Things a Karaoke DJ (KJ) May or May Not Tell You


Photo by Derek Gavey

I’ve been to hundreds of Karaoke shows all over the country and in Europe. Each one is different, run by many different kinds of people, but the person behind the show (the Karaoke host or Karaoke DJ — I usually call them a KJ) is always consistent.

Here are things the Karaoke DJ may or may not tell you, based on my many experiences and (gasp) talking to some of them.

They Love Regulars

Some establishments start a Karaoke show in order to draw in more people. This sometimes works. Sometimes it fails miserably.

However, a good Karaoke DJ has a following. If they happen to start a new show in a place hardly anybody frequents, it’s a gamble. The KJ doesn’t necessarily expect the normal restaurant patrons to get up and start singing away (although that would be nice). Sometimes the KJ is limited to just singing a few songs, waiting for singers, and playing DJ music the rest of the night (boring!).

A good KJ will have a social media presence and announce venues and times. And if the KJ has a nice following, their regulars will (gasp) show up.

The appearance of regulars at a dead show is a godsend. The regulars show up, eat (if there’s food), drink (and tip), and sing. This looks good for the KJ who is just starting out at a new venue. The KJ gets singers (win) and the venue gets drinking and tipping customers.

So ask any KJ: do they like regulars? The answer will most likely be a yes with conditions (nobody likes an annoying regular — you know, the one who drinks water all night, doesn’t tip, and sings nothing but George Strait all night).

They Love Tips

KJs make a living on having the most songs, the best equipment, and having a good fan base. They might probably net $100-300 a night at best. Sometimes the venue supplies free food and drinks, but that is in a best case scenario.

KJs still have to purchase the songs, buy equipment (if the venue isn’t supplying it), drive to the actual venue (gas money, hello?), and then put up with insanely drunk people who think they sing like Mariah Carey but actually sound like Rebecca Black.

Most KJs have some kind of tip jar, but (sadly) some venues don’t even allow tipping.

Well, here’s a secret: KJs LOVE tips. I mean love them. Even if the venue doesn’t allow them, I’ve never seen a KJ turn them down.

So what’ll a tip get you?

According to some KJs, absolutely nothing.

Other KJs? Well, a $10 dollar tip might get you a significant boost in the rotation if it’s a long one. A $20 tip might get you the next song or the coveted last song of the night. Most KJs appreciate a $1 or $2 tip per song. It helps pay the bills.

One of my KJ friends had a 30+ person rotation where new singers had a very small chance of getting a chance to sing. In walks a wedding party who wants to sing. They decided to tip their way in to the rotation. And it worked.

So sure, you can not tip and wait your turn, or you can see how a tip will get you special privileges (if the KJ is not being an ass).

Note from the author: This part of the article seems to be the most controversial. I say, tip what you like (a good rule of thumb is $1-$2 per song). It never hurts to ask the KJ if giving a big tip will get you special treatment. The worst they can say is no. And if the KJ says no, it’s probably to protect the regulars, so just sit down and wait your turn like everyone else.

Some Things are “Broken”

Have you heard the stories about bartenders pretending their blender is broken? It’s because bartenders absolutely hate making blended drinks when they have a full house. It’s a waste of time, the usually don’t get any extra tips out of the drinks, and it prevents them from honoring other tipping patrons who have more reasonable drink requests. So yeah, bartenders will lie that the blender is broken.

KJs do the same thing. If a group of girls wants to sing “Girls Just Want to Have Fun”, the KJ might pretend their extra mic is out of batteries or is broken. Why? Because nine times out of ten, the two mics are given to the loudest non-singers of the group who belt out three to four minutes of horrible, gag-inducing vocals.

One evil trick KJs do is pretend a song is corrupted. Want to sing “Stawberry Wine” by Deana Carter? “I’m sorry, the version we have is corrupted and/or missing lyrics.” Why would a KJ do this? Probably because every single show they do, somebody wants to sing the damn song. And hearing the same song sung horribly every other night can be a real downer. So yeah, KJs do pretend some songs don’t work or they’ll just say they don’t have the song. Bummer for you, but joy for the rest of us.

Drop a Mic or Place Your Beer on their Setup, You’re Cut Off

Want to piss a KJ off? Drop the mic. It’s a quick way to get you booted out of the rotation. It’s either a sign that you’re too drunk to sing, or that you are not capable of holding an expensive object for three to four minutes.

An honorable mention is when someone tries to place their beer onto the KJs setup. You know, the setup where there’s a computer, audio controls, and the like? Yeah, not cool. It’s a quick way to piss a KJ off. Don’t do it. You could get dropped.

One other thing KJs can’t stand: smoking while singing. What’s the point? You can’t go three or so minutes without taking a puff? It’s not like you can smoke and sing at the same time. Just wait until after your song is over.

