Running A Karaoke Contest

by Richard Wise

If you’re going to be a KJ, sooner or later you will be asked to run a karaoke contest. No two KJ’s will run a contest in exactly the same way. There are, however, certain components that every contest will have. These are what I’ll be covering on this page.

The very first thing, and the very hardest thing, that you will need to do is to find at least two, (preferably three), fair and competent judges. You might think that this should be the responsibility of the establishment which is putting on the contest but I guarantee you that it is the KJ that takes the heat if there is some kind of judging absurdity. If I am asked to run a contest, I will insist on the right to screen the judges.

Next you will need a scoring system. I have been to and/or entered many karaoke contests. The scoring systems, in my opinion, are usually ridiculous. They may contain such categories as stage presence, appearance, and crowd response. Let’s be realistic! This is karaoke, not Star Search. KaraokKC Fair Karaoke Contest 2011- thumnaile is an entertainment for the average person to have fun with and maybe show off a little.

Professional singers should go perform for money. This being said, the only two categories I will allow on the score sheets are difficulty of song and song performance. Normally with a scoring spread of 1-50 for difficulty and 1-100 for performance. You could use a scoring system of 1-5 and 1-10 but the higher numbers will help to reduce tied scores.

Most contests will have the categories of Best Male, Best Female, and Best Duet. Sometimes there is more than just first place for each category. These decisions, along with what prizes that are to be awarded, are the responsibility of whoever is putting on the contest. The size of the prizes and the amount of advertising will determine the turn out.

The fairest way I’ve found to determine the contestant line-up is to set a time deadline for registering and then writing all the names on separate papers, folding them, placing them in a box, and drawing them randomly. This will avoid any arguments that may arise with contestants who want to sing first, last, or at some certain place in between. It will speed things up some if you have the contestants write down the number of the song they wish to do when they register.


by Richard Wise. Follow me on Google+

What would be a “fair” karaoke contest?

by wiseguy
from karaoke stage.


Not everyone is going to like your decisions. What I believe is, you don’t like the way I run the contest, or you don’t like the outcome, run your own and see if it’s as easy as you think.17785253-beautiful-singer-singing-with-a-retro-microphone-in-studio

by wiseguy

It’s a sad fact that, even if the KJ has nothing to do with selecting the judges, he/she will invariably take the flack for the outcome of the contest.

I have always believed that there should be only two judging criteria in a karaoke contest. These are “difficulty of song” and “song performance”. Criteria such as “crowd response” and “stage presence” have no place here. Karaoke is about singing and I hate seeing someone (who can’t sing) win because of a few points awarded from them having a few more friends in the audience or because they danced around on the

I hate seeing someone (who can’t sing) win because of a few points a
Awarded from them having a few more friends in the audience or because they danced around on the stage.

by wiseguy

Oh, that is a beauty of a point. All of the ones I have been to were all in fun with the exception of one. It was a city wide 3 month ordeal. I caught the the semi-finals. All I can say is, I’m glad I didn’t have to judge the finals. These were some good singers, but had outstanding performance, too. By performance I mean didn’t look into the monitor much at all, really played the audience, and you can tell they really enjoy themselves and put it all into their performance.


There is truth to this. If a person hates country music, will they judge accurately to those who sing country. The other part about being sober…. oh yes, what a difference this makes. I believe being drunk leads to being temporarily tone deaf.

Personally, I like having different categories like type of music (it’s hard to be able to differentiate a good country singer to a good alternative rock singer), best performance, etc..

Not everyone is going to like your decisions. What I believe is, you don’t like the way I run the contest, or you don’t like the outcome, run your own and see if it’s as easy as you think.

by wiseguy

Hear, hear to that. People have no idea how much work is involved in running a Karaoke contest. Finding impartial judges alone is sometimes enough to make one pull one’s hair out (and I have little of that left to mess with). Let the complainers just once try and organize a contest and you will find fewer and fewer contests around.

