Something I hear very often is "you are always smiling" or "you always seem to be in a good mood". For the most part, generally, at work, this is very true. I enjoy my job and the people who enable me to what I do for them. Around 90-95% of the time there is nothing to cause me to deviate from that. This blog entry is NOT about those times. DON'T GET ME WRONG AS YOU READ THIS...I love my job and love my people BUT if you have seen me flustered or anxious or excitable on a busy night, here is your explanation. I don't want anyone to take away from this read that I am frustrated, burned out or unhappy...that is NOT the case. This is just the darker side of what I deal with at work.
I generally try to be professional at work, pleasant to people and never rude or dismissive. What I have found is that after a few hours of being treated poorly by a handful of folks, my attitude can disintegrate somewhat. Some have seen me "lose my sh*t" at work by getting frustrated with folks that are not comprehending what it is that I do, why I do it, or are just unwilling to listen. It is the latter that cause me the greatest frustration...the folks who just do not hear me when I take the time to answer a question or explain my answer.
Now, keep in mind, slow nights are easy! A trained monkey can run a rotation on a slow night. There is no guess work or science or interpretation. It is the busy busy nights that the problems start; usually rotation related problems. The hardest part of singing karaoke is waiting your turn. The longer that wait, the more issues arrive, and the more potential for conflict. As a host, the hardest part of my job, HANDS DOWN, is rotation management on a busy night. WHAT IS BUSY? For conversation, lets say I can do 12-15 singers an hour. Fifteen singers means everyone sings once an hour. That is kind of an easy night. Double that, you look at a 2 hour wait for song 2, still not bad. Beyond 25 singers or so is what I would call a busy night. The more one builds on THAT number, the more problems you create. When the number goes more toward 50, you are ENSURED of having drama. Drama relates to rational people curious when their turn is, and irrational people who ask for things you CANNOT deliver then refuse to accept NO for an answer.
The following are a few bullet points of the people and activities that set me off regularly on BUSY BUSY nights (keeping in mind the busier it gets, the greater percentage of the group that will become high maintenance, AND the longer the wait, the more low maintenance folks will become high maintenance:
* THE "WHEN AM I UP" FOLKS - "When am I up" is a fair question. Once. Maybe twice. Beyond that they are becoming high maintenance. If you are told you are 10 away, and come back to me after 2 singers, what do you think my answer will be? If you said 8, you are rational...but should not have asked me. LOL. If I said 8 to you and you complained or disputed me, you have become my new problem.
The other problem with these folks is they wont take an approximate answer, it has to be exact, or I become the bad guy. Sometimes it is so busy, I cannot answer exactly. I tell them that, and offer an approximation. Usually that works, but when I am not exact, there is always someone that will come up and complain to me, OR WORSE, stand in the audience telling everyone what an @$$hole I am for having such a long list and not getting them up soon enough.
The variables on a busy night are people who sign up and leave, people who do not hear their name because they ran upstairs or are out smoking, then return to find they missed their turn and are put back in. Given that info, if you come to me on a busy night and I tell you that you are 10 away, and 5 of those folks are no shows, you are then 5 away. You thought you had 40 minutes and went outside or upstairs, but I called you up in 20 minutes, you missed your turn and it's my fault.
The other variable is the dance set on Thursdays. It always starts at the same time, so that is not a variable. I try to explain that to people, and they don't always get that. They will come up at the start of the dance set and ask when they are up and I have no answer. They insist on one, so I tell them, in theory, they are "x" amount of singers after the dance set, BUT that people generally leave during the dance set so that number is a worst case scenario. Rational people "get" that. The irrational ones become my problem.
Hosts may think I am whining about the "when am I up" folks, but when you see that line of people at my table on a Thursday, they are all asking the same question, with individual drama attached to each answer. There are times when I could not even tell you what song the last singer sang because I am so busy answering this question for folks.
*THE "I HAVE BEEN IN THE ROTATION FOR AN HOUR OR MORE AND HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I AM SINGING" FOLKS - When the rotation is huge and people are breathing down your neck, as a host I am trying to keep things moving so that as many people that want to sing, can sing. When you hear filler music, you know I am buying time. When you see me looking straight ahead, fingers hovering over the keyboard with my ear to the singer awaiting instruction, you know now what I am doing. The other side of this coin is the person who, in the middle of this night, asks me what I want to hear. I can't think that hard, and generally refuse to, BECAUSE, if I do offer an answer, you will tell me "no, I don't think I am in the mood for THAT one..." LOL. Some not familiar with my show will say "don't you make them fill out slips?". The answer is no, because experience shows that the singer in a long rotation will change their minds. If you are a host that does not allow singers to change, you are not customer service oriented...and if you take the slips, you spend a large percentage of the night taking slips from singers who will change their mind anyway. I have been slip free for years. In the time it takes for them to ask me about a slip, they can give me their name and what song they want. Save a tree.
*THE "I HAVE TO LEAVE, BUMP ME UP SO I CAN LEAVE" FOLKS - That just works on NO level. They always say "no one will notice" but someone always will. My job is to put people in seats to put cash in the register. That is the clientele I cater to. I cant show favor to someone leaving OVER someone who is staying and will probably spend more. Economics aside, it is just wiser to run a fair rotation and not juggle. You will make your clientele angry. Waiting 2 hours to sing is easier when the singer know everyone is waiting. When a host shows favor to those leaving, it sends a horrible message.
