Lip-syncing to sabotage music industry, critics say as Vietnam lifts ban

By Ha Thu   December 26, 2020 | 12:00 am PT
Several composers and singers unhappy with the ban on lip-syncing being lifted say it will undermine talent and cheat paying audiences.

According to a recently issued decree, the current ban on "using pre-recorded sound instead of live vocals of performers or instrumentals" will be lifted starting next year.

Photo courtesy of lograstudio.

Many artists say that lifting of the lip-syncing ban would create an unfair environment for live performers. Photo courtesy of lograstudio.

Several artists have expressed their disagreement with the move that will allow performers to mime. Singer Minh Quan commented that this would create an unfair environment for live performers since those who lip sync will have the advantage in terms of delivering a smooth performance without singing.

"Many singers have done this before, but they were well aware that it was illegal and wrong so that they had to do it sneakily in front of the public. Now that there’s no rule banning it, it’s going to become blatant," he said.

Many musicians like Pham Hai Au and Nguyen Van Chung are also opposed to lifting the ban. They say it could inadvertently "kill" genuinely talented singers because sound files can be modified. In addition, singers will not need to practice and can neglect the essence of their profession. Musician Duong Cam adds that the new regulation could also destroy live bands.

At the end of last year, an organizing committee in the northern province of Quang Ninh had to pay a fine of VND9 million ($387) after their singer, Bich Phuong, using pre-recorded files during a live performance.

Many professionals in the field find lip-syncing unacceptable under any circumstance, while there are some who feel it can be accepted when a dance performance is involved.

At the end of the year 2019, an organizing committee in northern Quang Ninh Province had to pay a fine of VND nine million ($387) for their singer, Bich Phuong, using pre-recorded files along with her live voice during performance. Many professionals in the field claimed that singing over playback was lip-syncing while others said that it could be accepted in case of dance performance. Photo courtesy of 1989 Studio

Singer Bich Phuong. Photo courtesy of 1989 Studio.

Singer Ha Linh concurs with Minh Quan and considers the lifting of the ban a backward step for the music industry.

"We need to fight against lip-syncing. If it is legalized, it means that we are taking the side of unprofessionalism. A live performance should be done with honesty and good ethics. Art performers who are ready to cheat the audience do not deserve to stay in the center of the public’s eyes," she said.

Minh Quan said it is the audience that suffers when lip syncing is allowed. They pay good money to attend a live performance and the price of a ticket is much higher than a CD or a digital release. If they came to a concert only to listen to recorded sound files, they are being cheated.

However, composer Thanh Binh sees it as a move suitable to the current music industry.

"Artists will have a wider range of choices for their performance. The audience have the right to decide which one they go in for," he said.

Another composer, Nguyen Van Chung, said that in reality, many singers lip-sync and receive positive reactions from listeners and their performances sell well.

Director Hoang Nhat Nam, who has arranged numerous art shows, said the government should make a detailed and practical law that sets out when lip-syncing can be allowed on a case-by-case basis and when it cannot be permitted. He felt that lip-syncing should be allowed for live television performances to ensure that the sound quality is not spoilt by any interruption.

The head of the Recording Management Division of the Department of Performing Arts Nguyen Thu Dong clarified that the decree, which will take effect from January 2, 2021, does not imply that the government finds lip-syncing acceptable.

"The decree does not specify how performers should behave in particular, but organizers and performing artists must not take (undue) advantage of this to mime vocals and instrumentals. First and foremost, artists have to have work ethically, respect their fans and the audience and be responsible for their own image and credibility. The audience of course will not tolerate an artist who hides his or her talent on the stage."

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