How I introduced karaoke to Germany

A trendsetter is someone who (because he or she is seen as authoritative and style-defining) brings a certain thing into fashion. And even though I prefer to see myself described as an avant-gardist or pioneer, I naturally don’t mind being called a trendsetter – after all, I’ve already set off quite a few trends in my life so far. For example, I’ll never forget how I managed to make Huawei famous in Germany and turn the company into one of the world’s largest smartphone manufacturers. In 2012, I was still smiled at when I pulled my Huawei Ascend Y200 out of my pocket. BANG! Only a few years later, Huawei’s spectacular rise began and I was once again able to live up to my style-defining role as a trendsetter.

“Isn’t it exhausting to always have to be one beat ahead of the pulse of time?”, I’m asked again and again. But this question is based on the false basic assumption that I would have consciously chosen this role / this task – but you don’t consciously choose such a trendsetter role. Soccer fans (with the exception of Manchester City / Chelsea success fans) don’t choose their club either. The club finds you. The trendsetter role found me. In 2003, almost exactly twenty years ago. And yet I had nothing whatsoever to do with karaoke until then! But while everyone else walked, with their eyes downcast and without a word of greeting, quickly past the lost and confused stranger, I took her by the hand and granted her entry.

Less metaphorical, but no less beautiful: I stumbled across an ad for Karaoke Revolution for the PlayStation 2 on some English-language website, and from that moment on I was firmly convinced of the concept behind it. Instead of just singing the lyrics in a “karaoke-typical” way, the “singing performance” at the end of each song was to be evaluated and the number of notes hit was to be converted into points. Competing against friends in karaoke high score chases… it was absolutely clear that Karaoke Revolution was just going to be incredibly fun. Now it was up to me to convince the masses. I had to start the trend.

Konami had unfortunately not released Karaoke Revolution in Europe, but only in the US and Japan, which didn’t necessarily make my trendsetting job any easier: Without an expensive modchip, the NTSC versions couldn’t be played on the european PAL version of the PlayStation 2. Well, technically. Because parallel to the import version of Karaoke Revolution, I had gotten myself the magical SWAP MAGIC. The SWAP MAGIC package included a boot DVD and a strangely-holed plastic card with all sorts of indentations – that’s all it took for a bit of magic:

  • Start PlayStation 2 with the boot DVD
  • Fumble plastic card under DVD drive and open drive with some force while it is running (ignoring the unhealthy noises of the PlayStation 2 drive)
  • Replace the boot DVD with the NTSC version of Karaoke Revolution
  • Push the drive back in and press boot

Admittedly, this method wasn’t particularly suitable for the masses either, especially since it had to be repeated with every new start. And so the video game karaoke trend initially only caught on among my immediate circle of friends. Much to the chagrin of my parents and neighbors. There are certainly more pleasant sounds than a bunch of teenagers singing loudly their own interpretations of Like a Virgin, Kiss Me, Red Red Wine or Girls Just Want to Have Fun. We still had a lot of fun with Karaoke Revolution – even if we finally “sang ourselves dry” after a few months. And while I went back to other video games, Sony released the first spin-off of their karaoke game SingStar for the PlayStation 2 a short time later. Not only in Japan and the USA, but also in Europe. The SingStar series, which had copied the concept of Karaoke Revolution almost one-to-one, became a huge success: Whether it was a child’s birthday party or a party routine before heading to the club… Karaoke was the trend in almost every German living room for years.

I’m no friend of misplaced arrogance, but I’m also no friend of false modesty. And that’s why, in retrospect, I’m a little proud of the fact that I once brought karaoke to Germany. It was a pleasure!

By the way, there is another writer at WALL JUMP who has a special connection to SingStar: Because he was very close friends with the SingStar product manager for the DACH region at the time, he was actually able to influence the song selection of individual spin-offs. But that’s another story.

This post is also available in: German