Karaoke Mailbag – Rant of the Week

Mailboxes2

When you deal with a topic as polarizing as karaoke (wait, did we just say that?), you gotta expect to get the occasional nastygram. Here’s one that came over the wires just yesterday regarding the upcoming Karaoke Summit (more details on that tomorrow).

Smoothedge69 writes:

“It’s amazing the amount of sheer nonsense that Karaoke generates. The greed factor in the publishing world is absolutely ridiculous. Everyone has their hands out. Karaoke is a form of entertainment, and you people, with your lawsuits and the greed of everyone in music business is destroying a harmless activity. The people who sing these Karaoke tracks are not professional singers. For the most part, they are drunk people just looking to have some fun!! They aren’t making money, unless they are winning contests. The hosts make a nominal fee, especially now-a-days, and the bars sell drinks. GET OFF OUR BACKS!!

“The publishers are just plain greedy!! The musicians make the bulk of their money off ticket sales, not album sales. I am so tired of Karaoke summits, and all this talk about who gets paid and who doesn’t. The ONLY concern here is the piracy issue!! Shut down the outlets for piracy!! Shut down every hard drive seller you can find, shut down the torrent sites. As for the Cloud, it’s too expensive. What should be worked on are music delivery systems that are economical and available on demand without the monthly charge.

“One final thing, open up the UK market to the U.S.A. again. There is good Karaoke music to be had, some of it better than what is made here in the states. Join PRS if you have to, and get us more Karaoke resources, and stop this stupid game you are playing with the publishers, and tell the United States government to stay out of it!!”

Hoo, boy, it’s hard to know where to even start replying to that, so maybe we should take it from the top, after the obligatory “sheer nonsense” salutation.

“…The greed factor in the publishing world is absolutely ridiculous. Everyone has their hands out. Karaoke is a form of entertainment, and you people, with your lawsuits and the greed of everyone in music business is destroying a harmless activity…”

Smooth, you seem to be lumping some folks together who aren’t necessarily the same. Artists record, and sometimes write. Songwriters write. Publishers represent writers. Karaoke labels re-record and pay publishers (and through them, songwriters). While it’s true that everyone in the music business wants to get paid for their work, so does everyone in the _______ business (fill in your own here). As for greed, I don’t know of a single songwriter who got into the music business to get rich, though they may be out there (and severely disillusioned).

As for lawsuits, we really have no idea what you’re talking about, unless it has to do with Sound Choice protecting its trademark rights from KJs and venues who have wholesale ripped off their entire catalog, to which we say “good on Sound Choice.” They have a right to protect their property, just like you have a right to protect yours.

“…The people who sing these Karaoke tracks are not professional singers. For the most part, they are drunk people just looking to have some fun!! They aren’t making money, unless they are winning contests. The hosts make a nominal fee, especially now-a-days, and the bars sell drinks. GET OFF OUR BACKS!!…”

Smooth, you seem to be saying that the people who produce karaoke don’t deserve to be paid for their hard work, or maybe you’re saying they deserve to be paid a lot less, so their “greed” will stop “destroying a harmless activity.” That’s funny, because every other business in your equation above (the venue and the host) seems to be getting paid, and probably not as much as they’d like to be getting paid, but why isn’t their “greed” just as damaging to our favorite “harmless activity?” Seems like a double standard, especially since the karaoke label is the one getting paid the least.

We would add that we’re not on your back at this point, Smooth, except that we’re not really sure who you mean when you shout “GET OFF OUR BACKS!!” Who are you speaking on behalf of?

“…“The publishers are just plain greedy!! The musicians make the bulk of their money off ticket sales, not album sales. I am so tired of Karaoke summits, and all this talk about who gets paid and who doesn’t...”

Again, I think you’re confused about where everyone stands in the licensing situation. Musicians have nothing to do with the licensing fees that karaoke labels pay.

Or maybe you’re suggesting that since mainstream bands and artists have seen record sales revenues decline while concert revenues have risen, that the karaoke business should take a page from that book, and concentrate on making revenue from live performances. We actually already do that, Smooth. It’s called “selling karaoke songs to hosts and venues.” You remember, the greed that’s destroying our “harmless activity.”

