Introduction to Karaoke By: Bill Smith

April 8, 2008 by Mobile Beat Staff Writer

So, you want be a Karaoke DJ? Well, before you can do that, it is helpful to have a place to start. If you are already an established DJ, adding Karaoke is not a great stretch, because you already have many of the components needed, such as your public address system and organizational skills won over the years from experience and advice from others. Lets talk about the personal aspects and expense, and equipment.
PROS and CONS: The personal sideFirst, are you suited to doing Karaoke shows? What does it take?

You still need to have the same skills of “emceeing” needed to keep a show rolling. You still have to talk, and in fact, talk more. The pace of Karaoke is MUCH slower than a regular DJ gig at a club. You need to be able to be a facilitator, and relegate yourself to not always being the center of attention, for as I say at all my shows ” it’s not about me singing, it’s all about you singing”. If you cant, accept the fact that you are not going to be the center of the universe, you will most likely not be happy doing Karaoke.

It is very helpful if you can sing.

Knowing how to carry a tune also allows you to help other singers out if they falter or ask you for help.

You also need to be patient.

No matter what happens, you can’t lose your temper. It is bad business. Know that you will not always have control over the pace of the show despite your best efforts. Singers who have had too much will not get up to the stage in a meaningfully rapid fashion.

Equipment selection:

KJ’s also uses many of the same components you use to DJ. For example, you still need to buy public address speakers, a quality Amplifier, a mixing board, microphones, road cases etc. The uniqueness of Karaoke, however, demands that you select components that are designed for Karaoke. Those include the following (NOTE: I bought all new – you may be able to swing much lower prices going usedJ )

A CD+G player: Different than a CD player, these players also process graphics for the songs on the CDG discs that you will have to buy. A good player will run you between 300.00 on up.
A 13 or 19 inch color TV to display the graphics for the songs. This allows the prospective singers to see the words to the songs. Cost is $150.00 on up, and you will need a TV stand to set the TV in. That can also cost you between 100~200 dollars.
A RF modulator to take the video output of the CDG player and converts it into a signal that a TV can interpret. Cost is about $40.oo~$50.00
Mixing board – Although we mentioned this before, if you are going to do primarily Karaoke, the average 2-3 input mixing board would be inadequate to handle multiple microphones. You should get a mixing board that does both CD’s AND CDG. A crossover is also very useful. Cost – between $300.00~$600.00
CDG discs – These are the discs that have the songs on them that your singers will sing. They are much more expensive than regular CDs, and not as available in retail outlets. This is most likely the most expensive and recurrent cost that you will bear if you decide to do Karaoke. The average Karaoke CDG runs $20.00 for 15 songs. If you buy new, and decide to start out with a library of 1000 songs, that is 66 CDGs at a cost of $1200.00. Then you must keep up with the changing musical tastes of your audience.
CDGs can range in price from $37.00 a disc (Sound Choice) all the way down to $9.00 (All hits Karaoke special). Not all CDGs are made equally either. You need to research the Web and get evaluations of CDG musical arrangements so you can choose a library “that sounds just like the radio”. That is what singers are trying to recreate.

Equipment philosophy:

Rather than tell you what you should buy, I am going to provide some philosophical guidelines for you to use when selecting equipment. Where I think the best equipment is used, I will say so.

