do singers use teleprompters on stage

Do Singers Use Teleprompters On Stage?

Seeing a singer reading from a teleprompter at a concert can seem surprising at first. After all, you would think that they would have songs memorized by heart after performing them hundreds or thousands of times!

Believe it or not, some singers use teleprompters on stage as a means to avoid errors in performances and to help retrigger their memory on rarely-performed tracks.

It’s an insurance policy that any musician can use should they ever need it.

Knowing that this trick is not just a myth of the stage might upset some fans, but it’s understandable once the reasons become clear for their use.

How Do Singers Use Teleprompters Live?

To many, people who use teleprompters sit in controlled settings where dozens of others work to operate the prompts. Think of producers for news readers or loading scripts for an awards show. So how could this possibly work on a live music stage?

Yet music acts are clever enough to find ways to integrate them into their stage set-up to help them remember the lyrics of certain songs. And it is always a planned failsafe for the act.

The system itself will have all the lyrics for the show pre-loaded hours before the crowd arrives. It will even have breaks for solos and cues also added to give performers a chance to see where they are in a song.

From there, it’s just a matter of how they are controlled during the show itself. The device itself will only be placed in a spot where the singer will see it. This way it’s hidden in plain sight.

The artist can control it and integrate the switch as part of their live rig. So to the untrained eye, the operating switch is just another effects pedal.

In some cases, the tech or road crew may also play a helping hand by operating a remote if the performers themselves can’t operate it.

No matter how they achieve it though, the performer can always have control of the teleprompter and keep it in line with their performance.

Why Do Singers Use Teleprompters?

Believe it or not, singers use teleprompters more on stage than you might give them credit for. They have become a perfectly discreet way to provide reminders should a singer ever need them.

But with them not as visible on stage as many might expect, they are becoming an ever-increasing way to help re-jog the memory for when a performer requires it. So why is this?

Reasons Singers Use Teleprompters

For many, the ability to use a teleprompter is a basic means to help them get everything right when they are performing. It’s something that is alluded to by Cliff Dawson, Product & Support Manager from international teleprompter manufacturer Stageprompter, who underlines the simple reasons behind their use.

“Singing and performing on stage requires an artist to think about a lot of things at once. Sometimes, it’s easy to draw a blank and forget the words – which is very obvious to an audience,” Mr. Dawson says.  “So they are used to ensure that the lead singer can remember the words”

And for many, just having that first visual prompt is more than enough for the singer to belt out a verse without any memory lapses. “Often, only the first word of a verse is needed to jog one’s memory – but thinking of that word can seem impossible while in the moment,” Mr Dawson remarked.

This allows the show to go on unabated and improve the quality of the performance itself, eliminating the potential for making a mistake when using a performance.

The Pros and Cons of Using a Teleprompter

The thought of having teleprompters on stage might seem like having a cheat code, but it does have advantages for performers – one that often many people might not notice.

But finding the balance of how to put it on your stage and using it discreetly is something that many might struggle with. So is using a teleprompter on stage a double-edged sword?

The advantages

First off, let’s look at their main reason for use. It’s an aid to help manage mistakes. And messing up a vocal line is something that everyone notices.

Therefore, using a device like a teleprompter helps eliminate the risk of a singer making a mistake and destroying a song. And that’s something Stageprompter’s Cliff Dawson is quick to elaborate on compared to other performers, stating that singers are more vulnerable especially when “guitarists can mess a riff up and it goes unnoticed.”

The other main draw is that a singer can use a teleprompter in any sort of setting. It can be in a theatre, a large arena or at an outdoor festival. So come rain or shine, they can be woven into the stage and provide a singer with the backup aid they need should the time call for it.

The disadvantages

But when a singer uses a teleprompter, they need to be aware of the scepticism it might bring when they use it. And that’s why they are often hidden within the stage.

And it’s one thing that Mr Dawson draws upon when discussing how important setting up the device properly for a show is. One such example is the recommendation of using a black background on the screen with bright font.

“Black backgrounds with light-colored letters are preferred. They are not only easier to see but they don’t illuminate the performer like a white background does,” he commented.

Alongside that, they can be difficult to use in daylight performances. This comes down to avoiding direct sunlight which can make it hard to see the screen during a set.

Famous singers that use teleprompters

There have been several times when famous singers use a teleprompter on stage – only to cause heated discussions between fans and professional acts. So what times has this caused a blow-up?

Motley Crue

Heavy metal icons Motley Crue are no strangers to electric live shows – one of their trademarks for decades. Yet lead singer Vince Neil caused a stir in 2022 when a fan’s live video showed him using a teleprompter live on stage.

Despite some harsh criticisms towards the rock star from fans on social media, Neil was backed by his peers with the likes of Disturbed lead singer David Draiman and Stryper singer Michael Sweet revealing that it’s a common tool that performers use.

Michael Sweet

And like we just mentioned, Stryper singer Michael Sweet revealed himself to be a performer who used a teleprompter on stage too. When he was defending Neil, Sweet revealed on Instagram that he regularly had one on stage when performing with Boston from 2008-2011.

Despite this surprise revelation, Sweet didn’t follow up on whether he stuck to using one when he left the band and rejoined Stryper for a reunion tour in 2013.

Katy Perry

And it’s not just something that aging rockers use. Indeed, hit popstars use them too, such as multi-platinum singer Katy Perry. After videos in 2015 showed Perry using one during a live show, she later confirmed that it was true, stating that it gives her extra security on stage, especially during a hectic lead-up to performances, intense dance routines, and a huge setlist to remember.

Are There Alternatives to Teleprompters In Music?

Many singers use teleprompters on stage as they are customizable enough to work into the setup and provide good vision. And it is perhaps what gives these an edge over more obvious platforms such as a tablet or TV screen.

It’s again something that Mr Dawson has seen as the industry has explored different technical outputs. For example, they give performers much more flexibility in placing and ease of use than a tablet/or iPad would.

“The smaller size of tablets requires them to be up higher where they can be seen by the artist – but also by the audience,” he says.

It’s also a reason why TV screens aren’t used on stage either. “Churches or houses of worship use large flat-panel television screens in the back of a room. Singers can see it but the audience can also see it which can be distracting,” Mr Dawson adds.

So it’s why teleprompters have still found a place for use in music. Even if it seems other forms of technology may seem a more logical choice.

Final Thoughts

Overall, singers use teleprompters on stage more than you might think. And it’s not because they have hopelessly forgotten the lyrics to their biggest hits. Instead, it provides an insurance policy to help trigger their brain when so much else is going around them. They are carefully woven into the stage setup to help singers get a flashpoint without disappointing the crowd.

Their ability to work in all conditions and environments makes them an important tool. Although the setup is crucial for them to work seamlessly with the act. But they make for the perfect device to provide hints instead of more obvious tech such as tablets or TVs. With the likes of Motley Crue and Katy Perry seen using teleprompters, it is proof they work for even megastars.

Special thanks to Stageprompter USA’s Cliff Dawson for his comments

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