The Bassackward World of Karaoke

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I can't think of an industry that resists change and progress more than the karaoke music business. Whenever a new technology emerges in the music industry, it seems that the karaoke industry waits five years or more years to adopt it.

If you're new to the whole karaoke thing, let me give you a 30 second recap: In the U.S., people who want to embarrass themselves in front of other people go to a bar or restaurant on a karaoke night. The bar typically hires a person called a KJ (short for Karaoke Jockey) to bring sound equipment and karaoke music to the bar and to host a karaoke show for a few hours. The KJ hands out poorly organized books that contain the titles of the songs he has available to sing, along with little pencils (like the ones you use to write down your golf score) and slips of paper. After finding your favorite song from high school (probably something horrible like More Than Words by Extreme), you use one of the slips of paper to write down the name of the song and your name and you give it to the KJ. Between 5 and 120 minutes later (depending on how many people want to sing), the KJ calls your name and you get up and publicly humiliate yourself in front of a room full of people.

When karaoke came to the shores of the U.S. back in the 80's, KJs would purchase Laser Disks loaded with karaoke music (complete with cheesy music videos) and drag them to their shows. This format lasted until the mid-90's, when CDs became the medium of choice for karaoke music. Of course, the karaoke industry waited until Laser Disks was a completely dead technology before switching to the CD format.

In the early 00's, the MP3+G format emerged as the newest and best way for KJs to organize their music, keep a backup copy, and host their karaoke shows without having to search through hundreds of CDs each time someone wanted to sing. Unfortunately for the KJ, the companies that create the karaoke music didn't like the idea of their tracks being converted to MP3s (for fear of piracy) so they forbade KJs from doing so. Even if the KJ legally purchased the karaoke CD, most karaoke music companies refused to allow what they call a "format shift" (taking music from one format (CD) to another (MP3)). They even sued KJs who had legitimately bought karaoke CDs and then ripped them to their hard drive.

In spite of all the amazing advances in music technology we've seen in the last decade, the karaoke music manufacturers are just now starting to embrace the MP3 format. Most of the big karaoke manufacturers are finally acknowledging that the fight against technology is a losing battle. In 2010, SoundChoice (one of the the biggest and most popular manufacturers of karaoke music) finally made the announcement that allowed KJs to rip their karaoke CDs to a hard drive without fear of being sued. Although they require KJs to go through an arduous audit process to prove that their music collection was purchased legitimately, at least we're making progress.

Although the karaoke industry is progressing, it is still lagging far behind the rest of the music industry.

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