If I went to a Britney Spears’ concert….

Let me start that again. A bit more realistically.

What is a Britney Spears concert? I suspect that, like a Kylie concert or a Madonna concert or a Justin Timberlake concert, it is an event where fans go along and expect to see note-perfect reproductions of the songs they love from albums performed in front of them with all the added glitz, glamour and gadgetry that you can only get in a concert situation. They want dance, and fireworks and sex and anything else these stars feel like giving them.

Do they care if some of the music is lip-synced?

The Victorian Government thinks so:

Pop stars such as Britney Spears could be forced to disclose whether they lip-sync under new laws to stop fans being ripped off.

Consumer Affairs Minister Tony Robinson said fans deserved to know what they were paying for, the Herald Sun reports.

“We believe it is good business practice for concert promoters to make it clear to consumers before they buy tickets whether the performer will be miming, and make this clear on advertising, posters and other promotional materials,” Mr Robinson said.

It seems a no-brainer, in one way I guess. Why not make them declare whether they will be singing live or not? At least that way you can decide in advance whether you want to go or not. Informed decision and all that. And I strongly suspect that it wouldn’t cost the performers I’ve listed above a solitary sale.

But what’s at stake here? Not much it seems to me. Like I said, I think certain fans just presume that some lip-syncing goes on and they don’t give a toss. It’s not, as a promoter quoted in the article suggests, that they are not there for the music. Of course, they are there for the music. It’s just that they want to hear the music live like they hear it at home, and then they want a show to go with it.

Of course, there are other sorts of fans of other sorts of music who definitely don’t want to hear anything pre-recorded at a gig (except maybe a tape-loop or something like that). If I thought for a second that Lucinda Williams was lip-syncing her way through a gig, or that Martha Wainwright was or the Stones were or that the Sydney Symphony had pre-recorded the first violin part, well, yeah, sure I’d be annoyed.

I’d feel ripped off. But if they did, the market, that is, their fans, would sort it out so quickly it would either never happen again, or the performer would simply cease to have a viable audience.

For fans of music like this, the live performance of the music, with the possibility of improvisation, of a singer or musician excelling themselves, of variation rather than rote reproduction, even the possibility of error, is the essence of the live experience. Lip-syncing or equivalent technique by such a performer would certainly be a betrayal as it would genuinely involve deception. Do I need a law to protect me from such a likelihood? Nup.

My inclination is to tell the government to pull their head in. Read the rest of that article: there is so much righteous indignation about “protecting consumers” (see the quote from the person from the Consumer Action Law Centre and the NSW government), not to mention sneering put-downs of music they don’t happen to like, that I’m more inclined to pass a law against politicians lip-syncing pious inanities.

It seems to me this law will “protect” people who don’t really care and be irrelevant to people who do.

So, Victorian Government, leave Britney alone!

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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