How will the covid19 pandemic affect Melodifestivalen 2021?

ANALYSIS. Although it is many months until the next edition of Melodifestivalen, there is one important question to be answered. That is whether the 2021 edition of Melodifestivalen can become a nationwide tour in Sweden based on the prevailing corona pandemic. In this article we have set up some scenarios to find the answers.

Before we start the analysis, we would like to clarify that every mentioned scenario are only our own speculations. However, we feel that all scenarios are realistic based on the facts about the current pandemic situation in Sweden.

As soon as SVT has revealed its plan for 2021, we will present it for you. This will, however, most likely happen in late summer or early autumn (i.e. probably in August or September).

You can read the Swedish version of this analysis here.


An uncertain situation

Since the beginning of 2020, the Corona pandemic (Covid19) has paralyzed the world with the result that restrictions have been imposed, people have been isolated in their homes and/or isolated themselves and mostly all planned and upcoming events have more or less been postponed or cancelled. Even though the situation in Europe has changed in a positive way the last weeks, still many restrictions remain unchanged. This means it is still risky business out there!


In what way does this facts impact the Swedish Melodifestivalen?

Every January/February and March since 2002, the Melodifestivalen contest has been on a 6-week tour. The format has been four heats, one Second chance round and a final. This format has since then more or less remained unchanged, however, with the current pandemic situation in the world it would not be completely impossible that Swedish Television (i.e. SVT) will be forced to make some changes to the format, at least for the 2021 edition.

However, no matter which eventual changes SVT “must do”, there are at least one big challenge for them, which is regarding the amount of people that are allowed in a venue, for instance at a concert. Since March 2020, the Swedish government only allows 50 peoples per event. If that rule will remain the same in 2021, then it is more likely that SVT will not be able to have any audiences in the venues. And if that is no longer possible, then it is a question for SVT to even host Melodifestivalen as a tour around Sweden.


What are the production team planning to do?

With that in mind, the obvious question is what the Melodifestivalen production team are planning to do! Will they keep the Melodifestivalen format as it is, or will there be some changes? And what type of changes would it be? To illustrate this topic, we have set up six different scenarios for SVT which all are based on that facts that the current pandemic situation will more or less act the same way for the rest of this year (2020). Which means that changes could be on its way…


Scenario 1: An ordinary Melodifestivalen competition

We start with the scenario that all Melodifestivalen fans has at the top of their wish list, and that is that everything around the Melodifestivalen competition shall remain as it has been since the introduction of the current tournament format in 2002. According to the 2021 rules, which SVT previously released this May, SVT mentions some recurrent information about the contest which indicates that is most likely will go that way.

For an example, SVT repeats over and over again that most likely 28 songs will compete, and the songs which does not qualify to the Final in the four heats and/or in the Second Chance round will be eliminated from the competition, etcetera. However, even if SVT mention these things now, it is still possible for them to rewrite the regulations at a later stage. For an example, this happened before the 2015 edition when SVT chose to remove four songs from the competition.

However, if the contest will remain as it has been since 2002, it will be the 20th time that Melodifestivalen will be held as a 6-week tour in Sweden. We can then also assume that some cities and venues that Melodifestivalen has previously visited will once again be re-visited, although speculation only can guess which these cities and venues are. Other not previously visited cities and venues can also be introduced in the 2021 edition.

One thing that most likely will not be as usual as it used to be is whether SVT will be forced to ban the audience from being inside the venues during the rehearsals and live shows.


Scenario 2: Melodifestivalen in smaller venues/studios

The second scenario is mostly a copy of the first scenario with the difference that SVT moves the competition from larger to smaller venues. For examples that the production switch Scandinavium to Rondo (in Gothenbourg), Malmö Arena to Malmö Opera (in Malmö) and Friends Arena to Studio1 at the SVT headquarters (in Stockholm), etcetra. There are also other alternatives in similar venues and/or TV studios even outside the previously named cities.

In this scenario, it is still a question regarding if SVT will be forced to ban the audience from being inside the venues during the rehearsals and live shows.


Scenario 3: All programs in the same venue

A third scenario is inspired by the Norwegian national selection Norsk Melodi Grand Prix, who in its 2020 edition held all its five heats in a smaller arena in Oslo and the Grand final in a bigger venue in Trondheim. If we implement this to Melodifestivalen, it would means the contest will then change from a 6-week tour in different Swedish cities to a 6-week contest which will be held in the same venue and/or TV studio for all the shows.

Even if there are many positive things with this, like SVT saving their money on the transportation costs as well as they are not needed to re-build the stage every week, it would at the same time be sad for the cities that will not be visited by Melodifestivalen. In addition, it is still a question regarding if SVT will be forced to ban the audience from being inside the venues during the rehearsals and live shows.


Scenario 4: Melodifestivalen change its format – again

The fourth alternative would mean that SVT will make drastic changes to the ordinary format, for an example to arrange the Melodifestivalen with only two semi-finals and a final. This type of format has been used the recent years in countries like Estonia, Iceland, Portugal, and Slovenia.

Some people might probably say that this type of drastic changes feels unrealistic, at least for SVT who since 2002 only has made some few noticeable format changes regarding the set of number of shows and the tour system. However, in times like these, we think that it would not be entirely unthinkable for SVT to at least consider that these types of changes may be necessary.

If SVT should change the contest to this format, there would be two most obvious changes. Firstly, SVT will be needed to change the number of songs that will compete in the contest. If there are only two semi-finals, the line-up will most likely be dimidiate from today’s 28 songs to perhaps 14-16 songs. Secondly, less cities will be visited in the contest (most likely only up to three cites). In addition, it is still a question regarding if SVT will be forced to ban the audience from being inside the venues during the rehearsals and live shows.


Scenario 5: Only a Melfest Final in 2021

The fifth alternative is that SVT continues to make drastic changes to the ordinary format, in this case that they only produce a Final show. This should mean that the audience will not select the Final competing songs, however, they can still vote for their favourites in the Final.

If this scenario will be implemented, it would be the first time since 2001 that SVT only choose to have a Final instead of a larger tour. This would even make it impossible for SVT to celebrate the 20th edition of Melodifestivalen on a tour.


Scenario 6: Melodifestivalen turns into an internal selection

In conclusion, we also want to take up the alternative that would be an emergency solution for SVT. If no previous scenario will be possible to implement, the only remaining alternative is to cancel the ordinary Melodifestivalen tour and change it into an internal selection.

This option is probably the most boring one, at least from the fans’ point of view since January/February and March are the Melodifestivalen fans best months of the year! In addition, it would also be the first time in since 1958 that SVT would use a internal selection to choose Sweden’s artist and song to the Eurovision Song Contest. We should add, however, that in 1965 SVT chose its artist via an internal selection but the song was chosen in a Final, which means that has happend twice. But it was a long time ago now.

Even if it this scenario is most probably not SVT’s first choice it cannot be completely excluded. If EBU could cancel the Eurovision 2020, it would not be impossible for SVT to be able to do the same thing for Melodifestivalen 2021! However, this dramatic situation will most likely only happen for one reason, and that is if SVT realize that they and their production team partners cannot maintain the health care for everyone involved like staff, artists, song writers and of course the audience.


Which scenario will it be?

As mentioned earlier, SVT will most likely reveal the exact scenario for next years contest in late summer or early autumn. Before we know which scenario it will be, what is in your opinion the best way for SVT to do? You are free to comment your thoughts!