Sunday, October 15, 2017

The Beer Company is closed; Oso Azul is SMA's new karaoke hotspot!


'Twas a sad day September 2 when we sang our last songs at The Beer Company, after four years and eight months of karaoke every Friday night. Nothing can replace Harold's hospitality.

But thanks to Jens Kristian Møller, we have a new hotspot for karaoke Friday nights: Oso Azul at Zacateros 17! We start at 7pm and wrap up at 11pm (unless the staff is okay staying later...then we close the doors and keep on singing!).

Fun facts about karaoke at The Beer Company:
  • Number of total minutes of karaoke (actual singing time): 72,000
  • Total number of singers who performed at The Beer Company: 450-500
  • Countries represented by singers: Mexico, USA, Canada, Argentina, Venezuela, Chile, Brazil, England, Germany, France, Holland, Sweden, Croatia, Turkey, Australia, China, Japan and maybe more
  • Karaoke Annie with Harold Dean James
  • Largest repertoire among singers whose archive contains more than 50 songs:
  • Hosts Annie (265) and Aarón (255)
  • Fred Collins (213)
  • Victor Guzman (147)
  • Barb Shaw (133) and Dilia “Dee" Suriel (133)
  • Juan Mandujano (129)
  • Gina Giampaoli (99)
  • Adriana Cruz Hardesty (98) and Alma Miranda (98)
  • Dan Brill “El Brillo” (87)
  • Blanca Betancourt (82)
  • Kike Carrillo Delgado (77)
  • Jorge Catalan (75)
  • Jorge Cuaik (65 + 35 duets with Julia Hackstaff)
  • John Alderton (64) and Harold Dean James (64)
  • Alex Gutierrez (63)
  • Allen Zeesman (56) and Lourdes Grisell Abundiz (56)
  • Record for the most number of times singing the same song: Victor Guzman with “Mack the Knife” (sung 81 times!)
  • Celebrities who sang with us: 
  • Tony Gonzales, former tight end for Atlanta Falcons and Kansas City Chiefs, now a Fox NFL pre-game analyst
  • Total number of karaoke photos and videos uploaded to Facebook: over 10,000 (plus yours!)

Fortunately we were able to start up at Oso Azul just two weeks later, September 15, for Mexican Independence Day! Five fun Fridays later, we're filling up the place and we've attracted a few new "karaoke victims" who are becoming regulars.

Hope to see you Friday nights at Oso Azul!

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Guest Post by Harryoke (excerpt): "Keep Poking The Dog and Wonder Why He Barks"

A fellow member of one of the online KJ groups I belong to is a karaoke host and blogger under the name Harryoke. His real name is Harry Smith, and I asked his permission to publish the following excerpt from his March 28, 2014 blog post titled "When I Am Not At My Best In Public"...or "Keep Poking The Dog and Wonder Why He Barks" (ROTATION RANT) LOL. 

Read this and you'll understand more about the work of every karaoke host at every venue all over the world!

Florida KJ Harryoke
I love my job and love my people BUT if you have seen me flustered or anxious or excitable on a busy night, here is your explanation. I don't want anyone to take away from this read that I am frustrated, burned out or unhappy...that is NOT the case. This is just the darker side of what I deal with at work.

As a host, the hardest part of my job, HANDS DOWN, is rotation management on a busy night. Beyond 25 singers or so is what I would call a busy night. When the number goes more toward 50, you are ENSURED of having drama. Drama relates to rational people curious when their turn is, and irrational people who ask for things you CANNOT deliver, then refuse to accept NO for an answer.