And not to put too fine a point on it, but karaoke has always been a business, right from the very beginning, when Daisuke Inoue invented the karaoke machine, and when Roberto del Rosario took the idea and ran with it. Talking about who gets paid and who doesn’t (and how much) is pretty much how business operates, Smooth.

Without business, there is no karaoke. Like most things you enjoy in your modern life, it never would have existed without the anticipation of commerce. And if you take the commerce out of it, it will vanish just as quickly as it appeared.

Small wonder that a leading business in the field would want to bring other businesses together to find out how to keep the entire thing from collapsing under the threat of piracy and the advent of transformative technologies.

“…The ONLY concern here is the piracy issue!! Shut down the outlets for piracy!! Shut down every hard drive seller you can find, shut down the torrent sites...”

Piracy certainly is a paramount concern, though far from the only one. But I’m not sure you’ve been paying attention, Smooth. Whole governments have tried to shut down The Pirate Bay, levying millions in fines and handing down prison sentences to the founders. And yet, even as we speak, it is dealing out just as much copyright-infringing content as it ever was.

Lacking access to nuclear weapons, I’m not sure what you’d have us do. It’s pretty easy to sit back as say “you should do this“, but when no one has any idea how to accomplish that goal, it’s pretty empty advice, don’t you think?

“…As for the Cloud, it’s too expensive. What should be worked on are music delivery systems that are economical and available on demand without the monthly charge...”

Smooth, the Cloud is less than ten bucks a month for unlimited access to twelve thousand karaoke songs from the top labels. Now, we understand that Spotify, Pandora and similar services are less expensive, but they also don’t have to deliver video bandwidth or pay video sync licensing like a karaoke company does.

We didn’t just pick a random price out of a hat; we positioned the product so we could pay our bills and our staff, and generate enough profit to continue to innovate. If that price is more than the market can bear, then we’ll eventually have to modify our business model. Time will tell. But for what it’s worth, our price points, both for Karaoke Cloud and for Karaoke Cloud Pro, whether you are streaming or downloading, are both much less than what you would have paid for those same tracks in the CD+G era.

“…One final thing, open up the UK market to the U.S.A. again. There is good Karaoke music to be had, some of it better than what is made here in the states. Join PRS if you have to, and get us more Karaoke resources, and stop this stupid game you are playing with the publishers, and tell the United States government to stay out of it!!”

Do you think that karaoke labels control what happens when Congress is passing copyright legislation? I’m afraid we don’t have the kind of lobbying clout that you give us credit for.

On the other hand, if we up and moved the entire company to the UK, then we could leverage all those friendly licensing laws in order to record karaoke songs without getting prior approval from the publishers. Unfortunately, it would also mean that we could only sell that music back into the USA if we got the same licenses we have now, so I’m not sure what it would gain us. Neither PRS, nor SACEM in France, nor GEMA in Germany can issue a video sync license to sell music in the United States. While we’re at it, SOCAN in Canada can’t either.

And of course, moving these jobs out of the country wouldn’t be helping the economy (or karaoke) in the USA.

In summary, Smooth, we understand that you’re frustrated. The karaoke industry has a lot of different forces pulling it in different directions. Hosts and singers want the highest quality music possible at the lowest price they can get it. Publishers and labels all want to sell more product and make enough money to cover the costs of production and distribution. Working out where our industry should be devoting its considerable talent and business acumen is precisely the point of the Karaoke Summit, but the ultimate arbiter of what works and what doesn’t will be the market.

10 thoughts on “Karaoke Mailbag – Rant of the Week

  1. I can relate to Smoothedge69 somewhat. It’s getting more expensive to produce to Karaoke show each year. All my singers what better monitors, wireless mic.s and more choice in songs but most of us ( KJs ) still only make $150 a night and are lucky to get 2 nights a week. Stuff go bad and needs to be replaced. I would never have gotten into this if to wasn’t for my day job. Now retired but still rocking on.

  2. Keep on rockin’, Kirk. We dig all that, and want to get KJs back to that. Ideally, a KJ should be able to earn at least as much as a live band, assuming he or she is pulling the same revenue for the venue. It’s hard for a KJ to do that when a pirate can always come in and undercut their price, because the pirate’s stolen catalog didn’t cost a dime.

