Saturday, October 14, 2017

When it seems like 2 hours since you got up to'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!

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