Many pop musicians fake when performing live and when they record in the studio. I have experienced this as a musician. This is nothing new, and has been going on for many years. Digital technology has made it even easier and now it’s commonplace and accepted in the music industry for cost savings and more consistent live performances.
Fakes in the Past, Present, and Future
- Before Modern Technology
All opera and stage stars have understudies. They are available in case the star gets sick. The first examples of faking was when the star can’t sing and the understudy sings off stage while the star lip sync’s on stage.
This is when another person’s voice is recorded in place of the original voice. In early Hollywood musicals this was common when a famous actor sang badly. The bad singing was edited out of the sound track and another singer was dubbed in. The actual singers were rarely credited for their performance. Modern examples are Milly Vanilli and C + C Music factory for performing with different singers from the original recording.
- Multi-Track Recording
A multi-track tape recorder can record many separate tracks of music that are mixed together later. Before a song had to be recorded all at once with everyone together. Multi-tracking allows a vocalist to record many times and then pick the best performance. The best parts of each track are combined in the final mix. Special effects and equalizing can be added to the individual tracks to make them sound better.
- Band Tracks used for Live Performances
Many singers have used band tracks instead of live musicians. The early performances of Miami Sound Machine used tracks because of a limited budget. With multi-track recordings it is easy to record a mix without the vocals. This is common practice particularly with review shows with many different performers. I used to sing in a band that did this.
- Lip Syncing
Not performing live at all! This has grown to epidemic proportions in recent years. This video report shows many examples like Britney Spears. Most TV appearances of singers and bands are lip synced including pregame and half time at the Superbowl as in this report. I worked as a sound engineer for the rehearsals of the 1991 Superbowl featuring Whitney Houston singing the National Anthem. I heard the recording 100 times in rehearsals. She lip synced for the broadcast.
- Digital Recording
Recording on magnetic tape is now obsolete. Digital recordings have many ways to cheat. Now all factors of a performance can be manipulated digitally. There are computer programs for music editing called Pro Tools and Antares Auto-tune. If a singer is out of tune or rhythm there is no need to record the track again. It can be fixed later. A singer or band doesn’t have to perform repeated parts either. Just copy the desired part and repeat and paste.
- Cheats in the Future
In the future it may be possible to have a voice print of a singers voice stored in a computer. Then a program adds the voice to the notes and lyrics of a song. No need to sing at all and live performances with an Avatar!
Not all pop artists cheat. I attended a concert by Bon Jovi with no cheats. As mentioned in the video above, some pop singers even include a statement on their CD’s that they don’t use any auto tune. The recording industry demands more elaborate pre-programmed concert productions without any spontaneity. If you want spontaneity and originality listen to Jazz!