televised music concert

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.

TV with Static

Photo courtesy of

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.