A professional karaoke jockey wrote us to ask about the No-Fly List of songwriters who don’t allow their tunes to be reproduced as karaoke:
How does it work when some of these people are on collections already purchased and in my library? Many of those big names are on Top Tunes and Sound Choice cdg’s. Was it legal at one point and then they changed their minds? Are previously purchased cdg’s grandfathered?
Yes, songwriters move onto and off of the No-Fly List occasionally. For instance, Adele recently rescinded her allowance for karaoke after much product was already released to the market and moved on the list. Another major songwriter is about to move off the list (can’t say who or when yet). There are some songwriters who are okay to karaoke with one publisher, but who subsequently moved to a different publisher that doesn’t allow it, and vice versa.
Our legal team is of the opinion that if the songs were licensed at the time you purchased the songs, you should be okay (bear in mind this is an opinion and not established law or precedent). This can be very problematic in practice, however – how can you know that the song was licensed at the time of purchase, since no karaoke company is in the regular habit of disclosing their licensing deals?
The only sure way we know of to be completely clean is to not play any of the songwriters on the list. It is our hope over time to encourage as many songwriters as we can to remove their names from the list, through strong revenue growth that demonstrates to the songwriters that karaoke is no longer the “wild, wild west”. It’s the only way we can see to accommodate your singers, the songwriters, the KJs and the karaoke companies.
Today, we forgo the mike drop in favor of the knowledge drop. Long, but worth knowing.
Karaoke has its roots in the Japanese custom of providing musical entertainment for guests during dinners or parties. Daisuke Inoue, a Japanese musician, is credited as the titular creator of the first karaoke machine in 1971, in response to requests for private recordings of his performances from guests at the Utagoe coffeehouses where he performed. These coffeehouses were venues where like-minded patrons would sing songs together, usually politically-themed, and were very popular for two decades stretching from the mid-fifties to the mid-seventies. With recordings of his works, the Utagoe patrons could sing along with music even when Inoue was absent.
This was not too different from a product used by performers elsewhere in the world. Where touring with a full band was impractical or too expensive for performing vocal groups to afford, it was often simpler and easier for them, their label or their promoter to commission a recording of their own records, minus the vocal tracks, and to serially provide that recording to each venue for playback during their performances. As these “minus-one” tracks were highly specific and of general use (it was thought at the time) to only the original artists, the tracks were not mass-produced.