Why is Piracy a problem for Karaoke?

Hey everyone! Before getting started, I am new to this blog and new to blogging altogether so please bear with me.

US Karaoke Alliance offers KJS resources to improve their business and advertising.

US Karaoke Alliance offers KJ's resources to improve their business and advertising.

I am Eric Godfrey,  President of the US Karaoke Alliance www.USKaraokeAlliance.com. I am owner of Starz Entertainment, (www.StarzEntertainment.net) and Starz Karaoke (www.StarzKaraoke.com). We do about 600 to 700 Karaoke shows per year in bars and clubs and about 50 more private shows.

We are going to be addressing all issues Karaoke on this blog and will deal with any aspects you want to deal with. So all that said let’s touch on this topic which is Why is Piracy a problem for Karaoke?

With the development of computer technology, copying of discs was available then later ripping of songs and playing of songs from hard drives. I am an advocate of this as a trained computer engineer. There are many benefits to hosting with digital Karaoke files and that will be another blog topic up later today.

Problem is this… in addition to copying of Karaoke discs, the technology has allowed easy copying of Karaoke files and those have been put up on peer sharing technologies like RealmWorld which advertised by KaraokeInfo and has allowed people to download massive collections which they have used Ebay, Craigslist and a host of other sites to sell content they downloaded illegally with no costs at all.

We run 3 bar systems and 1 private system and since 1998 we have spent over $140,000 on Karaoke music. I can not compete with someone who obtains all their music at no cost and is using untrained hosts on home quality Karaoke systems for the price of a bar tab. That is my side of the problem.

The music industry gives little or no respect to Karaoke and Karaoke technology has never been specifically addressed in any legislation. Therefore contracts and agreements have been loosely based on the US Copyright Law and many disagreements have resulted. The record companies have not gone after small disc companies who are totally infringing on copyrights and paying nothing in artists and publisher commissions… They have gone after the larger companies that are trying to do it right and make ends meet. So all of the major companies have been getting sued and buried in legal fees and settlement fees while the worst of the infringers march on.

End result of all of this… Major companies like NuTech, Music Maestro, DK, Priddis, Legends, and Pioneer are now gone… They are out of business. Top Hits Monthly went out of business with several other companies that were putting out discs, but never did it legally. Reasons vary, but end result, they are all gone! The only remaining companies that are doing it right and paying fees in accordance with the existing system are Pop Hits Monthly (Stellar), Chartbuster, Sound Choice, Disney, All-Star (makers of most of the brands you see at Wal-Marts and other chain retailers), and Sound Choice. All of these companies have watched fees go up, legal costs sky-rocket, and sales go down as more and more of their music is being shared and copied instead of purchased. All of them have extremely questionable futures and even these companies that were once extremely successful have cut back to the bone and are still watching revenues drop to nothing.

Why is all of this a problem? Do you love to sing songs, like I do? Do you enjoy having your favorite versions of songs? Do you share my desire to do things the right way and do it legally while making sure artists are compensated? If you said yes to any of these questions, you must realize if these companies go under, where are your new Karaoke songs going to come from? What quality will they be? The cost of putting out a legal Karaoke disc with 10 to 12 tracks is somewhere in the neighborhood of $8,000 to $12,000. 15 song discs can run up to about $20,000. This is including licensing fees, sync fees, administrative documentation fees, production costs, etc. It is NOT including overhead of the company, costs of the disc production and distribution. So, if they go out of business will anyone be putting out any legal music or is the entire industry doing to go underground and be the land of computer geek, hackers and file sharers using illegal content? Meanwhile, legitimate Karaoke hosting companies are going under because they can not support paying for music, properly trained hosts and professional equipment because of extremley low cost competition by the the myriad of people doing shows with no costs in exchange for beer money.

We all need to come together and work together or the Karaoke world we love is going to go away.

Folks, I apologize for the bleak first post, but I want everyone to understand the dire situation we are in… This is all written from my personal perspective and from my opinion…   Any companies mentioned are from my memory and any omissions are not intentional.

All that said; go to USKaraokeAlliance.com if you want to get involved in the effort to fix these problems before it is too late!  Look forward to hearing from all of you and chatting at Mobile Beat in Las Vegas!



  1. Excellent post, Eric. Our company regulary produces tracks for a karaoke and accompaniment record label that does things legitimately, and, like you said, the landscape is rough. Illegal copying and sharing kills album sales, and licensing spats are driving up costs for everyone. The average consumer, however, only cares about one thing — getting as much product as possible for as little as possible.

    It’s doubtful that any kind of DRM or anti-piracy scheme is going to help the situation (as we’ve seen with Sony and iTunes), and is probably not worth the cost involved. You’ll probably wind up seeing machines and software that can get by that stuff too, which means the DRM/copy protection will have to change with each album to adequately frustrate file-sharers. Maybe karaoke discs will need to be activated with some sort of serial number copy protection, like software companies do. But can karaoke producers afford it? From a production perspective, perhaps we’ll see karaoke labels start to supplement their income by incorporating advertising into the on-screen lyrics… now THERE’s an idea — and probably an easy pitch to beer and soft-drink companies, too.