Most karaoke contests are taken entirely TOO seriously! That’s why you can’t please all the people all the time no matter HOW you do the judging. My solution was to take the judges right out of it! I do this by DRAWING! For example, if my venue agrees to give out $150 in cash or bar cash prizes I’ll usually split the prizes into $75 for first, $50 for second and $25 for third. I buy those huge rolls of two-part tickets from any office supply store, and each time a singer is up they get a ticket in the drawing. At the end of the night I have one of the servers draw the first ticket for 3rd prize. When that singer comes up to collect, he/she draws the next ticket for 2nd prize and that prize-winner draws the final ticket for 1st prize. Karaoke is primarily about having FUN, and this method puts EVERY singer on the same footing no matter what genre they sing, how well they sing or how many friends they have in the audience. EVERY SINGER has the same chance of winning, EXCEPT the singers who have been at your show since the beginning of the night might have performed through more rotations and thus have more tickets in the drawing… they’ve also probably spent more money in the venue that night so I believe the fact that they may have one or two more tickets in the drawing is NOT an unfair advantage. They EARNED it!
I’ve also found my Drawing Format “contest” to be quite effective to build business at a NEW venue as well. In this case, every ticket for every song performed for the first FOUR WEEKS at a new venue goes into a drawing for a FREE KARAOKE SHOW!!! I host a 3-hour FREE show for the winner’s private party at either their location or the venue… at an agreed upon time and date that I’m available. This is an incentive to build the business at the new venue, and I can usually talk the venue into throwing in a few party platters of wings or something to “sweeten the pot”. Not only does this promote the venue, but I’ve also gotten side jobs ranging from birthday and pool parties to wedding receptions from people who attend the winners’ FREE parties. Of course, any time the winner wants to extend the “FREE” party over the 3-hour prize is billed a per hour rate paid at the time of performance.

What would be a “fair” karaoke contest?

by wiseguy


by oneofakind864

The JUDGES and SCORING are probably the one thing everyone hears that is griped about most at a contest. Most of the time it’s sour grapes from people who didn’t win…but there are steps that can be taken to ensure that YOU have a fair contest.

I have been IN several national competitions- and have BEEN TO several competitions. The most outraged I have ever been was when I traveled 7 hours to watch a contest one of my proteges was in. I freely admit that my student shouldn’t have won. I knew going in he wouldn’t . He had lots of work to do and this was a learning experience for him. There were about 50 people in this contest. They all had to “qualify”, then win their local venue to get to the regional contest. They had come from 3 different states. So I know they had some pretty hefty travel expenses just like we did. This national competition is a valid and reputable competition and I have supported it from the start. But this particular hosting venue almost ruined the competitions credibility.

They had local “celebrity” judges and that was fine. But what wasn’t fine was that the judges got free drinks all night and by the end of the contest they were glassy eyed and obviously very drunk.

The venue’s waitress was bringing them drinks and sitting with them to make sure they had whatever they needed while the other patrons packed into this place like sardines got no service. I mean that quite literally. The only waitress sat at the judges table and only ran drinks to them. The bar was 3 and 4 deep with people trying to get drinks.

But service is not my beef with this place. Out of the 50 or so contestants there were 5 who had a shot of winning the national competition (remember this was a regional). One guy in particular had it hands down. I had a copy of the judges scoring criteria and I was scoring contestants as they went for my student to see who and what was winning…and this guy had perfect scores across the board including crowd response! The other 4 singers I mentioned were all amazing vocalists with decent stage presence but THIS guy was fabulous. Had he or any of the other 4 great singers won I would not have had a problem. But he didn’t…he didn’t even place. Neither did any of the great singers.

The winner was this sad little girl who had a decent voice. She sang a Gretchen Wilson tune. I won’t lie and say she couldn’t sing, she hit the notes. But she wasn’t even in the same league, (on ANY of the criteria the contestants were scored on) as the other 5 singers.

DID I forget to say that she was the “lone waitress” for the judges and also host venues contestant? Have any of you ever been to a contest where, when the winners are announced there is no clapping from over 300 people, (except from the judges table) just dead silence. Then people just start leaving. I have never seen such disgust from an audience.

I told the national representative that this was a farce and that he needed to tell his boss that the venue had so blatantly rigged the outcome. He was very embarrassed. It was ironic when that same contest called ME, as a previous winner of it, to judge the national finals that year. I told them I had to disqualify myself because I couldn’t in all fairness judge it because I was already biased against the contestant from my region. They asked me why, and I told them that the girl from my region had won in a rigged contest and she didn’t have a chance in hell of placing at the competition.

THEY were embarrassed. Note…the girl didn’t even come close to placing at the finals. Bottom line is that I think venues for national competitions should NOT be allowed to have a “local’ contestant. They are making plenty of money. I think it’s a conflict of interests to have a home court advantage like that. Just my personal opinion.

Now on to the judges. I know that it’s not realistic to have “qualified” judges that all have vocal training to judge your contests. But it IS POSSIBLE to have a well rounded panel. I don’t think WHO you have judging is as important as the kind of judge you have, and the method of scoring used.

