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

Day 19

Whilst my time answering emails is generally divided between hosts and singers, I do have a little interaction with karaoke suppliers, the main one being Capital Karaoke.

Although I've never met Darryl, I've heard a lot about him. 'Lives on an island', Martin from Go Karaoke told me a while back. 'Owns half the island', he insists, and 'he's got a bloody great boat moored out the back on his private jetty'. Martin reflects for a momen. 'Not bloody surprising, the amount of money I spend with him' he states, jokingly.

The Capital Karaoke website (http://www.capitalkaraoke.com.au) says that Capital Karaoke was established in 1967, and although I'm going to take that one with a pinch of salt, Darryl and Capital have obviously been around for a long time. Many hosts to whom I'm spoken suggest that they are Capital's biggest customer, and maybe it's this ability to cultivate enduring business relationships that's behind Darry's obvious success. You want karaoke discs? You immediately think of Capital Karaoke.

It's about an hour and a half drive from Brisbane up to the Sunshine Coast and Mooloolaba, but it's a pleasant drive, and when you get to Mooloolaba, you realise why Darryl is based there. It's beautiful. But don't head right into the town centre, because you're looking for a place called 'Mooloolah Island'. Turn right off the main road, take the second small road on the left, go to the end and turn right then left again, and you're driving over a small bridge into a very exclusive area. 'It's because the house is at the end of the street and they haven't built any more houses at that end of the island' Darryl explained to me when I asked him why Martin thought he owned half the island. 'Bought it some years ago' said Darryl 'and it's cost heaps over budget to build it'. But the result is stunning, and although the island is just a small piece of land in the middle of the river, there is indeed a nice jetty leading out from the garden, and a decent (though not huge) boat at the end of it (kept under the guard of a lady called 'the Harbourmaster' who also seems to live there).

Once you've managed to find the correct house, then there's the task of finding the correct door. Squeeze around the side of the garage and past the covered jetski, hammer on the anonymous door at the end, and suddenly you're face to face with the Capital karaoke guys.

Capital Karaoke does not believe in extensive corporate headquarters, but I have rarely seen a better view from windows that extend all along one end of the large office. And the people there work facing this magnificent view, a couple of boats anchored between the island and the riverbank, parkland and trees filling the rest of the view. Wow.

It's a neat operation, an absolutely huge quantity of discs contained in sliding library shelving, piles of neatly stacked karaoke players, amps and other equipment. A highly organised work area, and everything being sent out by overnight mail. 'That's the third trip to the Post Office today' I'm told, and I imagine their postage bill is huge. 'Does everything go by overnight mail?' I ask. 'Yes', I'm told. 'That's got to cost a fortune' I comment, realising that it must eat hugely into the profits of supplying karaoke discs. 'It does', I'm told.

It's late afternoon, and they're just finishing up the work and sipping on a beer. Perhaps that's because Darryl knows I'm going to visit - as it looks like a place where the work is never finished. We talk about the amount of stock he has, and he tells me that he simply is forced to buy in quantity. You'd imagine that Darryl could pretty much order what he needs for the next week or so, but the truth is someway far from that - supplies of particular discs are not constant, and it's a matter of buying whatever he can at one go, or risk finding that discs are unobtainable when he needs more stock. He doesn't make an issue of the stock he's holding, but I think the lack of any serious competitior to his business may stem from the reluctance of others to plunge so much money into stock.

He shows me a couple of damaged players that have just come back from customers - amazed at what can happen to parcels on their way through the mail. 'It's nearing Christmas' he tells me, saying that the use of postal contractors at this time of year results in a lot of rough handling that they don't see at other times of the year. I'm given a Capital Karaoke T-shirt, and their latest catalogue on CD.

We talk about this CD-catalogue, and I ask him who he sends it to. 'Anyone who asks' he says. 'By overnight mail?' I question him. 'Of course' is the reply. I wonder whether he's happy to send it to singers? 'Yes' he says, perhaps a bit surprised by my question. 'But surely many singers will only order a disc or two?' I ask him, but he says that many singers have huge disc collections, and anyway that he treats all his customers with the same level of service.

And what about all the competitions he sponsors? 'We try to help everybody' he tells me, and although I see that many of the prizes they contribute are not exactly huge, it all must add up to a fair cost around the year. Recently, Darryl seems to have been very much on the side of Martin and his forthcoming Go Karaoke national competition. 'So how's Martin? I ask him, and he laughs. 'Martin does a lot of good for karaoke' he says seriously, and reminds me that it is Martin's 'new car' prizes that attract a lot of great competitors into the karaoke scene.

Darryl is an Englishman, with the English sense of fair play and business honesty, and although he has often struck me as very business-savvy, there is no questioning why Capital Karaoke is at the top of the pile in Australian karaoke - he simply tries harder, goes the extra mile, is really efficient and organised, and believes in fairness for all. I didn't gain much of an insight into the man himself, other than to find him a very welcoming and chatty person, but I did get the impression that it is a very well run business.

It wasn't a long stay there, but well over an hour, and it was very interesting. Especially as so many hosts feel they have a personal relationship with Darryl - and perhaps that comes from being at the top of the karaoke industry for so many years.

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

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