They Don’t Care If It’s Your Birthday

“Oh, it’s my birthday! Let me sing a hundred songs!”

Yeah, wait your turn like everyone else. Unless you’re a regular who tips, then all bets are off.

Group Songs are Horrible

You always have the same white girls who think they can sing “Baby Got Back” and utterly destroy it. I mentioned “Girls Just Want to Have Fun.” Yeah, I’ve never seen a good version.

In my experience, a group song announcement is three to four minutes of disaster waiting to happen. It’s what most regulars would call a “time to smoke outside” break. Even KJs make their trip to the bathroom during these songs. The songs are fun to the group. Nobody else.

One KJ is Alabama absolutely refused to do group songs, so really it’s up to the KJ’s discretion. It’s their show after all.

There Are Songs KJs Hate

The song “Picture” by Sheryl Crow and Kid Rock? It’s the worst fucking song ever. Every KJ I know hates it. The original song sucked. There’s not much you can do to redeem it.

“Friends in Low Places” by Garth Brooks? A close second.

Show tunes (including Disney)? Save them for the shower.

Sing a Song Longer Than 7 Minutes and Everyone Will Hate You

You know what sucks? A long rotation when you’re trying to get a song in.

You know what sucks worse? A long rotation and someone decides to sing the VERY LONG song “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” or the detested “Freebird.”

There was one KJ in Austin who cut off a girl singing “Freebird” after 2 minutes. She was furious, but the KJ was actually applauded by the decision.

Country Gets Old Really Fast

Most KJs I know love all kinds of music, including country. However, after twenty straight country songs, the genre kinda gets on your nerves.

Win the KJs favor and shake it up with some pop, rap, or alternative. The crowd may hate you for it, but the KJ will appreciate the change up.

When Am I Up Next?

So you put in a song. Buy a few drinks. You listen to a few people sing. All of the sudden you get the urge to see when you are up next. Please don’t.

I’ve never met a KJ who wasn’t annoyed by the inevitable, “How long till I sing?” question.

Keep in mind, if it’s a long rotation (20 or more), they have people constantly nagging them for updates and to change their songs. You are not helping. Especially if you do it over and over and over and over and over again.

When they put your song in, look at your position in the rotation. Keep a mental view or your status and wait your damn turn. If you can’t see your position, ask how many people are ahead of you. They’ll usually tell you. Please don’t keep bombarding them with questions. They have better things to do, like to make the next epic group song sound amazing.

Yes, Your Mic Could Get Turned Off and/or Your Song Cut Off

Some KJs operate in family friendly venues. And unfortunately, the KJs do not know the lyrics to every song in existence. So when you want to sing Eminem’s Superman where there are kids present, the KJ might cut you off in order to save face.

Some KJs have a no cussing policy. Ask before singing. If a song is inappropriate, let the KJs know and ask if it’s okay to sing it. They’ll give you a yay or nay immediately.

Some KJs and restaurants have an after 11pm policy (because honestly, all kids should be put to bed by then). If it’s after this magic hour, anything goes.

Regarding getting your mic cut off, it happens. If you’re really drunk and really loud and spouting non-sense, the KJ might lower your volume or just plain turn the mic off. You’re probably so drunk you won’t even notice.

It’s Their Show

In the end, it’s wise to remember that it’s the KJ’s show. They should be given the alternate title “Drunk Singing Moderators.”

If a KJ wants to squeeze a new singer in ahead of you, that’s their decision. If there’s thirty people left to sing with only twenty minutes to go, they might pick and choose singers (maybe based on tips).

If you’re an ass and get booted, whining to the bar manager or waitress will not help.

So keep this in mind: it’s their show. It’s up to them how to manage to get as many people singing as possible.

Practice, Practice, Practice

If you go to Karaoke occasionally, then this tip might not apply to you. But, it helps to know the song you’re singing.

You might have a vague recollection of Selena’s hit “I Could Fall in Love”, but then totally forget there’s a Spanish part and you don’t speak the language.

At best, research the song on YouTube. Look at the lyrics. Try your best at singing it. If it’s passable, attempt it. I’ve never seen anybody get booed at a Karaoke show (with one exception, which I’ll keep to myself).

And sometimes, no matter how much you practice, the song comes out awful. Live and learn.

But KJs Love You

The point of Karaoke is for a bunch of amateurs to go out, have a good time, and sing songs they love. Karaoke generally isn’t a contest (although some treat it like one) and nobody expects you to sound perfect.

KJs will welcome all. Have an eight year old girl that wants to sing some Kesha or Lady Gaga? Go for it! Love Frank Sinatra? Annoy everyone with your talent!

Just show up, sing, tip (ahem), and leave the world a better place than you found it.

KJs love it when you show up, because without you, their show wouldn’t be possible.


