We all know there are artists who fake singing live. There are a few that everyone suspects of doing it, but then there are also bands and artists that we don’t want to believe participate. The scary thing is that there are a lot of artists who take part in faking live performances. Click the picture below to see an interactive timeline of notable lip-syncing incidents.

Timeline of notable lip-syncing incidents

A big question surrounding lip-syncing is not only does it hurt the artist when made public, but does it also make a show less credible if they allow artists to mime their performances? Matt Fiino, Audio mixer for NBC’s the Today Show, believes that it does. “We have a rule that it really has to be ‘live’ because our show is a news show first and foremost…There will never, ever be lip-synching on The Today Show. The program could lose its credibility as a news program if they say such-and-such is playing live and it’s actually me holding a [vocal] track fader” 1. I surveyed 26 people (mostly college students) to get their feelings on lip-syncing. The results can be found below.

Should artists have to disclose to their audience if they lip-sync?

Should artists have to disclose if they lip-sync?

Some professionals, as well as myself, thought that lip-syncing was becoming so obvious that it had to die out. Unfortunately, this as not happened. There have been plenty of incidents just in the past decade that prove that it is still happening.

Artists believed to lip-sync

Artists believed to lip-sync based on a survey I conducted

One argument for lip-syncing is that it is necessary for when artists are being really physical onstage and they would not be able to sing properly if they were doing it live. These people believe it is more about putting on a amazing show for the eyes, and are not so worried with authenticity. Is lip-syncing ever acceptable?Alexandre Magno, who has choreographed for Madonna, says the performance trumps actual singing. “In the long run, it’s about performance,” he says. “If you’re up there and you know what you’re doing, it doesn’t matter if you’re lip-syncing or you’re singing live”2.

Other artists and producers say that performing to a backing track is a smart thing to do in certain circumstances. The Super Bowl is one such event that all artists are either forced to lip-sync or are highly encourage to. The stance in that there are so many variable to take into account which leads to a lot of things that can go wrong. Playing or singing to a backing track lowers these risks greatly (although not completely).

Are backing tracks ever acceptable?

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band are well known for their energetic live shows. After Springsteen and the band performed at the halftime show of the 2009 Super Bowl, it was revealed the next day that they hadn’t been playing live. Grammy-award-winning television producer Hank Neuberger says that the Super Bowl has had the same procedure for years. They record a track and give the artist the option of singing live, but encourage them to use the track 3.

Some very-respected musicians, such as cellist Yo-Yo Ma, have defended playing to a backing track if the situation calls for it. Ma performed at Barack Obama’s inaugurations ceremony on January 23, 2009. He played to a track that was recorded two days prior, citing that having a string break due to the cold weather was not an option 4.

So then if you agree that lip-syncing is necessary under some circumstances, should the audiences be warned ahead of time? After all, they are paying money to see an artist and probably want to see an authentic show.

Click the photo below to see a photo slideshow of a live music performance that doesn’t involve lip-syncing!

Live Music Slideshow

What do you guys think about lip-syncing and/or playing to a backing track?  Share your thoughts in the comments area!

2. Knopper, Steve. 2004. “Lip-Sync Nation.” Rolling Stone no. 962: 20. Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost (accessed December 10, 2012).


What do you think of when you think of lip-syncing?  That video above is usually one of the first things that come to my mind.  I’m working on a feature story about lip-syncing and playing to backing tracks that will be posted sometime tomorrow.  Check back for it!

Florence Welsh at KROQ 2010

Florence Welsh at KROQ 2010
Photo: L.A. Times

Live music performances are becoming almost as accessible as music in general. Fans and professionals alike can post videos online, and concert streams are becoming all the more common.  (Make sure you watch the 21st annual KROQ Almost Acoustic Christmas stream tonight at 5 p.m., right here). It is great that these performances are so easily accessed and it makes it possible for fans to keep updated on artists even if they can’t always see them live. But there are certainly the times when seeing the show live is the only way to go.

I conducted a survey about live music with 25 people; mostly with college students.  They revealed that they would almost always prefer to see a concert live then on tv or online.

Live music or televised music

I agree that live is definitely better than sitting at home.  But the fact is that you can’t always make it to the shows.  They don’t always comet to your town, etc. That is when video is a plus.  I think concert DVDs are a great secondhand way to experience a show.

Concert DVDs

I asked in my survey how many concert DVDS those surveyed owned.  However, the results showed that they were not big purchasers of concert DVDs. Almost half of those surveyed only owned one.

Even though they were not huge on concert DVDs, let’s take a look at what type of shows they do enjoy.  I asked them who their favorite artist is that they’ve seen in concert. For some reason, Lil Wayne was pretty popular…

Click on the graphic below to go to the ManyEyes page for the results.

Many Eyes of Favorite Artists in Concert

Then I asked them how far they have traveled for a show in the past.  It can be assumed that most of the people surveyed lived in the Pittsburgh area. Click on the picture below to see the interactive Batchgeo map.

