Karaoke businesses revamp to appeal to wider demographic including families

To keep things fresh, some karaoke chains are tapping students who brush up their Chinese through singing, while others offer mini stages to entice wannabe performers

From installing stages in every room to having a mini-mart on site, local karaoke joints are pulling out all the stops to attract customers to pick up a microphone.

Local chain Cash Studio Family Karaoke, which is 14 years old, renovated its five outlets in 2013. All of its rooms now come with a mini stage.

This is to give customers an idea of what it feels like to sing on stage, says the company's director, Mr Caine Poon, 44.

Meanwhile, Tang Music Box, which opened in 2013, has a mini-mart called The Meeting Place, which sells imported snacks and drinks, such as fruit-flavoured Japanese liqueur.

This provides more choices to customers and also offers a space for them to interact.

Some chains, which have a no-alcohol policy, tap the family market.

Parents sometimes drop their kids off at Teo Heng KTV Studio after school for them to practise Chinese through singing Mandarin songs, says its business development manager Jean Teo, 50.

The chain has nine outlets, mostly in shopping malls.

She also notices that some parents leave their children there when they go grocery shopping.

A regular customer at Teo Heng's Katong Shopping Centre branch is Madam Teo Geok Beng, 59, who has been going there every Saturday with her siblings and two children for more than 10 years.

Even when her daughter got married two years ago and Madam Teo became a grandmother, she and her family did not stop the weekly sessions.

She says: "We like to sing there because we feel very at home there. The staff are so familiar with us.

"My nine-month-old granddaughter can now hold a microphone besides her milk bottle."

She and her siblings sing Mandarin oldies and Hokkien songs while her children sing Chinese pop songs.

The profile of KTV-goers has changed over the years and now encompasses a wider demographic: teenagers after school, families gathering on weekends, and partygoers rounding off a night out by singing till dawn.

Party World KTV business development manager Christopher Ng, 29, says that while the opening of the casinos in 2010 took away some of the high spenders and tourists among its customers, there is still a sizeable local market.

Party World is an upmarket karaoke chain which has been around for more than 20 years.

Mr Ng says karaoke is distinctly "Asian" and will probably never go out of style.

He adds: "In Singapore, where there are limited forms of entertainment, karaoke will continue to be an option."

In 2015, popular Japanese karaoke chain Manekineko muscled into the Singapore market. Its parent company Koshidaka Holdings, bought over local karaoke chain K Box, which had 11 outlets and renamed the brand to Manekineko.

General manager of Koshidaka Singapore Kohei Yamaoka says the Manekineko outlets have been "doing well" and are getting "more and a wider range of customers", mostly those aged 18 to the mid-30s, both English- and Mandarin-speaking.

Sales manager Jix Chin, 29, has been patronising karaoke joints since she was 18 years old.

Her favourite now is Tang Music Box in River Valley Road, which she frequents twice a week with her friends and colleagues. She has also hosted clients there.

"It has become like a second home to me," she says.

"It's a nice and cosy place to unwind and there are different rooms for different occasions.

"I have celebrated birthdays and a friend's hen night and have also taken part in corporate events there."

Tang Music Box

At Tang Music Box, customers get to enjoy singing and can buy imported snacks and drinks from the KTV’s mini-mart. ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

What: Tang Music Box has only one outlet in Clarke Quay.

Founded in 2013, it is the only karaoke here to feature a mini-mart. The shop offers a wide array of snacks and alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks.

The decor looks fresh still. The 25 rooms are decorated with different urban themes inspired by cityscapes from around the world.

They cater to all group sizes from four to 40. The larger rooms have pool tables and attached toilets.

Songs: It carries a range of more than 100,000 songs in various languages including English, Mandarin, Cantonese, Korean and Japanese.

Song selection is done through touch screen or a phone app.

Food and drinks: Food and drinks cannot be brought in.

Price: $18 a person for three hours before 7pm and between $10 and $15 a person for three hours after 7pm, with a minimum spending based on room size.

There are daily specials where women sing for free on Wednesdays and men get a free beer on Thursdays.

Children aged 12 and younger can enter for free and get to enjoy free snacks.

Where: The Foundary, 3B River Valley Road, 02-03/04

Where: 2pm to 4am (Mondays to Thursdays), 2pm to 6am (Fridays and Saturdays), 1pm to 3am (Sundays)

Info: www.tangmusicbox.com.sg

Cash Studio Family Karaoke

What: Founded in 2003, this chain of KTVs lets customers feel what it is like to sing on stage. In its latest revamp of its facilities in 2013, Cash Studio installed mini stages in its 100-plus rooms across its five outlets.

Among the most affordable chains in Singapore, it is popular with fans of Chinese pop music, J-pop and Malay rock because of its wide selection of songs, which are updated weekly.

Songs: It has more than 200,000 songs in various languages. The song selection is done mostly through phone app or, in some outlets, on touchscreen as well.

Food and drinks: Food and drinks cannot be brought in though the karaoke joint also sells both non-alcoholic and alcoholic drinks.

Price: From $8+ a person to $25+ a person for three hours.

Children younger than seven enter for free and need to pay only for a soft drink.

