[PIAS]-signed artist Blanche performed City Lights at the Eurovision Song Contest in Kiev last month, representing Belgium and finishing in fourth place. The performance, seen by an estimated 200m people worldwide, had a dramatic effect on her popularity – with City Lights now boasting over 9m streams on Spotify. As he explains below, Damien Waselle, the Managing Director of [PIAS]’s Belgium office, was in attendance – and saw his preconceptions of the show melt away.

People used to laugh at Eurovision in the [PIAS] Brussels office – including me.

Then I went, and it was a totally unexpected experience. In fact, it was amazing.

I’m still not a huge fan of many of the songs involved, and not all of my prejudices about the show were challenged by being there. Especially when it came to the the entrant from Azerbaijan – wearing a horse’s head stood on a ladder.

But I was shocked by the high level of production and organization, and especially by the fact it’s become a very serious competition. Everyone is there to win.

The LED screen behind the stage is 72 metres long – I’ve never seen anything like it. There were more than 5,000 media in Kiev for the event, and more than 12,000 people at the final.

With Blanche, we had a new artist who’d never even played live before. She’d participated in The Voice in Belgium two years ago, but exited in an earlier round. So this was an unfamiliar environment for all of us!

The system of Eurovision is interesting. You play a main dress rehearsal the day before the televised final, and it’s in that rehearsal that the judges cast their votes. That counts for 50% of the decision, and the other 50% is made up of public votes across Europe during the main final.

To give you a sense of how crazy things got, when we left the rehearsal, we decided that Blanche would change her dress – from a white one to a black one – for the show, and I told a Flemish journalist at the airport of our decision.

He then sent a tweet saying: ‘Blanche is changing her dress.’ We had more than 100 interview requests within 20 minutes. It was breaking international news!

Something has changed about Eurovision.

If you look at the Top 5 songs from this year, they were all ‘proper’ songs – not novelty performances. I’m sure that over the next two years, all the major labels will be seeing Eurovision as a much bigger priority, because it’s becoming such a serious competition with a very serious audience.

After all, after the Olympic Games and the World Cup, Eurovision is one of the biggest TV shows in the world.

My eyes were opened by Blanche, a teenager, who saw Eurovision as something cool, and something to take very seriously.

At the rehearsal, she performed brilliantly, and someone wrote under the YouTube video of her: ‘Blanche is back in the game, bitches!’

We loved it so much we put it up on a banner backstage for the final.

The impact Eurovision had for Blanche was really insane. The track was charting on iTunes in 41 countries the day after the competition.

We arrived at the show with 1m streams in total, and today we have more than eight times as many. In the three days after Eurovision, we had an average of 500,000 streams a day. And the video of City Lights on YouTube is now over 10m plays.

[video_youtube id=”xbomdE81_mA”]

Blanche’s career has begun in a really exciting way. We’ve just done the biggest breakfast TV show in Frankfurt, and we will continue to promo her in Europe.

The idea is for her to return in October/November with a three-track EP and an album next year.

One thing I’d especially like to credit Eurovision with is that it really values the songwriter. That meant a lot to me.

The writer of Blanche’s song, City Lights, is Pierre Dumoulin.

Pierre has his ‘proper’ band in Belgium, Roscoe, and we’ve done two albums on [PIAS] together. Both have had very good critical success, but they have sold around 5,000 copies each, and deserved more.

I’ve worked with Pierre for seven years. This experience shows you need to keep trust in your artists and their talent.

Before the Eurovision final I was drinking a beer with Pierre and we were discussing the fact that we’re not really ‘Eurovision people’. We are cool; we are indie!

We agreed to commit to the show and do it properly, but we also agreed that when the cameras were on, we’d need to represent the independent music business: ‘We need to stay serious. No jumping up and down, and definitely no flags.’

When they announced Belgium, all of that was forgotten. We exploded, jumping up and down together like we were are the World Cup.

We probably looked a bit ridiculous, but I don’t care. It’s impossible to be at Eurovision and not get excited.