State of the Karaoke Nation by Ron Ralph

August 1, 2008 by Mobile Beat Staff Writer

It’s a roller coaster ride, but the big sing-along continuesKaraoke has been a mainstay for bars, nightclubs, private parties and other special events since the 1980s. At one point it seemed like karaoke was available at nearly every nightspot in Anytown, USA. But lately, it seems like the Karaoke flame is dimming. So what in the world is going on in the Karaoke Nation?

Musical Migration

According to Toni Roberts, a representative from Chartbuster Karaoke, there are many changes going on in the karaoke industry. With record sales of karaoke players for home use, the bulk CD+G purchases has clearly shifted from KJs to the end user at home. People are staying home and hosting their own parties rather than going to bars.

With fewer people going out to sing, bar owners have resorted to alternative entertainment such as Bar Bingo, Texas Hold ‘Em, and video game competitions with games such as Rock Band, Dance, Dance Revolution, and Guitar Hero. Some have gone back to having a live band or DJ, while some have added an “internet jukebox” rather than pay for outside entertainment.

Chartbuster has recognized the shift and is preparing for the future. They are doing away with the 15-song instrumental Pop and Country Hits format and going to a 10+10 multiplex format. They are also releasing a One-Hit Wonders pack soon, and have completely upgraded their studios for the digital age.

Show Me Your License

There have been fewer cd+gs produced lately because of copyright and licensing issues. According to Chris Emrie of Sound Choice, the old policy was “Record Now, License Later.” However, that caused problems. Now manufacturers must apply for a license to record before the recording takes place. It could take up to 120 days or longer for approval from the record labels, which delays releases of CD+Gs. Sony has sued a number of manufacturers for copyright infringements, causing a few karaoke labels to shut their doors for good. In the end, there may only be four or five karaoke labels to choose from.

Assault on Sales

Even with the rise in popularity of home-based karaoke, according to ProSing, Sound Choice, Chartbuster, and Ace Karaoke, sales of CD+Gs are down drastically from a few years ago. They all stated that illegal file sharing, bootlegging, illegally copied hard drives being sold on eBay, and pirated discs, along with the state of the economy, have all hurt the sales of karaoke CD+Gs. Their legal teams are shutting down illegal websites daily, but as soon as one is shut down, another pops up. Until these sites are shut down for good, sales will continue to drop.

“With the decline in sales, it means less revenue for the manufacturers. With sluggish sales, it makes it hard to justify the cost of producing a CD+G, even with the proper licensing”, laments Emrie. But, he says Sound Choice is here to stay and is preparing for changes just like other manufacturers.

Karaoke Roller Coaster

I spoke with various DJs and KJs as I was gathering information to write this article. Some stated that karaoke has completely died out in their neck of the woods, while others reported that karaoke is as strong as ever. Some noted a shift from performing in bars to just offering karaoke at private events. Some KJs are still using CD+Gs, while some have gone completely digital. Some also observed that karaoke is more popular during the warmer months rather than the colder ones.

There will still be many changes in store for karaoke in the future; but I also feel that karaoke is here to stay. For those of us that offer it, we just need to hang on through the ups and downs-just like on your favorite roller coaster ride!

Ron Ralph is the owner and operator of A DJ To Go in Pensacola, with well over 15 years of experience as a mobile entertainer. He has performed at over 2,400 events. Ron served for 11 years in the US Army and also holds a BA in Elementary Education. Karaoke is a major component of his entertainment business.

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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: Issues from 2008, Performing