  2. From the KJ host perspective, Eric, the decision to go or not go digital is indeed obscured by myth, fiction and rumor. Of these remaining companies, can you find out who supports the digital wave, and who does not? It would be refreshing to have some candor. If for example, Soundchoice and chartbusters came out and stated that they have no problems with a one for one copy of a legally purchased disc, I think I would be moved to initiate that. I also believe it would clear the air one and for all.

    And thanks for an excellent post on this subject. I think we all want clarity. Perhaps in this year of change, we may get it in our own world.


  3. Hey guys, thanks for the responses!

    I’ll get another post up here in the next few hours, but the honest and straight forward answer to issues posed mostly by Bill is that there is no straight forward answer. I’ll get another post up shortly to explain my mysterious jaded response!

  4. Well said Eric,

    I have tried to educate the regulars on my email list. To let them know, there could be a SERIOUS lack of music, much less quality music coming out in the future.

    They don’t care. As long as they can go to a local show and sing what they wanna sing. They DO NOT CARE !!!

    I have even told one of my account owners of the results of piracy, to the reply of “I don’t care” ( mostly because he’s clueless, but he really doesn’t care either).
    He has another company there on other nights than mine. How I have been able to maintain a regular night there is a small miracle.

    They DO NOT CARE !!!

    I have counted the “systems” in my area that were created from TWO KJS’ combined libraries. At last count it was over 30. Based on my library costing over $50k over 16 years. Their combined piracy total = 1.5 MILLION dollars !!! Just in my local area.

    One company alone has approx. 50 shows per month.

    Plus they all have more music than me.

    We know the pirates DO NOT CARE!!!

    There are MANY others ( besides the 30) in this area too !!!

    One potentail client was only concerned with wether or not I had a computer system or not. Tried to explain, but no luck.

    Until LOTS of pirates are held accountable AND prosecuted in a HUGE way, I am afraid it is WAY too late to get a grip on this problem.

    The only ppl who DO care are the people who actually have a sense or morality and have invested in their legitimate businesses, and those who are suffereing in other ways because of piracy, like the makers.

    I can only hope things will change. I honestly believe it is beyond control. I’m afraid it would be like spitting in the ocean, trying to make this industry legit.

    Sorry to be so pessimistic but it is what I believe.

    If club owners can be held responsible for the legitimacy of their entertainment, then we might see some change.


    I THINK there may be laws in Liquor licenses that state that an establishment is responsible for running their entire business in a legal way, not just liquor sales.
    Just a thought.

    Prob varies widely from state to state.

    Lee Mc.

  5. i have 7 bars here in Lakeland doing nothing but running karaoke on a computer system. and didn’t pay for one song, and thay don’t even have books just tell them what you want to sing I need to know how to go about turning them in, I have over $20,000 worth of music, even the entire pioner disk collection. Been doing this since 1988. I have a computer system i run, but my music is brought and paid for. and still buying them of a karaoke site. you may e-mail me of phone me at Tom 863-944-3157

  6. Interesting says:

    And here’s the other side of the coin. While stomping feet about the fairness to the karaoke music producers and the whole future of karaoke in general, you got this greedy person:


    Granted, no way in hell will they get their $2,000 price for this (because it’s just laughable) but I’m enjoying the way this set is being presented for sale — under ‘threat’ of the KIAA beginning crackdowns next month. LOL

  7. I have purchased over $4 thousand dollars of karaoke. Several people around here has downloaded thousands of songs and are making money hands over fist. And if you want them to make a disk for you they will. They know no one is going to say anything about it. One is playing at a mexican resturant for $80. per night. And he is working at Jack in The Box and Wendys. All CD’s are copied over the internet.

  8. I am KJ in Virginia for 15 years. I have bought and paid for every disc I use, and work my butt off to do 5 or 6 shows a week. I have quite an investment with 25,000 songs, yet I’m getting put out of business by a company that has been around 3 years and have copied all their songs from the internet, duplicated hard drives, and run 50 shows a week. I have reported this illegal activity to KIAA and KAPA, yet it still goes on. We need some serious law enforcement help to stay in business, but no one seems to care.

  9. Great Post!
    I agree with Doug! I am a KJ in Massachusetts for over 15 years doing 12 shows with 4 D.J’s a week. I have invested over $90k in Karaoke Music alone! (And I have the credit card debt to prove it!!!!) I have 3 different libraries of karaoke and I too have been getting squeezed by all these karaoke shows who are using illegal hard drives and have over 150k songs! I get all these people at my shows asking why I don’t have this song or that song (cuz the other guys do!) I am upset and though I keep hearing that KIAA and KAPA are supposed to be doing something to protect guys like me nothing happens!!!!!! Wish someone would do something to help honest dj’s like us! All you have to do is bust 1 or 2 of these people in each state and I am sure this issue would clear up FAST!

