San Gabriel Valley Tribune

Karaoke system makers aim for home market in U.S.

Industry - the karaoke business operates on a very basic premise: everybody wants to be a star.
At least, that's what karaoke system manufacturer VocoPro is banking on.

"I don't care if they're 16 or 70 years old, people like to get up and perform," said L.J. Jansoik, vice president of sales and marketing. "Everybody's a singer these days," Based in Industry, VocoPro builds everything from in-home systems to full-scale club models, hoping the karaoke craze that has existed in Asian markets for more than two decades will catch on in America.

"Karaoke started in Japan about 20 years ago and now 81 percent of the population has a machine in their home,' said Jason Hou, VocoPro's director of sales. "We believe that in the next 5 to 10 years, we'll have the same types of percentage here."

Currently though, a major portion of the company's business comes from commercial sales to bars and clubs, which are finding that karaoke can improve their bottom line.

"Bars and clubs generate a lot more revenue with karaoke than without and that's why they are so popular," Hou said.

Clubs that offer karaoke can draw in extra patrons and make extra money by selling people tapes of their performance, according to Hou.

With more than 30 restaurants and bars in San Gabriel Valley offering karaoke at least one night a week, the trend is paying off.

"The more people we can bring in here, that's just money in our pockets," said Elias Preciado, manager of La Fiesta restaurant in Covina. "As soon as people sit down, they order a drink and maybe some appetizers."

While the commercial market is the company's stable, Janosik says the consumer market is wide open and vastly untouched. Both he and Hou see the convenience of the in-home systems as their most appealing feature. "It's a lot more family use-based because they either can't or won't take their kids to a bar," said Janosik. "We're on the very front end of the consumer market."

In a good week, the privately owned company sells more than 500 systems through a network of distributors in the United States and Canada. The machines range in price from just over $499 for a consumer model to more than $20,000 for commercial system.