Creating & Maintaining A Sustainable Show at Your Venue.

Advice From A Karaoke Specialist to Bar Owners, Managers and Staff

Here's some advice from a Karaoke Jockey... (this will be an on going article)

Big Bang Karaoke’s Advice: Here is some helpful advice from a Professional Karaoke Jockey on how to run a sustainable long-term Karaoke Nite at your venue. This is taken from our years of experience and talking to other very well-established Karaoke Jockeys and shows worldwide!!!  

I’m not going to teach you how to run a bar. You already KNOW that that’s why you’re the manager. You know how to order liquor, staff for a post-game rush, and live within whatever restrictions your local heath/fire/whatever inspector can throw at you. I in turn will guide you through somethings that you might not have thought about before-how to create a golden goose that lays golden eggs week in and week out. 

Whether you used karaoke before at your venue or you are just getting your feet wet, my hope is you will be able to use what I’m sharing from my years of experience to make your cash register sing. So, let’s start with the basics… 

For the most part I assume since you’re visiting our wonderful little corner of the worldwide web, you have a fair idea of what karaoke is, but on the off chance I’m wrong let me tell you a little bit about it:

Karaoke is a technology that lets the average Joe sing songs that he loves, specially made music (background tracks) plays, sounding as close to the original as possible. On a nearby tv/monitor screen the lyrics appear and change colors when it is time for that average Joe to sing those words.  Karaoke itself originated in Japan in the 1970’s, the word ‘karaoke’ loosely translates to mean empty orchestra. 

Karaoke made it to North America along with a few other countries in the early 1980’s. 

I personally sang karaoke for the first time in 1997 (Friends In Low Places (The Live Version – By Garth Brooks) my first trip to a bar ever. By the end of that night I KNEW what I wanted to do for a living and it was host THE BEST karaoke show in town!   
Karaoke Started on cassette tapes with all the lyric sheets in three ring binders...yes, we’ve come along way since then. Which brings me to some fun, PERTANANT facts… · Nowadays there are about 80 shows a week in every Canadian city, without even counting the small towns, that translates into 8-10 thousand shows a week in Canada alone!  · An average show can translate to $30,000 to $45,000 per year for a standard venue · That makes karaoke a 14 billion dollar a year industry, and that is only counting the top 100 cities in Canada, which is probably why you are here. 

So now that I’ve told you how karaoke works, lets explore how to make your cash register sing.  First off while hosting a karaoke night at your bar will bring some people in, the most important and lucrative thing it does is keep people there longer. The second most important thing it does is keep people coming back. The average karaoke guest stays for an average of 2 ½ hours.  That’s beyond the average stay for a typical bar patron by more than 45 minutes. The average weekly return rate for a karaoke singer is once every 21 days.  The weekly return rate for a typical bar patron is once every 90 days. This means every karaoke patron comes in four times after their first visit before regular patron comes in for the second visit. I’m sure I don’t need to explain to you what that does for you bottom line.

 Karaoke may be mainly about the host and how good they are but the perception of your venue has a lot to do with if ANY customer will choose to make your home their home and come back, not just karaoke singers… So now you must ask yourself; is your venue set up in a way that will be conducive in making these people feel important when sing? 

In essence whether you have a stage or not they FEEL like they’re on stage, like they’re doing something slightly out of the ordinary.  They need to be seen, so they can see acceptance from people watching them. 

First: Walk over to where you imagine the karaoke singer standing. Stand where they would and see what they would see. Imagine the bar busy, and at half full:
  • Would they be looking at people’s faces? 
  • At the back of their heads? 
  • At the sides of their heads? 
  • If people wanted to dance is there room? 

Second: Walk around to different parts of you place and see if you could make eye contact with someone singing. If you can get eye contact, without anyone having to squirm around, you’ve put your ‘stage’ in the right place. Now that you’ve determined the best spot for eye contact we should look at logistics of having them there. 

 Are they in the path of anything, a restroom, an exit, a doorway into another room? Would they impede a server from doing their job? 
OK assuming it’s all good so far, is there room for the host and his equipment? Is there a power source? Lastly, is there any type of special lighting available to highlight the show? It’s not always needed but it does make a difference, something as simple as a few track lights pointed at the stage can do the trick. Remember you’ll have a lot of new people coming to your location for the first time what’s their first impression of your place… 

Remember first impressions are everything!!! 

