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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

New Law Restricts Stars Who Lip-Sync

Their lips are moving, but perhaps not at the precise tempo of the record player backstage. They can't - and don't - really sing, and their voices crackle out of tune without the crutches of technology.

These famous lip-syncing pop stars lost a long-standing battle with dissatisfied consumers this week when the State Duma passed a bill forcing them to go public with their secret, that they're all image and zero talent.

Fans have been complaining they've been spending a lot of money on tickets for so-called live concerts only to hear music they can get at home. And Duma deputies agreed that if it's glamour and glitter musicians are selling, then it's glamour and glitter they'll advertise - not music.

The lower house of parliament passed an amendment to article 10 of the law on consumer rights, giving the consumer legal recourse, in the form of returned ticket money and fines paid by the producer or agent, against what Duma deputies say is an increasingly illegitimate show-business market.

Under the new law, show-business managers are obligated to print on all concert posters and tickets a warning that the musicians will not actually be singing, but moving their lips to the sound of their technologically boosted compact disc.

For groups like Strelki - Russia's attempt to duplicate the Spice Girls - dance-pop group Na Na and the long-haired, always bare-chested pop sensation Valery Leontiev, who are most often accused of not even singing on their own albums, this new law could deal a fatal blow to their business.

The idea was originally proposed in 1997 by deputy chairman of the Duma's culture committee, Mikhail Men, who was responding to consumer complaints and a letter from a group of entertainers who said lip-syncing was causing "irreversible damage to Russia's professional musicians."

"There are some people who just can't sing. They have to use doubles, and their voices wobble," Men told The Moscow Times in 1997.

The Duma decided Wednesday that he was right.

"The amendment must undermine the working methods of our heavily deformed show-business market," Duma Deputy Pyotr Shchelishch was quoted by the newspaper Vedomosti as saying in an interview Wednesday.

Those who are riding the waves of stardom on the lip-syncing ticket were special creations of big producers, said Vladimir Rashchenikov, head of Mosfilm's MosTone music recording studio. "Groups like Strelki," he said, "were sought out by producers looking for models to promote their pop ditties.

"Sometimes technical problems - like outdoor concerts, for instance - make it impossible to give a totally live show. But at least they could sing along with the record player, or do something," he said.

And many remember one of Valery Leontiev's most embarrassing lip-syncing moments. When "singing" at an Alla Pugachyova birthday concert, he was challenged with a defective tape. Russian Playboy editor Artyom Troitsky who attended the 1997 bash recalled the scene: "He stood there completely disarmed. He didn't know what to do."

Not all of Russia's pop stars sink this low, however. Rashchenikov said beloved pop diva Alla Pugachyova and her husband Filipp Kirkorov do all their own singing.

After the crisis, he said, big-name producers no longer had the money to commercialize their talent. "An interesting thing happened then," Rashchenikov said. "New groups, with no money, started popping up, and it was music they were interested in, not image.

"New musicians like Valeria and Zemfira are very talented and professional, and need no help from the studio," he said.

Russian music fans are not the only ones to have been taken for a ride at lip-syncing concerts. It's a worldwide phenomenon that keeps growing along with technological advances.

The 1980s dance-pop group Milli Vanilli is perhaps the most notorious example.

Singer-song-producer Frank Fabian, the creator of Eurodance sensation Boney M, sought out two handsome, yet talentless men to lip-sync to his songs. Milli Vanilli was an instant smash, selling millions of albums and winning a Best New Group Grammy.

Later, Fabian went public, revealing that the group didn't even sing on their records, let alone in concert. The incident created an uproar that made them the enemies of scorned fans and critics everywhere. Their Grammy was quickly revoked, and the group ceased to exist - another consumer victory.

Some experts have their doubts that the new Russian law will be effective. Alexander Tikhonov, an expert from Intermedia agency, told Vedomosti that these groups will do everything in their power to hide evidence they are not really creating their own music.

Tikhonov also pointed to flaws in the amendment saying that the information that "someone is using a record player at a concert can be written so tiny that it's not even possible to read."

The amendments to the law on protecting consumer rights must be approved by the upper house of parliament and signed by President Boris Yeltsin before being enacted. The Duma expects the law to be signed by Yeltsin and implemented by New Year's.