Tropical resort-style, free to bring in food and drink… The karaoke industry, hit hard by Corona, is in a fierce battle for survival! | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Tropical resort-style, free to bring in food and drink… The karaoke industry, hit hard by Corona, is in a fierce battle for survival!

The "King of Entertainment" is on the offensive against the COVID-19 crisis! Manekineko" and "Utahiroba" are going the ultra-cheap route, "Big Echo" is stable, "Cote d'Azur" and "Karaoke Kan" offer delicious food, and "Pasera" is competing with a sense of luxury.

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on LINE
Karaoke Industry Aims to Revive from Stagnation Caused by COVID-19 Crisis (Photo is for reference only)

Karaoke boxes, which had been treated as if they were the root of all evil and a hotbed of clusters until the new coronavirus was moved to “category 5 infectious disease” in May of this year, are regaining their former vigor.

It was still early evening at 7 p.m. on a weekday when the FRIDAY reporter visited a karaoke bar in Tokyo.

On the way to the room to which he was shown, he saw a male customer at the drink bar, who had filled a glass of oolong tea to the brim. After entering the private room, we heard a young man singing Vaundy’s “Kaiju no Hana Uta” (Flower Song of the Monster) from the next room.

The Corona Shock was an unprecedented blow to the karaoke industry. Originally, karaoke boxes are facilities required by the Building Standards Law to have strong ventilation facilities. However, the image of people singing in a closed room, loudly and with a microphone, has made karaoke shunned.

According to the “Karaoke White Paper” published by the Karaoke Business Association of Japan, the number of karaoke participants has remained between 46 million and 48 million since 2001. By 2008, however, the number had dropped by half, to the 20 million range.

According to my own experience of visiting more than 200 karaoke parlors a year, the number of customers has returned to about 80 to 90% of the pre-Corona level.

However, the industry as a whole still faces challenges. Kazuyuki Suzuki, a stock analyst, explains.

The number of customers has remained low at lunchtime. Salarymen finish up at the after-party and take the last train home, so they don’t sing all night and stay until morning. The COVID-19 crisis has caused the very act of ‘singing at karaoke’ to be reexamined.

Therefore, each company is aiming to make a counteroffensive in areas other than karaoke. For example, I use “Big Echo” as a working room. With the telework plan, it costs 1,200 yen for three hours, and you can use Wi-Fi and have all the drinks you want. There are actually a lot of business customers like me, so you don’t hear a lot of singing.”

Dai-ichi Kosho operates the 452 Big Echo stores nationwide. The company operates “Karaoke Club DAM” and “Karaoke Mega Big” and has “Karaoke Mac” under its umbrella, with a total of more than 550 stores. The company’s greatest strength is its proprietary “DAM” commercial karaoke system. Many of you may remember being asked, “Which would you prefer, DAM or JOYSOUND? When entering a karaoke box, many people may remember being asked, “Which do you prefer, DAM or JOYSOUND?

I have the impression that Big Echo is taking the high road of karaoke boxes. While it is not uncommon for other companies’ stores to have slightly outdated interiors, Big Echo is able to provide beautiful and clean rooms in almost all of its stores. They also have a full food menu and are able to cater to customers who want to enjoy both karaoke and food,” said Tadano.

The restaurant the FRIDAY reporter visited also offers a “party plate” (1,859 yen) that includes takoyaki (octopus balls), fried chicken, potatoes, edamame (green soybeans), and other dishes perfect for enjoying with friends or business associates while singing.

Karaoke Kan, which has 202 locations nationwide, also offers a full lineup of food items. From the “Squid Ring Tree” (950 yen), which is both visually impressive and satisfying, to the “Chocolate Parfait” (825 yen), the restaurant’s most recommended dessert, the taste and selection of food is worth going just for the food. In addition, “the karaoke pavilion is comfortable to sing in because the speakers are well maintained,” said Tadano.

