Hey there! Chances are you’re here because you met me at a Karaoke club and I talked your ear off about this little website I’m building called BigBigBook.com! If so… thanks for reading the first few words of my first blog post! Hopefully you’ll make it to the end!
What is BigBigBook.com? Well. In 2021, I got obsessed with Karaoke. It was a time in my life when I just needed some positive social interaction post relationship-ruining-pandemic madness. In desperate search of positive human contact, I eventually realized that Karaoke is a social network in-the-flesh, and the complete opposite of impersonal anti-social networks like Instagram and TikTok, and post-pandemic, Karaoke is ripe to “go viral” all over the world as people are desperately looking for real human contact with people they can bond with and relate to. I realized that Karaoke was actually my favorite thing, a minimum-effort maximum-reward way to express music to an audience (as opposed to touring in a band, which was maximum effort, minimum reward). With this newfound enlightenment, I made a point to go out singing seven nights a week!
But as I did this, I discovered a problem. Singing as often as I did, I ran out of songs to sing almost instantly…. and I wanted to expand my list of songs beyond my well-known standards and challenge myself to sing new things. I began keeping a spreadsheet of all the songs I sang and wanted on my phone, and the list quickly grew to 200+ songs. But some venues didn’t have a song I wanted to sing, while others did, so I also found myself trying to mark off which songs were and weren’t available at all the venues I visited. Quickly it became a mess!
Suddenly I got an idea. What if I could simply survey all the Karaoke books from around Minneapolis, and keep a common database to help me find songs that are special at each of the venues? As a software engineer, I knew that this would be no easy task. First of all, have you seen some of these books? They are a MESS! Riddled with typos and misfilings… with Michael Jackson filed both under M and under J…. in 3-ring binders covered in bar vomit and with missing pages. Would the DJs even cooperate with me and offer me their data?
Well it turns out the the DJs HATE maintaining their Karaoke books, but at the same time are super proud of the cool, unique stuff they have in their collections… so when I offered to clean up their books for them they basically all begged me to take their data…. and the data, has been super fun to explore (for a nerd like me)!
Once I got my hands on the data, I knew I would have to build an elaborate system to clean up the books, because how can I really “compare” the books if the same song is filed 50 different ways among them? Seriously, I have records of at least 50 different filings of Bryan Adam’s, “Everything I Do, I Do It For You”. Sometimes there were added parentheses…. sometimes with a comma, sometimes not. Sometimes it was just called “Everything I do”. Sometimes it was just called “I Do It for you”… or even “I Do It For You (Everything I Do)”. Further more, Bryan Adams was sometimes “Adams, Bryan” or even just filed as “Adams, B.”… or even “Bryan, Adams” or “Adams Bryan”
I knew I needed some serious algorithms, tapping into everything I’ve learned over my decades as a software engineer, specializing in both signals processing, machine learning and artificial intelligence… as well as a solid, curated, and “classified” “seed” dataset if I were to assess which songs were actually matches with each other.
Comparing the books was important to me, because I really wanted the site to celebrate the rare tracks… the deep cuts… the songs that DJs went out of their way to acquire… and to highlight the musical tastes of the various DJs around town.
When you search BigBigBook.com, I want it to point out what makes the current venue you’re singing in special and encourage you to explore new music and new artists.
But only once the books were scrubbed and collected could I definitively be able to definitively tell you that The Otter Bar is the only venue in Minneapolis where you can sing “11th Dimension, by Julian Casablancas” because it might be available elsewhere, just under a different spelling.
I also found myself sharing my spreadsheet with my new friends, who often made requests and suggestions of what I should sing next… but again.. it was just a dumb spreadsheet, and it was a mess. So then I thought, wouldn’t it be great to just highlight my favorite songs on BigBigBook.com? What if friends could share their lists with each other and then be able to say “Hey I really want to hear you sing Time to Pretend by MGMT!” … or “You have Summer Lovin’ on your list? Let’s do a duet!”
I have big visions for what BigBigBook.com will become. This is just the beginning.
I have put nearly 1,000 hours into this project so far! I have a 4 phase rollout plan, and I’m still working through phase 1, which involves ingestion and scrubbing of seed data, as well as search algorithms… so if the data looks messy to you right now, it is because the seed data and search algorithms are being calculated and processed by a pair of supercomputers virtually 24-7! I believe that this seed data will make it easier and possible for me to automatically correct messy books from DJs all over the world! So getting this phase done correctly is TOP priority for BigBigBook.com!
In phase 2, I plan to allow DJs to submit their own books and promote their own nights and venues! If you are a Karaoke DJ and want to stay informed send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org for the time being. Maybe I’ll eventually get a sign-up sheet!
Thanks for reading… see you out singing! Let me know what you think in the comments!