Karaoke , or ”empty orchestra” in Japanese, is a worldwide phenomenon. In Japan, the country that created karaoke, karaoke bars are used for both pleasure and for business; taking a client to a bar and letting him literally ”sing for his supper” which could literally make or break a business deal. The “business” element didn’t travel well, but the public singing element of karaoke did.
Karaoke is used as a drawing card for bars and restaurants that make their money from the food and drinks consumed by participants. Karaoke has become a phenomenon that transcends Japanese business ventures and this particular nuance did not follow karaoke to the USA. When you sing karaoke in a bar in the United States, you generally have nothing to lose but your inhibitions. You may be heckled, but this is not going to cost you your job.
In the United States, karaoke is used as a drawing card for bars and restaurants who rarely charge participants to sing, making its money by the food and drinks, consumed while singing.
Today, San Francisco offers a “karaoke music award”. Denver has a “karaoke league”, and in Los Angeles, you can sing over the air on a radio station: critics be damned!
Is it a fad? Apparently not: it’s a growing phenomenon that tends to bring people together. Music has always had value in a community, and one that lets the “average Joe”, or Jane, play “Rock Star” can’t be all bad, even if the singing is.