• Chunichi Shimbun

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In October, major digital karaoke provider Xing Inc. established a website showing alternative uses for karaoke rooms.

The Nagoya-based subsidiary of Brother Industries Ltd. suggested how customers can also use the rooms to watch movies and music performance videos with high-quality audio equipment, or to play musical instruments without worrying about the noise leaking outside.

Companies in the karaoke industry, struggling to attract customers amid the COVID-19 pandemic, are also coming up with new services that make use of their soundproof karaoke rooms.

For example, customers are able to enjoy music and videos played at high volume or use the rooms as teleworking space at reasonable prices.

Such moves are a reflection of the difficult situation the karaoke industry is facing.

According to Brother Industries’ consolidated earnings report for the half-year period that ended in September, sales for karaoke-related business dropped some 40% from the same period last year, to ¥14.9 billion.

Although the firm used a government subsidy made available to companies to prevent job losses, it still posted an operating loss of ¥2.2 billion in the period.

The consolidated karaoke-related sales were mostly of sales from karaoke shops directly operated by Xing’s subsidiary and sales of karaoke devices, which were severely hit by temporary closures and shortened hours at karaoke shops due to the spread of the virus.

Xing has been offering the movie and video watching service since June of last year. It is currently available at some 1,000 karaoke parlors nationwide equipped with devices that use Xing’s services.

As many live music performances were canceled amid the pandemic, the firm has increased its livestreaming of no-audience performances in the five months since June, and the number of livestreamed events during the period doubled compared to the June-December period last year.

Xing is also pitching a plan for customers to be able to use karaoke parlors to work remotely outside their offices.

The directly operated shops have started offering rooms for teleworkers at ¥500 per hour with WiFi access and an all-you-can-drink service, also allowing them stay for hours at a fixed fee of ¥980, both prices excluding tax.

“We hope customers can make good use of their time there in various ways,” a Xing spokesperson said.

Tokyo-based major karaoke firm Daiichikosho Co. also suffered a fall in sales, with its total sales in the half-year period that ended in September dropping around 40% from a year before and its karaoke and restaurant-related sales declining 64.4%.

But a service for teleworkers that all of the firm’s directly-run shops began in October last year has been proving popular amid the pandemic, contributing to its October sales rising sevenfold from February.

Tokyo-based Koshidaka Holdings, which runs Manekineko karaoke parlors, saw sales at its domestic outlets drop more than 90% in both April and May compared to the same month last year.

Although sales are recovering, it still marked a 25.8% year-on-year decline in September.

The firm plans to offer new services such as live streaming musical performances at its karaoke rooms.

This section features topics and issues from the Chubu region covered by the Chunichi Shimbun. The original article was published Dec. 8.

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