Judges should have three things at a minimum:

1) They should be UNBIASED( DON’T call someone to judge if they have competed against and been beaten by one of your contestants-Uh- HELLO??? don’t call them if they are “friends” with one of your contestants I know in a perfect world they can be unbiased towards that friend…but it’s NOT a perfect world and they will have to answer to their friend afterwards so DON’T put your contestants or your judges in this situation. And YES I have seen both of these done more than once!

2) They should have a written set of criteria to score contestants on-preferably with as little “wiggle room” for personal taste as possible(see the scoring sheet I am including).

3)  They be requested to conduct themselves with a little class while judging. IE- no DRUNK judges! It is your responsibility as a venue to try to adhere to these three thing at a bare minimum. You can also throw out the highest and lowest scores to prevent skewing of the scores in either direction if you think your judges may have a personal bias in any way.

As I said- I have competed in more contests than I can even remember…but I am including the BEST score sheet I have ever seen here. I’d also like to note that I DIDN’T win this contest- I came in second and lost by one point…but I completely agree with the outcome. This girl had her stuff TOGETHER and though we had comparable voices…she just plain and simple had a better PERFORMANCE than I did. The venue and Kj went to GREAT trouble to ensure that this was a fair contest and it is apparent that they took into consideration every ‘gripe” that has ever been uttered in connection with a contest and tried to prevent it at this contest. They completely succeeded!

If every contest used a score sheet like this it would virtually eliminate “beeyotching” afterwards because there is NO subjectivity- even if a contestant sings a song that isn’t particularly to the judges personal taste. The judges have 3 choices for point value. Zero, one half of a point or a full point. They also have to put their names on the score sheets and are held accountable if there is an obvious “false” score. I love that there isn’t a wide point margin available for each individual’s “personal discretion”

And most of the criteria is pretty straightforward…no wiggle room!

:oh yeah: :dancin:

Each judge has to circle the point value for each criteria.

Singing ability
0-1/2- 1 Is the singer on pitch
0-1/2- 1 Did they hit the notes without sounding weak/or straining
0-1/2- 1 Did they choose a song suited to their vocal ability
0-1/2- 1 Did they stay in time to the track/music
0-1/2- 1 Were they able to sustain notes/phrases without losing their breath
0-1/2- 1 Did the singer “control” the song(or sound like they were about to lose it)
0-1/2- 1 Did they avoid obvious mistakes
0-1/2- 1 Did the singer utilize the mic properly( pulling away for loud notes-closer for soft)

Song Interpretation
0-1/2- 1 Was the singer’s phrasing well done( no breathing when they shouldn’t)
0-1/2- 1 Did they have their own style or did they mimic the original well(either is fine)
0-1/2- 1 Did they use loud /soft/dynamics to make the song come alive
0-1/2- 1 Was the singer’s vocal rendition suited to the song
0-1/2- 1 Did they sound like they connected with the lyrics
0-1/2- 1 Did the singer show knowledge/mastery of the song

Stage presence
0-1/2- 1 Did they perform the song in an entertaining manner
0-1/2- 1 Was the outfit/costume appropriate/suited for the song
0-1/2- 1 Did they utilize choreography
0-1/2- 1 Did they draw the crowd/you into the performance
0-1/2- 1 Was the use of props appropriate/well done
0-1/2- 1 Was the costume/outfit flattering to the singer
0-1/2- 1 Were they able the sing the song without looking at the monitors(did they know the song well)
0-1/2- 1 Were they enthusiastic/ emotionally in sync with the song
0-1/2- 1 Was the singer confident on stage and comfortable with the song

Extra credit- only give to those who exhibit these “above and beyond” performance attributes
0-1/2- 1 Did they show unusual talent/range/skill or even a “pro” level skill
0-1/2- 1 Was their costume “extra special” for the performance or did they do anything unique to set
them apart from anyone else you have heard sing this song
0-1/2- 1 Was the timing and or lyrics of the song selection “challenging” (changing tempos, tricky
wording, etc)

A perfect score would be 23 and the highest score possible- a 26- judges can give o points, ½ a point, or 1 whole point. The extra credit section is only for those contestants who “go the extra mile”

Ain’t THAT a BEAUTIFUL score sheet? Even if they individual judge HATED the song…this forces them to be subjective. It also allows each contestant to see where and how they can improve for the next performance. Please feel free to copy this score sheet for you own use or to email this to anyone who wants a copy to use for a future contest or reference regarding one!

Hope this turns out to be informative to both contestants, KJ’s, and judges!

by oneofakind864

Karaoke Contest Scorecard

by Mickey J.