So I do not speak for all KJs or people that go to Karaoke shows. A lot of these “opinions” and observations are from speaking to actual KJs, reading list article after list article, and going to my own shows.

Have I made some of these mistakes listed? Absolutely. Have I learned? Kinda.

Karaoke is immense fun when you have a group of regulars, a great and attentive crowd, and a great KJ.

Comments Welcome

Are you a KJ or go to Karaoke bars regularly? Please share your experiences. Rip on my observations. Say that “Friends in Low Places” is awesome (it’s not).

I'm Ronald and I like cats, killing zombies, and oxford commas.


  1. A boost in the rotation for money (the tips section) is a hot and volatile subject. Any KJ who would do that is one who I avoid like the plague. I’ve been a KJ. I totally disagree with the author’s point of view. I’ve see this kind of thing totally destroy a regular show.

    1. Agreed. A KJ who doesn’t run a fair list (read: everyone waits their turn, even the regulars and the tippers, and newcomers get slotted into rotation in a fair way) is a KJ I will avoid.

      I can understand a KJ trying to make money by letting people buy their way up the list. But one has to wonder if it is worth ticking off the people who are waiting their turn and seeing the same person sing two (or more) times while they wait.

      1. From the KJs I know who do accept tips, I’ve never seen the special treatment extend past one rotation. The only time I’ve seen someone thing twice or three times in a rotation is if the person gets called up for duets with other singers.

    2. I agree. As a KJ with regular shows each week, tips to move up the ladder in the rotation, is not only unfair, but unethical. everyone waits their turn including the regulars. When NEW (First time) singers come, meaning they have not sang yet that night, i usually slot them into the rotation in a fair manner for both the new signer and those who have been patiently waiting. If the rotation hasn’t gone around at least once, no one gets slotted in new or not, they get put to the bottom until the rotation has made its round robin at least once.

      Accepting tips if fine, but not for favors, any KJ worth their weight in salt, knows this rule and adheres to it, because they don’t want to piss off their regulars. its the fastest way to kill a weekly show, trust me the regulars will boycott your show, until you quit, get fired or get replaced, then they’ll return to see what the next guys got. Or worse they wont return and you end up hurting the bar. either way not good practice at all.

      As a side note, accepting tips is all well and good, however, i dont do it and none of the KJs i know do it. a GOOD KJ who can produce a HIGH QUALITY SHOW, doesnt need a tip jar, it makes their show look like a rinky dink production. If theyre good, they can command a certain figure which more then covers their costs for producing the show each week and then some.

  2. I have been a KJ for 15 years. I do NOT move people up in rotation just because they tip. And the majority of the people that ask me and get turned down tell me they don’t like it, but they respect it. I usually have 25-30 people in line on any given night. I let someone walk in the door and sing within 5-10 minutes when others have been waiting for 30-40 I’ll have pissed off customers. If you get ticked off because I won’t bump you up… I can handle you. If the other 25-30 get mad, I’ve got a problem. And believe me, drunk or not, they pay attention to the rotation.
    I will happily accept and appreciate tips. But it does nothing to your spot. Sorry…

    1. I tip if there’s a jar available, but I don’t expect it to get me any favors. I tip because the KJ is doing a good job and running a good show (see my other comment about a fair list).

  3. I am an active KJ with over 4,000 shows in 12 years under my belt. My policy is no bumping up for tips. It’s a great way to loose your regulars. Do you tip your waiter/waitress for extra fries? Or for a job well done? Also, bad singers are necessary, as it gives confidence to new singers who may otherwise feel intimidated. Also, what’s more annoying, 20 country songs in a row, or 20 pop songs? According to you, country. But isn’t that just a matter of opinion? And where your from? Remember, a good article should be non-bias.

    1. No bias? That’s no fun. I’m not a news site.

      This article was written to incite conversation with some controversial observations, and for the most part people are engaging whether they agree or not.

    2. How exactly have you done 4000 shows, have you been out there every night for the last 12 years? I’m calling BS, and don’t start talking about journalistic integrity if you don’t know proper sentence structure.