Furthest driven to see a concertThe results of this survey are kind of encouraging to me. It shows that people aren’t always being lazy and taking the lazy route.  Instead of only consuming videos, they are making the effort to go out and see shows.  It proves that concerts are still a very important part of the music industry. One person in the survey drove all the way to Norfolk, VA. From Pittsburgh, that is a seven hour trip. Which is very encouraging that live music is still important even if other mediums and methods are falling behind.

Tyler SamanskyHere is an interview I did with my cousin, Tyler Samansky.  Tyler has played in a few bands since high school and has closely followed the evolution of both live music and the industry. I wanted to get his opinion on some questions I’ve had on my mind lately.

What do you think is the strongest thing the music industry has going for it currently?

I think concerts and live music in general is the most important thing in the music industry at the moment.  The fact is that people are downloading music and not paying for it, but many of those same people still go to shows.  They spend money on tickets, and hopefully they might buy some merch while they are there, and the artists are making money from those kinds of things.  I know especially for smaller bands like the ones that I’ve been in, it is really, really hard to sell your music, so having concerts are sort of like your saving grace.

Adele just sold ten million copies of her album, ‘21‘ in the United States.  Does this mean that tangible music may still have its place?

Unfortunately that is sort of a one-off thing.  We know that that does not happen on a regular basis. I think she’s only like the 25th artist or something to have done that?  Yeah that doesn’t mean that the industry has magically been fixed or anything Haha.  That sort of happens when an artist becomes a phenomenon for whatever reason, but when you look at the rest of the sales of music from this year, that’s not a common thing at all.  We’re still in trouble in that regard.

What do you think we will see in the way of technological advances to how people will experience music in the near future?

Well I’ve heard about these new advances that they’ve wanted to impliment for a long time, and I guess we’ll probably be seeing them at some point.  Like instead of having physical tickets to get into shows you just use a code on your smart phone or something like that.  And I think that’s lame. I’m all for saving trees, but I love to collect my tickets from shows.  So little things like that.

Also a huge one is how the compact disc might be going away.  Well, there’s been talk about that for a while now and it obviously still hasn’t happened.  But I think aside from just digital downloads, it’s about time for a new form of physical music.  Maybe like something like a flash drive or something.  Definitely something more sturdier than a cd is now.

Talk about how important a proper setlist is for a show.

Oh well that’s a science.  Haha.  There definitely is an art to putting together a good one.  You need to draw people in with the first songs, and then maybe you have a change in the middle to experiment a little.  Then at the end you got to send them off right.  And that’s not going to be the same at every show, but I think that’s the basic idea usually.  Then again sometimes you’ll see a band come out and play a new song and the whole crowd goes crazy.  I think different artists have to know how to read their audience and then build the setlist around that.  That’s the smartest way to do it.

What do you think about bands like fun., who sort of pop up and are suddenly performing everywhere and touring all over the place.  How does that happen so quickly?

I think that’s a little like what I was saying about Adele being a phenomenon earlier.  It’s great to see a band start very small and, especially in fun.’s case, they built themselves out of members from other smaller bands, and sort of take over with their music and get such a large following.  That makes me really happy to see that.  And I can’t explain what the formula for that is.  It just sort of happens.  They’ve had two hit singles that everyone just instantly gravitated to.  Somehow they got ‘We Are Young’ into a Super Bowl commercial last year and from there they just took over.  And that’s great.  They’re a great band and a lot of fun live.  No pun intended Haha.


If you guys have anything to add to what we’ve discussed, share your thoughts in the comments!  Thanks!

TV with Static

Photo courtesy of rocknycliveandrecorded.com

When you watch a music performance at home, the only thing you need to worry about is what comfy clothes you’ll be wearing, and when to make the popcorn.  When you go out to a show, you have to consider what artist you want to see,  as well as do you like the venue they’re performing at? Do you want standing room tickets, or more expensive seats.  Is the overall concert worth the amount of money you’re spending?

Watching an award show or a televised concert or a concert dvd can be a relaxing and enjoyable experience.  But at the same time, you are not getting the full experience that you would from actually being in the atmosphere.

I like to kick back and watch a concert dvd of an artist that I plan on seeing live.  It gives you a little preview of what you can experience when you are in the same venue as them.  It even gives you a hint at what to expect of the fans who will be in attendance.


Here is a short video exploring the thought process of seeing a band live:


What are some of your favorite things about watching an artist perform on television?  What about when you see them live?  Share your thoughts in the comments.

Madonna performs during the halftime show

Credit: Reuters/Mike Segar

About 111.3 million people watched the Super Bowl last year1. Madonna was the performer at the halftime show. That is a huge audience that probably stayed tune to watch her.  This makes the halftime show a a very important televised musical performance each year.  I put together a timeline to show a history of some memorable (for good and bad) performances from the past.

Timeline of Super Bowl Halftime Shows

Timeline of Super Bowl Halftime Shows

You can check out the timeline by clicking the picture above, or here.
What are your favorite performances? Least favorite?  Let me know in the comments!