Dancing with the Stars smartly drops its live band

The live Dancing with the Stars band that has mangled so many songs over the show’s 17-season history has been fired along with its director, and will be replaced by pre-recorded music and some unknown configuration of live musicians. The ABC series began using pre-recorded music last season, which helped improve the show significantly.

In a statement, ABC and the show’s producers, BBC Worldwide Productions, said the predictable thing that companies say when they fire someone: They called Harold Wheeler “our talented music director” and said “Harold and his band have performed brilliant music in our ballroom for our dancers and the American viewers at home.”

American Federation of Musicians International said in a press release that “the group will be replaced with pre-existing sound recordings and a ‘small electric band’ to ‘attract a younger demographic.’”

The AFM is not happy about this, and its president Ray Hair said in the release that “People who love Dancing with the Stars also love the superb performances of the orchestra because it is such an integral part of the show. The tight, elaborate musical productions that catapulted the show into the top 10 in 17 countries can’t be duplicated by recordings and a small combo.”

No, sir, they can be improved upon with recordings. The band has always been one of Dancing with the Stars‘ weakest links. I don’t think it’s necessarily a reflection of Harold Wheeler or the band’s talent; they were often asked to do something extraordinarily difficult, which is duplicate popular songs in during a live performance, and it’s not surprising that the results rarely sounded good.

Executive producer Conrad Green said exactly that to THR: A lot of music “is so produced that it’s impossible for an 18-piece band to replicate that sound. You get to a point where you’re forcing a band to try and do sound that they just literally can’t pull off,” he said. “What’s the point in forcing a band to try to do something that’s impossible to achieve?”

Update, 9 p.m. ET: After criticism and consideration, I modified the headline. While it is true that the band was fired, I did not intend to celebrate people losing their jobs. Instead, as I wrote, I do think it’s a smart creative decision that will benefit the show, and it’s unfortunate that means some people no longer have jobs.

about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.