"Karaoke" is a Japanese term which is interpreted as "empty orchestra". In my research the term "karaoke" was first coined by a Japanese businessman, Daisuke Inoue, in around 1971, OsakaJapan. Inoue first constructed a tape machine to be used to musically accompany a fellow businessman at an event he could not attend. The idea gained popularity, and thru 1971 he began renting out 11 tape machines and amplifiers he had assembled to local bars. From that time on a new generation of karaoke machines was spawned. Unfortunately, Inoue did not patent the machines and therefore could not collect royalties moving forward. Karaoke machines did not gain favor in the United States until sufficient songs were provided with the machines. By the early 1990's hundreds of Bars, Clubs, and Lounges began offering karaoke shows as a way to attract customers. Early on some clubs offered karaoke every day of the week. Moving forward thru the 2000's, many bars, lounges, and clubs have settled on offering karaoke one or two days a week. In the United States, karaoke may not be as popular as it once was in clubs and bars when it first appeared in the 1990s. In part that could be a result of so many households that now own karaoke machines. They became affordable with the advent of machines that included the Singing Machine which first debuted in the US in 1988.
In the later 1980s, karaoke machines included normal 8 track and cassette cartridge players which only played the music, not the video graphics. Generally, they only held four songs, and the words were included in the cassettes which were hole punched to be placed in a notebook. In the later 1980's, laser disc technology came out, and for the first time, words could be seen on a video monitor. The problem was that laser discs and their players were very expensive, almost cost prohibitive for the average household. That all changed in 1991 when Pocket Songs was the first company to introduce CD + G (CD + Graphic) karaoke discs to the public. Karaoke CDG players began to show up and many other karaoke CD manufacturers developed. Following CDG came other formats such as karaoke VCD and DVD however, they did not become popular in the west. With the advent of CDG in the 1990's, a new generation of Karaoke Disc Jockeys (KJ) began to show up in clubs, bars, parties, and the like. Since 2003, computer software manufacturers have developed karaoke software to play literally 100,000s of thousands of songs thru a computer, karaoke songbooks are also now available online. KJ's only had to carry a computer and portable hard drive, versus crates of CDGs. Karaoke has also helped to spawn many new singers in the recording industry like Taylor Swift. Where will karaoke be heading in future years? I think what Daisuke Inoue developed way back in 1971 will be around for generations to come. Good singers will be able to refine their skills without the aid of a band, while the rest of us will just have lots of fun. In the end having fun is what karaoke is all about.