A request for the singers….Posted: March 8, 2013
I know singers generally don’t care that much about the source of a KJ’s music. As long as we have what a singer wants to sing, they are happy. But did you know that karaoke music is the single largest expense for a legitimate karaoke host? The sound and lights are miniscule compared to legally acquiring the music it takes to provide a broad selection of desirable tracks.
The retail cost for buying a single karaoke track runs about $2.00 (and sometimes more) per song. To buy a full disc of tracks that contains 10-15 songs can cost a KJ between $10 and $30 dollars depending on the vendor we buy from.
That is for new music. For older music, we can get much of the cheaper buy buying old karaoke discs on eBay, through Craigslist, or from other KJ’s that are downsizing or getting out of the business. All of these means of acquiring karaoke music are perfectly legal so long as what is being bought and sold are the original manufacturers discs or storage media. Buying karaoke on a loaded hard drive, USB memory sticks, burned CD’s and DVD’s is illegal. However, even the buying the music legally in the after market can costs thousands of dollars. And we still have to buy new requested music at current day retail pricing to satisfy our singers.
Because the cost of music is so high, some KJ’s cut corners by illegally downloading karaoke music from various sites on the Internet. They buy (and sometimes sell) loaded hard drives that have literally 200,000+ karaoke songs on then for as little as $250 dollars. Much of the karaoke music on these drives was produced many, many years ago and only by certain vendors. Pioneer was famous for the LaserDisc karaoke videos that show the videos in the back ground. Those laserdiscs sold for up to $180 a piece back in the early 90’s and some of them only had 8 songs on them! If we just simplify the math and say every karaoke song costs only .50 cents, that would mean the 200,000 tracks on those hard drives should be selling for $100,000. As they say, if the deal sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.
It isn’t easy for anyone to tell if a host is legally acquiring their music these days. Most hosts (including my company) buy new music in MP3+G format and have “ripped” or otherwise converted older karaoke music to a format that we can play with a computer. There are lots of benefits from doing this –
It’s a lot easier to carry a laptop and maybe an external hard drive than it is to manage one or more disc players and carry hundreds if not thousands of discs around to every show.
Discs get damaged, lost, stolen pretty easily. In the case of the old Pioneer LaserDiscs and many other defunct manufacturers, that music is not replaceable in any form (unless it is pirated).
Computerized systems are easier to back up and restore too. Many hosts carry a spare laptop in case their primary fails allowing the shows to go on. Even if we don’t have a spare, we can sometime borrow a laptop or even run to a store to buy one. Karaoke disc players are a bit more specialized so having an on hand spare is a requirement.
So what you will see is that even though computers and technology have made it much simpler and convenient for legal hosts to run their shows, it also has made it very easy for unscrupulous karaoke hosts to do the same. These hosts can get started and maintain operations in the industry for a fraction of the cost that a legitimate host can. In some cases, because the pirate hosts have significantly lower overhead, they can undercut a legitimate host and drive them out of a show by offering the venue a discounted price. This puts a lot of pressure on honest, hardworking host to stay competitive. Speaking only for myself, I cannot compete with a host that is willing to work for $50/night and a bar tab. I can’t even compete against someone that charges twice that. Anyone that can work for that kind of rate does not have the same kind of investment in their equipment and music that legitimate hosts do. It just isn’t possible.
I would like to encourage karaoke singers, particularly those in my area of Seattle, to support karaoke hosts that actually paid for all of their music. It can be an uncomfortable thing to ask a karaoke host if they actually pay for their music. Hosts that do should not be offended by this question. In fact, they should be happy to prove anyway they can that they have paid for all of the karaoke music they use at their events. Again, speaking for my company only, I am happy to show not only the original discs I have stored at home, but the certifications I have received from several karaoke manufactures demonstrating that I am in compliance.
Please….. support honest, hardworking, legal karaoke companies and hosts. In my experience you will find that these hosts are dedicated to what they do, treat their singers with respect, and support the industry by supporting the artists and karaoke song manufacturers that give us the great songs we get to sing.