Do a walk though of your venue seeing it as a first-time guest… or even better find someone who has never visited your establishment to visit with a cold eye and evaluate your venue… tell them to be as honest and brutal as possible… you want to know what your flaws are to fix them… and ask them about the GOOD points as well!

  •  Are the mats/floors overly dirty? 
  • Is there damage to the fixtures? 
  • How’s the lighting? 
  • Layout? 
  • Is the Bar itself clean? 
  • Are your glasses clean? 
  • Is there a lot of dirty dishes on tables occupied or empty? 
  • Are the tables cleaned regularly? 
  • Are your staff greeting everyone that walks in? 
  • How are the washrooms? Are they clean? In good repair? 
  • Is you flooring in good conditions, no ratty or stained carpeting or badly worn floors? 
  • Is your entrance way clutter free and inviting? 
  • Are there a bunch of old/ripped/damaged posters still up advertising old sporting events, specials or past entertainment events? 
  • Are you a barrier free location for you differently abled guests?      

As the Theme to Cheers goes “where everybody knows your name…” and that is what you hope that guests will return again and again and become a ‘beloved familiar face... “NORM!!”  

  What night should we have karaoke? 

This question of all questions seems to be the wishy washy-est. Most of the time we are called in and asked to perform a miracle, meaning bars and venues want karaoke to fix their worst night of the week. 

I’m imagining you might be chuckling to yourself right now because that was why you are visiting our site and looking for karaoke ad entertainment 

What do you think happens if you launch karaoke on a dead night of the week? 

Yup, you’re right – there is no one there to keep longer, AND there is no audience to make a singer feel important I don’t know if I mentioned this but karaoke singer CRAVE an audience, yes singers love to get up and sing a-LOT…and there are some that will look at a dead…ish bar as a positive cause they will be able to get up a dozen times that night, but… for the most part they also want someone to sing too, they want people to pay attention to them and even to adore them and shower them with applause and fawn over their performance (yes this is part of our jobs as KJ, but more on that later).

 I’m guessing you are thinking at this point ‘well, isn’t karaoke supposed to bring people in?’ 

The short answer to that question is: it will, but it won’t bring in throngs of people. It will bring in little curious clumps of people that will check out your place to see if they like it enough to make it their home on (Insert day of the week you are considering). Some will return, some won’t, that’s just the way the cookie crumbles.  If you want more to return then not you need to fill their need to be loved and accepted by an audience. In turn, you’ll get the better singers which serve to keep you regulars happy because they are hearing a great show, and you get the better spenders that stay all night. In other words the Hard-Core Karaoke singers and this group can be a fickle bunch so it’s up to your team; this includes US as KJ’s but it also includes, your staff, everyone from the greeter, security/bouncer (if you have one), servers, bar staff, back of house cause if your food is “subpar” they ain’t staying no matter how many songs they get in or how adored they are… and YOU, yes you are the heart and the brains of the venue… anything that goes wrong or is below the singers/your guests expectations… you probably are not going to hear most of it… But friends and family of the dissastisifed guest will!!

Be there, we know that you are there more then most and work very hard for the venue, but on nights when you have any form of entertainment, be there for your staff and guests, especially if it is the first night or even if you have in say a band and they have never performed at you venue before… not only will it give the entertainment the impression that you care about the bar and the job that they are doing, but it will also allow you to see first hand if the entertainment is a good fit for the bar… if a band plays Metal and your venue caters to a country crowd (you probably did not hire them to begin with because they would not be a good fit for your venue... but let’s say that it happened) you would not have them back because they would alienate your regulars, unless perhaps they for that event packed the bar with their fans, then I would suggest have them back every so often and remember to mention to your loyal guests that the band will be there and choose an evening that the majority of your regulars do not visit…  