  4. Thank you! I appreciate you writing this very much! I’ve been hosting karaoke for 23 years now and most of your observances are spot on. You missed those who come in and hand in 8 slips as if they are the only one there to sing (my one song at a time policy notwithstanding) & let’s not forget little drunk girls trying to sing “Baby Got Back” there is more to the song than just the opening ladies & you will likely never be able to keep up so please stop. Right on with “Picture” (I’ve said the same as you, shit original & well…y’know). On the music (country, show tunes etc,) well those are dependent on the venue, just try to say show tunes are no fun at a gay bar…pshaw! As for tipping for bumping, I am with most KJs, I don’t encourage it, but if people ask I say it STARTS at $20 to move you up (not immediately ever) in order to discourage the behavior. Sometimes it is important enough for them to sing and someone will throw a $50 or even more well, then you kinda have to look at your room & decide if it’s worth it, pissing off regulars is sometimes not worth it at all. Patrons should realize that often we are not paid what we are worth. We bring our following to their bar but yet they pay us very little so a little tipping indeed goes a long way. Finally, on the dropping of mic & poor handling of our equipment…my biggest thank you! My one bad review was due to my cutting someone off (& down) for dropping a mic. Why should anyone assume mishandling what I pay for and others need to use is proper behavior well that is poor breeding imo. LOL! I’ve stopped producing song books because it got so expensive to replace them so now my list is online & accessible from your smart phone (now I face lazy ppl who can’t seem to type 4 letters into their browsers…ugh!) In short, ppl need to realize that is not so much our (KJs) show but more EVERYONE’S show. It should be a fun & shared experience, come to a karaoke show as an entitled little twit and you suck the fun right out of it! Thanks again! .

      1. I also use songbookslive.com, but most of the time people are to drunk to navigate on their smartphones. People look at me like I have 3 heads when I tell them I don’t have books. Why, so you can spill beer all over them after they cost me a lot of money to make and keep current? If you want to sing Billy Joel, I probably have it. I DO NOT have anything by Godfart, Sevencow, or any other band with a stupid, anti-establishment name. It’s Karaoke folks, not underground radio!

      2. I help host occasionally, and someone tried to give me a lecture on why I should have this obscure band, etc. We absolutely will get an obscure song, but there needs to be a karaoke version to purchase!

    1. Love this I’ve been a kj/dj for a little over 9 years now and am like you tired of buying books! How in the world did you get your song list over the net???? Please help me with this lol

  5. No tip is worth pissing off the folks that have been patiently waiting. It’s a good way to permanently lose return business. The song “Picture” is unfortunately a necessary evil. One song that is absolutely off limits is “The End” by The Doors. No way! It ain’t gonna happen buddy! And you forgot the self proclaimed superstar that tries to sign up 15 minutes before closing when you got a rotation of 20 or more. Funny how most of them use the excuse “but I’m better than them!” Yeah bud, insult my guests. That’s really gonna change my mind. NOT! But overall your article was spot on!

  6. Sometimes KJ and often singer:

    I’ve been to bars where the KJ would only let you sing if you tipped him. Went there once.

    The other thing about mics: DON”T THUMP THE MIC! You can damage the speakers.

    Tipping is a regional thing. Some areas, there is no tipping. Other areas I’ve been to, everyone tips.

    One of the hardest things for a KJ is duets. An occasional duet is fine (I personally love to sing duets) but don’t sing 4 in one rotation! All you do is get the other singers waiting their turn mad at you (I know one KJ who, if you sing a duet, it counts as both your turns; a little extreme, but solves the problem).

    I’ve personally never met a KJ who hated 20 country songs in a row. Must be a personal thing. However, I’ve met many who can’t stand to hear even a single rap song. Listen to what other singers are singing in a venue If you know a song in that genre, try and sing it.

    1. Duets are cool, but it can be annoying when there’s a large party with songs lined up and it’s pretty much them singing for 3-4 songs in a row.

      I’ve never met a KJ who hated rap, but don’t doubt they exist. Rap is HARD because they’re usually fast songs and hard to keep up with.

    2. Totally agree with your comment regarding country vs rap. Totally prefer country songs. I’ve been hosting karaoke for 23 yrs.

  7. It’s amazing how many people “used to run a show.” It seems like 60-75% of the people that are constantly bothering me with trivial bullshit used to be a kj. Apparently the majority of America, at one time or another, hosted a show. That being the case, you would think they would understand business just a little bit better. Everyone gets good service, big rippers get much better service. Isn’t that the way society works in most capitalist countries?

  8. I have hosted karaoke for over 15 years. I was actually branded a nickname by some people which stuck. The Karaoke Nazi. I never take tips, Never bump anyone up (and I’ve heard EVERY EXCUSE….I’m leaving soon, it’s my birthday, my parents are here and aren’t staying long, I have cancer {yes, that was used}…..ALL of them). I also believe if you are holding a mike and singing into it, duet or solo or harmony, you are SINGING and counts as your song in the rotation. Period. I also do my best to make all my singers sound as good as they can on the system. For really drunk people, it rarely works….but for really shy ones, it works wonders and they gain tons of self confidence. I have a huge following mainly for this reason and the fact all my regulars know I will NEVER cheat them. They appreciate that. As for songs, spot on with Picture and Friends in Low Places….but add Paradise By the Dashboard Light and Don’t Stop \Believing….as well as about 100 others….to many to name.

