sweden, seven million in both Germany and Spain, and nearly nine million in the UK.

Of course, aside from Sweden, Austria is much smaller country in terms of population and 500,000 out if just under nine million inhabitants is not a small number. 

Yet, when Conchita Wurst won the Eurovision Song Contest for Austria in 2014, Vienna radio station 88.6 Der Musiksender played her song “Rise Like a Phoenix” 48 times on repeat the next morning – one for each year that had passed since singer Udo Jürgens last brought the title home in 1966 with “Merci Cherie.”

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When Wurst returned to Vienna from Copenhagen, which hosted the 2014 contest, over 1,000 fans – some wearing replicas of her trademark beard, came to greet and congratulate her on her historic win.

Austrian newspaper editorials reflected on how a bearded drag queen had just won Eurovision – an already kitsch contest complete with backup dancers, glitter cannons, costume changes and pyrotechnics, to name but a few – for a generally conservative country.

Then Austrian President Heinz Fischer called Conchita’s win “not just a victory for Austria, but above all for diversity and tolerance in Europe.”

READ ALSO: Stadthalle ‘wing’ award for Conchita

The slow and steady Eurovision country

Austria started participating in the contest in 1957 – the year after it originally premiered – and has competed in most contests ever since.

Back when Austria joined, only ten countries competed. This year in host city Liverpool, 37 countries will compete, with two semi-final rounds helping to decide which 26 acts even make it to the Grand Final on Saturday, May 13th.

Despite its long history in the contest, Austria has only ever won twice. The 48 years between Austrian wins is also the longest period of time that has passed between wins among countries that have won more than once.

That’s still more than many participating countries – but well behind powerhouses like Sweden and Ireland, with six and seven wins apiece.

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Austria at Eurovision 2023 – Top ten possible?

The country’s performance at Eurovision has been inconsistent over the years, with seven last place finishes on the night of the Grand Final, two wins, and a third place finish.

This year though, some bookmakers are giving Austria a small outside shot at a win, with national act Teya & Salena widely predicted to come in the top ten in Saturday's Grand Final.

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The Austrian duo are performing their song “Who the Hell is Edgar?” – an offbeat ditty about being possessed by the spirit of American writer Edgar Allan Poe – in Liverpool.

The song even makes a clever swipe at the music industry with the line “0.003,” referring to the amount songwriters are paid for their songs per stream, closing out with “give me two years and your dinner will be free.”

During Thursday's semi-final, Teya & Salena snagged one of the spots up for grabs for the Grand Final. It marks the first time an Austrian act has made it through the semis to qualify for the final since 2018.

Eurovision doesn’t allow people to vote for their own country, so people who are in Austria during voting will be unable to vote for Austria.

However, “Who the Hell is Edgar?” has unexpectedly climbed its way into fan favourite songs online, having nearly broken three million streams on Spotify in the last month, opening up the possibility of a strong finish.

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