It has gone from harmless pastime to one of the most dangerous activities during Covid, but with restrictions in England now lifted, sitting in a small enclosed space with friends belting out favourite songs – otherwise known as karaoke – is taking off and people are returning in droves.
Lucky Voice, which has karaoke rooms in London and Brighton, said it was “jampacked” over the summer. “We’re really hoping to go from strength to strength over the summer, the pent-up demand that we were hoping for is definitely there,” said the managing director, Charlie Elek.
It has introduced measures to keep its operation as Covid-safe as possible, such as allowing extra time between bookings to ensure rooms are fully ventilated and to disinfect microphones.
Since Lucky Voice reopened in May, Elek said it had welcomed a lot of first-time customers, with people wanting to let off steam after a year stuck inside. “A lot of the groups who came, especially in those first couple of weeks in May, had a bit of trepidation because they haven’t done karaoke in a post-Covid world, but they said the operation was smooth and they felt safe.”
At Cosy Joes karaoke bar in Newcastle upon Tyne, which reopened this week for the first time since the start of the pandemic, management have had to increase opening hours to meet demand.
“The karaoke rooms are almost all sold out for the first few Saturdays, so we’ve had to increase our trading hours and open up every night. We’ve been closed for so long the demand is there and we’re happy to cater to it,” said its general manager, Jack Taylor.
He said karaoke had been “basically outlawed” throughout the pandemic because of the risks of singing, especially in enclosed spaces.
Research has found that shouting or singing loudly can produce 20 times the mass of aerosol than speaking at a normal level of loudness. Communal singing, particularly in choirs, has been severely curtailed during Covid.
Tim Pardington, an administrator from Mitcham in south London, has been running an online community for karaoke fans for almost a decade and said he had been fielding questions for months about when karaoke would be allowed to return.
“It’s a fantastic feeling being back. I feel like my popularity has gone through the roof. The audiences are a lot more enthusiastic than they were back in March 2020,” he said. “I feel like I’m getting notifications every hour of the day about karaoke events around the country. So it’s just pumping the karaoke blood along.”
He said that after an initial setback, karaoke fans found their feet in the virtual world. “When the pandemic hit, the community went into hibernation, but then a lot of people went online and were posting videos of themselves singing and that’s what has kept people going.”
And the first song he performed when he returned to the karaoke stage? “Poker Face by Lady Gaga. It’s my pièce de résistance.”