As a karaoke host, one of my many responsibilities it locating fresh, relevant music as well as finding the classics that people want to sing to. I have invested a lot of money is karaoke music for my company. It is the single biggest expense up front and on a monthly basis for my business.
When I first started, I needed to quickly obtain a large amount of music to accommodate the singers. I starting searching on eBay and Craigslist and was fortunate to find some phenomenal deals on large karaoke CD+G collections between the two.
As I expanded to running multiple systems, I considered trying to duplicate everything across all systems but realized very quickly that would not be practical. There are many karaoke tracks that were only produced by one karaoke company and only on discs. Some of those discs are rare and expensive if you you do happen to find them.
About two years ago, I started buying downloads from Karaoke Version and KaraokeDownloads.ca. Even though the individual tracks and more expensive, it was still less expensive than buy a $10-$15 disc with that ONE track I needed. Not to mention, I wasn’t dealing with discs period any longer which just makes sense in this digital age.
Today, I still buy discs when I find great deals, but stick to buying downloads for newer karaoke tracks.
Here are some links to some places to find karaoke tracks (note – there are quite a few more, but I am only suggesting the ones I have used with any regularity)
This is a karaoke music search engine. It is one of the few remaining databases on the web these days. It links out to the two following sites to buy downloads –
Out of France. They produce backing tracks (no graphics) as well as full MP3+G, WMV, and MP4 versions of many popular karaoke tracks. They have a “frequent buyer” program and you can even suggest tracks to be made that then get voted on by the community. This is my go to brand.
Out of Canada. This site aggregates and distributes Sunfly, ZOOM, SBI, Abraxa and a small number of other brands. They don’t actually make tracks themselves, just distribute on behalf of the mentioned companies. Very comprehensive selection.
All three of these are out of the UK. You can sometimes find tracks on these manufacturer sites that don’t show up on KaraokeDownloads.ca – However, with the recent implementation of the “No Fly” list (will be posting on this topic soon), a small number of well known artists are no longer available for download and can now only be purchased on CD+G.
Final note – Due to the screwy copyright laws in the US, the non-US companies are “supposed” to deny access to computers with IP addresses that indicate they are physically located in the United State. In my experience, they aren’t blocking very consistently if at all. I can access, purchase and download from ALL of the above sites. KaraokeDownloads.ca is out of Canada which does not have the geo-blocking restriction so you should be able to get to that site even if you can’t get to the individual manufacturer sites.
Where do you get your karaoke music?
Two days ago, I spoke with a representative from DigiTrax (they operate KaraokeCloudPro.com) to get some clarification on the Vetted KJ program. It cleared up a few things for me, raised a couple more questions that I have since decided aren’t important, and made up my mind on what to do about certifying my Chartbuster CD+G collection.
Here is a little recap to make sure everyone is on the same page –
Chartbuster Karaoke produced karaoke CD+G’s for something close to 20 years. They also produced memory stick and hard drive based collections of their karaoke library toward the end of their life. Chartbuster ceased production early in 2012.
DigiTrax Entertainment aka The Karaoke Cloud obtained the rights to reproduce a large portion of the Chartbuster Karaoke catalog. Much of the older content that is on Karaoke Cloud is actually re-branded Chartbuster content. New releases over the past year or so are new tracks produced for Karaoke Cloud.
Piracy Recovery, LLC is responsible for protecting the copyrights and trademarks the Chartbuster Karaoke brand (and to the best of my knowledge, the Karaoke Cloud brand).
Here are the important parts of my conversation with DigiTrax –
There is an audit program available to KJ’s who have a collection of Chartbuster Discs. The audit is voluntary and has no length of term. In other words, unlike the current Sound Choice audit and the former Chartbuster Audits, both of which certified for a term of 1 year, the new audit of Chartbuster material states something like this – “On this date, xx/xx/xxxx we certify that this digital library meets 1-1 compliance with CD+G’s”.
This makes sense in my opinion because once the audit is complete, it is a matter of a few key-strokes on a computer to start downloading karaoke via Torrents, iRC, and other pirate sites. I know there are pirates out there that try to borrow discs for audits only to give them back afterwards (I was approached by a local pirate to do exactly this just after I received my Sound Choice certification). So I am perfectly fine with the change of the wording.
But, Piracy Recovery doesn’t appear to be interested in media-shifters that are 1-1 compliant (ie; those that own their discs and have a 1-1 ratio of CD+G tracks to computer based tracks). I don’t know how they confirm people are 1-1 without an audit and I think it leaves a gaping whole for pirates to leverage, but so long as they aren’t specifically targeting media-shifters, I am again fine with the policy.
This, by the way, is different from Sound Choice policy which requires you to have permission from them (usually in the form of an audit) to media-shift at all.
Ultimately, if you do decide to go through a Chartbuster Audit, you receive a “point-in-time” certification, but you do NOT become a Vetted KJ.