  10. Amen to all those that agree to buy your own music to play at your shows. I myself have spent $$ on my karaoke discs and see computer driven shows that the songs are not purchased. That is the rumor on these shows (From good sources). I have no problem with anyone who buys their own discs and puts them on their computer and runs their shows. What do you do carry around 3 to 4 thousand discs if you have that many. No, you buy the disc and run off your computer. Sorry but modern technology is here folks. There are KJ’s that have had their discs stolen, burned up in fires in clubs and so forth and taking the risk of losing these discs that are not even buyable anymore is the problem. You can say “Don’t do karaoke then”, but that I think is the wrong way to look at it in my opinion. I will always buy the disc before it makes it to my computer. What does it cost to have a clear mind. The cost of a disc supports the ones who manufacture them, PERIOD! I’ve witnessed older folks who love to do karaoke and buy their own discs and run from their computer. It’s because they can’t haul all 3 to 4 thousand discs around. So if they stop letting KJ’s run from computer that will really be a let down. I’ve seen some of the best shows ran from PC (Not knocking those who use their discs) as the singers love it and it’s alot easier to do. BUY YOUR OWN DISCS TO RUN YOUR SHOWS HOW YOU PREFER TO DO, BY ACTUALLY USING THE DISCS OR DOWNLOADING AND RUNNING OFF YOUR COMPUTER AND LETS MAKE LAW TO DO SO AND CONVICT, FINE AND JAIL THE ONES WHO DON”T, PERIOD END OF STORY. That will be a start. Why is that so difficult. Govern it right and it won’t eliminate it but it will sure stop alot of it.

  11. HELP!!! HELP!! My KJ business is dying thanks to all the low life pirate scum!!!

  12. Thank God Sound Choice is busting more people in Virginia! I hope Chartbuster and Stellar joins in and bust the same people to put them out of business for good!

  13. Hi, and my thanks to all of you who dedicate some of your valuable time to ending the biggest problem destroying our industry…the dreaded Karaoke Pirates.

    First, allow me to say, that if I joined every “organization” asking for my support, I’d go broke!!!

    I purchased my music DIRECTLY from the Manufacturers or their official representatives, therefore every song is Licensed, and not just audited with a promise not sue…if I continue to purchase this way (and I intend to) there will never be a need to have my collection audited and I cannot be sued.

    The important thing is to EDUCATE the Venues about Piracy, and how piracy will eventually kill Karaoke as entertainment in THEIR clubs! If the Venues understand that they are helping to end a type of entertainment that puts money in their pockets, they would be more likely only hire legitimate karaoke companies. People are not stupid (well, most anyway) and if they are made to understand that they are killing the proverbial “Goose that laid the Golden Egg” they WILL stop!

    Well this is my opinion, for what it’s worth.

  14. Very well said. I have to admit I got my start working with a friend and we would take turns buying the next great set of karaoke. We would then each own half the library and have copies of each others music. It wasn’t long before I said this isn’t right and its not the business model I want to follow. My karaoke has since grown in terms of legal songs and the stuff I didn’t have original cd’s for was removed from the system. I have tried to talk to other venues and dj’s and the comments are always the same. It won’t happen to me, their only looking for the distributor of karaoke piracy, they don’t care about the little guy, etc… the excuses are endless. I’ve also taken quite a bit of heat for pushing this aspect in my advertising because in my area I am the only one who can claim to be 100% legal! I actively report all the online sales I see advertising hard drives with all the latest music for just $199. I report the clubs and djs therein as well. I’m done with the cut throats working for $50 and a bar tab! More info on my web site: http://www.djbrianc.us

    Thanks for listening!

  15. I’m one of those ‘nerds’ who actually owns the physical media for all of my karaoke AND music (I play it via the computer, since back issues preclude carrying extra stuff, but I do own the physical media). I think part of the problem is that these KJ’s don’t care, probably because they don’t consider the future. There simply won’t be enough money for the karaoke producers to… produce.
    Any (non-karaoke) DJ knows that playing pirated music (non-karaoke) won’t get them in trouble, since they essentially are marketing the music to the public, thus helping out the record company. When I worked in radio, a had a fellow from a record company explain that this is true in so many words. Still, as I said, I actually pay for my own music (go RPM Top Hits!).
    Of course, there’s really no comparing the two (recorded music on one hand, and karaoke music on the other). It’s a question of market. While the record companies do, in fact, extract some benefit by having their music played by DJ’s and stations across the country, that’s only because their primary market are the people who are the *guests/listeners*.
    There is no such benefit for the producers of karaoke content. After all, their primary market is not the guests, but the karaoke *hosts* themselves.
    As for a solution to the situation, I’m afraid the outlook seems bleak. If I tell a client that I have over 20k karaoke songs, and my competition tells the same client that they have 100k karaoke songs, the client couldn’t care less that I bought and paid for the music. It simply doesn’t concern them, the only difference to them is 80k more songs that the other guy has.
    I suspect the eventual long-term solution, for all music, karaoke, video, etc. will be subscription-based. It’s a bummer to those of us who have a large physical collection, but it’s makes sense. Once approximately all (and I mean very nearly ALL) content is available and updated via subscription, two things will occur. (1)piracy would become far less appealing, and (2)it would become far easier to verify the subscription then to “audit” people’s collections. It also becomes possible at that point, for once, that those of us who pay (for a subscription) will always have the very latest content available by request, while the pirates will be constantly playing catch-up.

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