Karaoke die? Never!

The great singing craze isn't facing the final curtain, say its fans – it is just taking a different shape
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The Independent Online

It is so long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodbye to karaoke. Growing numbers of pubs are cutting singalong nights from their entertainment line-ups. The Japanese singing sensation is off key with landlords, according to a survey for The Publican magazine that reveals a 5 per cent drop in pubs offering karaoke nights.

Karaoke, which means "empty orchestra" in Japanese, became a global phenomenon in the 1990s, and nearly 11,000 British pubs and bars ran karaoke nights at its peak. But as pub landlords fight for every pound in the recession, karaoke is losing out to more traditional entertainments such as darts, pool and jukeboxes, which are all on the increase, according to the survey.

"Karaoke seems to be losing its voice. Licensees feel there is more money to be made from other types of entertainment," The Publican reported. Neil Williams, of the British Beer and Pub Association, said landlords were simply catering to their customers. "Customers are demanding coffee machines and internet access. If fewer karaoke machines are being offered by pubs, it's because they're not bringing in the punters like they used to. Karaoke has been around for a number of years and these things tend to oscillate."

One measure of karaoke's decline was the fact there are no British contenders at the annual World Karaoke Championships in Finland this week.

Can it really be the final curtain? Its defenders insist that reports of its demise are exaggerated. Mitchells & Butlers, a leading pub operator, said karaoke was doing "phenomenally well" as a result of bringing in live bands to accompany singers. Champions of karaoke say more people are doing it for themselves at home, helped by Sony PlayStation's singalong SingStar. Others, meanwhile, prefer to risk embarrassment in the private rooms of dedicated karaoke bars than in front of complete strangers down the pub.

Karaoke fans

Ben Miller


"I like to sing David Bowie songs: he's got a range of four notes and I've got an even smaller range of three notes, so I'm able to bluff my way through the song. If people can't get karaoke in pubs it will just move underground, rather like smoking now that they can't do that in pubs any more. Karaoke won't die; it will just keep evolving into different forms."

Nell McAndrew


"I actually bought my mum a karaoke machine a few years ago for a Christmas present and was tempted to keep it for myself, but ended up just using it at her house. The novelty soon wore off and we gave it to my niece. The thing I love least about karaoke is when someone really terrible decides to hog the microphone for most of the night. It's pure torture."

Andrew Collins

Broadcaster and writer

"I have never actually done karaoke in a pub, but have enjoyed playing SingStar on my nephew and niece's PlayStation. I've never inflicted my singing voice on the actual public before. 'Don't Go Breaking My Heart' by Elton John and Kiki Dee has been molested on more than one occasion in my presence. My advice: never attempt a duet, no matter how attractive safety in numbers may seem."

Russell Grant


"I love karaoke and I don't actually need any encouragement to get up and sing. Back in the Nineties I went over to a hotel in Hong Kong where they had the very first karaoke room in a hotel in the world. I love all the unsung, or should I say, ill-sung, or well-sung, people who get on the karaoke machine and let rip. Why not, for God's sake?"

Siân Lloyd


"I sing like a pet shop on fire so I am not a natural at karaoke. But I do sing Welsh hymns in the shower, much to my husband's amusement. I don't like karaoke because it's more about the individual than the shared delight of people singing together. I prefer the joyous spirit of voices singing with gusto, as opposed to the slightly narcissistic showing off of karaoke."

Iwan Thomas

Former British Olympic athlete

"I love it. I usually hold a karaoke party every Near Year's Eve. All the songs and names go into a hat and get picked out at random. I know it's very cheesy, but it's lots of fun. I usually do the Robbie Williams song 'Angels'. Alcohol always helps, of course, and makes anyone think they can sing like a God."

Tom Harris

Transport minister

"I had a karaoke machine at my London flat before I became a minister in 2006 and I used to host karaoke parties. I often go to a karaoke bar with some of my fellow MPs; I can't reveal their names because I'm sworn to secrecy. But I can tell you that the Happy Mondays and Seventies rock are very popular choices. My favourite number is 'Home' by Michael Bublé."

Jenny Powell

TV Presenter

"I used to cringe at karaoke but now I'm at that ripe old age where I get really excited if someone's got a karaoke machine. I think it finds that bit of performer in all of us that we never knew we had. It's always the quiet ones that make you think, 'well, they'll never do that' and then they get up and it unleashes the beast in them."