  3. Yes, the lawsuits I am talking about ARE from Sound Choice. They go after everyone they can, regardless of if they are a pirate or someone who just copied their discs onto a computer. They want to charge everyone a $150 fee for their ridiculous audit process. I paid for my music already, I will not pay $150 on top of that for Sound Choice’s permission to shift. I think that is greedy of them. Sorry. I know many of the Sound Choice “cheer leading squad” don’t agree with me, but that is the truth of it. Sound Choice is a karaoke vendor, plain and simple. They should not have that much power. The Get off our backs comment was directed at Sound Choice. They should be worried about multi-riggers not little mom and pop KJ companies. A company that runs ten different systems, doing 15 shows a week, yeah I could see going after them, but a guy who has one system, a few thousand songs, and only runs a few shows a week should not have to be bothered with the Karaoke vendor looking over his shoulder. That is where I have the most problem. Kurt Slep wants to blanket the whole country with his lawsuits, because as he said, enforcement is a great tool for generating sales. To me, that is a greed ridden, corrupt way of doing business. I refuse to buy anything from a person like that. I bought what I bought from Sound Choice, years ago, but will not buy anything more from them.

    As for the Cloud, it’s less than $10 a month for PRIVATE use. For show use it’s $99 a month than goes up to $199 a month, if I remember correctly. That is pretty ridiculous for a service that leaves you empty handed the minute you stop paying for it.

    I think I understand the record business food chain well enough. The bands and the songwriters DO deserve to get paid. The publishers are the greedy ones, though. They want money from everyone. They want a large percentage off the album sales, they want a large chunk of all the royalties, they want a large portion from the ticket sales, then they want money if a song is made into a karaoke track, then if the song is played ANYWHERE. Meanwhile, they didn’t CREATE anything. They just have their hands out. They are the ones who have hurt the music business the most. Why do you think many bands are starting to go out on their own, or creating their OWN companies?? They want their money, and are the ONLY ones who deserve that money. I have a big problem with anyone who defends record labels and what they do. Sorry.

    One last thing, may I say thank you for nominating my post as Rant of the Week!!!! It is an honor.

    • smotthedge69 writes:

      As for the Cloud, it’s less than $10 a month for PRIVATE use. For show use it’s $99 a month than goes up to $199 a month, if I remember correctly. That is pretty ridiculous for a service that leaves you empty handed the minute you stop paying for it.

      Well, actually it’s not, especially if you came to the service empty-handed to start with. As we said in the article, the Pro version is very cost effective. What would 12,000 songs cost you if you were starting from scratch? Let’s say you could get them for a dollar each – you’d be in for $12,000 bucks right off the bat.

      If you’re already trucking a huge catalog around, maybe it’s not worth $99/month to you. That’s cool – we get it. Just one thing though – do any of the songs you purchased on disc (or online) come with the assurance that they’re not only fully licensed, but fully licensed to play in a commercial enterprise? Karaoke Cloud Pro does. Check your disc labels, and tell me how many of them don’t come with “private use only” disclaimers. Same with the online download services.

      You might also remember that for the same price, you get all the new releases from our stable of top labels at no extra charge over the access fees per month. That’s pretty cool right there.

      BTW, we love your feedback, and that you’ve got the cojones to back up your original assertions with actual arguments. When people with honest disagreements get together to hash things out, occasionally something important gets done. We hope that’s the case here.

  4. I have never made less than $250 on any karaoke show unless it is a walk in (complete sound system installed in the venue, in that case I get $150 for walking in with my music, (even competing with pirates, I just put on a better show and draw a bigger crowd). I find it quite funny that someone would would complain about a company “making money” from a product that they themselves are using to make money with, It leaves me scratching my head and wondering.

    As far as any company who is having product stolen from them I say go full out and sue anyone who is selling, buying or using that product without paying for it. This “smoothedge 69” sounds like a kid who has purchased a loaded hard drive of pirated music and is angry about (or scared of) the fact that some of the karaoke producers are making efforts to stop the piracy.

    I am hoping that the Music publishers will open up the licensing for U.S. based Karaoke producers and make it easier to get hit songs in a decent quality and get them on the market faster, but I know that piracy has to be quelled before that can actually happen.

  5. Sorry to burst your bubble, Brad, but I own all my karaoke on disc, except what I have downloaded from DTE and Tricerasoft. I haven’t been doing this very long, so I only have about 3,500 songs. I have no use for a loaded drive when I know I could get in trouble for it. That would just be plain stupid. Sorry, but losing my equipment and my gigs isn’t worth getting cheap music through a loaded drive. You really shouldn’t assume things about people.