      1. I also agree with the “no more” song lists… Can we also eliminate “Fancy” and “Granpa” and that other gawd awful F/F duet, “Does He Love You”…

        Abuse my equipment? Before I agree to club work, I have a convo with the bar owner/manager and it goes something like this: “I paid a good deal for this equipment and, while I know stuff happens, if someone comes up to me that is abusing me or my equipment, I’ll be calling you to come and get them and either remove them from the stage or my work area or I’ll shut down the show. If you’re good with that, then let’s go. If not, then I’m not the right KJ for you.” I don’t WANT to have to use my insurance or to throw my weight around. Besides which, I’m not 5 foot tall and guys (especially drunk ones) see me as bait… or a punching bag for some reason. They think screaming or acting intimidating is going to get them what they want? I don’t think so.

  9. I don’t go to karaoke shows where bribery is the way to get to the stage. Fairness is key to a successful show. It’s a sad state of affairs when the KJ is so desperate for a few extra dollars that he will sell his integrity for it. If you need more money; ask the venue owner for a raise. Then you won’t have to worry about your regulars looking for a new show to patronize where they won’t get treated like second class citizens.

    1. I’ve never been to a show where you had to “pay” to sing. One of the commenters above did mention that a KJ required this. Yes, if I had to “pay” to sing, I would avoid the show like the plague.

      Tipping is another matter and it appears from the commenters that this is not a good practice for regulars, but some still do it anyways.

      1. I’ve been hosting karaoke for only 3 short years. One bar I worked in would cut my show short…and my pay, if the customers were not buying enough drinks. After the second week of this and singers or dancers still wanting to play, I started playing well on into the night on a $1 a song, ONLY after the bar cut me. It was a big hit for the customers as they got to continue singing or dancing and seen it as a big “f#€k you to the establishment. The bar was happy because they still sold some drinks and their staff earned some tips and they were no longer paying me. I gained a couple very loyal singers from that decision. Neeess to say, thaT venue was short lived, bUT the singers I gained still sin withat me aNT my new venues.

  10. Really Bob? Is your server selling their integrity? What about your valet? Skycap? Someone wants to make my electric payment so they can impress their girlfriend and sneak in before you in the rotation, I don’t care, and quite frankly, if you don’t understand that, your kind of an asshole. I agree with not letting people take over a rotation, but judiciously inserting big tippers here and there is not that big of a deal.

    1. I have been hosting karaoke for 23yrs & tend to agree with this, as KJs have to spend money to make money…. servers, valets, etc, do not. Very few young people tip at all, to any servers of any kind, come for the ‘cheap beer’ nights, run servers around for water and leave a mess, (near a college). So, if they tip, I will pay better attention to their standing in the rotation…. $1 will not get you bumped but will get a sincere Thank You… I remember the days of good tippers, that seems to have died. It usually takes me 6-8 months to recoup one batch of updates & if you don’t have ‘their song’ they look at you like you must be nuts…. over 150k songs & they cant find even 1 they want?!? The music I play has ALL been purchased legally & license fees ($6K annually) paid to play it… NOT true for many venues. I do love regulars that come to sing & spend a little money for drinks & food… look forward to seeing them.

  11. By the way, my regulars get put into rotation before they ever arrive, they are given priority when I have more singers than time, I have done free private parties for regulars that have asked, and go out of my way in other ways to let them know they are special. You definitely want to take care of your regulars, on the other hand, your regulars should understand when things may not go there way. They realize the special treatment that they get on a regular basis and shouldn’t mind if people, on occasion, slip in a few extra songs due to tips. After a time, these regulars become your friends, that’s probably the best part about the business. I take care of my friends and they take care of me. If it’s a one sided friendship, where I am catering to them with no return, then it is nothing more than a client/customer relationship and that means the client with more disposable income that they are willing to part with is the one that will get more of the service that I have to sell.

  12. Seriously, I agree! But for the annoying song/ hate songs, I’ll add ” Bohemian Raphsody”, ” Man I feel like a Woman ”, ” I don’t wanna close my eyes”, ” Wannabe”… And sadly, they’re all sang by groups who scream in mic more than singing the damn song. Words of an Ex Kj.

  13. “My Way” and “New York, New York”, along with “New York State of Mind”, “Piano Man”, “American Pie” and most stuff from Elton John will incur my wrath. Just stop it.

  14. I’ve worked as a KJ, on and off over the years, and I have never been offered tips. I don’t believe I would accept any if I was. It just wouldn’t be fair to the others that have been waiting.

    The only major problem I have faced, over the years, is having left my singer’s list…………WHERE THE CLIENTS COULD SEE IT (which included the number of times that they had sung)………….. My Bad! ………… I admit it! …………. Will never do it again!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    You get someone who arrives early (9PM) and sings often, we’ll say 10 to 15 songs, before the crowd starts to arrive (11H00 to 11H30PM). You’re list gets longer. the waiting time gets longer and sometime around 12H30 AM, someone, who has had a little to much to drink, sees that “That” person has sung 10 songs and they have only sung 2!!!!!!!!!!! Boy! did I get an earful!!!!!!!

