This month, I had the opportunity to interview my friend, Sandra Borden, the owner and CEO of Siren DJ and Karaoke in Boca Raton. I’ve always wanted to talk to someone who knows the ins and outs about operating a Karaoke business to learn about it from another angle. Sandra spoke candidly about her background and history with this interactive and addicting form of musical entertainment.
CS: How did you first get interested in Karaoke?
Siren Sandra: The first time I ever heard of karaoke was the first time I tried it. I was at a bar in Deerfield back in the summer of 1989, now known as the American Rock Bar with two friends when I began to notice the singers kept changing. After a few cocktails and an inquiry from one of my friends to the host, I was the only one brave enough to get up and sing. The songbook was very limited but I quickly found songs I knew. “Belinda Carlisle’s Mad About You” was the song I would sing. The crowd enjoyed it and so did I. I was hooked. I had sung in a band previously, however this was a new and fun experience for me. 23 years later I am still hooked.
CS: What is your favorite thing about performing?
Siren Sandra: There are many things I enjoy about performing but my favorite is really getting into a song and what it’s about. Watching for audience reaction; even participation when they feel it too.
CS: How did you get involved in Siren? What is your job exactly/do you own the company?
Siren Sandra: While singing at a show I frequented, the host asked me one night if I would be interested in running a show once a week. He had probably asked me for 6 months before I took him up on it. I hosted JB Locals in Tamarac and a week later had Old Vienna as well. Within a year, 2 more and so I decided to open my own company. My husband & I began Siren DJ and Karaoke, Inc. February 18, 2010. At that time we actually rented our equipment until we had the funding to invest in all we needed. The name, Siren comes from the Greek Goddess of Music; who uses her voice to attract. We thought it apropos.
Since that time my role as CEO has become more a business owner as we now have 4 employees, 8 current venues to service as well as private and corporate functions to host entertainment for. We recently expanded our business to include party rental supplies. My priorities include keeping up with Invoices, AP/AR, promotions, music purchases, equipment upkeep and improvements, and such. But my first love is hosting.
CS: Did you used to sing Karaoke out in public before starting Siren?
CS: Do you have your regular favorites or are you consistently trying new material?
Siren Sandra: Like many of you karaoke junkies, such as myself I adore the ones I know I can nail. You know the songs that can always keep the audiences’ attention because #1, your stage presence is so much better when you are confident and into the song you sing and #2, well, you just love the song. The only thing better is when you can find a new song to add to that “Favorites” list.
CS: Do you always sing when hosting or only if it’s kind of slow?
Siren Sandra: My rule of thumb with regards to singing at a show I am hosting is if there are less than 5 singers before the show starts, I will many times do the first song to get the EQ correct and the levels where they should be for the venue. If more than 5 or I see a constant flow of new people walking in I will not sing unless someone asks me too AND there has been ample time for everyone in the venue to have performed already. However, most shows I will not because of this rule, but it is about the performers. That’s why I am here.
CS: What advice would you give newbies that are afraid to get up and sing in public?
Siren Sandra: If someone has an interest in singing, and I stress this because some people react to encouragement as pressure if they are truly fearful, I may try to find out if it has to do with their voice, a song choice that would suit them or if they are just afraid to be in the spotlight My advice is this: First any voice can be helped with a mixer and a host who knows how to use it. Karaoke was made for those who are not professionals. It’s for fun and entertainment. Second if there are songs they find themselves singing to on the radio, specific artists they can sing with, choose that, also key changing is a wonderful tool to assist in those high notes. And last, if it’s public singing you fear, sing with friends. Pick a fun song to sing in a group. Doing this can be a karaoke life altering 3 ½ minutes. After that you will be hooked.
CS: Do you prefer larger or smaller venues?
Siren Sandra: Every venue has its own unique character and flavor, and while we are on the subject I would just say that my tastes change with each new show. Some nights I want steak for dinner and some nights, shrimp. I have an equally fun time with my performers and venue employees small or large. I do think a smaller venue has a cozy feel; customers can mingle in a relaxed locals kind of atmosphere. Larger venues are so much fun when you want to really show off your vocal achievements.
CS: Have you ever encountered technical difficulties with the computer, microphones or other equipment?
Siren Sandra: Oh, boy. Try asking a homeowner if they have ever had a flood in the house or their AC on the fritz. Yes, “technical difficulties” we in the biz call them. In the first year we encountered mixer channels blowing, an amplifier shorting out and don’t get me started on microphone wires and PC issues. You learn very quickly in this business how to fix PC issues and that buying quality and backups for equipment is an investment well made. Although life is unpredictable fortunately, “technical difficulties” are a rare occurrence these days.
CS: Is it still fun to watch/listen to people after all this time? Do you see yourself doing this in a few years?
Siren Sandra: I still get a kick out of watching and listening to all performers. One thing I enjoy about Karaoke is that you get to see and hear so many diverse performances. It’s the vocals, stage presence, inflections of voice, ranges, everything! I will definitely be in this business for many years to come. Karaoke performers and hosts, I believe are part of one of the most unique “Musical Social Clubs” out there. The best thing is that there are no written rules – anyone can get in!
We would like to thank Sandra for taking the time out of her Karaoke-crazy schedule to share inside information about this harmonious hobby that is quickly becoming a popular pastime! You can enjoy Sandra’s shows at a variety of local hot spots – check out www.karaokefortlauderdale.com or “friend” her on Facebook page “ Siren Djandkaraoke”. Like she said, once you try it, you’ll be hooked!