Typically Albania is the first country to hold a national selection for the Eurovision Song Contest. The Festivali i Këngës, held every year since 1962, takes place in December and has been used to select the Albanian entry since the country joined the Eurovision Song Contest in 2004. For many fans this marks the start of the so-called national final season, where countries select their respective songs for the Eurovision Song Contest. With the vast majority of shows now streamed online, these programmes attract a wide audience from around the world. The season normally comes to an end with the final of Melodifestivalen, Sweden's national selection for the Eurovision Song Contest.
The national final season is only the beginning of course. What follows for the performers is a packed schedule of rehearsals, costume fittings, media interviews and promotional appearances all the way up to and including the event weeks. We look back at the journey that the performers went on earlier this year. When it comes to the Eurovision Song Contest, the experience is so much more than the three minute performance that the television viewers see.