“Grim” music industry in crisis as fans quit “live” shows that are not live, and substitute voices on the record; the technology being used to transform terrible singers; and Milli Vanilli's Fab Morvan sings for us live.
Seek truth from facts with Fab Morvan, music writers Chuck Taylor, Push and Joe Vogel, and Sir Elton John.
RT: The music industry warned it’s threatening its last source of revenue. Coming up.
Milli Vanilli frontman says lip-syncing today is rife.
The technology that transforms terrible singers.
And the industry secret no one dares to mention.
32nd Annual Grammy Awards Announcer: And the best new artist is… Milli Vanilli.
RT: The music industry's biggest scandal took place this month in 1990.
Milli Vanilli were stripped of their Grammy for Best New Artist. Their worldwide number one Girl You Know It's True wasn't true. It wasn't Rob Pilatus and Fab Morvan's voices in the studio, or on stage.
The truth came out one concert when the pre-record jammed, repeating the chorus again and again.
Rob Pilatus, Former Milli Vanilli frontman: I wanted to die… It stopped: Girl You Know It's, Girl You Know It's… 80,000 people… Girl You Know It's, Girl You Know It's… You know, I couldn’t repeat it 15 times.
RT: Their record company says it was in horror at the news. But the industry knew all along, notes Entertainment Weekly.
It was perfectly happy with the deception, until the public found out.
Its real horror was the industry secret had been leaked.
With any singer today, reports Time Magazine, you're most probably not hearing their actual voice.
Huffington Post reports the real voice of Britney Spears 'hurts to hear.' It’s released her microphone audio without the pre-recorded backing track.
Her voice sounds different on the official album.
Britney Spears, Oops!... I Did It Again: 'Ooh baby baby. Oops, you think I'm love, that I'm sent from above.'RT: This is what a leading record producer told Time.
Unnamed recording engineer: Let's just say I've had Autotune save vocals on everything from Britney Spears to Bollywood cast albums. And every singer now presumes you'll just run their voice through the box.
RT: The box, as the industry calls Autotune, destroys the voice’s natural vibration, but puts it in tune with the music.
Its inventor Andy Hildebrand found the same soundwave vibrations that oil firms use to map the earth's subsurface, could correct the voice. He's blunt on why the technology's being used.
Dr. Andy Hildebrand, Autotune inventor: Yes, we fix bad singers.
RT: We invited amateur singer Zac into a studio, then Autotuned his voice to the music.
PBS reports even those seen as great singers like Celine Dion today rely on Autotune.
The editor of iPad music magazine Electronic Sound is Chris Dawes, he writes under the name Push. Chris it's great to see you, how do you feel about no longer hearing real voices?
Chris Dawes, Editor of Electronic Sound: A lot of the stuff that I work with and listen to is electronic music and increasingly a lot of the electronic music artists are just relying on Autotune in their voices.
And if I’m hearing a new artist and I hear they’re Autotuned, I’m out. It’s about the imperfections.
RT: Even rock groups which traditionally prized authentic vocals, top producer Tom Beaujour says, they now rely on Autotune.
Not using it has even become a badge of honor. Some artists like Allison Moorer have started printing on their albums that “No Autotune was used on this record”.
Let's talk to music journalist Joe Vogel, Joe great to speak to you, what effect is Autotune having?
Joe Vogel, Music Writer: When it gets so universal it takes away from the soul of the music, and actually being able to hear those imperfections in people’s vocals.
You had singers like Bob Dylan who were praised because their voices weren’t great. He didn’t have that traditionally beautiful melodic voice but that’s kind of why people liked Bob Dylan.
Bob Dylan, Like A Rolling Stone: 'Once upon a time you dressed so fine,
You threw the bums a dime in your prime didn't you?'
RT: The result is singers today can’t sing live, notes soul diva Jocelyn Brown, because Autotune means they no longer train their voice.
When a band member said Beyonce mimed the national anthem at the presidential inauguration, the mainstream reacted with shock, although even the singer herself said 'everyone's doing it'.
Chris, if everyone's doing it why are people shocked and surprised?
Dawes: It’s the secret that nobody dares speak of. When the artifice is stripped away and people see the reality, how things are put together, the general public are surprised and shocked. It is a bit Emperor's New Clothes.
The Emperor's New Clothes:
- Isn’t the Emperor’s new costume just superb?
- And it fits him to perfection!
Then suddenly from the crowd:
- Ha-ha! The Emperor has no clothes on!
The Emperor began to blush.