  6. With BMI suing all the small bars and clubs. They (the owners) say they can’t afford to pay me more. LIKE smoothedge6 I only have 2700 or so songs in my book but I buy from DTI the songs one at a time. I would love to buy the SC gem if I could make it pay ( and all the rest too ) But no sugar daddy around to help.

  7. I think that everything that is going on in the karaoke industry is completely and utterly ridiculous. I have been in this business, opening the first karaoke bar in Chicago, Il. in 1985. I started as a hobbyist and enjoyed it so much that I turned it into a full-fledged business. Since the inception of laser discs (25 years ago), I have spent well over 6 figures purchasing and staying up-to-date with every cdg in every language that I could get my hands on. I watched “KAPA” spew their “B.S.” for years about how they will be taking down all the pirates but they never seemed to take down any right here in the good ‘ol USA. A couple years have passed and once again, Kurt Slep is spewing and carring on how he is goona take down the pirates. They finally made it to Vegas and (17 years later) still, nothing has been accomplished. I haven’t had a gig for several years (thanks to all the pirates) and the fact that I still keep my database and licensing up-to-date.

    So to sum it all up… Do it! Don’t talk about it! Just friggin’ do it! Get rid of these pirates and let those of us who actually have a real investment get back to making money.

    Also, I would like to point out that having a license in the state of Nevada is not like having one in any other state. If you do gigs all over the state, you are required to have a City of Las Vegas (Yearly), Clark County (Every 6 Months), City of Henderson (Yearly), City of North Las Vegas (Yearly), Boulder City (Yearly), City of Pahrump & Nye County (Yearly) and the daddy of all licenses… The State of Nevada license (Yearly), which is based on how much your business averages per year. My total to stay current is roughly $1300.00 a year. That is money that I am not making, not becase I can’t get a gig, but I can’t compete with $50.00 a night and bar tab kj’s.

    • Dog is absolutely right Here in Ontario Canada it’s the same 99% of all shows here are pirates and do it for50 bucks and drinks and Bar owners are willing to do this perhaps what should happen is for SOCAN/BMI?other Licensing groups and Manufactures to go directly after the bar owners as well as the pirates it would be great if they could lose their Liquor license (LLCBO here in Ontario) business operating license and face hefty fines (6 Digitis)… As when I go to bars approaching them to offer karaoke to them at the $250 fee they laugh and ask why I can’t do it for 50 bucks and a bar tab that they love my selection cause I keep up to date and they like the ‘idea’ of legal… but they have nothing to lose by using those that would do it for the $50… currently I spend about $100 a month on new releases and because no one wants to hire me at even $175 (I have offered that and a little lower just so that I could cover or almost cover expenses and just get by as I don’t want to close my business as Karaoke is my passion and I DON”T want to pirate… with out hemorrhaging cash from my personal budget to cover personal expenses).

      Perhaps we need a way to educate bar owners… And away to shut down pirates that is swift and simple. I have called an reported several Pirates in the area to Sound Choice but they don’t do much as well as I am not sure how much legal standing they have here in Canada I know that Canada is a signatory to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act…

      It doesn’t make it easier that Phoenix Entertainment Partners who bought the Sound Choice Catalog and Brand claims they are trying to make easier to use Sound Choice music by offering a HELP license which covers the use of SC tracks that a digital by giving certification to those that media shift that they keep on record so that if asked you can prove legality and a kind of neat feature of the HELP License is an amnisiety to those with iffy (read pirated) sound choice music to pay the monthly fee similar to KaraokeCloud Pro’s Subscription fee to make the tracks legal as long as the fee is paid… This would be good for me as I have a good selection of SC that I have shifted but in my area I know that SC is the preferred Manu. and purchasing the Gem Series out right is way out of my price point and I don’t have the credit to finance it so it would be great if I could pay that fee and use sound choice tracks. But I have tried on several occasions to purchase the HELP and the site only accepts if you are in the US and I have tried contacting them over and over to see if they are offering HELP in Canada or plan on it in the future.

  8. You can’t shut down Pirate Bay because of Google right? So do a class action with music companies and movie companies against Google. Their pockets are deep.

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