Let’s agree that bands lipsyncing to backing tracks is unacceptable

Mili Vanilli - famous example of bands lip suncing

Are backing tracks used to enhance an artist’s sound and bands lipsyncing becoming a more widely spread phenomenon? More and more reports suggest this to be the case. But are music fans ready to accept this, or is it time to for them stomp their foot down and say enough?

The magic of the internet and smarphones has just uncovered a dark secret. Your favorite band was caught lipsyncing during an important show. Backing tracks were been used to make the sound pristine. The singer delivered a great vocal delivery, even though he was standing far away from a microphone. Are you disappointed? Or, are you simply happy that they care enough to offer you an illusion?

My experience with punk rock bands lipsyncing

I was recently in attendance at a punk rock show of a rather famous artist, that, out of respect for his output, shall remain nameless. The show package included an opening act, playing much in the same vein as the headliner we were about to see.

Mid-way through their set I expressed my surprise that this largely unknown band sounded so good, almost faultless. Taking a closer step towards the stage, I was even more surprised to notice that the group’s backing vocals continued to sound impeccable regardless of whether the musicians were near their microphones, or not.

Nirvana - purposely lip syncing on Top of the Pops
Nirvana – purposely lip syncing on Top of the Pops

The headliner took the stage later on and provided a masterful performance. Yes, he sang (I should think) and did it quite well. But, much to my amazement, his group was once again perfectly in pitch and in time when delivering backing vocals, whether or not they found themselves in the vicinity of a microphone. I could not detect further trickery, although I cannot be blamed for becoming somewhat suspicious of this entire live scenario.

Why are bands lipsyncing?

Considered one of the music industry’s dirty little secrets, backing tracks and bands lip syncing are said to have been present for decades. Famous, older bands, have been, especially, plagued, by the rumor. It’s believed that these classic acts choose his route in order to aid their singers’ failing vocal capacity, or their ability to play their instruments to the standard they are known for.

Many of the bands in question still play large venues, and it is likely that they need to maintain the appearance of being masters of their craft. It is hits that get bands big gigs, usually, and they may feel it is warranted to have the songs sound jsut like the way that the audience first heard them on the radio.

It is interesting to hear about newer bands choosing a similar tactic. I can only speculate as to their motifs. Likely they simply attempt to impress and gain followers. It may also sometimes be the case that sounds produced using digital software, is more difficult to present  to a similar setting live.

Why audiences should not stand for their favorite bands lip syncing?

The bands that do use pre-recorded tracks to give their sound a boost, do this because they are allowed to by their audience. Perhaps that some of those in attendance are simply happy to be present at an event, a party, a night out. But they are getting duped and they’re helping set a bad precedent.

A live performance, by majority of accounts, works best when an interaction exists between the audience and the artists. The hisses, noises and mistakes on behalf of the band are almost welcome, provided the artists are genuinely trying to communicate with those in attendance using the medium of sound.

A band lip syncing is no more than a group of people pretending to be musicians to the back drop of pre-recorded music. Quite simply, we could all do experience this at home, listening to the music they have already laid down to tape.

Yes, there are exceptions. Some artists use recorded sounds as an artistic device. Some use it when the music cannot be reproduced. But even in this case, it is acceptable only when the audience is warned  in advance about this.

As long as audiences tolerate bands lip syncing, they will continue to get ripped off. The focus on nostalgia, artificially recreating perfection, focusing on a production over the music,  has done little to help rock n’ roll, or its audience.

Let’s all agree to stop accepting having our favorite bands lip syncing, using backing tracks, and offering it to us as the real deal, right now!

Eduard Bănulescu

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