    Before you ask, Yes, I could have played music until the crowd arrived but when I asked, the boss told me to do the karaoke. I could put music later in the evening. (Guess he wanted his money’s worth and didn’t want me sitting around and doing nothing)

    As for songs I can’t take anymore = “I WILL SURVIVE” ……………..Please don’t hate me ladies………..


    I’ve also been “Singing” for over 15 years in different karaoke bars, in and around the Montreal – Area, and I’d like to add a comment for singers:

    I am forever trying new bars, just for fun. I keep coming up against “The Jealous KJ”.

    “AND NO!” I am not imagining it. Many of my friends told me that they noticed ***it (see below) and THEN I started noticing it, myself.

    ***”He” would either mess up the song by changing the tone, lowering or raising the volume of the song or the mic, because I sounded better than “He” did!

    It happened to me, once more, just two weeks ago. I was near the end of my song and the music was cut off. I finished the song anyway and just didn’t make an issue of it. Needless to say, I will not return to that particular bar.

    Funny thing about it is that I have not had this problem with Female KJ’s………… So I’m wondering…….. Any girls out there ever come across this problem????

    Let me know.

    1. Yes, James, I have experienced that jealousy a few times & usually they try to make me sound bad or just never call me back up… so, I don’t go back. Also, I wont have their back when someone complains to me about their show.

      1. I’ll just let them complain. No sense in giving fuel for the fire (as “they” say). I go out to have fun and I’ll never understand why people go out to be miserable.

        I even stopped a fight, once between two “6 foot kids” (I won’t call’em men when they fight. Note: I’m 5’5″) By placing myself in front of the nearest chest and asking him why had he come out to the bar, that night. Reminding him that he had come out to have fun, he calmed down and the night went back to normal.

        I’ll be calling myself James1 from now on because I noticed that there is another James, here. Without a photo, you will never know who is who!

        Have a great day, Diane

    2. I have experienced this many times. This is why my number one rule is to not put myself in the rotation. I do not like to put myself in the position of competing with my female singers for songs, its their show not mine. I often have regulars request that I sing, and in this case I sing something very non showy (on purpose).
      As far as rotation. This is a business, I am in a bar/club and its all about them having a successful night. My feelings are that if you get there early and start spending money on food and booze, why should someone come in buy one drink and bump you on the rotation. I always ask myself is this good for the business I am here serving? If its a huge group of new singers I bump them in a little at a time… I communicate with them and let them know how I will be placing them into the rotation. I won’t sacrifice the regular business supporters for someone who likes to come in get their song in for a single beer and leave. If the business is not making money on Karaoke… The Karaoke goes.

  15. I’ve been a kj in the Palm Springs area since 1997 and I must say, your article is awesome! I shared immediately with my regulars to educate and enlighten. The only thing I don’t do is say a file is “corrupt”, but I do joke about it. (especially when they request Picture, lol) Also, I don’t mind the “group” song. Sometimes shows can get “ballad” heavy and group songs are usually fun and danceable. (and having drunk, usually pretty women singing isn’t such a bad thing, lol) I call up tempo songs my “ballad breaker uppers”. On the tipping subject, kj’s who say they don’t take tips, seems silly. There is a difference between” tips” and “bribes”, which I polite fully explain to the patrons. Why would you not accept a tip from people who want to reward you for putting on an entertaining evening? But yes, bribes are different and should be handled delicately as to not piss off regulars. (and yes, I LOVE my regulars!) Great job, I think you got into my head. SCARY!

  16. I’ve been running a karaoke show for awhile now and I say I will take tips. I’ll even put a tip jar on my table. I try to discourage bribes to get up faster in the rotation but if a person is gonna hand me $20 then I will let the crowd now by saying “someone said the magic words”. Every time I say that I get someone coming up and asking me what the magic word is, and when I say $20 or $50 they always walk away understanding. I’ve only had one person get mad at me for that. Too bad. On the other hand though, I refuse to do that when I have like 30 or more people. I like tips, not riotous crowds lol. Always know when to say no.

  17. I have never, and would never let anyone buy their way into a better slot in rotation. Sorry, just won’t do it. I haven’t ever cut anyone off, I don’t tell people that songs I don’t like, are corrupt. Once I get more than five or six singers I usually bow out of the rotation, cause it’s not about me. I like regulars, and I like new people, especially when they become regulars. I am fine with group songs. I don’t allow beverages or ashtrays near my equipment. Dropping the mic by accident will bother me, but I don’t get crazy about it, unless it becomes a habit. I use a compressor, but I still don’t allow yelling into the mic, cause it is quite annoying. I try to make the whole thing as fun as possible and I try to be as fair as possible. I appreciate tips, but I don’t always put out a tip jar. it depends on the venue.

