By Oliver Jenkyns May 21, 2019
While singing along to popular songs has been a longstanding pastime—often happening in the shower, in the car, or while out with friends—karaoke has swept the nation over the past several decades as a way of enjoying the vocal talents of loved ones and strangers alike. Karaoke has origins in Japan, where it began as a form of entertainment for dinner guests and partygoers.
Although performers would record tracks of instrumentals to allow the singers to put on a show without a large accompaniment (thereby making touring more affordable), artists had not thought to sell these recordings prior to the introduction of the karaoke machine. The initial version was created in Japan in 1971; however, since the idea was not legally protected, the first official karaoke machine was produced and patented in the Philippines in 1972.
Karaoke has origins in Japan, where it began as a form of entertainment for dinner guests and partygoers.
The launch was met with a series of lawsuits over the use of artists’ lyrics without their consent. Eventually, a ruling stated that each track included on karaoke albums must have expressed permission from the creators to use their songs. Despite the setbacks, karaoke skyrocketed in the United States and remains prevalent in major cities and smaller towns today. The increased number of television shows that present singing in a positive light have contributed to the acceptance of practicing the skill as a coveted pastime, further boosting karaoke’s popularity.
While the music and karaoke industries were once at odds, the landscape has become much less tumultuous over the years. Performers and producers even own some karaoke apps, embracing the interactive nature of their work rather than fighting against it.
As the karaoke scene continues to evolve, trends can be spotted at venues throughout California. While karaoke locations in the San Diego area tend to prefer private rooms that allow groups of friends to sing together (including Hive and Melody Karaoke & Cafe), establishments throughout Los Angeles (like the city’s Boardwalk 11) and the Central Coast (such as Monterey’s Planet Gemini) favor communal spaces where strangers serenade one another. And San Francisco spots like their karaoke with a twist—think dance karaoke with soul food at Tupelo and screaming for ice cream at Treatbot Karaoke Ice Cream Truck.