CHANGCHUN, July 31 (Xinhua) -- In a small, enclosed booth, with lights, speakers and microphones, anyone can be a singing superstar!
In China, mini karaoke (KTV) booths are taking the country by storm. The sound-proofed KTV booth is typically equipped with an air-conditioner, a couple of chairs and headsets. You pay a fee, put on the headset, close the curtain and sing your lungs out.
Mini KTVs are everywhere: shopping malls, cinemas, subway stations. They have a similar function to traditional karaoke, but in a more intimate environment.
"No matter how good or bad I sing, nobody can judge me, and I can just have my moment," said Li Rui from Changchun City, capital of northeast China's Jilin Province.
Li said that in traditional KTVs, you have to reserve rooms in advance and there are always "extra charges" such as beverages and fruit.
According to research company iiMedia, the value of the mini KTV market in China will hit 3.18 billion yuan (473 million U.S. dollars) this year, almost twice as much as last year. And market is expected to double again in 2018.
For many urbanites singing is just a way of relieving stress.
"In the past, hosting a party in a KTV meant you had to invite a lot of people, set up a date when everybody was free and book a room, which was not so easy," said Ma Yan, a music fan. "But with mini KTV booths, everything is easy."
Another reason behind the mini KTV fervor is the joy of sharing.
"Most mini KTVs allow you to record yourself and upload, so I can share the recording on WeChat and get a lot of 'likes' from friends," said Guo Hanyu of Shenyang, Liaoning Province.
Liu Wei, a professor with Jilin University, said that the mini KTVs put the user in control, which makes the process "a lot more fun and personal."
The interest has drawn a lot of investors. Prices of mini KTV booths range from about 10,000 yuan to 30,000 yuan.
If a machine runs 12 hours per day at 60 yuan an hour, cost is recouped in about a month. However, the reality is more complicated.
Besides cost, operators also have to pay fees to owners of the venues such as shopping malls and cinemas, but so far, at least 20,000 mini KTVs are in operation.
"In rush hour, customers have to wait in line," said a member of staff with Changchun Ouya New Life shopping mall in Changchun. "The machines are mostly used by young people and they are cleaned every day."
The government has caught wind of the machines. In a circular issued by the Ministry of Culture, authorities asked local departments of cultural management to strengthen supervision on the mini KTVs to avoid juvenile addiction.
"Demand drives development," said Liu Wei. "We should give new things enough space to develop, and allow it to evolve with the market."