Interactive Approaches for Karaoke By: Bill Smith

April 8, 2008 by Mobile Beat Staff Writer

This installment of Karaoke is going to deal with some ideas that you can use to spice up your shows, and these are good for ANY age group, demographic makeup, or group size. First off, many of the things that a DJ would use in a normal non-Karaoke show will work at a Karaoke show. Although the focus is different, and the primary goal is to get people up to sing, they still want to party and have a good time. There are several keys to successfully executing interactivity at Karaoke shows, and we will cover them here.
Karaoke vs. Dance: 


When I did clubs, I was always torn between pleasing my audience and the night club owner. The owner wanted more dance music, and the Karaoke singers wanted more Karaoke. This was a classic catch 22, because the owner never realized that the ONLY reason patrons were there WAS to sing!! However, his motivation was to get more alcohol sales AND do Karaoke. Of course, none of us have ever run into that problem have we? The way I solved that problem was to schedule 4 or 5 very intense dance sets interspersed through at least one or two full rotations of Karaoke singers. The way I used to lead this in was after my last singer at the bottom of my rotation was done was simply to slam on the Electric Slide, and follow on with some fast dance music (at least 120bpm on up) for my first set. The 2nd set I slammed on the Macarena, and followed on the same way. Use the most popular dance tunes to pack your floor, then make them sweat. They got thirsty, crowded the bar, and ordered more drinks, everyone was happy. Here’s a tip to pass on to your club owners. Ask them to put out free Tortilla Chips and salsa. Keep it going all night long, and as the night progresses, people will order more drinks, increasing the sales. Do those intense dance sets, and the combination of dry Tortilla chips and fast dance music WILL produce more sales.

Karaoke Games:

I like to use several approaches:

Scary Karaoke:

One is what I call Skaraoke, in which you announce that you have a tune loaded up, and the first singer that can answer your trivia question and bring you the right answer written on a napkin gets to sing the song. You announce that these tunes do NOT count against a singer’s regular rotation position. So if Johnny is signed up to sing a song right after these tunes, and he wins the trivia contest, he will sing twice in a space of 5-10 minutes. Of course, you load up a really silly song that is either hard to do, like “Beat It”, or load up a very well known song that someone can vamp to such as “Like a Virgin”…. Do two or three of these in a row, get the singers up, then go back to the regular rotation.

Wrong gender duets:

This is exactly like it sounds. Get the club to put up (or buy yourself) a six pack of beer in an iced bucket. Announce to the crowd exactly what you want…which is two volunteers to sing an unidentified song that is the wrong gender. (I E two guys sing “Does He Love You”, or two girls sing a Righteous Brothers tune). Give them the big warm up announcement, play the tune, and let the fun begin. Occasionally, you will get two singers that will really nail a tune and they will get a huge ovation.

Novelty songs:

Announce to the audience that you need several guys and girls to sing Love Shack. This wonderfully tacky tune attracts the mid 30’s crowd like no other tune. Go to other shows in your area to pick up tunes that really seem to get the crowd going, and are group participation songs, and use these in your shows as novelty tunes.


There are pros and cons to doing this. Unfortunately, you have some very serious Karaoke singers out there that think they should win every contest. There are still others who will load up the crowd so that even if they really can’t find the bucket, they still win with their tune due to audience acclamation (if that was how winners were determined). It gets worse the bigger the contest prize is. I am going to give you my personal insight on this topic. I know this very well from personal experience, because that is how I started as a singer. I won the Air Force’s Worldwide Entertainment award for vocal duet in 1982, beating out 3500 other individual duet teams from around the world. I had very high expectations of how I would fare in singing contests when I discovered Karaoke in 1994. Contests were a major way to attract people to bars back then.

I would go around to the clubs and enter contests and was lucky enough to have won a Bahamas Cruise, a trip to the Poconos, and several cash prizes as well. On other occasions, when I didn’t win, I would place 2nd or 3rd and was objective enough to know when I had not performed well, or simply bested by a better singer. In many instances, however, when the judging was by audience acclamation, or whenever the judges were well known locals, the best singers didn’t always win.

As a Karaoke Host, this can backfire on you, because then the singers don’t get a good impression of the Karaoke host’s show, nor do they want to revisit the venue where they ‘lost’. What really bites is that even though you didn’t participate in the judging, you still get held responsible for the outcome.

In those instances where I would travel to a location I had never been before, I expected as a singer to have a panel of judges that would be objective about the scoring. I also felt that if the judging was objective, and I sang my best, I would either win or come in 2nd or 3rd. What would often happen is that the judges were local, and knew the singers that they wanted to advance, and the “home team crowd” would raise the roof for their favorite. Here are other things to consider.

Pros –

Increased attendance
The opportunity to hold a contest on a night where you might normally not play (Money)
Promote your show
Increased exposure
Less of the “when do I get to sing” question from the audience
Much easier show to “run”

Figuring out the fairest way to judge the singers (picking a true winner)
Getting qualified judges who are impartial
Providing or arranging adequate prizes to attract participants
Dealing with disgruntled or angry performers who did not win

Many of the DJ tricks you use for weddings and other events work well in Karaoke shows. Here are several:

Limbo contest
Conga line (watch your night club owner have a STROKE as you tell the line to LEAVE the restaurant or bar and go outside, then come back in)
Hokey Pokey – As corny as it sounds, this does work, although you will need to read the crowd first.
Pass the hula hoop
And the list goes on. For a complete list of Games you could pick from, go check out DJU. We just added a whole bunch of new games.


We have presented several topics here in “Intermediate Karaoke”. These topics were designed to give you food for thought and an honest forthright approach in helping you decide if you want to add on Karaoke, or spice up your existing Karaoke shows. Remember to do two things:

Never do the same thing week after week. Repetition is boring. Keep it lively, and do something different every week
When you sing, as the Karaoke host, give it everything you’ve got. If you can’t sing, or don’t want to sing, cultivate relationships with the “regulars”, and spotlight a different regular each week, and introduce them, and let them do the singing for you.
I hope that you found this article informative, stimulating, and provoking. IF you have any questions, email me at

Happy Karaoking!!
Bill Smith




Mobile Beat Staff Writer (371 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 Jockey Tips