Speaking of restaurants that focus on food, don’t forget ‘Côte d’Azur. You can enjoy pizzas baked in a special stone oven, which are just as good as those at specialty restaurants. The name of the restaurant is derived from a Mediterranean resort area, creating a European image.

The Margherita pizza (1,190 yen), made with original dough, was indeed as good as any restaurant in the same price range, and the FRIDAY reporter forgot all about singing as she tucked into it. Cote d’Azur stands out for the quality of its food.

Pasela, which operates in central Tokyo and Osaka, is differentiating itself from its roadside restaurants by offering an upscale, city-centered atmosphere.

Pasela’s “tropical resort-like interior can be used as a party room or private room, and its honey toast is a hit with female customers. The honey toast is popular among female customers and is often requested at girls’ parties,” said distribution journalist Junnosuke Nagahama.

While more and more karaoke parlors, led by Big Echo, are aiming for industry supremacy in terms of service, Manekineko, operated by Koshidaka, has risen to the top of the industry with 606 outlets by taking the “super-cheap” route.

The karaoke company’s strategy has been to open karaoke clubs in urban centers, but in recent years, it has been expanding into rural areas as well.
Dai-ichi Kosho has a culture of “always aiming for the top. Will it be able to regain the No. 1 position in the number of stores?

Champion develops a very inexpensive line

The revolutionary feature of this 24-hour operation is that customers are free to bring in their own food and beverages. This saves on labor costs for cooking and keeps prices low. Almost free” campaigns such as “ZERO Karaoke,” which offers free rooms to groups of high school students, and “Asa Uta,” in which anyone who enters before 11 a.m. can pay 55 yen for 30 minutes until 12 noon, are popular, and the strategy of targeting students and young people by making all rooms non-smoking has been successful.

In 2001, Manekineko offered “Sukitto,” a karaoke machine developed in-house, in an attempt to differentiate itself from stores using DAM and JOYSOUND, but it was unable to break the stronghold of the two, and the service was terminated in 2007.

Manekineko encouraged customers to connect their computers to a large screen and enjoy concerts and sporting events with their friends. It became a hit by offering a party space, a usage method other than singing.

Uta Plaza” offers even lower prices than Manekineko.

Manekineko allows customers to bring their own drinks, but basically one order is required. Uta Plaza’s low price includes the cost of a soft drink bar, so the total price is often lower than Maneki Neko’s.” (Mr. Tadano, above)

In fact, while Maneki Neko’s unit price per customer is about 1,200 to 1,300 yen, an hour at Uta Plaza on a weekday evening for an office worker costs only about 990 yen.

Jankara, which is supported by the popularity of its ideas, has 172 outlets, mainly in the Kansai region. Although not yet well known in the Kanto region, its unique approach is gaining popularity.

The Kawaramachi main store in Kyoto City’s Nakagyo Ward has a “skeleton room. As the name implies, these transparent karaoke rooms are not only completely visible from the outside, but also allow the singers to adjust the speakers inside the room to broadcast their singing voices to the outside. It has gained the support of young people who are proud of their singing and want to show off.

The company’s new “Jajankara” Kyodai BOX branch, which opened near Kyoto University, also has a cyberpunk-themed “Cyberspace Room” and a student movement atmosphere with its “Ardent! Gathering Room,” where you can enjoy just being there.

Price, food, acoustics, and decor ……. Only those establishments that correctly read the needs of their customers will be able to survive in the post-Corona world.

As the poster indicates, Manekineko is good at reaching a wide range of customers, including non-smokers, kids’ rooms, and bring-your-own-robot OKs.
The companies are accelerating their efforts to promote the use of these facilities for telework and remote meetings, which has increased with the COVID-19 crisis. Practicing musical instruments and other activities are also possible.
Although Jankara’s logo is very similar to that of Utah Plaza, it is a completely different company. No new stores have been opened in the Kanto area yet.

From the August 11, 2023 issue of FRIDAY


Photo Gallery7 total

Photo Selection

Check out the best photos for you.

Related Articles