Here’s the scorecard we used for our last contest:

Contestant Number _________________________________

Contestant Name _________________________________

Song Title _________________________________

Singing ability 1 2 3 4 5
[Is the singer on pitch; did they hit the notes without sounding weak/or straining; did they choose a song suited to their vocal ability; did they stay in time to the track/music; were they able to sustain notes/phrases without losing their breath; did the singer “control” the song (or sound like they were about to lose it); did they avoid obvious mistakes; did the singer utilize the mic properly (pulling away for loud notes-closer for soft); did they show unusual talent/range/skill or even a “pro” level skill ]

Song Interpretation 1 2 3 4 5
[Was the singer”s phrasing well done (no breathing when they shouldn”t);
Did they have their own style or did they mimic the original well (either is fine)
Did they use loud /soft/dynamics to make the song come alive
Was the singer”s vocal rendition suited to the song
Did they sound like they connected with the lyrics
Did the singer show knowledge/mastery of the song]

Stage presence 1 2 3 4 5
[Did they perform the song in an entertaining manner
Was the outfit/costume appropriate/suited for the song
Did they draw the crowd/you into the performance
Was the use of props appropriate/well done
Was the costume/outfit flattering to the singer
Were they able the sing the song without looking at the monitors (did they know the song well)
Was the singer confident on stage and comfortable with the song]

Audience Response 1 2 3 4 5
[Did the audience seem engaged
Was there good applause
Was there a spontaneous reaction during performance]

Enthusiasm, Emotion 1 2 3 4 5

Were they enthusiastic (for faster, dynamic song), or emotionally in sync (ballad) with the song
Was their costume “extra special” for the performance or did they do anything unique to set them apart from anyone else you have heard sing this song
Was the timing and or lyrics of the song selection “challenging” (changing tempos, tricky wording, etc)

Mickey J.
Alas for those who never sing, but die with all their music in them.
— Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

How To Run A Contest 101

by spotlightjr
I will tell how we run one. there is no exact way. We do a 6 week contest. Up to thirty people a night can register to compete. we have only two categories. Country and everything else. 7921871-curtains-with-microphoneTop two male and female performers from each category move on to the finals. Also the top three highest scores besides the finalists move onto “wildcard” week which is week 5. On week 5 out of those 12 wildcards the 3 highest point totals, regardless of category move onto the finals.
We use three judges each week and most if not all, have some musical background.
Its a point system consisting of singing ability, stage presence, and appearance. We ask them to be attentive and usually have the venue supply them with a 25.00 tab so they can eat, etc.
The venue puts up all the prizes and money (1000.00 in this contest we’re doing now). They also advertise the contest locally on the radio and we make up table tents and flyers for the venue. This contest we’re doing now is 750.00 for first, 250.00 for second and 100.00 venue G.C. for third. We have nightly prize give-a-ways to keep people there (small stuff) . We do facebook, myspace, craigslist, etc to help promote the contest. 11826668-the-king-of-superstars
We supply all the “administrative” stuff like registration forms, judges score cards, contest rules, etc.
It’s a lot of work compared to a regular gig so be prepared. We charge about 25% more than normal to defray expenses.
Two things to look out for: Professional singers come out of the woodwork when $$$ competitions are going on. Be sure to include in your rules exactly what “professional” means and if they are going to be eligible at your venue. It’s very difficult to dispute and there are a lot of egos. Second, Be careful on the vibe of the room. What I mean is contestants have a tendency to pick ballad after ballad. It can literally suck the life out of the room. It’s your job to pick the room up and bring back the “buzz”. We usually do about 6 contestants at a time and then give the judges a break and either sing something “upbeat” or call up someone who will sing something fast that isn’t involved with the contest.
To be fair, we put all the contestants numbers in a hat and draw them out one at a time. Our registration is usually one hour before the contest starts. We have them pick two songs. They will only sing one during competition but we have them pick two in case they change their mind, someone else has sung the song, we have an error due to our fault, etc.
It’s fun and stressful at the same time. Our finals week is very busy and we have to be on our game to keep things moving. You may want to consider having someone help you.
by spotlightjr

3 Tips for running a successful karaoke contest

author unknown
Don’t bite off more than you can chew: If this is your first contest, don’t try to run a multi-location contest with multiple qualification rounds. Managing a contest like this is a nightmare unless you are very organized. If you do decide to take on this burden, make sure you plan way ahead. Questions to be answered: How will singers register to compete? How will you communicate with the singers? How many songs will they sing and how will you handle two people wanting to perform the same song? 5938541-young-attractive-singer-on-dark-backgroundAnswer these questions and make sure you think through all the logistics of your contest.

