Audiences must be told if singers are miming, says union

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The Independent Culture

Sir Elton John famously accused Madonna of doing it, the President of Turkmenistan has banned it and now the Musicians' Union wants something done about it.

The union has launched a campaign calling on artists, record producers and promoters to tell audiences if a performance is mimed. From now on, it says, lip-synching should be clearly labelled.

People who pay for a concert ticket or watch a music television show should have the right to know whether it is live or not, the union says. Before a singer uses lip-synching, a logo should be flashed on screen warning it will be done. Concert promoters should also make it clear to people before they buy tickets that part of a show would be mimed, the union says.

It hopes the campaign, launched on BBC2's The Culture Show last night, will garner support throughout the entertainment industry. If a system of coding was introduced, the union believes it would help to boost the profile of British artists around the world.

Keith Ames, of the Musicians' Union, said: "Technology and culture are developing to the point where people are buying tickets to shows, or watching on television, and it's hard for them to know whether the acts are miming or really singing live."

Mr Ames insisted the union was not seeking to outlaw miming altogether. "This is not us being anti-technology or against the use of recordings. What we're trying to do is reward those acts, bring to the public attention those acts, which do perform live.

"If you buy a tin of beans, you know what the contents are, but you could buy tickets to a show thinking it's going to be live and some of it isn't."

Lip-synching is most common in big arena shows, often starring boy and girl bands, in smaller theatre shows, when often the production cannot afford to pay a full complement of musicians, and on pop music television programmes.

Malcolm McLaren, the former manager of the Sex Pistols, said he supported the spirit of the union's campaign.

The singer Beverley Knight told the BBC2 programme: "What I can't bear more than anything are those who are more than capable of delivering a show live with musicians and the whole thing, and don't.

"Why? Because they want to save their voices. It is easy to do. They get their cheque at the end of the day. In other words, they are not prepared to work. If the code came into being, there would be a whole lot of people whose careers would be over tomorrow, those in front of the camera and those behind it."

Faye Tozer, a singer with the former pop group Steps, is a defender of lip-synching. "Our main reason was because you would be up at five o'clock doing kids' TV, straight away into the studio. There's not time for rehearsal, not time for getting your crew in, and then you would be put on to your next children's TV at seven o'clock.

"For a band like ours that were very much a TV-selling band, it was great for us and we could get our product out there."

The issue of miming came to the fore when Sir Elton accused Madonna of lip-synching at the Q Awards in 2004 after she was nominated for best live act award.

He said: "Since when has lip-synching been live? Anyone who lip-synchs in public when you pay £75 to see them should be shot."

Madonna strongly denied that she mimes songs, and issued a statement insisting that every note of her recent tour had been live.

Last year, Turkmenistan's leader Saparmurat Niyazov banned singers from lip-synching, and the government of Vietnam has also outlawed the practice.

Singers or mimers?

Madonna

The singer denied she lip-synched after Sir Elton John cattily questioned her nomination in the best live act category at the Q Awards in 2004.

Milli Vanilli

The 1980s pop duo were forced to return their Grammy awards when it was discovered that they had not sung on recordings of their songs.

Britney Spears

The US princess of pop disappointed British fans in 2004 when she mimed to a 12,000-strong audience at Wembley stadium which had paid £30 a ticket. She has also admitted "getting support in the choruses" while performing.

Enrique Iglesias

The son of the Latin singing legend Julio was booed off stage by 15,000 fans in Austria after he turned up an hour late for a show and proceeded to mime. When he tried to speak into the microphone at the end of his first song, there was no sound.

Steps

The pop group didn't even take musicians on tour, simply miming to backing tapes. Member Faye Tozer said lip-synching made it possible for the group to appear on early-morning children's television.

Luciano Pavarotti

The Italian tenor was criticised for lip-synching in a BBC concert. Questioned by the US news magazine show 60 Minutes, he admitted: "It was made too quick without the usual professional way."

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