    1. That’s the way I work too. I sing one or two songs to start the night (My way to check the equipment and maximize the quality of the sound), then I sit back and let them sing. (unless they need a duet partner and none are available.)

      Just noticed, more than one James so I’ll call myself James1 from here on out!

  18. Goodness, I know understand why I sometimes get the question “Do you have Picture?” or Summer nights or Paradise by the Dashboard Light. I always suppress the eyeroll and groan and answer brightly “Of course I do!” Ya’ll are giving the rest of us a bad name :)

    Just because we, as KJ’s, have heard the song a bazillion time doesn’t mean they’ve sung it a bazillion times. I know, we get weary of certain songs and certainly can grouse about it, but seriously, we are paid to entertain them and if they want to sing Picture they get to sing Picture.

    It’s kind of funny reading all the songs various KJ’s don’t want to play or hear again. At one of my shows I only have 6 – 8 regulars and then a ton of groups just out for a random fun night. To get these groups going I start playing roulette with them. First I get my partner up singing Friends in Low Places and he wanders out to the crowd with a couple of mikes, within a minute he’s no longer singing and a group is having a blast… they are hooked. I then call the group up for Sweet Caroline, I’m a Believer, or Any Man of Mine and a bunch of others. songs most people know and can get up and have fun with. Groups that would have stayed for a round of drinks and moved on stay for a couple of hours.

    I DO have 4 songs that I list on the opening page if my book I don’t allow: The Wreck of the Edmond Fitzgerald,, Stairway to Heaven, Freebird and American Pie. The first two are crowd killers and the last two I don’t want to hear butchered and sung badly they are crowd killers as well.

    Case in point, last night we went to a KJ’s final show at a local bar and he didn’t have much of a crowd (hence his last night.) About 11 a bit of a crowd started building and they were rocking some songs. At the top of the rotation the KJ sang…. The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. The crowd melted away in minutes. By midnight there were 8 people left in the bar.

    Bottom line they are there to have fun and we must grin and bear it through the 1000th butchering of Picture or some such. It goes with the territory. And truly, I’d probably relent on one of my four ‘banned’ songs if a singer wanted to sing one badly enough. But I haven’t had anyone ask in over a year. That one? Was the aforementioned KJ singing at one of my shows :)

  19. If anyone hosts shows in family friendly places, you cannot leave off “Let It Go” from Fozen as a song I could do without. Especially when I’ve got 4 different 7 year olds fighting over it. I don’t like to allow repeats at my shows. I’m only there for a 4 hour block, can’t we hear all different songs in that short amount of time?? Any thoughts from other hosts on this issue?

  20. VELLY INTELESTING! As Colonel Klink would say. I enjoyed this article, a former KJ employee of mine BRAD sent this along to me. Top of the list, the guy who has done 4000 shows in 12 years, it’s possible to do that IF you are doing multiple shows in A DAY but to put the calculator to it, I can SWEAR that me and my company are doing 6 shows a week and have for almost 20 years since 1995 when I bought the equipment from a Karaoke bar and started my own company. Now I have 10 DJs (5 who do nothing but Karaoke, 5 only weddings and proms) who Karaoke across the state and YES we have done over 10,000 shows so far (it’s easy with multiple KJs working for you) but it’s taken 20 years to do it. But who’s counting. We “pros” have seen it all haven’t we? The great singers, the poor singers, children and really old fellers. I’ve enjoyed my time in the KJ business and have seen everything listed here. Concerning the policy of to tip or not to tip, I’ll admit that at one high volume club where ANYTHING GOES I did offer the $5 will get you 10, $10 will get you within 5, $20 will get you next and $50 will get you three IN A ROW but to all that are gasping right now, it’s a rarity that I do that any longer. I DID BAN PICTURE for a couple of years but I’m mellow about it now. I DID BAN SINGERS who pissed me off with their lousy singing, habitually dropping the mike or spiking it (hey Shures ain’t cheap)(yes I’ve used crappy mics and that’s what you get in return) or were abusive toward the audience or myself. I currently will not allow a VERY POPULAR PERSON to sing at all because she can’t complete a sentence with dropping the F-Bomb every 30 seconds. She said I’ll get the owner to FIRE YOU if you don’t let me sing. I told her THAT’S GREAT! I NEED A NIGHT OFF. My God, the threats! When someone gets into my face because I don’t have a song, or I cut them off because they are overly bad or they are just being an ass, I’ll get on the mic and publicly humiliate them. It works every time. THE ONE TIME I had to draw my gun (yes dear I carry concealed but not in 51% bars) was when I had this guy ejected from the bar for saying racial epitaphs and he meets me outside with a baseball bat after the show closed. Thank God for cell phones and local police. MY ONE WRITTEN IN STONE RULE SINCE DAY ONE 1994 has been NO BURNED MUSIC. With the fall of all the major manufacturing contributors of Karaoke (Sound Choice and Chartbusters among them), BOOTLEG MUSIC has been the bane of Karaoke forever. Hand me a burned disc and I’ll break it right before your eyes. True. I’m using KARAOKE CLOUD PRO now at 9 bars now and LOVE IT. Sadly I see Karaoke with live KJs coming to a close in the next decade. Tighter restrictions on producing backing tracks is making licensing tougher and JUKEBOX Karaoke is making advances and is such that bars are now hiring regular servers to hand the mic off to customers who pay their dollar to THE MACHINE. But I’ve had fun these last 20 years, Karaoke has been good gravy and I’ve paid my host DJs well to boot.
    We each have our own style and idiosyncrasies but in the end it’s up to the customer to support or kill a show. I’ve been fortunate these last 20 years and have met a lot of wonderful people. Thanks for the article, I’ll re-post it to my site. THE PARTY DOC. http://www.weddingdjreceptions.com.

