Did you know that 2021 marks 50 years of karaoke?
The origin story of this entertainment form has many twists and turns. Several different inventions have played into how karaoke eventually got shaped. We at Singa compiled a thorough summary of the main events. Let the history lesson begin!
Max Fleischer invented the bouncing ball technique. Initially, he created it for Ko-Ko Song Car-Tunes (1924–1927), a series of short, animated sound films. The bouncing ball guided audiences in theater sing-alongs, a precursor to modern karaoke videos.
Screen Song series, a continuation of the Fleischer sing-along short films, kept going in theaters through the 30s. The sing-along series featured popular melodies of the day, with appearances of Broadway, radio, and recording artists.
Telefunken manufactured the first commercially made electronic televisions with cathode ray tubes in Germany. The invention contributed to popularizing karaoke later on – nowadays, TV screens are an essential part of singing karaoke at a bar.
Around 0.5% of US households had a television set. The development played into sing-alongs, and later karaoke, becoming popular, not only in hospitality venues, but in private homes as well.
Music Minus One (MMO) was founded. Their sing-along and play-along records allowed singers and players to practice their solo with a professional orchestra. The same technique was later used for karaoke backing tracks. MMO’s mostly classical, jazz, and musical music recordings usually came with sheet music.
Zenith manufactured the first actual wireless remote control. The remote control could turn the TV on or off and change the channel – something all TV screen users, karaoke enthusiasts included, appreciate.
American musical variety, a TV show called Sing Along with Mitch, started airing. The community sing-along originally ran on NBC from 1961 to 1964. In addition, selected repeats aired briefly during the spring of 1966. The show featured song lyrics at the bottom of the TV screen.
Japanese engineer Shigekazu Negishi, who ran a car audio-system assembly business in Tokyo, made a prototype of a karaoke machine. This “music box” had a microphone, a tape, and a lyric sheet.
In the Kansai region, the founder of Taiyo Record, singing coach Toshiharu Yamashita, started selling 8-track accompaniment tapes. The first “karaoke software” playback deck was called harp, and it contained a microphone mixing circuit and accompaniment tapes.
Kobe-based Japanese musician, Daisuke Inoue, innovated the first actual karaoke machine, the “8 Juke” or “Juke 8”. Inoue's karaoke machine had an amplifier, a microphone, a coin box, and an eight-track car stereo. The “father of karaoke” never patented his invention.
From 1972 onwards, karaoke machines were commercially manufactured by several new enterprises, such as Taikan, Nikkodo (later BMB), and Daiichikosho. The already existing Clarion and Matsushita Electric Industrial also started producing karaoke gear. At this time karaoke had become hugely popular in Japan.
Filipino entrepreneur and inventor Roberto del Rosario designed and patented one type of karaoke system called the Sing Along System. His compact machine included an amplifier speaker, one or two tape mechanisms, an optional tuner or radio, and a microphone mixer.
The VHS (Video Home System) was released. This analogic consumer-level tape cassette became the dominant home video format by the 1980s. The affordable video recording option boosted the popularity of home karaoke.
Karaoke boxes, private karaoke rooms, gradually emerged in different parts of the world.
Dimples, North America’s first karaoke bar, opened in Los Angeles.
Pioneer Electronics introduced LaserKaraoke or LD-G, LaserDisc with graphics. The titles consisted of cover versions of songs with on-screen lyrics and accompanying videos.
Philips and Sony published the specifications for the CD+G (CD+Graphics), and the first CD+G title (Eat or be Eaten by The Firesign Theatre) was released. The format found its market in karaoke entertainment.
CERN opened its network to the public, establishing the World Wide Web. Without the online information system, we wouldn't consume and search for songs commercially as we do nowadays.
Korea’s first karaoke machine was installed at the Royal Electronic Entertainment Center in the Dong-A University neighborhood of Hadan-dong, Busan. The modified karaoke machine worked with coins and had a monitor for lyrics.
The DVD (Digital Video Disc or Digital Versatile Disc) emerged. The DVD was invented and developed in ‘95 and released in late ‘96, making karaoke song options even more versatile.
Moscow’s first karaoke club, Yanpen Karaoke Lounge opened with a repertoire of 120 songs. Nowadays, they feature 50.000 songs, and the venue is voted one of the best bars in the world.
The first-ever Karaoke World Championships (KWC) was held in Finland. The competition is organized annually, and it features over 40 countries.
Daisuke Inoue was awarded the satiric, tongue-in-cheek Ig Nobel Peace Prize for inventing karaoke. The Ig Nobels praised Inoue’s invention for "thereby providing an entirely new way for people to learn to tolerate each other”.
Half of all global internet users had a broadband connection. The fast internet connection made data streams, including the karaoke experience, much smoother for many. Bye, glitches and frozen screens!
One of the first dedicated karaoke bars in Delhi, Harry’s Karaoke Lounge Bar, launched. They had theme nights for both English and Hindi songs.
Singa, the first truly digital karaoke streaming service was born in Finland. The founder Atte Hujanen combined his twin-love for family-owned Karaoke World Championships and the Nordic startup economy, the rest is history. And also the future. Anyhow, karaoke is now available for anyone, anywhere, anytime.
Singa offers easy-to-use and professional karaoke software for hospitality venues, as well as a sleek consumer app for song lovers.
Worldwide internet usage by mobile and tablet devices exceeded desktop for the first time. High-speed broadband made it possible to stream audio and visual data for hundreds of thousands of songs on mobile.
Karaoke's 50th birthday!
Check out #50YearsofKaraoke and @singakaraoke on Instagram, as well as @singamusic on Facebook to celebrate karaoke's 50th birthday with us!