Reaching For The Stars With Karaoke Fundraisers

Karaoke comes from a pair of Japanese words, and first referred to music mixed by recording the band's part first. “Kara” means empty, and “okesutora” means orchestra.

The singer would listen to the recorded music by the orchestra or band and sing his part. Eventually this practice was done intentionally as a form of entertainment, so people could enjoy singing along to their favorite song even after it was produced.

The first karaoke machine was designed in Japan, during the 1970's, by a gentleman named Daisuke Inoue. Inoue-san was a well-known drummer, and his friends asked him to provide recordings of his music so they could sing along at home.

Shortly after Inoue-san began leasing his machines to friends, and later they were placed in restaurants and hotel lobbies throughout Japan. Once popularity grew there, karaoke spread to the United States, and across East and Southeast Asia.

Through the 80's, karaoke continued to become a popular and fun event through many countries. Interestingly however, the karaoke machine was not patented until the 80's, and then by a Filipino inventor named Roberto del Rosario.

Although dedicated karaoke machines were popular at first, they later became added as an extra feature of home theater systems in the 1990's. Larger, more complex machines remain in bars and lounges across the world, though these days karaoke machines are even designed to be carried by and used by children as they dream of becoming famous. Within lounges and restaurants, and partnered with special lighting effects, competitions, prizes, and parties, karaoke continues to be a great deal of fun.

Modern Day Karaoke

Karaoke has grown as technology changes. Many karaoke machines these days have a built-in game whereby you can randomly enter a song number and sing along with whatever song comes up. This is particularly fun for group karaoke singing, or for promising to sing a random song when donations reach a certain amount. The game is called “Kamikaze Karaoke” or “Karaoke Roulette” in the United States and Canada. Some machines limit the random songs offered by genre so the result is not too obscure, yet still random.

Video game versions of karaoke exist now and can be quite popular. They can rate users by pitch, rhythm, and timing, making karaoke competitions easy to do at home. Some games also combine singing with playing instruments that can be connected to consoles, allowing families to become rock bands in their own living room.

Computers have allowed people to “rip” music off CDs and store it on hard drives for some time now. While many “Karaoke Jockeys” or “KJs” prefer to store their music directly on the computer rather than carrying many CDs around, anyone can take advantage of karaoke files offered freely online.

These files are called “Kars” and carry the extension .kar. They are an informal type of midi song file that can allow you to do karaoke right at your computer. Kar files can be better for karaoke than regular midi files, since they often show the lyrics when used with a Kar reader.

Perhaps more recognizable to avid karaoke singers are the online communities for sharing, rating, and reviewing karaoke songs recorded by individual people. These communities can be quite useful for sharing events listings including local karaoke events, competitions, and star searches.

They also offer a place to discuss and compare karaoke equipment and music providers as well as software. Finally, they allow karaoke enthusiasts to record and share songs as they practice singing, so people can rate each other's singing voice without leaving the computer.

Hosting Your Own Karaoke Fundraiser

Karaoke can be a fun and exciting way to fundraise for high schools, youth groups and colleges as these are the groups most likely to really enjoy karaoke. Here you can use existing facilities such as the gymnasium, community center, or local pub, to run your event.

Decorations may be borrowed from other events, and existing business relationships can be leveraged. Local companies may be happy to help you buy supplies and rent a hall if necessary, as their name will be recognized by those at your event.

Although bars are popular locations for karaoke, obviously this is not always appropriate. Other options are festivals and carnivals, where karaoke events can be combined with other fundraising ideas.

Audiences may also be willing to donate with the understanding that, when a certain amount is reached, a particular person or group will need to sing. Students may love the chance to get their principal or favorite teachers on stage, and may also donate change to get the cheerleaders or school football team behind the microphone.

Fundraising CDs are already available at reasonable prices, and with a wide range of genres. These can be used if you already have access to a machine or can rent one, without needing to hire a KJ. Many companies that offer these CDs will provide several different options that best suit your fundraising group, so don't be afraid to shop around.

If you would prefer not to handle the music, DJ and entertainment companies are often happy to act as KJ for a fee. You may need an initial investment to book a KJ and their karaoke equipment. On the other hand, you may find when you talk to the company personally they'll be willing to lend a hand, offer a reduced fee, or wait longer for payment since you are fundraising.

When you do arrange a karaoke event, consider asking local businesses to donate prizes, and also offer snacks and drinks. If possible, combine your fundraising products here as well; it's easy to have a table set up to sell pins, bumper stickers, or t shirts, recognizing your group in general or this specific event.

See if you can purchase snacks and drinks at a wholesale price, and ask a group of volunteers to run a refreshment table. Put together a fundraising committee and judges and make it known that you are offering prizes for various contests within the karaoke night, and don't be afraid to take ideas from Canadian Idol and other “search for a star” programs.

Grab your favorite volunteer to be a fun and crowd pleasing emcee, or ask your DJ company if they can provide an emcee for you. You never know, you may just uncover next year's American Idol!


  1. Mary says:

    Would like to set a karaoke fundraiser for my sons school but dont know what to do first…need help

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