Karaoke Etiquette

Also known as the Cardinal Rules of Karaoke or Karaoke Kommandments (among others) it’s always good to be kind to your KJ and they will be kind to you. So, let’s cover a few situations that we have faced and seen at shows throughout our career and offer up a few do’s and don’ts for karaoke protocol…

Is this your first time? It’s all very simple — most KJ’s have books listing the music they carry. Often they are in 2 sets of books — by Artist and by Title. Many KJ’s have envelopes in front of their books or on the tables with request slips and pens to write up your song request. We need your name, the song title and the song number as it is listed in the book. Just write it up and drop it off to the KJ table. Say hi and let us know you’re a newbie. If you need any guidance or support, please ask us. That’s what we’re here for! Now for some tips:

DO #1… feel free to tip the KJ for the privilege of singing. While it may not be necessary for you to tip in order to actually get to sing, it might get you moved up on busy nights, especially if you haven’t had the chance to sing yet! It’s always nice if you tip your server, so why not the Karaoke Jock?

DO NOT #2… be a jerk and laugh at or ridicule people who don’t sing well. Especially if you aren’t planning on getting onstage to sing for yourself, and especially if you can’t sing either! Karaoke is about having FUN — not picking on, bullying, deriding or otherwise abusing others. At our shows, if you show respect and kindness, that’s what you’ll get back. Oh, and bullies are sometimes removed from our shows. Why? Because we have the right to provide service to anyone we choose. Be nice. Singing quietly along with the singer from your table is fun and can encourage others to participate. But deliberately singing louder than the performer is one of those demeaning things we’d prefer you don’t do. So, don’t do it. While in this same line of thought, DO NOT EVER EVER INVITE YOURSELF UP TO SING WITH SOMEONE ELSE without previous permission. I have been crashed by drunks more times than I can tell you, and it is ugly, when singing some heartfelt song and some drunk is trying like heck to stick their face into your microphone. Not pretty, not welcome, not at our shows. Please be nice. Have fun. Drink — it’s a bar after all.

DO #3… respect our equipment. We have paid a price for quality equipment and we would rather not have to replace blown speakers (from drunk people screaming into our mics), busted microphones or stands (from drunk people throwing, twisting or twirling them) or try to conduct a show without our tv monitor, especially if it happens to be the only one in the establishment! Also, and this is not negotiable, NO DRINKS ON THE EQUIPMENT or our tables. They’re electronics, people. We know you think of this when your sober, but your friends might not if they aren’t! Yes, we’ll kick you to the curb for this one too! We have insurance, but we also have deductibles, families and regular expenses, just like you. Let’s not even go there! If you must have your drink close by use some other table or, if you are sober enough still, hold it yourself in the NON-mic hand, please.

DO NOT #4… jump around on the staging area, especially if you’ve had copious amounts of alcohol to drink. We would like to see you a second time. And a third! Falling down and breaking things is not normally the end of a good time. It’s normally the start of a bad time! Plus, getting yourself tangled up in our wiring or equipment makes us really grumpy, OK? By the way, Bohemian Rhapsody is fun but you really need something to hold on to when you’re headbanging…The mic stand is probably not the best support for that. Yes, I know from experience.

DO #5… Pay attention to your spot in the rotation of singers. At our shows, we try to let you know as we call people up who is “on deck”. Please be ready to go so time isn’t wasted and everyone gets their fare share of turns. It’s much more fun that way!

DO NOT #6… add singers to your song choice just so you get to sing more often with all of your drinking buddies. We know they’re scared to sing sometimes but abusing their naivete’ so you sing more is not only not acceptable, we just might lose your slips. Permanently. But feel free to refer to “DO #1″… A tip can heal many wounds but a shortcut to poach singing time is bad form! A duet is a duet. Love Shack is a group effort. Adding more than is called for is undesireable. Plus, we might not have enough microphones for 8 and random rotations of the same people is just wrong. And your friends just might not want to sing with you this time around!

DO #7… tell your KJ that you like their sound (especially if you really do!) We do requests, we like to sing with you and we might reward people who act as if they think we’re important. Hey, we like ego strokes too! Also, requesting songs that we may not have in our library is always nice, if done properly. Please don’t say “WHY don’t you HAVE this SONG? I DON’T believe you don’t HAVE it?” What will work better is this: “I’d love to perform “XYZ” by “THIS NEW ARTIST” because they’re so awesome I can’t live without trying it. Do you think you might get it in soon?” And the likelihood is that we’ll write it down and really try to have it in within a show or two. Our philosophy is that you’ll catch more flies with honey, Honey.

Do NOT #8… Microphone tips: Don’t point the microphone down or at the speakers. This causes bad feedback and headaches to everyone. Be sure to hold the mic in front of your mouth, about 3-6 inches away and slightly below mouth level. We will work with the sound levels to get the best sound. If we indicate to you that you need to hold the mic closer to your mouth, hold it closer. If you have the voice and modulation of Pavarotti, we may have you pull the mic back a bit. If you decide to keep the mic in the stand and you want it adjusted to fit your height please ask for help if you haven’t done it before. DON’T turn the mic OFF when you’re done, don’t play with the switches (or battery covers if it is a wireless mic) or try to force it into the mic stand clip at any point. Mics are very easy to attach if you take just a moment to figure out how they work (normally they slide through the top or gently clip into place). If you can’t do it quickly, hand it to the KJ or hold it and pass it to the next singer. Yes, we’ll be nice and let you do that.

DO #9… Applaud. Applaud loudly and often. Whistle and cheer your favorites. Whistle and cheer your not-so-favorites and be sincere. The shows that are the most fun are the ones where people are really enjoying themselves whether they are singing or not. Be sure to support the establishment and the servers because without them AND you, we don’t have a show and drinking water doesn’t pay for my bill. If you would like more karaoke purchase something!

DO NOT #10… Please, do not smoke anything at the microphone. No, it probably won’t damage the mic, but it can make it difficult if the area is smoky, especially, to catch your breath and sing properly. I’ve been in places where the smoke was so thick, not only could I not see the screen, I was tearing up from smoke irritation. Keep it at your table and we’ll all get along.

Other notes: Many people who sing karaoke don’t have a big song list that they perform. I try to encourage people to sing more than 2 or three songs because you grow your performance list. I don’t like singing the same thing show in, show out – and I would think most people would get bored as well. Now, we understand that you really like to sing Bob Seger’s “Turn the Page”, but sometimes someone else might enjoy giving it a go. If you “possess” a song, it can become less fun to have it sung by someone else, but they may not know that you consider that “your song” to sing. Be nice and try to enjoy sharing your favorite song. By the way, have you looked at our song list? We have thousands to choose from, and I would bet there are more songs there that have your name on them, just ready for you to try out.

Along that same line, if you become a regular at our shows, we keep your slips on hand so you don’t have to constantly re-write up your requests. Since our primary song list is published here on our website, you can browse it and then check out songs on YouTube to practice with before you even come to our show. This is really a great way to build up that performance list and grow your confidence.

Our shows start on time, barring emergencies or owner changes. If you show up the last hour we play, you may only get one turn to sing. Sorry, that’s just the way we roll. Our rotation starts when we start, and it only changes as people leave or come in. Refer to “DO #1” if you want to get moved into the rotation sooner than the “last person on the list”…

The last, really, final “rule” of karaoke is this: Have fun. Consider that many people are either really nervous and not used to using microphones or performance, so it’s supposed to be fun… Not professional-leave that to us.  We want you to enjoy yourself!

Now, who wants to sing?