*THE "LET ME SING NEXT BECAUSE THESE SINGERS SUCK AND I AM BETTER THAN THEM" FOLKS. - The fact that came out of your mouth explains why it is not going to happen, but I am sure you are going to stand here and argue with me about it.
*THE "YOU SKIPPED ME, I HAVE BEEN WAITING AN HOUR AND THAT PERSON HAS SUNG THREE TIMES ALREADY" FOLKS - Happens at every busy show. My rotation is in ink, I will show it to you. If you can show me the singer that sang three times and tell me the songs, I will give you $10,000. It did not happen. Yes you have been waiting an hour, it is a 2 hour wait to sing tonight, LOL.
(NOTE, ALL THESE COMMENTS TO THE SINGERS MAY SOUND SNARKY, but I always start out polite and cordial, until they become argumentative or confrontational.)
*THE FOLKS WHO DO NOT UNDERSTAND THE WORD NO - Occasionally I get to a point in the night where new sign ups are impossible, and maybe some signed up will get bumped. It is at the end of the night, when I legally have to shut down to close the venue...that is the time when it really gets ugly. I explain that I cannot say past closing time, and people keep asking how I can do it. Yelling at me wont accomplish that but they try. They are shocked that I wont take their money. Money cannot buy the impossible. When something is impossible, I say no. Somehow, they think I am not serious.
*THE FOLKS WHO INTERRUPT YOU WHEN YOU ARE MULTITASKING - The people who ask you questions or talk to you while on mic making announcements (because obviously it is a recording) or the people who see me running sound for a singer on stage, and dealing with a line of 2 or 3 singers with a question, and feel that coming in behind the singer and talking in my other ear is a great idea. LOL. Yes. It happens...alll...the ...time. The busier it is, the more it happens.
*THE FOLKS WHO THINK A TIP IS A BRIBE or are otherwise generally ungracious - I have seen people obviously offer me bribes...which I don't take. The real aggravation is when someone drops a couple of bucks in the jar or buys you a drink, then later when you cant fulfill a demand for them they throw that in your face. Yes that happens...even worse...it is no secret that I had a major accident back in 2004 and there was a fundraiser held to help keep my head above water. People have come to my show, and asked for something I could not do, and told me how much money they supposedly donated to me at that time and acted frustrated about that. And "I" am the ass in that scenario?
*THE FOLKS WHO BRIBE IN GENERAL - I think asking me to take a bribe to get up sooner, or again, is reasonable. When it becomes unreasonable is when I refuse it and the briber begins bartering. Look, keeping it FAIR for everyone keeps it fair for you. If you offer me $10 to get up next and I take it, then what if the next person offers me $20 to get in front of you? Exactly. Keeping it fair means no hard feelings. No need to bribe me to keep it fair, but IF you like the way I keep it fair I take tips, LOL.
*THE FOLKS WHO OFFER/MAKE A BRIBE AND WON'T BACK IT UP - There are times when creative commerce can be done...such as after a show where the bar has not closed, someone wants to sing one more, etc... Throw a $20 or so, I boot back up, you do a song and we are all happier. THEN there are the folks who will offer a big bribe to entice you, and if you accept it they either talk you down or don't produce it. They offer a 20 for you to do something, then ask if you will REALLY take a 10. Here is a re post of a Face Book entry from last Tuesday: Guy wants to sing, I explain that I have no time for new singers. He insists... I explain I am past closing time and still have a list. He asks if I am sure, and I say yes. Back and forth continues, and I finally say I just have to stop explaining myself and say I am closed. He says..."not even for $200 dollars?" I lose it on the guy...in a respectful way. Told him to show me the money...that I was sick and tired of people coming up and making offers to find out my moral state and not back it up. I told him if he was just trying to determine if I was a whore or not that I would make it easy and say that if he put the 200 in my hand, I would knock the current singer off the mic and let him run the show to closing time but if he was not presenting the money to step off my stage because I was closed. Of course, no money changed hands...he sent another guy from the table up to see if HE could do better. Grr. LOL. Don't try me. LOL.
*THE FOLKS WHO CANT READ THE BOOK BECAUSE THEY DON'T HAVE THEIR GLASSES SO COME UP AND ASK WHAT SONGS YOU HAVE BY A CERTAIN ARTIST AND MAKE YOU READ THEM ALL TO THEM...OVER AND OVER - Which on a slow night is not a big deal. But when it happens a lot on top of a busy night it becomes high maintenance. THE WORST is when they ask for a certain song by a certain artist. You pull it up on the computer and tell them NO, I DON'T HAVE THAT ONE unfortunately. They then stare at your computer screen and say "are you sure?". "Yes", I reply, looking again, trying alternative spellings...then they look at the screen a bit longer and look at me again and say..."so you still don't have it?". "Yes, I continue to not have it." They look at the screen again then say "yep, I would sure like to have sung that". I say, "well I have not seen it available, but I know I don't have it". They say I should get it. I don't make this stuff up.
*DRUNK FOLKS - While alcohol plays a role in some of the above scenarios, in between are people who are just plain drunk. This is an exception to the rule 90% of the time. We are not surrounded by imbeciles and drunks, by any means...don't think that is what I mean in this blog. However, it does not take many drunks to make a high maintenance event, and my stories of dealing with them go on and on. Just not here.
There are many more scenarios, and many more stories...BUT, if you have been out on a busy night and seen me beating my head against the wall or pulling my hair out, be on the lookout for these folks mentioned in this blog, as well as others. Feel free to comment and add your own observations and experience.
Keep Singing... Harry