There has been and likely will be a lot of debate over what is going on in the karaoke industry and how the manufacturers are dealing with piracy. Now that I have gone through the “certification” process with the “Big 3” U.S. Manufacturers, I thought I would post my experience.
There is a lot of speculation, guess-work, and flat out incorrect information out there. I want to attempt to clear some of it up.
I also want to try to help those that are on the fence about what to do, to take a real life experience from someone that has been through it, and use that in making up their mind about what to do.
Finally, I specifically think Sound Choice in particular takes a lot of grief for their aggressive pursuit of rooting out illegal activity. This gets perpetuated by the beating they take from those that really have no true personal experience with the process. In spite of my own personal opinion about HOW they go about doing what the do, I absolutely support WHY they do it.
These ratings are based on the process of getting audited/certified/compliant with each respected manufacturer. 10 = fantastical / 1 = you just received a ziploc full of dog poo from your ex.
Stellar Records/PHM (3 out of 10) – For a company that is producing regular content, doesn’t seem to be actively pursuing pirates and stays very much out of the limelight, I expected these folks to be the easiest to work with. In reality, it took 6 months, a complaint to the Better Business Bureau (which I later withdrew), and consultation with a lawyer to get them to send me my certificates/license information. That is 6 months AFTER I paid $3200 in full, up front. Not to mention the particularly un-professional email volleys I received from their company president. Keep in mind, that they don’t audit, they don’t ask for a Skype call, pictures, or any other information that can’t be produced with in a few minutes. All they really had to do was generate some documentation, print it, mail it. It seems to me they had the easiest job of all three. But it was an experience that really set the stage for how I planned to deal with CB and SC. (I need to be clear that I am still a Stellar customer. I still get their monthly updates and I hope they change the way the deal with people that come to them of their own accord). Tony Walstra is a good guy in my book as are the billing and shipping folks. Their CEO is another matter. He is primary reason they are rated so low.
Chartbuster (7 out of 10) – Amazingly better than what I expected after the previous experience. I do feel I had to keep the ball rolling and if I had not, it would have taken longer. But everyone I dealt with was nice, kind, courteous. It took 2 months from date of full payment, up front, until we wrapped things up. Some of that delay was due to the holidays. Also, no audit since I was auto-certified with the purchase of the 12000+ drive. They had to serialize the drive, ship it, ship out some physical discs, create, print, mail certs and get me up on their web site. Much more work than Stellar. Greg Taylor was the sales guy I had the most contact with. I spoke to a few others on phone calls but I don’t recall their names.All of the Chartbuster folks were great to work with.
Sound Choice (8 out of 10) – The only thing holding them from a 9 is that we aren’t 100% yet. The score is partly influenced higher because I had very low expectations going in due to my Stellar experience and all the FUD that circulates about Sound Choice. I am still waiting to get posted to the Certified KJ site and to receive my certificates and banner. But we just performed the actual audit 5 days ago. We started the paperwork process less than 30 days ago, had to schedule an audit (in-person), and perform the audit. Sound Choice had the most work to do and has been the most prompt and responsive. Kurt Slep, the man framed by some as the scourge of the karaoke industry, has been responsive, and cordial. He even connected me with someone for a project I have been thinking about for a while. I suspect we will have everything buttoned up in 7-10 days max. Interestingly, they forgot to even charge me for my audit beforehand so I called them to settle up. Also good people. Chris Emrie is great, as are a few others that have been in emails threads.
The interesting thing is that the company (Sound Choice) that the most people are up in arms about and so afraid of, is the company that I (and others it seems) have had a very comfortable experience with. I think they have a very, very bad rep that is perpetuated by some very negative people. I have to admit that I was very skittish and skeptical about dealing with Sound Choice. But I have enjoyed – yes…enjoyed – it the most.
I met with the Sound Choice auditor on Friday, February 17th and went through my Sound Choice collection. Embarrassingly enough, I had 10 high quality labeled fakes in my collection of ~400 Sound Choice discs. Those discs were pulled from the collection and I deleted them from my digital library.
We also found a couple of discs that I missed during the ripping process so I actually added some new material to the library as a result of the audit.
Although I don’t have the official paperwork yet, the auditor gave me the thumbs up and notified Sound Choice that I am compliant.
I don’t know for certain, but I believe this make me the only karaoke host in the state of Washington that is certified with the “Big 3” – Stellar Records/Pop-Hits Monthly, Chartbuster, and Sound Choice.
I should have the final paperwork soon and will do a final update on Sound Choice once I have it in hand.
Looks like we will be able to wrap up my certifications with the Big 3 soon. This Friday at 5pm, I will have an on-site audit performed by an independent auditor contracted by Sound Choice. I am anxious to be done with it and move on to focusing on expanding my business.
I will post here again Friday evening after everything is squared away.
No Update Really.
10 Days since I sent the paperwork and nothing is planned. I am not sweating it too much because we may be doing an in-person audit and that may take some additional coordination.
Kurt Slep and others at Sound Choice have stayed in contact so I am happy about that part of it.
Anxious to get it done while trying to remain patient.
I just faxed my audit paperwork over to Sound Choice. I will document the process here as usual.