A SOCIAL CONTRACT BETWEEN KARAOKE HOSTS AND SINGERS WHO BRING THEIR OWN CDs TO THE SHOW
It is now the year 2017. Up to a few years ago, the compact disc was the chosen medium for the karaoke industry, for both singers and hosts. Avid singers often buy as many (or more) discs as hosts once did. Now, hosts and singers have large collections of karaoke CDs. Often, singers have chosen to bring their own CDs to karaoke shows to have the host play their favorite (or most familiar) version.
The CD is now waning in its popularity. This is largely due to hosts switching to computers for playback, and the trend of instant downloads of songs in digital formats. Anyone using a computer for playback, and using digital media, no longer need to burn their songs to CDs. Some with the savvy still do, or choose to make compilation CDs to carry to shows with them. Some hosts no longer have the ability or desire to play CDs for customers. At the Harryoke show, we will continue to play them as long as a lot of people bring them. The feeling among hosts is that either they feel they already have an acceptable version you should be singing, or that they no longer want to carry a CDG player in their kit, with the maintenance and weight that come along with that. That being said, there are also plenty of hosts who still carry CDG players (such as I do) or know how to play a CDG from their computer (using hosting software).
For those who choose to bring their own discs, there should be some sort of social contract...an agreement of sorts on expectations, not only for what the singers expect from the host, but what the host needs from the singers. The CDG format is falling out of favor for several reasons, and if your host is gracious enough to continue to play your discs, you should consider taking a look at the guidelines below that outline good social etiquette for the CDG user at a public karaoke show.
FOR CUSTOMERS WHO BRING THEIR OWN CDs:
- TRY TO KEEP IT WITH YOU / HAVE IT READY: Keep your CD with you and bring it to the host when it is your turn. Have your CD ready when you get to the stage. If you are getting to the stage and making a production of opening the case to fish it out, or having to run back to the table to get the correct disc or a different one, you are burning another singers stage time. Sort that out at the table before coming to the stage. In a perfect world, after your song, stick around a second to collect your disc back from the host.
- LABEL YOUR BURNED DISC (CORRECTLY): If all of your compilations are burned, mark them somehow. Put a number on them, or put a label on them, or in some way make them identifiable. This helps for many reasons...mostly, stops the person who has 5 identical Maxell discs from bringing the wrong one up and having to go back to the table to get the right one. Also, if you have a plain disc, and 3 others in the room do too, and you each leave them with me to pick up later, have fun sorting out which of the 3 Maxell CDGs on the table is yours! If you take them out in public, you need to label them somehow. ALSO, regarding labels; make sure they are correct. Handing me a disc where Mack the Knife is labeled #8, telling me to play #8 and being shocked that it is My Way is not my fault. When you discover mistakes like that, make a new label, or make a note on the label. We should not be fast forwarding thru the tracks on the disc to find your song each week.
- KNOW THE NUMBER OF YOUR TRACK BEFORE GETTING TO THE STAGE: If you watch the body english of singers bringing their own discs, many will get to the stage, put on glasses and start reading the disc looking for the number...often not being able to find it before handing the disc to the host to use better light to find the song. That burns up stage time. What happens more times than that is when they give the wrong number...coming to the host with a confident “#12 please!!”, and the cheerful host is then greeted with “that’s not my song...” and the disc must be ejected, the correct number sorted, and the disc put back in and restarted correctly. This also burns stage time, and worse, give the audience the illusion that the host is making mistakes.
- KNOW IF YOUR DISC IS MULTIPLEX (MPX) (meaning it has guide vocals): When you get to the stage, if your disc has versions with guide vocals, make sure you have the correct number for the INSTRUMENTAL version. If a guide vocal starts, 9 times out of 10 a good host can hit the MPX button on the player to shut it off, or if they do not have one, they will have to eject the disc and figure out the correct number (difficult for discs of certain manufacturers who do not put the number on the label). Either way, once the guide vocal comes out, it usually requires a restart of the song when the singer yells “hey, that’s not me!!”. This also leads the customers to think the host is making mistakes.