To become a Vetted KJ (must have a Google account to view), you have to be a subscriber to the Karaoke Cloud or the Hits of the Month cloud subscriptions. This is not a vetted KJ list as much as a public list of subscribers. It will be interesting to see if they continue to leave this list public since it gives some indication to how many subscribers they have.
This means either a $99/mo subscription to the all inclusive Karaoke Cloud (and potentially more up front costs since there are a limited number of karaoke hosting programs that work with the Karaoke Cloud Service)
Subscribing to Hits of the Month which I could not find a subscription price for. The current August Hits for Country is $14.99 for 10 tracks and another $14.99 for the August Pop/Rock/R&B collection (also 10 tracks). I can’t say definitively what the cost of subscribing to the Hits of the Month would be because I don’t know if they require you do one or the other other or both. Let’s call it somewhere between $15 and $30/mo.
I don’t particularly agree with requiring a subscription to be a Vetted KJ for two reasons –
1) The Karaoke Cloud is really only a good deal for multi-riggers (which are fewer in number than single rig hosts) and new hosts just getting into the business. Long time single rig karaoke hosts that have invested thousands of dollars in Chartbuster material on CD+G have no reason to subscribe to the Karaoke Cloud. Even newer hosts can buy Chartbuster content at bargain basement prices on eBay. They have most of not all of those tracks already on the Cloud. Not to mention those that invested thousands of dollars in the Chartbuster 600+/12000+ hard drives that were sold near the end of Chartbuster’s life. The hard drive buyers are easy to vet – our names and a serial number are printed on the drives.
My two Chartbuster 12000+ drives
2) The Hits of the Month are anything but. Personally, I spend more than $50/mo for new music by buying individual tracks. This is 1/2 or more of a Karaoke Cloud Subscription and may $20-40 more than the Hits of the Month, But I also know that I am buying exactly the requested songs and getting my money’s worth from them. The Monthly Hits subscription means you are at the mercy of the Karaoke Cloud and what they deliver each month. The music may or may not be what your audience wants to sing. I may be spending more, but every song I buy is getting sung.
So even though I own >1000 original Chartbuster Karaoke CD+G discs and own 2 Chartbuster 12000+ drives, I can’t be qualified as a Vetted KJ without signing up for music that I don’t really want or need. even if I paid for an audit of my Chartbuster Karaoke discs, I would still not be “vetted”. There are a LOT of karaoke hosts out there in my same position.
At the end of this, I currently have no plans to do an audit of my Chartbuster Discs. I just don’t see the value in doing so. The Sound Choice process protects you from legal action so long as you play by the rules -AND- in theory, has a suppressing effect on piracy of at least Sound Choice content. Doing a Chartbuster audit results only in the KJ receiving a piece of paper saying “As of this date you were A-OK but beyond that we don’t know or seem to care”. I did not ask if doing a Chartbuster disc audit provided a “covenant not to sue” or any other legal protections, but it was implied that Piracy Recovery, LLC was not interested in 1-1 compliant media-shifters, only true pirates. If that is the case, I can easily demonstrate 1-1 compliance in the unlikely event I am ever named.
So there you have it. Keep in mind that I am not an attorney or an intellectual property expert. I encourage you to speak to an attorney that work in intellectual property if you have questions.
It has been a long while now since I have posted to my blog. I keep telling myself to be more active and then something else gets in the way.
Today I ran across something that I feel deserves a little more attention.
If you were previously Chartbuster Certified and/or purchase downloads from KaraokeCloud.com – this is the outfit that enforces copyright/trademark for Chartbuster and Digitrax material.
They are filing suits against KJ’s and venues. I have not seen any action in the Northwest yet, but they appear to be actively “vetting” venues and KJ’s in some areas. They have a “Vetted KJ’s” list and I have asked them to contact me so I can find out how to go about getting “vetted”. Unfortunately, they are hosting the list on Google Docs forcing you to sign up for a Google account to view the list.
I find it a little disturbing that I have not been contacted by Piracy Recovery, LLC given how vocal I am in my local community as well as a global karaoke forum where Piracy Recovery is almost certainly monitoring posts. In fact, many other hosts I know that were formerly certified by Chartbuster through an audit or who purchased Chartbuster 6000+/12000+ are not on their list. Again, some of us a pretty vocal and I am confident they know exactly who we are.
The karaoke industry needs some positive action to take place outside of the venues where hard working hosts promote having a great time. It would seem to me that Piracy Recovery would jump through hoops to get a hold of people that are anti-piracy *and* have demonstrated their willingness to be pro-active about audits, certifications and other means of showing they are operating above board. The likes of Sound Choice and Piracy Recovery need people on their side to help temper the negative reactions that have and will encounter.
Don’t ignore the people that are on your side.
