Karaoke culture has been on the rise in Germany in recent years. In cities like Munich, where nightlife thrives, karaoke bars have become a popular destination for those looking to unwind and have some fun. One such establishment is Yokocho, a karaoke bar that aims to replicate the experience of a Japanese alleyway, complete with individual karaoke boxes for guests.
With over 20,000 songs plays each month (over 1300 hours of singing), Yokocho has been a massive success. To discover the keys to their success and how the established a community around karaoke in Munich, we interviewed Aliya Kaiypova and Gail Fisher-Lo, co founders of Yokocho.
A little bit about Yokocho, the Authentic Japanese Karaoke Bar in Munich
Powered by Singa, Yokocho offers an extensive selection of over 100,000 songs, giving patrons the freedom to choose their favorite tunes and sing to their hearts' content. The karaoke boxes are equipped with professional karaoke equipment, including microphones, speakers, and a selection of drinks that can be ordered with the push of a button. The ambiance is further enhanced by the dim lighting of lanterns and the sound of other guests singing in the background.
Based on Google Reviews on Yokocho, customers are talking about the fantastic ambiance and unique experience that the karaoke bar offers. Many reviewers have praised the authentic Japanese decor, which creates an immersive atmosphere. Customers also appreciate the selection of songs available, which cater to a broad range of musical tastes with both international hits as well as local German favorites.
Identifying and understanding the target audience's needs, preferences, and demographics can be tricky when setting up a karaoke box venue. Let's now have a look on what the founders of Yokocho can tell about the beginning journey of THE karaoke bar in Munich...
Finding a niche with karaoke rooms
The bar is the brainchild of two friends, Aliya Kaiypova and Gail Fisher-Lo, who were united by their love for karaoke. They had both lived in countries where karaoke was the norm, and they missed the fun that came with it. They searched for a karaoke bar in Munich, but they could not find any, so they decided to take responsibility and create something on their own.
Yokocho is a dedicated karaoke bar, which means that it is the only bar in Munich that is solely dedicated to karaoke. Before they opened, karaoke nights were held at large expat bars, such as Irish or Australian pubs, with a waiting list and a stage.
While big karaoke nights can be an attraction for some venues, these bars are often too big and too public for people who want to sing karaoke without the bravery or talent to perform in front of a crowd. So in addition to a karaoke bar area, Yokocho took inspiration from Japanese karaoke rooms, which offer private rooms for groups to book and sing in a more intimate environment.
Yokocho has 10 karaoke rooms all with different themes based on Japanese culture including: Godzilla, Origami, and Studio Ghibli to name a few. These rooms can fit between 2-14 people depending on the room.
This decision has led to their karaoke bar being a hot spot for private parties, birthdays, and events where people are looking to celebrate in small groups.
Unique themed nights at Yokocho
Another way Yokocho builds its karaoke niches is by hosting a variety of karaoke themed nights, such as after-work karaoke, music bingo, and anime karaoke. Though, they have become quite widely know for their sad music nights especially.
The sad song karaoke was held during Easter weekend, in response to an archaic Bavarian law regarding silent days. Gail explains:
"There's quite a few of silent days in Munich in a year where playing joyful music is forbidden, and dancing is forbidden much like The Town in Footloose in that 80s movie.
And so the options are either to close or to work around it and so there was language in the law that said that bars were permitted to play music that was fitting for the character of the occasion, which is a mourning holiday. And so, we did a sad song weekend, it was a big hit. Apparently, we're thinking about doing it every Sunday. And having it be like a hangover karaoke Day of Bloody Marys and sing out your sad before the week starts."
Yokocho is a place where people can change their minds about karaoke quickly. Some people come in with a chip on their shoulder, thinking that karaoke is cheesy and silly. But after they have been there for an hour, they are wrestling the microphone out of their friends' hands. It's always fun to watch the transformation happen.
Which night is the best for karaoke at Yokocho?
But the real question is, which night is the best for karaoke? Gail explains that it's less about the night and more about the size of your group. The rooms are designed for anywhere from two to ten people, with some flexibility if you're willing to sit close together.
For karaoke in the main bar, there's no stage, so it's less like performing and more like leading a group sing-along. And if you pick the right song, you'll have 70 backup singers!
Saturday is the most popular night, followed by Thursday and Friday. However, the bar is planning to introduce open karaoke on Sundays, so let's see if that changes things up a bit. Aliya chimes in to say that the crowds are different on karaoke nights versus box booking nights, as people come for different reasons. Some just want to sing in front of others, while others prefer to sing from behind their margarita of their barstool.
How Yokocha built a community around karaoke
Yokocho has been a hit with the people of Munich, and it's not hard to see why. The bar offers a unique experience that cannot be found anywhere else in the city.
When listening on what Gail and Aliya talks about all the joy happening at Yokocho, it is not only a regular bar they are describing, it is also a community. Gail mentions that the single singers have a group WhatsApp chat to coordinate going to the bar.
She also notes that at a karaoke bar, people are more open to meeting new people than in other types of bars. In Germany, people typically go to the bar with their friends and stay with them throughout the night, limiting opportunities to mingle. However, at a karaoke bar, people are vulnerable when they sing, and their hearts are open, making it easier for others to approach them. Aliya adds that language is not a barrier at a karaoke bar. If someone sings a song in Spanish, for example, others who speak Spanish will often join in and sing with them.
Further on, Gail recalls a funny situation where a group of guys rented a 10-person karaoke box and invited people to join them. An amazing strategy to meet girls. So they rented a 10-person, karaoke box, just four guys. And then on a packed Saturday night when the dance floor was full and there was a two hour long queue to sing, they would start inviting people into their private box.
Visit Yokocho yourself
If you're looking for a fun night out with friends, or just want to sing your heart out, then Yokocho is the place to be. So, whether you're a fan of Saturday night madness or prefer the quieter vibes of Thursday and Friday, there's something for everyone at the main bar. And if you're feeling brave, come on down for some open karaoke on Sundays and join in the group sing-along. Who knows, you might just discover your inner rockstar!
Don't miss out on the best karaoke experience in Munich! Click here to reserve your spot at Yokocho and get ready to sing your heart out!
Power your karaoke nights with Singa
Inspired by Yokocho and want to bring karaoke to your venue? Singa can help you get started karaoke rooms in your club or hold karaoke nights in your bar.
Singa Business is a user-friendly karaoke software with an extensive song library that can enhance your customers' experience to a higher level.