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 Creating A Balance

Rebbecca- Karaoke Kraze

Recently, I received my latest copy of a trade magazine for mobile disk jockeys that also offers some articles on karaoke. I opened it immediately to the karaoke section and began reading an article on how to train new hosts. It began by giving the host a set of 10 tickets and information on each of the singers (good singer, average singer, bad singer) and he asked the host to balance the 10 tickets for the first set, based on the type of singer and type of song selected.

In other words, this article suggested that you sing based on your abilities and song selection, not in the order as tickets were turned into the host.

Personally, I would love to be able to program the night's songs based on who was singing them and whether they were upbeat or slow, to create a mood, like I do when I disk jockey for a wedding reception or other types of parties. Then, great groupings of songs like "Paradise By The Dashboard Lights" by T and Rick followed by "Mony, Mony" by Jeff wouldn't happen by accident, it would happen because I planned it that way. I could even follow it with a rousing rendition of "Strokin'" or "Delilah." I could group two or three ballads together and then bring it up with "Nickajack" and "I'm Alright" and run a short, upbeat country set.

But in Lincoln, Nebraska, running a show this way is not the norm. Generally, singers are placed into what we in the biz call "rotation" by when they put in their ticket. No choice is made by the host on whether the singer is good, bad or whatever. No choice is made by the host as to whether you selected to sing a ballad, a rocker or a country song. Most of us have found that this is the fair and equitable way to line up the singers for the night. The host then leaves it up to the singers to give careful consideration to their selection of songs to create the mood for the evening. We've all been to shows where everyone seems to be singing ballads. It seems most prevalent in the earlier hours of the evening. I believe a lot of singers like to use ballads to "warm up" their voices and to hold the power songs for later in the evening when they can "rock the house."

We at the Karaoke Kraze have devised a system whereby we try to make the "rotation" as fair as humanly possible. Many factors come into play when creating that "perfect balance." Group singers, soloists and duets are all considerations. New singers coming in later in the evening, while in mid-rotation are also a factor. First and foremost, is to run the rotation with new singers until you run out of tickets. After that, begin again. On a sheet of paper, we write down the names of the singers in the order tickets were received. The next "rotation" is started over with the same singers in the same order, no matter when the tickets were received. By referring to the list, we can accomplish this feat. To further complicate things, we have added with our games, Kamikaze tickets. Ordinarily, we try to put these in at the end of a set or "rotation" before we begin again.

Now, suppose we've begun the second rotation of the evening and X comes in and adds his ticket to the rotation. In an attempt to get new singers into the rotation, we will place X's new ticket in, mid-rotation, probably 3-5 singers down from where ever we are now in the rotation. However, his name is added to the bottom of the reference list, and his second song will be placed in that spot in the rotation. It makes him wait a little longer for his second song, but gives him a chance to get up and sing soon after his arrival. This is done to help hook X into staying and so he doesn't have to wait an hour or more to sing his first song. I've not found many singers that would argue with this approach, and most seem to understand this and appreciate it when this service is offered to them.

Now let's talk about the items that really mess with the evenings fun:

  1. Lots Of Singers: It is every host's dream and nightmare to have a house packed with singers. The more people in the bar, the more money the bar makes, which makes it worth their while to continue having entertainment like karaoke in their establishments. But, when there are a lot of singers, the rotation gets long. A singer list of 15 or more singers will take an hour or more to complete. To give you an example, Halloween night at Gateway Bowl, the very first rotation was 24 singers long. That means it took probably 1 ½ to 2 hours to get everyone up to sing, just once!

  2. Soloists with helpers: A, B, C & D have songs in under their names to sing. We call A up to sing and guess what - B, C & D come up to sing with him. We, the hosts, have no idea this is going to occur. Later on, it becomes B's turn to sing, but...he already sang with A when it was his turn. Is it fair to penalize him for helping out his buddy on his song? Well, we say no, so we call B up to sing. Maybe this time, B sings a solo. A few singers later, C is called up and A & B come up to sing with him. Uh Oh! A & B just got to sing 3 times in the first rotation. Now, as hosts, we understand that you guys are having a good time, and if the rest of the audience is paying attention, they realize that it was really C's turn to sing, and his buddies came up to help, and he allowed that. To someone new in the audience, we'll call him X this seems really unfair, since he has so far only sang once to A & B's three songs.
  3. Duets: We try to assign duets to one of the singer's slots in the rotation, usually the one that puts in the ticket. We feel this is fair, and that the other person singing the duet should not lose their solo, because their friend asked them to sing a duet with them. Many hosts feel that a duet should take both singers turn in the rotation, and perhaps we should look at changing our policy. But, so far, handling duets in this manner has worked for the Karaoke Kraze.
  4. Groups: These are also difficult, especially when you have a group of friends sitting at a table and 4 of them want to sing this song and 3 of them (usually 3 from the group of 4) want to sing a different song and yet again, another 4 (with one or two from the first or second group want to be included in the third group) WHEW! Are you confused yet? Typically, as soon as we figure out that several different people at the same table or group, are going to be singing together all night, they get one song per rotation. Otherwise, they'd be singing all night, and no one else would ever get a chance. I think we've been pretty good at catching these early in the evening and handling them appropriately. If you've ever been to Davey, The Round Table Singers is a prime example of a group with a variety of people from the same group getting up to sing. If we get a complaint concerning a group song, we handle them on an individual basis, and can usually clear up the situation promptly. Here's a perfect example: Gateway Bowl, Lori's going away party. Lori was filling out tickets for all of her friends - I know this because the handwriting was the same on all the tickets and Lori's name was on all of them. This being the case, we put one ticket in per rotation. One of Lori's friends, Mike wanted to know what happened to his song, "Hotel California." When we explained to him, that we didn't know any better than to put that song in the rotation where we would put Lori, he explained that it was his song, he just let Lori fill out the ticket, & he never meant for her name to be on it with him. We apologized & told him we would get his song in immediately. He was called within the next 2 songs to sing.
  5. Soloists: The easiest possible ticket to handle. This one goes into the rotation as soon as it is received and is placed in the same spot the rest of the night. The only problem with soloists is when they decide to sing a duet or sing with a group. See groups and duets above.
  6. Attachers: I made this title up, because I don't know how else to describe it. A new singer asks an accomplished friend to help them with their song. This is more moral support and guidance for the new singer. Many times the accomplished singer stands next to the new singer and barely uses their microphone at all. They are there, just in case the new singer gets lost and needs a little help through the song. I don't like to deter this event, because that new singer, hopefully, will gain the confidence he needs to sing solo later. I don't believe the "supportive friend" should be penalized from singing their song, due to his ability to help out his friend into finding out the joys of singing karaoke.
  7. Kamikaze Tickets: The correct usage of a kamikaze is simple - you want someone other than yourself to try a song they've never done before, either because you think it would be funny or because you think they'd be great at it. You put in the ticket with payment of $1 to hear this song done by this person. Another reason, is to coax someone who perhaps is too shy to put in a ticket on their own, to get up and sing. Anyone asked to sing a kamikaze may either sing the song, or pay $5 to not sing the song. The high price to get out of the song is a little incentive to go ahead with it.

Rebecca is one of the owners and a KJ for
Rockin' Robert & Rebecca's Karaoke Kraze
Lincoln, Nebraska


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