The following are a few of the people and activities that set me off regularly on BUSY BUSY nights (keeping in mind the busier it gets, the greater percentage of the group that will become high-maintenance, AND the longer the wait, the more low-maintenance folks will become high-maintenance:

THE "WHEN AM I UP" FOLKS - "When am I up?" is a fair question. Once. Maybe twice. Beyond that they are becoming high-maintenance. If you are told you are 10 away, and come back to me after 2 singers, what do you think my answer will be? If you said 8, you are rational...but should not have asked me. If I said 8 and you complained or disputed me, you have become my new problem. The other problem with these folks is they wont take an approximate answer, it has to be exact, or I become the bad guy. Sometimes it is so busy, I cannot answer exactly. [And] when I am not exact, there is always someone [who will] stand in the audience telling everyone what an @$$hole I am for having such a long list and not getting them up soon enough. The variables on a busy night are people who sign up and leave, and people who do not hear their name because they ran upstairs or are out smoking, then return to find they missed their turn and are put back in. Given that info, if you come to me on a busy night and I tell you that you are 10 away, and 5 of those folks are no shows, you are then 5 away. You thought you had 40 minutes and went outside or upstairs, but I called you up in 20 minutes, you missed your turn and it's my fault.

THE "I HAVE TO LEAVE, BUMP ME UP SO I CAN LEAVE" FOLKS - That just works on NO level. They always say "no one will notice" but someone always will. My job is to put people in seats to put cash in the register. That is the clientele I cater to. I can't show favor to someone leaving OVER someone who is staying and will probably spend more. Economics aside, it is just wiser to run a fair rotation and not juggle. Waiting 2 hours to sing is easier when the singer know everyone is waiting. When a host shows favor to those leaving, it sends a horrible message.

THE "LET ME SING NEXT BECAUSE THESE SINGERS SUCK AND I AM BETTER THAN THEM" FOLKS - The fact that came out of your mouth explains why it is not going to happen, but I am sure you are going to stand here and argue with me about it.  

THE "YOU SKIPPED ME, I HAVE BEEN WAITING AN HOUR AND THAT PERSON HAS SUNG THREE TIMES ALREADY" FOLKS - Happens at every busy show. My rotation is in ink, I will show it to you. If you can show me the singer that sang three times and tell me the songs, I will give you $10,000. It did not happen. Yes you have been waiting an hour [because] it is a two-hour wait to sing tonight.

THE FOLKS WHO DO NOT UNDERSTAND THE WORD NO - Occasionally I get to a point in the night where new sign-ups are impossible, and maybe some signed up will get bumped. It is at the end of the night, when I legally have to shut down to close the venue...that is the time when it really gets ugly. I explain that I cannot say past closing time, and people keep asking how I can do it. Yelling at me won't accomplish that, but they try. They are shocked that I won't take their money. Money cannot buy the impossible. When something is impossible, I say no. Somehow, they think I am not serious.

THE FOLKS WHO INTERRUPT YOU WHEN YOU ARE MULTITASKING - The people who ask you questions or talk to you while on mic making announcements or the people who see me running sound for a singer on stage, and dealing with a line of 2 or 3 singers with a question, and feel that coming in behind the singer and talking in my other ear is a great idea. Yes. It happens...all...the...time. The busier it is, the more it happens.

THE FOLKS WHO THINK A TIP IS A BRIBE or are otherwise generally ungracious -  I have seen people obviously offer me bribes...which I don't take. The real aggravation is when someone drops a couple of bucks in the jar or buys you a drink, then later when you can't fulfill a demand for them, they throw that in your face. Yes, that happens...even worse...it is no secret that I had a major accident back in 2004 and there was a fundraiser held to help keep my head above water. People have come to my show, and asked for something I could not do, and told me how much money they supposedly donated to me at that time and acted frustrated about that. And "I" am the ass in that scenario?

THE FOLKS WHO CAN'T READ THE BOOK BECAUSE THEY DON'T HAVE THEIR GLASSES SO COME UP AND ASK WHAT SONGS YOU HAVE BY A CERTAIN ARTIST AND MAKE YOU READ THEM ALL TO THEM...OVER AND OVER - Which on a slow night is not a big deal. But when it happens a lot on top of a busy night it becomes high-maintenance. THE WORST is when they ask for a certain song by a certain artist. You pull it up on the computer and tell them NO, I DON'T HAVE THAT ONE unfortunately. They then stare at your computer screen and say "are you sure?" YES, I reply, looking again, trying alternative spellings...then they look at the screen a bit longer and look at me again and say..."so you still don't have it?" CORRECT, I continue to not have it. They then say, “I would sure like to have sung that.” [Even when I tell them] I have not seen it available, they say I should get it.

