Yes, Your Karaoke DJ Will Turn Down the Mic Volume if You Suck

Karaoke_Gorman.jpg
Illustration by Mike Gorman

Karaoke can be a dangerous endeavor. What can you sing that won't make friends shun you? How can you go balls-out during your next performance? Each week in "Ask a Karaoke Host," RFT Music writer and professional karaoke host Allison Babka answers your burning questions about maximizing your melodious mutterings and minimizing your friends' pain. Ask her stuff by emailing rftkaraoke@gmail.com or hashtagging #rftkaraoke on Twitter.

What's your position on karaoke hosts who sing multiple times a night? A fine way to start the night, but really? After every rotation? -- You're So Vain

Confession time: I'm a mic hog. Ok, I'm not quite that bad, but I do love taking my turn. The reason I started doing karaoke in the first place is because singing (or, more often, growling) my feelings is musical therapy. I'm not about to give that up just because I'm now the host.

But contrary to how that sounds, it's about more than just being selfish; it's about being a leader and modeling behavior. As a karaoke host, I'm expected to encourage people to sing because, 1) it's entertaining and 2) when people are happily crooning, they're also happily drinking and making money for the bar. If I don't sing every so often to "prove" how "easy" it is, customers might become too embarrassed to head to the stage which kills the momentum (and cash flow). Remember how in "Footloose," everyone stood awkwardly to the side until Ren and Ariel started dancing to "Almost Paradise?" It's like that. I lead; people grow balls and follow. Drinking ensues. Everyone is happy.

That said, I also read my crowd pretty damn well. If people appear curious but shy, I'll offer to duet with them. If their heads bob to the music but it seems like they just want to chill out and listen, I'll turn the night into "The Allison Show," do a few songs consecutively and take requests. If I've got a full house and a lot of eager singers, I might only sing twice in three hours. No matter what, my goal is to feed off of the crowd's energy and desires while getting my own ya-ya's out. It boils down to understanding that night's audience.

Ever had anyone who sounded so bad you turned their volume down? -- William Hung

Yes, I'm ashamed to say. I mean, I don't turn people alllllllll the way down. But if someone is uber-drunk, they've picked the worst song ever or the crowd audibly groans when this person approaches the stage, then sure, I'll turn the mic down and the music up a bit. The singer usually doesn't notice, since I manipulate the sound gradually. Is it the nicest thing to do? Probably not, but it's for the greater good.

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