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Karaoke Nation: Or, How I Spent a Year in Search of Glamour, Fulfillment, and a Million Dollars

Karaoke Nation: Or, How I Spent a Year in Search of Glamour, Fulfillment, and a Million Dollars

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How -- and when -- did making a million dollars become as uplifting as joining the Peace Corps and as exciting as being a rock star?


Four years ago, Steve Fishman decided to make a million dollars. Why not? Despite his lack of business background, financial skills, or the slightest interest in management, 1990s America seemed to offer very few obstacles to his dream; in fact, in the midst of the entrepreneurial boom, it seemed almost unpatriotic not to want to be a business success. And so was it any wonder that, in the same way that it called to Benjamin Franklin, Horatio Alger, Andrew Carnegie, or Thomas Adams (the inventor of chewing gum), the siren song of success whispered in Steve Fishman's ear?

Or that he sang right back?

What the sirens whispered was a little business idea: hip-hop karaoke...over the Internet. His flash of genius, KaraokeNation.com, began almost as a caper -- involving a former rock 'n' roll drummer, an aspiring novelist, and an ex-paratrooper -- but quickly became an obsession. And again, why not? Music business legends like Russell Simmons (hip-hop's godfather) and Chuck D (founder of Public Enemy) bought in...to say nothing of New Economy kingpins Jerry Colonna (CEO of Flatiron Partners) and JosephPark (founder of Kozmo.com), who, each in his own way, encouraged a budding entrepreneur. But mostly, this tale became, if not a success story, then a story about success. Karaoke Nation is Steve Fishman's journey into what was truly the heart of the American dream, 1990s style: self-actualization through entrepreneurial success. It's the best, funniest story yet of the dot-com boom, a gold rush the likes of which America hadn't seen since Roughing It, Mark Twain's story of the 1861 Nevada gold and silver strike. It chronicles one of those rare times when it seemed as if anyone -- ANYONE -- could become hugely wealthy, just by collecting the dollars that floated down from the sky.

But Karaoke Nation is more than that. It's about the peculiar way in which the self-fulfillment ethos of the seventies -- the one that promoted creativity and passion and mission and self-invention and the desire to make a difference -- became the ethos of business. It's about the new culture of "making it," how the values of one generation re-emerged in the next, only changed; about the way in which work, the undertaking that gave our fathers ulcers and a decent living, became a source of joy.

Karaoke Nation follows Steve from before he had even a germ of a business idea (or a business inclination) through the germination of a business. He signs partners (with big dreams and ridiculous social skills), meets venture capitalists (who seem to take him seriously), pitches foulmouthed stars (who seem interested in "monetizing eyeballs" and "developing sticky applications"), narrows in on a CEO (the one with the empty apartment), and finally sells the near-business in a scene that involves sunglasses, alcohol, removing shoes and shirts, and...well, you'll just have to read the book to find out. At once hilarious and perceptive, ironic and affectionate, Karaoke Nation is the sanest look yet at a lunatic era.