Buy for Versatility. Could you do just regular DJing from the equipment you buy?
Whether you DJ or KJ, is your sound system going to be big enough to cover the typical areas in which you may be asked to play?
Buy quality within your means to do so. Cheap is rarely best for your long-term interest in either DJing or KJing.
Buy equipment that suits both your physical abilities to move it around and set it up on a regular basis.
There are tons of people out there selling both used and new Karaoke equipment. SHOP smart, and compare. Try to always see your equipment rather than just surfing the net and mail ordering. Although this is an easy way to shop, the reality of size and weight cannot be seen on a 15-inch monitor. Look, touch, feel, lift, THEN do the Internet ordering. If you can hook up with a local dealer, that is much better than over the phone or over the Internet.
CDGs – This is the heart of your Karaoke system. These are the CDGs that you will have to buy to provide your singers something to perform from. Years ago, when I started, there were two choices for good CDG Karaoke. There was DK and Sound Choice. There are now literally hundreds of brands out there. The new fashion statement in Karaoke is the emergence of a collection of CDGs that have the most popular Karaoke songs (as researched by the companies). The most complete libraries include the DK Encore series, the Sound Choice Foundation + Bricks, Music Maestro, and loads of others. I recommend the purchase of a BASE library that gives you at least 500~1000 songs to start. A great way to supplement your library is to buy CDGs that have the Top Hits for both Country and Pop on a monthly basis.
Mixing board – If you are doing primarily Karaoke, invest in a mixing board that will switch both audio and graphics, and has at least 4~6 microphone inputs. This allows you to accommodate large groups of singers. I use the Vocopro KJ6200. It is designed to be used primarily for Karaoke, but can be used to do DJ work as well, utilizing a crossover. A board like the 6200 is advisable if Karaoke is your main gig source.
CDG Player – As far as I am concerned, Pioneer is the best brand for CDG players. The dual tray with the pitch controller and vocal eliminator is by far the best-priced player and performs night in and out. You can buy one for under $400.00 and I recommend a backup (go used for this).
Songbooks: By far the most boring and also VITAL aspect of your Karaoke biz is your song books. There are software packages out there that allow you to create a songbook online, then print it offline. Others use a Microsoft product, such as Excel or Access to enter their songs. You will constantly be updating your song books with new music, and getting reproduction companies to print off your new song lists. Then you have to buy 1-2 inch binders and sheet protectors and stuff your books. Your book is also a great advertisement billboard. In each songbook, I have a pouch with sign up slips, pens, and business cards. I also print a “logo sheet” that goes in the plastic protector of each of the books front exterior.
CONCLUSIONS and WRAPUP:

So, where do you buy this stuff? A good way to discover the world of Karaoke is to ask existing KJs in your area who they go to for equipment and CDGs. You should pick a person who has a good rep. Ask the KJs several questions about availability of hardware, service after the sale, availability of Karaoke CDGs, and how much cost shipping and handling plays in your total purchase price.

Finally, are you getting a lot of requests for Karaoke as either an Add on for your DJ service, or outright offers to do a show ? As you can see, you will spend a lot of money just to get started. Can you recoup this cost in a reasonable time frame (say a year) to justify it?

We have talked a lot about Karaoke start up costs and personal aspects of being a KJ. It is not cheap, but can be very rewarding and a lucrative add on to your existing business. You need to be friendly, accessible, and understand that you will not be the center of the universe at the show. Patience is a virtue, and is a must when doing Karaoke. Lots of luck to you if you decide to ad this into your services.

If you do Karaoke at a club, you will run into a lot of stuff, like the drunk who gets right in your face and demands to sing now, even though he is way down on the list. Some people who sign up invariably will give you a wrong number and Patsy Cline’s Crazy comes up on the screen instead of Great Whites ‘ Once bitten, Twice Shy”. You have to stop the whole show, ask the singer what they really wanted, and then find that disk. You may also run into owners who want you to play lots of dance music (like a DJ?) and then all your Karaoke people get mad at you, because Karaoke is not happening. You also must wait for the singers to come up to get their microphone. They will bang it, scream into it, drop it, and occasionally throw it. I NEVER let a singer hang out to dry without either standing behind them and singing off microphone so they catch the tune, or ask for volunteers from the audience. This practice is especially effective at a private gig where kids are involved. By doing this, you let everyone who is watching that you care about the quality of your show and that you also care about making the singers experience the best that it can be. The ability to help someone on the spot enhances your reputation as a caring committed and professional KJ. It is not a requirement, but I have found (and I have traveled all over the US from North Carolina to California, and many places in between) that the best shows are the ones where the host is an above average singer. Many Karaoke singers are much more serious than say 8-10 years ago. They want to go to shows that have a talented host who can also attract listeners as well as singers. Not everyone comes to a show to sing. They come to listen as well. I cannot count the number of times I got a booking because I sang a song to open my show and impressed someone in the audience. Being a good singer also enforces the perception that you are a professional KJ.

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Mobile Beat Staff Writer (228 Posts)

This is the general editors account for Mobile Beat Magazine and Website. Who reads Mobile Beat online and in print and attends Mobile Beat events? DJs, VJs and KJs to start with, especially those who own and operate mobile entertainment services. They provide music, video, lighting and a myriad other entertainment choices for corporate events, wedding receptions, dances and innumerable other gatherings.


Filed Under: Karaoke