- KEEP YOUR DISC CLEAN, and FREE OF SCRATCHES AND FINGERPRINTS: Some peoples idea of “clean” is different than others, but CD surfaces should always be pristine, as mirror-like as possible, free from smudges, schmutz, fingerprints, food residue, water residue or anything wet or sticky. Often discs are at tables with food and drink, and many make it to the stage looking more like coasters than CDs. ALSO, aging CDGs deteriorate and wear out, either getting more scratched over time from abuse or poor storage, or handling with finger contact to the surface, or damaged top surfaces that cause the laser to skip when trying to read the disc.
- IF YOU BURN YOUR OWN CDs OR HAVE OTHERS BURN THEM FOR YOU, UNDERSTAND THAT THEY JUST MAY NOT WORK: There are several reasons why burned CDGs do not work. These include: possible defective media, possible errors in technique by the person creating the disc, any manner of compatibility issues with the burner used, or the program used to burn, or the speed it was burned at, or the source of the burn...whether it be from a copied disc, or conversion of digital media (MP3G files, etc...) to the CD. These are all things out of the control of the host. VERY OFTEN though, a burned disc is handed to the host that will not play, for whatever reason. I can’t MAKE it play, or do anything to fix it for you, all I can do is move on, ask you for an alternative song or disc, and keep the show moving. Once you determine that your disc will not play at a certain show, make a note of it, so that the same disc is not presented to the host over and over with the same conversation. Your disc may also be in a format that the hosts player does not read. If you have some weird disc format from Korea that is not CDG or maybe VCD and it wont play, that is not the hosts fault. They cant be expected to be ready to play any format. Similarly, bringing a CD in with burned files (MP3G or zips) that are not formatted to CDG cannot be played on most CDG players either.
- TAKE THE BLAME WHEN A DELAY OCCURS, DON’T DEFLECT BLAME TO THE HOST: A good host tries to do everything correctly, and not make mistakes. An audience is watching a host and when glitches happen, many times this reflects poorly on the host. Many times it is their fault, BUT, if any of the scenarios above bring a show to a halt or cause dead air, or a song restart, give your host a break and get him off the hook by TAKING THE BLAME; maybe even on mic. When the CD starts skipping like crazy, don’t look at the host like it is THEIR fault if it is your disc. Computer based hosts don’t worry about skipping anymore, but it only happens with discs. I have even had singer BLAME ME on the mic, and I quickly and diplomatically then make an announcement that the disc belongs to the SINGER, and the SINGER’S disc is defective. The host should not ever have to defend themselves for a customer’s defective disc, or for any delay caused by any of the scenarios discussed here. Stepping up and saying something on mic, or apologizing to the audience and taking the blame will make you a hero in the eyes of a flustered host trying to fix YOUR problem.
- NO, I CANNOT COPY YOUR SONGS TO MY COMPUTER, DO NOT ALLOW ANY HOST TO DO THAT: Many singers ask me to put their songs from their CD’s onto my computer, or offer to let me copy their discs. For a professional host, this activity is unlawful. Laws protect users at home who use copied or pirated material, but in the course of a public, for hire karaoke show, it is unlawful to use pirated or copied songs. For THIS reason, many hosts have hard rules that they will not under any circumstances play a customers burned disc, that they will only play original discs. When this becomes a legal issue for hosts, you will see more hosts adopt a rule about playing “burns”. It is important for a professional host to be 1:1 legal; that is, to either have an original disc for each song on their computer, or to have sourced the song from a legal and reputable online site, in order to stay insulated from litigation.
- A NOTE ABOUT USB STICKS/THUMBDRIVES: As digital media becomes more popular, singers are catching on and the new trend is for singers to want to bring their song in on a USB stick. Many hosts will happily play a USB stick, others will not. If the host has a CDG player with a USB input, it is more likely that they will. If they have to put the USB stick in their computer, then some will and some wont. (I am one who will not play a USB stick). Putting a USB stick from a customer into a computer is a dangerous practice, given that the host does not know what software may be loaded on the stick, or what the source of the digital media is, and that could put their show computer in danger.
That is all for now...hope that was a little enlightening on the perils of CD use for hosts, and that CD users who may read this will maybe learn a tip or two to make the karaoke experience better for everyone. CD’s will be around awhile, but the next big thing is around the corner. We are kind of in a flux mode in the karaoke world right now as technology changes.