  Also, don’t just be there, MAKE YOURSELF AVAILABLE!!! Don’t just sit in your office… I can’t tell you how many times I have started a new show at a new venue and the manager or owner(s) are there and make no effort to meet with guests, new or old!! The best way for a guest to feel like they matter to you and your venue is a personal greeting… go around to your guests, introduce yourself ask them how their night is, not just their experience with your venue, you want this information but be coy, ask them if their drinks or food is alright. If there are any concerns, first and foremost LISTEN to them and EMPATHIZE, don’t try to solve the problem right away make the guest important by just listening to their issues, take responsibility for them, even if you feel that the issues are minor or even if you think the guest is being overly sensitive, accept any information and feedback graciously (even if it’s overly critical and/or you are going to ignore it anyway) and then move to rectify the issue. You would not believe how many problems can be solved and ‘situations’ be cleared up simply by listing to someone who has an issue.  Yes, there are situations where there is going to be no solution and dealing with them can be ‘fun’ but we all face them! 

I do not adhere to the idiom that “The Customer is always right!” BUT, “The Customer is NEVER wrong,” (unless of course they are out of control and being disruptive or even violent then… Ya, the customer is wrong).

So, the plan, as you can see is to integrate people whom already love your bar with new groups of people that will match your clientele.

 I should state at this point that any night can be a good night for karaoke, regardless of the night of the week or how busy you are. I might just take more time, effort and money to get there.  

 Here is an exercise to help you narrow down what night you should consider: 
1. Write down every night you are open for business. 
2. Cross off your busiest night 
3. Cross off your worst night 4. Cross off any night that you have regular entertainment even if it is rotating events IE. Bands, Trivia, Open Mic, Etc. 

This should leave you with three or four nights to choose from. From here we will use a point system to score each night: 

1. If you are in a city score a 1 on Sunday to Thursday nights 
2. If you are in a suburb score a 1 on Sunday to Thursday Nights 
3. If you are in a College/University town (or are a college bar in the city score a 1 on Sunday to Friday night. 4. Score 1 on ladies’ night. 
5.  Score 1 on any night you sponsor a sports team (if starting karaoke during the sports season). 
6. Score 1 on any night you have a low-cost food special. IE. Cheap wings night. 
7. Score 1 on any day that does not have a major holiday or even where karaoke cannot happen in the next 3 months 
8. If in a city score 1 on any day that does not have a competing karaoke show within 1km. 
9. If in a Suburb score 1 on any day that does not have a competing karaoke show within 5km. 
10. If you are in the country score 1 on any night that does not have a competing show in town. 
11. If you’ve had karaoke in the past score a 1 on the night that it was held  

 The 2 nights with the highest score are in most cases your best choice for a successful karaoke night. 

Other factor to consider may be what promotions and events you hold at your establishment is there a good way to cross promote events, etc. 

One more thing to consider when choosing your night is should be the availability of the karaoke company you are considering hiring because professional ones are worth making an adjustment for! 

On a side note do not mix karaoke and another entertainment form IE. Karaoke and Trivia Karaoke and other events even if you think they may go good together they do not…

Karaoke singers do not like ‘their’ stage time being taken up by something else. On this point do not hold Karaoke/DJ or dance events as well again for the above reasons… Karaoke singers are not there to hear a DJ spin tunes, they are there to be a superstar 4 minutes at a time and again resent any interruption preventing them from getting in as many songs as possible that night, even if it is just one or two songs between rotations to break things up. Most singers know when the rotation is back to the top and want to know when they are up again… On this note most KJ will play filler music between singers to kill dead air this is not playing the full song just to keep the flow as singers are announced and make their way to the stage. 

Most KJ will NOT take DJ requests during karaoke again it’s karaoke night, we encourage the requester to sing their request… we ask that you and your staff have our back on this policy when we tell the guest no DJing to night it's Karaoke some will take this as in slight against them and inevitably complain to you or your staff that they did not get what they wanted. We ask that you stand by our policy not to interrupt karaoke for DJ music. 

Now let’s look at what makes a good Karaoke Jockey/Company: Keep in mind that not a lot of companies will be able to hit every aspect of this ideal. 


Beware of over promisers and under achievers… I will go into this a bit later in my section on using Pirates and those who use illegal music.  

  Equipment & Technology:  

A good company should be able to come in look at your place and asses how to get the best sound quality. They should also be able to figure out how & if utilizing your video system could enhance the show. They should be able to do this by sight without needing to physically hook any thing up. Their equipment should be in good working order, professional grade equipment.