DRUNK FOLKS - While alcohol plays a role in some of the above scenarios, in between are people who are just plain drunk. This is an exception to the rule 90% of the time. We are not surrounded by imbeciles and drunks, by any means...don't think that is what I mean in this blog. However, it does not take many drunks to make a high-maintenance event, and my stories of dealing with them go on and on. Just not here.

There are many more scenarios, and many more stories...BUT, if you have been out on a busy night and seen me beating my head against the wall or pulling my hair out, be on the lookout for these folks mentioned in this blog, as well as others.  Feel free to comment and add your own observations and experience.

Keep Singing...  Harry


To see Harryoke's entire post, click here.

When it seems like 2 hours since you got up to sing...it's just a long rotation

¡Hola, mis cantantes! Lately I've had more than the usual number of singers challenge me on the rotation, saying I must have skipped them because it's been so long since they had a turn at the microphone. Fortunately, I can invite these singers to look at the list on my laptop and show them that they'll be up shortly. Unfortunately, there is nothing I can do to make the time go faster. As recently-departed Tom Petty tells us, "The waiting is the hardest part."

 Karaoke Night One by Cameron Sczerba, aka DJ Cam (caution: strong language)
In the SMA Karaoke Club page on Facebook I posted a humorous video about how KJs (karaoke jockeys) feel when singers beg to be moved up on the list for any number of reasons—all of which boil down to a sense that "I'm more important than everyone else" or "I deserve special treatment even though it will inconvenience everyone else." I don't understand why anyone thinks that. Hey, ALL of you are equally special to me!

Sometimes I move people up in the list because they want to use their turn to sing "Happy Birthday" or "Las Mañanitas" to someone while the candles are still burning on the cake. I don't think anyone minds waiting a few minutes longer for that. But I won't move you up because you're leaving or because you were here earlier and feel you should sing more often.

Here's how the rotation works:
  1. When I arrive to set up for karaoke, there are one or two names on the list: mine and, if he doesn't have a gig else-where, Aarón's name is next.
  2. If I'm not busy when I see you walk in, I add your name to the list. Otherwise I wait until you give me a song request.
  3. In one hour, there is time for 12-15 songs. If we have only 6 singers, everyone sings twice the first hour.
  4. By the second hour, usually we have at least 12-15 singers, and that means everyone sings only once, if at all.
  5. On a busy night when the rotation includes more than 15 singers, I do my best to be fair and not let one big table take up more than a quarter of an hour at once, even if they give me a dozen song requests. I try to break it up so we have singers taking turns from all around the room. Also, I take myself out of the rotation so you get more time to sing.
  6. If you walk in at the start of the rotation, you'll have to wait a long time for your turn. If you walk in after half the singers have had their turns, you won't have to wait as long. If you walk in and give me a song request just as the last singer in the rotation is up, you will sing right away. 
  7. HERE'S WHAT FEELS UNFAIR (BUT IT ISN'T): You arrive early to beat the crowd, and you get to sing right away, maybe even two or three times. Then a big group arrives and they all give me song requests. Suddenly you're waiting 60-90 minutes between turns, and before you know it, the night is gone and you've only done half the songs you requested. Maybe your friends beg you to sing one but you never get to because the rotation gets too long and the show is over. Even if you would be up on the very next turn, and even though your song would make the most amazing "last song of the night," I say no. That's because if we get caught by a Fiscalización officer for going later than the venue's entertainment license allows, the venue has to pay a huge fine. I do NOT want that to be my fault! That's why I may tell you, "Sure, you can sing, as long as you're willing to pay the fine." (Your answer needs to be, "No thanks.") Or I just say no because the venue manager has forbidden me to go even one minute late under any circumstances! I'm not passing the buck when I say it's really, truly not up to me—it's the law.
    Karaoke is complicated. This is what I'm dealing with while
    a singer is yelling into my ear in rapid Spanish about a song
    they want me to get on YouTube, which I won't do because I
    operate a piracy-free show. I do my best to be polite, but...
  8. I HAVE EXPERIMENTED with a rotation scheme that favors singers who arrive early, but I have mapped out various algorithms mathematically and I can tell you that none of them work. There will always be one constant: more singers equals a longer wait. Usually more singers also equals more fun, though, so it's a trade-off.
  9. The only thing that might be more fair to those who sit waiting so long for their turn is to cut off new song requests one hour before closing (or half an hour before, on a slower night). But that's where the mission of karaoke (having fun) and the mission of the bar (making money) collide, and guess what? The bar wins. Because if people come in late and I don't let them sing, that pisses them off, and they don't stay, and the bar loses money. And the better the venue does financially, the more likely they are to keep offering karaoke. So I continue to accept song requests until we start collecting the books, or until about 15 minutes before we close, since most of you sitting there won't get up to sing again anyway.
  10. There is one experiment I haven't tried, but when I play it out in my mind, I can see it's fraught with peril. I call it the "Starting Team List"—everyone who is physically present and has put in a song request when we start the show is guaranteed to sing in the last hour. BUT...what if you're a beloved regular singer and you can't get there until 10:30pm because you work or you are driving back from out of town or whatever, and you come in after the usual cutoff but still in time to sing one song? I'd have to say no, and I don't like that. Plus I'd have to keep track of the starting team and that's harder than you would think. If I could color-code your names in my KJ program, that would be one thing, but I can't. (Hmm, that's a great idea for kJams, though. I'll send it to the developer!) And let's be honest, are you going to miss your bedtime just to sing one more song at the end of the night, especially if that means ordering more drinks while you're waiting?
Now that I've explained how the rotation works, I have TWO FAVORS to ask you, dear cantantes:

