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I've always wondered where karaoke bars get vocal-free versions of seemingly every track that would ever get requested. Do record companies make them?

A lot are rerecorded by studio musicians, I believe.

i'd be curious about the copyright legality here...it must be expensive to pay royalties for a huge library of instrumental tracks.

Cover versions can always be made under a compulsory license; you have to pay the songwriter, but they can't say no.

So recording a version with a separate vocal track is 100% doable for any song.

However, to actually use it in Karaoke, it's no longer just a cover; even though it's just the words that are shown along with it, it's part of a larger work, so you need the same sort of license you would need for using it in e.g. a TV ad, and that needs to be negotiated with the copyright owner.


For more details google "mechanical license" and "synchronization license"; the first is the "I want to record a cover" and the second is what you would need for using in karaoke.

That’s fascinating, thanks for the google prompts.

I would assume they're released under different licenses for manufacturers of those products. This is a lot in my mind like how Microsoft Windows Enterprise exists, but is only attainable via volume licensing or piracy; The product exists, and is for sale, but the general public just isn't permitted to buy it.

Some of them are licensed official tracks from the actual producers, but for the unofficial ones I think the karaoke companies have music writers who just encode synths to roughly match the track.

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