Over the years, hundreds of karaoke music companies have come and gone. Some were only around for a short while, others have been (or were) around for 20+ years. Some have made great music while others…..not so much.
My karaoke library has over 50 brands in it. Some of those brands are just rebrands of exactly the same music so there is really a fair amount of duplication. I have to admit though that there are a bunch of those brands I have never actually used or plan on using unless they have a song that doesn’t exist on any other brand.
I have my favorite brands:
Sound Choice – This is my go to brand for rock, classic rock, alternative, and most pop music from the 80’s on.
Chartbuster/Digitrax/Karaoke Cloud – Country, some pop music.
Pop Hits Monthly/Stellar Records – Rock, classic rock, alternative, urban and some pop music
Karaoke Version – New releases across all genres
Zoom/Sunfly/SBI – New releases across all genres
The other 45+ brands in my library could honestly be dumped and my singers probably wouldn’t miss them. They are there only because I acquired a bunch of discs in a package and ripped them in just in case there was a track that didn’t exist anywhere else.
Karaoke Hosts: Do you have a go to brand or brands that you use? Maybe you like a brand for a particular genre or time period of music?
Singers: Do you have favorite brands? Do you even notice the brands? Do you care?
First – My previous post – A request for the singers…. – has seen more activity than any other post I have made…. whopping 43 views. That is more than double my next highest viewed post. Thank you!
Second – It has been been brought to my attention by one (and only one reader) that what I wrote is quite possibly not what I meant. The exact accusation was this –
“What you are REALLY asking is for singers to become your business partner and personal “karaoke cops” and punish an establishment (who usually doesn’t know or care about the music source).” – Source: Another karaoke host in a Facebook forum
That isn’t what I am asking for at all. What I am asking for is for singers to care about the integrity of the hosts they support.
I do not under any circumstances feel singers should become policemen for the karaoke industry.
I know t is absolutely unrealistic for me to think that singers are going to care about anything more than a good song selection, how fast the rotation is, how easy it is to get to/from the bar, and how good the drink specials are. I have been doing karaoke for 20+ years and to this day, those are the primary factors in what karaoke bar I go to. That is just how karaoke works.
I don’t believe for a moment that my post will result in a hoard of singers asking hosts across the world “How do you get your music”?” or “Is all of your karaoke music stolen?” (I wouldn’t recommend phrasing it that way anyway…). Chances are, with only 43 views, exactly zero singers will ask a host how they have acquired their music.
Truth be told, there are some fantastic hosts with kick ass, fun, well attended karaoke shows. The only downside is they stole their music.
Should anyone care about that?
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.
….were you gone?
It has been about 8 months since I had any activity on the blog. There have been a few people stumble on the blog and left comments in that time, all of which I read when they were posted, I just didn’t have the motivation to respond.
In the past 8 months, my own karaoke journey has been quite eventful…
I lost a gig over a pay dispute. I walked away from a gig because I felt the owner didn’t understand what it took to build a karaoke show. I have been discouraged over the low pay and poor quality shows venues are looking for and seem to be happy with. I took some big risks which have paid off. I took some big risks that have not. I have spent a lot of time contemplating the future of karaoke and where my place is in the industry. I have managing a very active full time day job while trying to grow my own karaoke operations on the side. To say I have been busy would be a tremendous understatement. Throughout all of this, what has kept me going are the singers, my enjoyment of seeing people have a good time singing, and….my wife.
I want to get back to blogging about karaoke. More importantly, I want to focus on the positive aspects of karaoke. I have wasted too much time in the last 2 years engaging with people on a negative level. By this I mean that I have allowed myself to be drawn into discussions that go nowhere by people that I don’t feel could possibly enjoy karaoke, much less being a host. I feel I have become very judgmental of some of the folks I have engaged with to the point that I just can’t imagine they could be remotely successful as a host given the interactions I have with them online and in person. But the fact is, many of them are quite successful. We simply disagree at a fundamental level about certain aspects of the industry. We always will. Neither side will change the other’s view. So it is truly pointless to argue the points. Even this paragraph started off trying to be positive and ended up giving too much time to the blah.
I want to promote the positive aspects of karaoke. The fun, the camaraderie, the enjoyment of music and singing. The showmanship, the entertainment, the nervous anticipation of getting in front of a crowd for the first time (or the 50th!). All of that is fun and enjoyable. It is a good time and that is what I feel karaoke is and should be all about.
I will have to blog about the negative from time to time though. There just won’t be any avoiding it in my opinion. Piracy, theft, backstabbing, undercutting, crappy hosts, crappy shows (that latter three a direct result of the previous three)….they are a reality we have to address in our industry. But I think the positive outweighs the negative and so there will be much more focus on the good.
So in closing…..
There is a reason why I named my karaoke business “Feel Good Productions”. Karaoke is something we should all feel good about. So let’s feel good about karaoke and have a positive discussion about it!