No less than twice a week, I hear of someone who wants my advice or guidance in becoming a karaoke host. Usually this is focused on what gear to buy and how to use it. Then, the subject of "what are you going to use for music" comes up. THIS is where you lose me...
I started in the 90s...in that era, and before, it took THOUSANDS of dollars to start a music library, then buying a PA system, etc... The day I walked out the door to do my first show, I had about $7500 invested, and continued to have to reinvest money to upgrade equipment and add music to the library.
Along the way, I generated a following and years of experience.
Now, technology has replaced the archaic CD, and we are going to computer based shows, and copying and sharing song files has NEVER been easier...and is STILL just as illegal. So twice a week, or more, people want my help starting a business to compete with me with stolen, pirated music, gotten by them with little to no overhead.
If you are that person, please, dont ask for my help. I am not one to shoot myself in the foot. New karaoke hosts are popping up right and left, and none of them seem to have legal libraries. They all say they are not coming after my gigs, but guess what? My singers will be coming to your gigs, and my attendance numbers are going to fall, and my revenues generated for my employers are going to fall, and I am going to be asked to work for less money IF my show stays alive. I cannot help you do that to me.
This is my reality at this time. I am seeing this, in real time. Now at this point, if you think I am whining, feeling sorry for myself, being preachy or ridiculous, well I guess that is your right...and if you are out booking gigs (public or private) for low money, bar tabs, for the fun of it or otherwise bringing down the industry you wish to join by watering it down, then I ask you to do this... Squint and look at the competition around you and when you wonder why you cant get that many singers to your show, ask yourself how many singers are out at pirated shows. OR if you have a lot of singers at your illegal show, ask yourself where they would sing if you were not in business. THAT is probably the show suffering because of your piracy.
IF THE PLAYING FIELD IS LEVEL...and everyone spent thousands on music legally, we could all make better money and there would be far less of us out there. As long as people want to illegally compete against legal operators, the pay is going to get lower, and the attendance will get lower at each show.
And last night, another friend came to me for advice, which is the impetus of this post. Just wanted to put my opinion out there without getting all preachy, and also to reprint my stance on piracy which is posted at my website. I advised him NOT to host unless he were doing it legally. He told me whose show he wanted to buy, and I told him which host that host copied the hard drive from, and how much he wanted to copy it for me...
That post follows here (reprinted from my website):
(PREFACE: Some will read this and say I am full of crap...and if you are talking about home use or personal use, you may be right...my comments and opinion are tempered for public and professional use, as I am a public professional...THANKS!)
Many customers ask me if I want to copy their discs onto my computer…or they ask me to copy my music onto a disc for them. Both of these practices are not only illegal, but also detrimental to the industry. People say to me all the time “you have a great version of “XXXXXXXX “, can you put that on a disc for me? No I cant…because number 1) I paid for it, 2) It is likely that you will then take that disc and go to another show and sing from it, and THAT host will copy it. What benefit is there to me to not only support another hosts show illegally, but also costing the manufacturer of the disc a sale? I encourage folks that like my versions to come to my shows and sing them, LOL.
To be legal with a computer, if you work in public, you must have a legal disc for each track that you have on your computer, and be operating no more than one copy…meaning I cannot make multiple copies of my hard drive and run concurrent shows.
LARGE LIBRARIES OF MUSIC FROM THE INTERNET
Many people visit my show, see the laptop on top of my rig and say “Oh, you have a computer, you can get any song you want now” or “oh I see you switched to a laptop, so I guess you have a LOT more music now Huh?”. The answer is no. Having a computer simply means that I am playing the SAME music that I bought legally thru a computer now, instead of a player. I do still have a player to play discs, and I have a disc for each song on my computer. I am also still happy to play discs owned by my customers.
Many many hosts are switching to computers, then adding to their libraries of music with illegal tracks downloaded from the internet, or acquired thru other bootleg means such as buying or copying a preloaded hard drive. Even worse, some NEW hosts are starting with completely illegal libraries and own little to no legal karaoke music.
WHY THIS IS BAD
FOR THE HOST
You may ask “who cares?”. Well, way back when I started out, as well as other long term karaoke hosts, there were no computer players or internet downloads. CDG burning and copying was still a new technology so most all hosts had legitimate, legal karaoke music libraries. This meant having to spend a lot of money on music. You ask any legitimate host what the biggest obstacle to going into the business is, and they will tell you that it is the cost of the acquisition of music. You remove THAT cost, and all of a sudden, EVERYONE wants to be a karaoke host. Competition is always good and always welcomed… BUT, the playing field has to be level. A guy trying to be legal, buying music and paying taxes on income has to charge a bar a fair wage to make a living AND cover expenses. A guy who steals all his music and works under the table can work far cheaper and have the same profit margin…so bar owners are finding hosts willing to work FAR cheaper than legal hosts. This is causing karaoke hosts to earn less each year due to unfair competition. Also, it is frustrating to have singers criticize the host for not having a song because “so and so” has it, and you know so and so has an illegal library of 100,000 songs or more.
FOR THE BARS
There are only so many singers to support karaoke in a community. Admittedly, not everyone is a fan of the same bar…but if in a small town there are multiple hosts competing for the same singers, non of them are going to have a very successful night. A successful night is gauged by how much business the host brings to the bar owner. If the bar does not make money, they cant pay the host that much…and if the host is legal and has to charge a fair wage, they wont be around long, and will be replaced by a pirate host. If the pirate hosts did not operate, there would be less shows, more attendance at the legal shows and the bars and karaoke shows would both be more prosperous.
FOR THE SINGERS
Dwindling karaoke disc sales are a big problem in this industry. When a disc is released, it ends up on the internet and more people share it than buy it. This has forced many of the companies that make karaoke discs out of business, cutting down on the availability of songs. The biggest producer, Sound Choice, recently had 75 employees and produced 5 discs a month. Lately all of their discs have lost money, as they could not even recoup the cost of licensing and production. They have less than 10 employees now, and have slowed production to an almost standstill. They are now placing their efforts into combating piracy and recouping some losses.
MY STANCE and SUMMARY
I am choosing to operate legally. I have a smaller library than many of my competitors, but it is well thought out, and I am willing to add to it with requests and new hits. Do not ask me to share my music, and understand why I don’t have 100,000 titles even though everyone else in town seems to.
Sound Choice and other companies are getting together and have begun filing complaints in criminal court against karaoke hosts using illegal libraries. This is resulting in some pirate operations becoming legal or shutting down. Ultimately others will possibly be facing a day in court.
Thanks for your reading and understanding of my position on this subject.