Karaoke History

Karaoke History – Let’s Find out about the hobby we all know and love!

KARAOKE (noun) Pronounced Ka-re-oke – Japanese, from  kara empty + ōke, short for ōkesutora orchestra

Date: 1979

: a device that plays instrumental accompaniments for a selection of songs to which the user sings along and that records the user’s singing with the music; also : a form of entertainment involving the use of a karaoke machine

The concept of creating studio recordings that lack the lead vocal has been around for probably nearly as long as recording itself. Many artists, amateur and professional, perform in situations where a full band/orchestra is either logistically or financially impractical and so they use a “karaoke” recording, but they are actually the original artists. (This is not to be confused with “lip syncing” in which a performer mimes to a previously produced studio recording with the lead vocal intact.)

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1960s: Development of audio-visual-recording devices

From 1961–1966, the American TV network NBC carried a karaoke-like series, Sing Along with Mitch, featuring host Mitch Miller and a chorus with the lyrics to their songs superimposed near the bottom of the TV screen for home audience participation.

In fact, the concept of ‘sing along’ music should have been considered the precursor of the karaoke music. Remember that in the late 1960s well into the 1970s, storage of audible materials started to dominate the music recording era and revolutionized the portability and ease of use of band and instrumental music by musicians and entertainers as the demand for entertainers increased globally. This may have been attributable to the introduction of music cassette tapes, something that resulted from the demand of customizing one’s music recording and the ‘handiness’ and ‘duplicability’ of one’s music in a faster, convenient way to match entertainers’ lifestyle and ‘footlooseness’ nature of the entertainment industry.

Filipino musicians and entertainers started to influx Japan and becoming increasingly notable in 1967 with streams of singers coming into the country since then well into the 1970s bringing with them their music. With the innate characteristic of improvising gadgets at the most minimal costs, Filipinos would resort to solutions that would give greater result to generate revenue at a lesser cost of having a musical band and at a greater ingenuity such as the use of ‘minus-one music’, a sing-along musical accompaniment recorded on cassette tapes, that became very prevalent in the Philippines in the late 1960s to early 1980s. It was also during the first half of this era that ‘minus-one music’ was popular in the Philippines when it was synonymously termed ‘multiplex music’ recorded on cassette tapes where both a vocalized and non-vocalized instrumental-only versions of the same song were available. ‘Minus-one music’ could well have an influence on the production of a more complicated system in Japan that we now call ‘karaoke’ machine. Indeed, ‘minus-one music’ was actually first recorded by the use of cassette tape and not on a compact discthat came into existence several years after if we are to evaluate the claims associated with Roberto del Rosario’s work.

1971: Development in Japan

There are various disputes about who first invented the name karaoke. One claim is that the karaoke styled machine was invented by Japanese musician Daisuke Inoue in Kobe, Japan, in 1971. After becoming popular in Japan, karaoke spread to East and Southeast Asia during the 1980s and subsequently to other parts of the world.

In Japan, it has long been common to provide musical entertainment at a dinner or a party. Japanese drummer Daisuke Inoue was asked by frequent guests in the Utagoe Kissa, where he performed, to provide a recording of his performance so that they could sing along on a company-sponsored vacation. Realizing the potential for the market, Inoue made a tape recorder that played a song for a 100-yen coin. Instead of giving his karaoke machines away, Inoue leased them out so that stores did not have to buy new songs on their own. Originally, it was considered a somewhat expensive fad, as it lacked the live atmosphere of a real performance and 500 yen in the 1970s was the price of two typical lunches, but it caught on as a popular entertainment. Karaoke machines were initially placed in restaurants and hotel rooms; soon, new businesses called karaoke boxes, with compartmented rooms, became popular. In 2004, Daisuke Inoue was awarded the tongue-in-cheek Ig Nobel Peace Prize for inventing karaoke, “thereby providing an entirely new way for people to learn to tolerate each other.”

1980s: Filipino patent

Inoue never bothered to patent his invention, losing his chance to become one of Japan’s richest men. Roberto del Rosario, a Filipino inventor who developed a sing along system in 1975 and patented it in the 1980s called his sing-along system “Minus-One”, now holds the patent for the device now commonly known as the “karaoke machine”. The spread of “Minus-One” music would have been attributed to a few Filipinos who brought with them their music wherever they go and a few went to Japan as entertainers during the early part of this decade. Following a court battle with a Japanese company which claimed to have invented the system, del Rosario’s patents were issued in 1983 and 1986, a decade after the device was supposedly invented.

Patent Issues Continued On

Yet again another battle on patent infringement continued on with another company. Posthumously awarded in favour of Roberto del Rosario under G.R. No. 115106, March 15, 1996 of the Supreme Court filed on January 18, 1993, it was a final victory for his family members a couple of decades after the first patent was enforced.

(Author & Origin Unknown)


Karaoke soon spread to the rest of Asia and then (back) to the United States in the 1990s, as well as to Canada, Australia and other Western countries. In-home karaoke machines soon followed but lacked success in the US and Canadian markets. When creators became aware of this problem, karaoke machines were no longer being sold strictly for the purpose of karaoke but as home theater systems to enhance television watching to “movie theater like quality”. Home theater systems took off, and karaoke went from being the main purpose of the stereo system, to a side feature.

As more music became available for karaoke machines, more people within the industry saw karaoke as a profitable form of lounge and nightclub entertainment. It is not uncommon for some bars to have karaoke performances seven nights a week, commonly with much more high-end sound equipment than the small, stand-alone consumer versions. Dance floors and lighting effects are also becoming common sights in karaoke bars. Lyrics are often displayed on multiple TV screens around the bar.

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