Karaoke, an interactive activity for everyone

Edmond P. DeRousse March 29, 2019 at 6:11 am


Before there was Karaoke there was Sing-A-Long With Mitch Miller, an NBC television series from 1961 -1964. In the show viewers saw lyrics at the bottom of the TV screen. If you talk to viewers today who saw the show most would insist the words were accompanied by a bouncing ball to keep time with the music. The show was cancelled in 1964 because it could not secure the advertising dollars needed for it to continue. His audience was over forty and advertisers were targeting the youth.

People have been singing along to their favorite songs forever. Until recently, people sang to their favorite song by mimicking the singer. Karaoke added a new dimension to the sing-along. As far as entertainment goes, Karaoke is a relatively new form. By definition Karaoke is a form of entertainment where an amateur or amateurs sing along with recorded instrumental music. The lyrics and music of the song are presented on a monitor while the amateur sings it.

Karaoke is an interactive entertainment activity.  In addition to a song, it requires a microphone, an audience, speakers, a monitor, a social gathering, and often drinking.

In 1971, a Japanese inventor and struggling musician, Daisuke Inoue, was asked by a local businessman to record some of his songs on an open-reel tape recorder. He was part of a band playing in bars and clubs in Kobe, Japan.

The Japanese have a custom of providing musical entertainment with their evening outings. Audiences often sing along with the bands. Using that idea, Inoue was inspired to pre-record his own backing tracks and encouraged the audience to sing. He built the first karaoke machine by combining an amplifier, a microphone, a coin box, and an eight-track car stereo. He did not call his invention a Karaoke machine. Instead he called it the Juke-8. His invention was so popular that within a year he was sending machines all over Japan.

Inoue failed to patent his invention though. Without a patent there was no way to prevent other companies from cannibalizing his business. Competition and technology grew. Finally, with the arrival of laser disc-based machines, Inoue’s company could not keep up and he no longer manufactured his machine.

Inoue admits that he did not come up with the name Karaoke. The name translates to “empty orchestra” It was a Japanese entertaining group who actually came up with the name after an orchestra went on strike and a machine was used instead to play the music.

A Filipino inventor, Roberto del Rosario, owns the patent. In 1975 he patented his Karaoke Sing-Along System. Rosario was a founding member of “The Executive Combo Band”, a very popular amateur jazz band. His band started playing in 1957. They performed all over the world; even with Duke Ellington and Bill Clinton.

Rosario invented his version of the karaoke machine between 1975 and 1977. His system was enclosed in a cabinet and included an amplifier speaker, one or two tape mechanisms, optional tuner or radio, and a microphone mixer with the ability to enhance voice.

Karaoke began as a gimmick which allowed people to have fun while ordering more drinks. By 1980 the karaoke box business began. People gathered in private rooms offering guests the option to order food and drinks from a menu. Karaoke became the main attraction.

The box itself has undergone many changes since its inception. It began as an enhanced cassette tape player. In the late’80s Laser Disc technology was being used. That technology was the first time lyrics could be seen on a video monitor.  The ‘90s provided songs and videos from an outside remote commercial content vendor.

The culture surrounding Karaoke has changed as well. It began as an audience participation activity. Singers performed in front of people at area bars and hotels. Today, Karaoke can be performed alone without audience involvement. A single person Karaoke box (Wankara) gives singers the ability to sing by themselves. Sometimes the Wankara experience happens in a small booth resembling a recording studio, headphones and all.

Today Karaoke singers can interact in the privacy of their homes with other Karaoke singers all across the world via internet. Karaoke websites members can record, store, and share their versions of tens of thousands of songs through private messaging, public, semi-private and private forums. Singers and listeners can also comment through private chat rooms.

Today Karaoke has become such a popular interactive entertainment activity that globally it is estimated to be worth nearly $1billion.





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