A heroine for live performance on TV?

David Mellor

David Mellor is CEO and Course Director of Audio Masterclass. David has designed courses in audio education and training since 1986 and is the publisher and principal writer of Record-Producer.com.

Tuesday June 11, 2013

There are many who would criticize Simon Cowell, Britain's Got Talent, America's Got Talent, and similar TV talent shows. They would also criticize acts that have become successful through appearing on such shows. I don't. If the public watches the shows and pays for the acts' performances and recordings, then that's all perfectly fine by me.

I don't even object to lip-synced and mimed performances on TV.

What I do object to however is lip-synced and mimed performances being passed off as live. It doesn't just degrade the performances and musicians who lip-sync and mime. It casts doubt on whether genuine performers are doing it too.

Perhaps someone should take a stand? Well someone has, and it is Natalie Holt, a background performer on the final of Britain's Got Talent, which went out Saturday June 8 in the UK.

As singing duo Richard and Adam finished their performance, Holt put down her instrument and calmly walked to the front of the stage with a box of eggs, separating the two singers. Smiling as she threw five eggs, Holt apparently surprised the judges with her protest before being bundled off stage by security guards.

Natalie Holt protests on Britain's Got Talent

Later she said that it was a protest against having to mime her playing, rather than the string section being miked up and performing live.

In general, I agree with her point. There are a lot of faked performances on TV. Where it is obvious that a performance is faked, I don't mind so much. Where the singing is done live and the background performers mime, I still don't mind too much as it is all part of getting the practicalities of TV broadcast to work, particularly live broadcast.

I don't like it though when a performance is presented as being completely live, but some or all of the backing is pre-recorded. That is plainly wrong. In this case, it is unlikely that the TV audience cares whether or not the musicians are playing live, but it is useful to have the issue raised so prominently.

Of course, Holt's protest could all be part of the show, and the publicity it has garnered can't be doing Cowell any harm.

But whatever the motivation, the key point is that it can't be so difficult surely to put up a few mics on a string section. Surely Britain has Got enough instrumental Talent to put together a string section that is capable of performing live, and to an extremely high standard of professionalism? And enough sound engineering talent to mic it up.

My vote is for more genuinely live performances on TV. And by the way, if anyone is worrying about the judges being hit by any of the eggs, it's OK. Natalie Holt said they were organic, and from Marks & Spencer.

P.S. Britain's Got Talent has this to say...

"[Miming is] standard industry practice for backing musicians during TV performances as it isn't possible to easily capture the quality of the sound in a live broadcast environment. All contestants on Britain's Got Talent sing live."

P.P.S. You can see and hear some genuinely live string playing on TV here...

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