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From the Where2sing.com stories:
The Great Karaoke Escape 2004/05

DAY 16

Leaving last night's karaoke well before it finished means I'm up early this morning and able to clear an hour of emails before leaving the motel. Today's drive is an easy one up the coast to Surfers' Paradise, where I have no need to pre-check for karaoke as many places run karaoke on a variety of nights around here.

The traffic is fairly heavy, and it's surprising how many hours tick by - it was only a couple of inches on the map, but I've forgotten that places seem to get further apart as you near QUeensland. The temperature is up as well, around the 32-34 degree mark of the Broken Hill area, but more humid. Around midday I'm at coolangatta, and can't resist half an hour walk on the beach - partly to straighten up my back which is hurting constantly from the last few days of sitting and driving, and partly because it's been a while since I've had the luxury of sunshine and sand.

And then it's a call to John Preston Special Events to find if John's at home, and I'm told that he'll be back later in the afternoon.

Around 4 I get to the Preston establishment at Mudgeeraba, slightly inland from the coast, and find Jo (well, after driving too far up the road, turning around and driving back until I see a blonde lady frantically waving at the side of the road).
John turns up soon afterwards, and I'm given a tour of the Preston empire. It all looks very organised, and active, and one room is a sort of shrine to yesteryear's karaoke - an open and large case displays karaoke cassette tapes, all neatly numbered, and John talks about the first few years of karaoke in pubs during the late eighties. It's also interesting to see the old posters on the walls, and reminds me of Bill Masters' similar shrine in Brisbane. But the Prestons are recovering from a power surge of the previous week that destroyed their phone system and several of their computers, and we're interrupted by the telephone system technician.

I also meet one of their karaoke hosts who comes in to collect the vehicle and equipment with which to host that night's gig at the Hard Rock Cafe. I promise to go along later.

John chats about how karaoke has changed throughout the years, and how he used to have a lot more hosts on the road, and gigs earned a lot more money. He says that there was a time in which karaoke was loved by some venues and hated by others, and that singers were less discerning, but that in the last few years there has been a significant resurgence, but with a more sophisticated type of singer. As I've known pub karaoke in Australia for only the last couple of years, I'm interested in how the industry may have changed, and I've often wondered whether the top hosts of today are the same as those of a few years ago. We talk about this, and agree that it seems a number of hosts have become so because they have started out as enthustiastic singers who wanted to get into the music industry. But we also discuss how this does not always lead to a financially profitable karaoke business, and that sustainable karaoke needs to have a solid business basis.

The Prestons are in league with the Masters for the upcoming Wintersun Karaoke World Idol competition that will commence in the new year, and we talk about the number of venues expected to be involved - there's hope that around 140 right across Australia will host heats.

The John Preston Special Events empire does far more than simply organise karaoke events, and John is called away to talk on-air to the ABC about some other subject. He comes back, but both he and Jo are kept busy with a variety of phone calls, and my conversation and questioning are done between these calls. The sun has gone down, Jo is still working on her backlog of correspondence caused by their computer problems, and it's time for me to go and see the setup at the Hard Rock Cafe.

I drive on into Surfers, stopping to find a suitable motel at Broadbeach on the way, and am at the Hard Rock Cafe by around 9. There's an area of the broad footpath cordoned of around the front of the venue a a result of the huge guitar on the roof catching fire a few days prior. I've just fought my way through an extremely crowded Cavill Mall after wedging the car into a space quite some way away, and am therefore quite surprised to find karaoke running in the Hard Rock Cafe in front of a fairly small audience. But the sound is good, the atmosphere is friendly, and I stay.

Read more singers' stories, and write your own karaoke story, on Where2sing.com . . .

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