RT: Not just lesser-known artists' voice holds as they fall off stage, or drop their microphone with no change in sound.
'So obvious it's painful' is how CBS reports Madonna's lip-syncing.
Neil McCormick, Music Writer: I once saw Madonna drop her microphone without it affecting her vocal performance one whit. Then she and her band left the stage altogether for an entire track, without any change in sound or style.
RT: Elton John's considered one of the few big acts today who still sings live.
He was surprised Madonna got the Q Awards Best Live Act prize.
Elton John, singer: Madonna, best f**king live act, f**k off! Since when has lip-syncing been live? Sorry about that, but I think anyone who lip-syncs in public on stage when you pay like 75 quid to see them should be shot.
RT: This was his advice for her before last year's Super Bowl performance, that CBS reported as painfully obvious miming.
Elton John: Make sure you lip-sync good.
RT: According to Madonna's publicist, 'Madonna does not lip-sync'.
But even the industry thinks it's gone too far.
The X-Factor, a show for judging people's singing ability, admits contestants are actually Autotuned. When the news went public, shamed executives said they would stop the practice.
Legal disclaimers have even been planned on Britney concert tickets warning the show is mimed, after fans at a recent performance found she wasn't singing.
MSNBC: Fans deserted the pop diva last night just three songs into her first concert in Perth. The reason, fans say, she’s lip-syncing instead of singing.
RT: Chuck Taylor is one of the industry's most respected journalists, Chuck it's great to speak to you, Britney seems to be a target because she's taken this to the end game - The Telegraph reports the only thing live in her latest offering Live In Miami is the reaction of the audience.
Chuck Taylor, Music Writer: Putting a warning label on Britney lip-syncing is kind of like saying 'By the way, Warning, in winter it's cold'.
We'd like to believe that those who become singers have a natural talent, that’s what it used to be.
Elton John has a point, I don’t know if I'd pull out a gun on a singer for lip-syncing, but I have to agree - if you are paying for the experience of seeing not only a show with entertainment, but someone who sings for a living, you’d like to think that they’re going to sing for real.
I do believe that when you’re on stage, you need to get your best shot.
It's a demanding gig. So my warning, Britney, is - don’t take on such a demanding role if you really can’t deliver it night after night, and please the fans that are there paying a small fortune to not only see you live, but fly to Vegas and stay in a hotel and pay for meals and cabs. It's expensive.
So you’ve got to do more than just dance around with a snake around your neck.
RT: According to Britney Spears' publicist, Britney does not lip-sync.
Let's get a view from inside the industry - Fab Morvan, formerly of Milli Vanilli, really great to speak to you.
How common is Autotune and miming among artists?
Fab Morvan, Former Milli Vanilli frontman: Autotune is the standard in the music industry today, whether you’re a top singer or whether you’re a low range singer.
The fans of Britney Spears have been with her since Hit Me Baby One More Time and then when they grow up they’re more aware of the world of entertainment and they realize that since they’ve been going to shows, she’s never sang live.
RT: Yeah, do you understand why people say they're getting tired of it?
Morvan: Another thing is when people record vocals nowadays they sing the verse and then the chorus is recorded just once, then the chorus is flown in in each part of the record. Back in the days, people sang every chorus, so you don’t have this flow anymore, it’s very sterile.
RT: Ok Fab give us a few lines of a real voice.
Morvan: Ok, so, I know people love this song Anytime so I'll do that one ok.
'Oh, how many times can I tell you, how many ways can I show?
I'm never ever gonna be the kind to give up or the one to let go.
Oh, you built a wall around your heartache, but I'm going to tear it down tear it down,
As far as I'm concerned nothing's going to get in my way my way my way, my way.'
RT: Fab's turned the Mili Vanilli concept and current trends on their head. He's part of a new wave of musicians that always sings live and uses their real voice on studio tracks.
The Economist notes live performances are the last big earner in an industry in crisis that has been crippled by free downloads of music from the Internet.
But this top music critic issued a stark warning, if they keep tricking the public.
Neil McCormick, Music Writer: Singing live is the high-wire act. The possibility something might go wrong not only gives the performance an edge but drives artists to greater heights. Singers talk about transcendent moments that occur live, when the holy spirit comes down and they hit notes they didn't even know they had in them.
But if audiences start to believe that not even live is live any more, gig attendance could find itself plunging down the same black hole as the rest of the music business.
The Emperor's New Clothes: The Emperor agreed.
Had he learned his lesson? Time would tell.