If this is your first time running a contest, consider doing a small one at only one location over a few weeks. Or, run a mini-contest that starts and ends on the same night.

Have fair judging: The number one complaint from your competitors (those who lost) will be that the contest wasn’t fair. Most contests either have a panel of judges or they allow the audience to decide the winner. The benefit of having judges is that you have impartial and (ideally) unbiased critics. The benefit of the audience method is that you encourage the contestants to fill the venue with spectators who will spend money and potentially become new customers.

If you have a panel of judges, the losers will complain that the winner flirted with the judges or that the judges don’t know how to identify talent, etcetera. If you go with a purely audience based judging system (applause-o-meter, voting, etc), the contestants will likely call it a “popularity contest” because the winners weren’t the best singers but were the best promoters by filling the bar full of supporters. Once, I even had an electronic voting system that allowed for a very accurate audience scoring but I still had complaints. Another idea is to force spectators to vote for three singers, and not just their friend. This way, you mitigate the effect of one contestant bringing a huge posse to support him.

In my experience, the best judging method is a hybrid of impartial judges and audience feedback. Let the judges’ votes count for a large portion of the decision (50% or more) and allow the audience votes to count for the rest. This way, the singers are motivated to bring a crowd yet even the singer who doesn’t bring a big entourage can still win based on talent alone. No matter what happens, you’re only guaranteed to make one person happy: the winner. Don’t fret it if you get a few sore losers, this is unavoidable.

Count votes accurately and quickly: If you’re using audience voting, you’ll run into several challenges: Do spectators vote on all performances or do they have limited votes? How will they vote, with ballots or electronically? How will you tally the votes without pausing the whole show for an hour? How will you prevent spectators from cheating the system by obtaining multiple ballots? If you’re doing paper ballots, I’d suggest that you give a ballot to each person who walks through the door and stamp their hand indicating that they received a ballot. This way, they can’t come back and get another ballot.

author unknown

How to Run a Karaoke Contest

written by Stephen Saylor
A karaoke contest is a fun way to increase business at a local bar, night club or restaurant. Many schools, church groups and social organizations hold contests in order to raise money or as a ...11-Karaoke  with Monitorrecreational activity for their members. A well-run karaoke contest can generate interest in your business or organization. A poorly conducted contest can leave people feeling angry and disappointed and can have a negative impact on your group.


Things You’ll Need

  • Banners, fliers and promotional materials
  • CDG player
  • Mixer/amplifier
  • Speakers
  • Microphones
  • Television monitors
  • CD+G karaoke discs (1000 to 3000 songs recommended)
  • Printed music-selection lists
  • Cash prizes or trophies

Select impartial judges. Members of the community that work in music-related fields or entertainment are great candidates to judge the contest. They should not be employees or relatives of the venue promoting the contest nor of any of the contestants. Judges should be of both genders, selected from a variety of age groups. The more diversity among the judges, the better. You should also hire a professional karaoke jockey, or KJ, to host the event. Select someone who has experience with contests.

Establish the rules and print out copies for all participants. Decide whether people may sing using their own karaoke discs or only those provided. State whether performances are to be individual or whether duets or groups will be allowed. Give the criteria for judging performance; typically, vocal quality, stage presence and audience response are considered. Decide on the award for first, second and third place. Many contests require a qualifying round and end with a final round in which previous winners compete against each other.

Promote your event inside the venue with banners, posters, fliers, table tents and other graphic materials. To attract a larger turnout, you might place an advertisement in a local paper, in a karaoke-industry magazine, on radio or television. Announce the contest on your venue’s website. Your KJ may also help to promote the event. Don’t forget social-networking websites and emailing or text messaging to established lists of subscribers.

Set up all equipment and check the sound system. Place television monitors so the singer can see the lyrics while facing the audience. Make sure the speakers are placed far enough away from the singer to avoid feedback. Do a sound check two hours before contest begins.

Sign in and sing. Singers should give their names and the songs they wish to sing. Be sure to get contact information for each singer. Singers are called up by the KJ to perform; judges can respond to each individually or can record scores to be revealed only at the end. After the last singer’s performance, play dance music until you’re ready to announce the final results.

Announce the third-place winner first, followed by second place, and ending with the first-place winner. This builds suspense and doesn’t embarrass those who were not in the top three. Remember to thank all the participants; everyone should leave feeling appreciated.

written by Stephen Saylor
About the author: Stephen Saylor is a bilingual educator and translator who has been writing since 2005. He has contributed articles to websites such as and XtremeMusic. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish from Michigan State University and a Master of Arts in education from San Diego State University.