Broadway Musicians Object to David Byrne’s Here Lies Love Over Use of Pre-Recorded Music

A labor union representing Broadway musicians has expressed its opposition to David Byrne’s upcoming staging of Here Lies Love due to the show’s plans to stage the production with pre-recorded tracks instead of live music.

“A show with no live music and just pre-recorded tracks is absolutely an existential threat to Broadway — and is a cultural threat to musical theater worldwide,” Local 802 of the American Federation of Musicians President and Executive Director Tino Gagliardi said in a statement. “For generations, audiences have experienced Broadway shows with live music performed by the best musicians in the world, and by using just pre-recorded tracks it not only cheapens the art it’s putting jobs and livelihoods at risk. Our musicians are heartbroken that David Byrne — a legend — is attempting this and we strongly hope he reconsiders.”

Here Lies Love is a disco pop musical based on Byrne and Fatboy Slim’s 2010 concept album of the same name, which is about the rise to power of former Filipina First Lady Imelda Marcos and her subsequent fall to the People Power Revolution. All prior productions — staged in London, Seattle, and Off-Broadway — featured pre-recorded music.

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According to the production’s spokesman Adrian Bryan-Brown, the pre-recorded tracks are an essential component of the show. “Every production has been performed to prerecorded track; this is part of the karaoke genre inherent to the musical and the production concept,” Bryan-Brown told The New York Times. “The music for Here Lies Love was inspired by the phenomena of ‘track acts,’ which allowed club audiences to keep dancing, much like this production aims to do.”

Update: A response posted via the production’s social accounts claims that “Here Lies Love is not a traditional Broadway musical” and “the performance of the live vocals to pre-recorded, artificial track is paramount to its artistic concept.” Read the full written Q&A below.

Led by Hal Luftig, the production team for Here Lies Love has sought to have the show declared a “special situation,” which is a category in the labor agreement allowing for fewer musicians to be employed. The request must be assessed by a panel including neutral observers alongside representatives from Local 802 and the Broadway League, which represents producers and theatre owners.

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Here Lies Love officially opens on July 20th at the Broadway Theatre, with previews beginning on Saturday, June 17th.

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