How the entrepreneur turned a semi-monthly karaoke gig into an entertainment enterprise
If you've recently attended a local karaoke night, or participated in bar trivia, you've likely enjoyed an experience curated by Dave Casto. The entrepreneur currently oversees about 50 events per week in bars from Polaris to Old North via his Excesss company (yes, the extra “s” is there on purpose).
“We've got a little brand exposure even though it's a ridiculous name,” Casto said in an early-November interview at Hounddog's Pizza, where he's personally hosted Tuesday-night karaoke for several years. “On our business slips and our karaoke cards, we always make that third ‘s' a different color so that people know that I know how to spell.”
Partly inspired by a William Blake quote — “The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom” — Casto originally created Excesss to be a design company after graduating from Ohio State with a degree in design and visual communications. Outside of his day job, he began working as a DJ, and then got his first opportunity to host karaoke every other Sunday at Cafe Bourbon Street about 15 years ago. “That was my … only gig for a long time, and it really took off,” he said.
Soon, he was working every Sunday and then training his karaoke regulars to fill in when he needed time off. Then, other bars began requesting his services. Several years ago he added buzzer-style trivia nights and today, Excesss Karaoke & Trivia employs about 14 paid hosts, who receive select benefits. Casto also has training managers and an assistant manager.
Excesss Karaoke has been known to pack Ace of Cups on Sundays and Fourth Street Bar & Grill on Wednesdays. And, one time, a South Campus pizza shop put an end to the karaoke night after business became too overwhelming. “That was the weirdest phone call I ever got,” Casto recalled. “[They said], ‘We've had to hire two police for the parking lot and you can't walk into the place and we can't make that many pizzas, let alone seat this many people. We've got to stop.'”
Although business is growing, money doesn't motivate Casto. The relationships he forms with patrons have kept him going over the years. “Those bonds will last a lifetime,” he said. “People will find their regular home … and it's not the bar's karaoke night; it's their karaoke night.”
“I had a rough birthday this year,” he continued. “They're starting to add up and it was like, ‘What am I doing?' And one of my karaoke regulars randomly came up and gave me the biggest hug and goes, ‘I'm so glad I found Excesss. You have no idea how much this has changed my life.'”