  21. I have been a KJ for going on 10 years, and I pride myself on running a fair show. If I get to a point that I don’t think I will get to a singer, I will let them know right up front. You are put into the rotation when you enter the room (regulars), or put your first song in, I will not remove you from the rotation until you leave, or my show ends. I would NEVER disrespect a customer in some of the ways you mention here, I bite my tongue a lot, but, I am respectful at all times. I will agree that if someone gets too drunk, I will cut them off. Overall this is a good informative article …

    1. Thanks. I recently started subbing for a local KJ, so I’m starting to understand the real pain that a KJ goes through. I’ll write a follow-up to this one with some “updated” view points.

      1. Thanks Ronald…Many of my fellow DJ/KJ s go through this…we put our all and if our people do not like the place well we get blamed….no respect at all…

  22. I have a peeve as a KJ 6 years now…When a business expects you to have your following and build their business because their business is not doing well…they expect you to promote and pay for ads etc….Bars with no food, even worse!!!If your bar sucks then we need to call Bar Rehab!!!!

  23. A tip is an expression of appreciation for a job well done. I’ve received many tips as a KJ at private parties, but only once at a bar gig. In every case, though, the tip was given to me at the end of the event (or, in the case of the bar gig, when the woman was leaving and on her way out the door) with no expectations of any kind – just a way of saying “thanks for a job well done, I/we had a great time.”

    There’s another word for what most of you are talking about here, which is slipping someone money in exchange for receiving preferential treatment over other people relying on the same service – in this case, waiting to sing a karaoke song. The word is “bribery,” and when a corporation does it with a foreign government, it’s a major felony with millions of dollars in fines on the line. Karaoke isn’t exactly the same stakes, obviously, but the principle is the same. If someone tries to gain an advantage with you over other people waiting to sing by giving you money, that’s a bribe. In fact, it would be hard to come up with a clearer example of a bribe in everyday life. You may not like the word, you may object to the word, you can get indignant and be offended that I’ve used the word, you may choose to obscure the reality by calling it a “tip,” or you may be in denial over the fact that you’re accepting bribes, but none of the above changes the fact that that is precisely what you’re doing. Aside from the ethical issue, it’s a guarantee that you’ll eventually have big, big problems with your clients/customers/guests, as others have pointed out here…..and sometimes not eventually, but immediately.

    I’ve had a couple of people casually hand me a song slip with a $5 bill poking out underneath it, but again, only at private events, never at a bar gig. The first time I almost laughed because the guy was a little nervous and I felt like I was in a bad movie. I told him “I’m sorry, I don’t do that” and he was cool about it. The 2 or 3 other times it’s happened the guys were surprised but respectful. One of them kept apologizing over and over as if he had grievously wounded me. I told him it was OK, it’s just not something I do and it’s always been my policy. A karaoke party isn’t the place for moralizing – just say no, end of story. A couple of people have asked “what can I do to get bumped up in the order?” and I say “Ummm, nothing. Go back and have a great time and wait your turn.”

    My policy (your mileage may vary): I don’t accept bribes and everyone has to wait their turn (with reasonable exceptions regarding waiting one’s turn, e.g. newcomers and emergencies). I’m not saying that everyone else should have the same policy – you all are free to run your shows however you like and accept any kind of money that’s tossed your way for whatever reason whatsoever. But let’s be honest about what is taking place when people hand us money in order to move up in the singing order. They’re not “tipping” you, folks.

    1. Well put sir. Since I’ve started hosting, I do not take tips to get people in faster, etc. I’ve found that when I do take a “bribe” the person now suddenly thinks I am working for them and that I have to now “earn” my tip.

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