Back in the 1990s when sampling was driving a lot of the creativity in music there was a big issue regarding hip-hop and dance music bands not playing live. Instead they would rock up with a backing track pre-programmed on a sequencer or recorded on to a DAT tape. It seems now that ‘real musicians’ are falling into a similar trap if allegations in the Independent are to be believed.
I think that this time the issue is different and a lot worse. For starters with electronic dance music there was an expectation that it involved computer replication and artists had a certain amount of opportunity to ad lib around the recording and make the live performance a difference experience. Rappers changed the lyrics, their DJ’s laid down some additional scratching on top, electronic brands changed the arrangements on the fly.
Secondly, in the 1990s the music industry had a cash cow in recorded media: the 12″ single and the CD album to bank roll it. Live gigs were promotional marketing. Now in a day of digital pennies rather than analog dollars for content; live performances are the bulk of the artists opportunity to earn.
Given that every performance is recorded on smartphones and broadcast to friends over social networks; any backing track mess-up is likely to become public very fast and cause a reputational issue for both artist and promoter.
More information here.
Archived from blog posts I wrote for PR Week