Students enjoy 10 per cent off the bill on weekdays if they check in before 6pm.

Where: Five outlets including Ming Arcade, Cuppage Plaza, Prinsep Street and Simpang Bedok. Its branch at Bedok North is closed for renovation till the end of the year.

Where: Opening times vary according to the outlet

Info: www.cashstudio.com.sg

Party World KTV

What: Party World KTV, which has been around for more than 20 years, is one of the oldest KTV brands in Singapore and popular among fans of Mandopop, Cantopop and English pop.

It caters to a diverse demographic, mostly students in the day and white-collar workers at night.

It has an upmarket classy feel, from its marble and granite walls to the variety of alcoholic drinks it serves.

It has six outlets and close to 100 rooms. The smallest room can hold five to six people and its largest, 35 people.

Songs: It has a database of 250,000 songs in 11 languages, updated at least once a week.

They can be chosen via touch screen, a cellphone app or cloud storage.

Food and drinks: Food and drinks cannot be brought in. Tidbits such as fish crackers and keropok are free.

It also sells finger food such as chicken wings and a variety of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks.

Price: From $12 to $18 a person for two hours (Sundays to Thursdays) and $18 to $28 a person for two hours (Fridays and Saturdays).

Free for children under six years old accompanied by a paying adult.

The KTV also offers a lifetime membership at $10. Members get to enjoy 10 per cent off singing packages.

Where: It has six outlets at Liang Court, Nex, Woodlands Civic Centre, Downtown East E! Hub, Yishun Safra Club and Hometeam NS Bukit Batok.

Where: Opening times vary from outlet to outlet.

Info: www.partyworldktv.com.sg

Karaoke Manekineko

Manekineko, one of Japan’s most popular karaoke chains, has taken Singapore by storm since it opened here in 2015. PHOTO: KARAOKE MANEKINEKO

What: Manekineko, one of Japan's most popular karaoke chains with an instantly recognisably cat mascot, opened in Singapore in 2015.

Now, it has eight outlets islandwide, with its flagship at Orchard Cineleisure, taking over the space of the former K Box outlet.

In all, the chain has more than 270 KTV rooms of varying sizes.

Its largest room, called K Union, available only at its Cineleisure branch, features a stage, pool table, bar counter and a projector screen, and can fit 150 to 220 people.

The Cineleisure branch also offers a karaoke buffet package, the only karaoke outlet to do so.

To appeal to its customers, who are largely aged 18 to the mid-30s, the karaoke holds special concept fairs at its outlets every few months.

For instance, in April and May, there was a Sakura fair where the outlets were dressed up in a Sakura theme and there was a special Sakura menu for customers. Songs: A Japanese-made karaoke machine with a library of more than 160,000 songs, updated fortnightly, in languages such as English, Mandarin, Korean and Malay.Price: $13 to $35 a person for two to three hours. $10 to $15 for students and senior citizens.

The price includes a free flow of drinks, tidbits and, at some outlets, ice cream.

Manekineko Orchard Cineleisure outlet offers a lunch and dinner buffet between 11am and 2pm on weekends and 6 to 10pm daily.

A karaoke-plus-buffet package for three hours starts from $28.

Where: Eight outlets at Orchard Cineleisure, *Scape, Bugis+, Marina Square, Safra Mount Faber, Safra Toa Payoh, Safra Punggol and Safra Jurong

Where: All outlets open at 11am. The closing time varies from 2 to 6am Info: www.koshidaka.com.sg/manekineko

Teo Heng KTV Studio

Teo Heng KTV Studio, which has conquered the heartland, is popular with students, retirees and young working adults. ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG

What: This KTV chain has conquered the heartlands.

One of the most affordable and family-friendly chains around, this 27-year-old home-grown brand has nine outlets spread out in major housing estates such as Jurong and Woodlands.

Its competitive pricing, which is based on room sizes instead of a per-entry charge, gives customers more incentive to go in larger groups to bring the cost per person down.

It is popular with students and retirees in the afternoon and young working adults in the evening and families on weekends.

The chain has a total of about 200 rooms, the smallest of which can fit four people and the largest, 20.

Songs: It has more than 200,000 songs in its catalogue in English, Mandarin, Malay, Indonesian, Korean, Japanese and other languages.

The songs can be accessed via touchsreen and a phone app, though the karaoke still keeps the songbooks from the earlier years for its older customers. Food and drinks: Soft drinks, packet drinks and canned drinks are available at $1 each. Customers are also allowed to consume their own food and drinks. Alcoholic drinks are not allowed.

Price:Prices are charged in three-hour blocks - $18 for a four-person room, $20 for a six-person room and $22 for a 10-person room.

At the Causeway Point outlet, a 20-person room costs $30.

Where: Nine outlets at Katong Shopping Centre, Sembawang Shopping Centre, Causeway Point, JCube, Junction 10, Ci Yuan Community Club, The Star Vista, Rendevous Grand Hotel and Suntec City. Two more outlets will be open at Bedok Point and Tampines Hub this year.

Where: Opening times vary according to the outlet

Info: ktvteoheng.com.sg

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 07, 2017, with the headline 'Karaoke hits the high notes'. Subscribe