If you happen to be a Chinese karaoke baron–and our demographic research indicates that many of you fit that description–then you’ll want to pay particular attention to today’s Wall Street Journal article on the battle to collect croon-along royalties in your homeland. It’s a slightly complicated situation, so here’s a quick summary: With an estimated 100,000 karaoke bars in China, the country’s Ministry Of Culture decided to set up a giant country-wide database to find out who was singing what, and determine whether copyrights were being paid for the performance (the database would also help determine if too-sexy songs were being performed, which could be bad news for Right Said Fred’s overseas revenue stream).
Then a rival organization stepped up to enforce another karaoke-royalty system, and the whole scene got more crowded than a bachelorette party at Sing Sing:
Some karaoke club owners worry that the bureaucratic fight is going to be bad for their business. Big karaoke parlor chains have already raised their prices to pass the cost — which can cost less than $5 for a night of singing depending upon the city — on to their customers, sparking protests from Chinese amateur crooners.
In the city of Changsha in south-central China, the culture ministry recently installed a trial version of its system in Han Wensheng’s Golden Age Karaoke Club. He worries, however, that his new system doesn’t necessarily mean he’s seen the end of the war. “The battle…has nothing to do with us, and we can’t really influence it, but we of course aren’t going to pay twice,” Mr. Han says.
If it seems strange that karaoke kopyrights would become such a point of contention, consider that China’s piracy is so rampant, the music industry could make somewhere around $375 million if royalties were collected. That’s worth more than all the tea in…someplace. Can’t remember where.