First, if you hear someone complaining about how long it takes for them to have a turn, or badmouthing me because they think I'm unfair or that I skipped them or ignored their request, tell them to please talk to ME, since I'm the only one who can show them when their turn is coming up. Shout-out to Barb Shaw here, as she has explained the rotation to newbies several times, and I consider her a Karaoke Annie Concierge for that reason.

Florida KJ Harry Smith, aka Harryoke,
sticks this sign on his laptop when
customers get drunk and obnoxious.
(Note: Sometimes I lose a request slip in the wind or under my laptop, and if I inadvertently skip someone, I get them up as quickly as I can. Also, you'd be surprised at how many times I get a request for a song with no name on it, and I do my best to figure out who gave it to me, but you need to fill out the slip or I have no way of knowing that you want to sing.)

Second, if you have suggestions for how to run the rotation better than I do, please let me know. There are two generally accepted practices in karaoke: (1) add singers to the end of the rotation no matter when they arrive, and they sing in turn even if it's right away—this is what I do; or (2) add new singers immediately after the current singer on stage (so you think you're up next and then all of a sudden you have to wait 20 minutes for five new singers to take their turns, instead of waiting longer for your turn in the next rotation).

Also, I have the ability to show the names of upcoming singers as a ticker that scrolls across the bottom of the screen, and I can show if they have songs up or not—but often people see their name and assume I will put up a song for them even if they didn't request one. (I won't. So that person gets skipped and then they get pissy with me. Ugh.) 

I could show several names with or without songs, but
then some people think they can sing even if they haven't
put in a song request. That's confusing and causes delays.
Or instead of showing just one name (the next singer) as I do now, I can show a numbered list including only those singers who have a request in. The problem is that the list changes. So if you see you're not up for 3 more songs, and decide to go to the bathroom, but the 3 people in between left without telling me, then you will be called, and there you are in the bathroom. Or if you're #3 but the numbered list is missing 7 people, and they all give me a request, suddenly you are 10 people back and you can go out for a smoke.

The idea here is to avoid people yelling at me when I didn't do anything wrong or unfair, and also to avoid singers feeling bad or leaving early because they don't get to sing enough. By the way, y'know what the solution is to the feeling that you don't get to sing enough? Hire me for a private party, or sing on your own at home with karaoke videos on YouTube. There is nothing illegal about private home use of copyrighted material. But you like the the crowd and the camaraderie, right? That's why private parties are so much fun—your friends are there to cheer you on, and you control how many singers through your invitation list. For more information on private parties by Karaoke Annie Entertainment, click here.

Comments? Questions? Leave 'em for me below. Thanks for reading!