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Canned Music (Slang)

Canned music is a term that grew out of the early days of recorded music, 1877 to be specific, the year that Thomas Edison invented the phonograph, which played back sound from a rotating cylinder. When the cylinders were packaged and made available to the public, the medium was dubbed “canned music” by consumers. Later, in the early days of television, canned music became the term used for recorded music being used in favor of live sound while artists pretended to be performing their music. Out of this, a new technique grew, called lip-syncing.

The reason for this had nothing to do with artists being incapable of performing live. For the first time in history, performers were being seen by millions of people at once, thus raising the stakes of live performance to previously unknown levels. The fewer things that tempted fate or Murphy’s Law, the less opportunities there were to look foolish in front of millions and have it immortalized on tape for generations to come. Today, Karaoke tracks could be considered canned music, while lip-syncing is a very necessary evil for dance-heavy performances.

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