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Japan Music

Virtual Singer Uses Crowdsourced Songs To Become a Star In Japan (bloomberg.com) 96

An anonymous reader quotes Bloomberg. [Alternate version here]: During her 10-year career, she's released more than 100,000 songs in a variety of languages and opened shows for Lady Gaga. And yet Hatsune Miku, who boasts 2.5 million Facebook followers, doesn't actually exist -- at least not in the typical way we think of a flesh-and-blood diva. Miku is a computer-simulated pop star created more than a decade ago by Hiroyuki Ito, CEO of Crypton Future Media in Sapporo, Japan.

She started life as a piece of voice-synthesis software but since has evolved to become a singing sensation in her own right -- thanks to the creativity of her legions of fans. Crucial to Miku's success is the ability for devotees to purchase the Yamaha-powered Vocaloid software and write their own songs for the star to sing right back at them. Fans then can upload songs to the web and vie for the honor of having her perform them at "live" gigs, in which the computer-animated Miku takes center stage, surrounded by human guitarists, drummers and pianists.

Bloomberg's article includes some video clips of the virtual artist -- as well as her real-world fans.
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Virtual Singer Uses Crowdsourced Songs To Become a Star In Japan

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  • Still. (Score:1, Informative)

    by Templer421 ( 4988421 )

    She isn't real.

    • And still, she is better than many organic performers.
    • Re:Still. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by SeaFox ( 739806 ) on Sunday October 29, 2017 @11:30PM (#55455927)

      Her vocals are based off samples of an actual person.

      Now, consider modern pop stars: who can only sing (not play any instruments), are singing songs written by someone else, and are having their vocals put through filters and auto-tune in production, and live out a personality in public groomed by their marketing agency.

      How big is the difference really?

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        "Now, consider modern pop stars: who can only sing (not play any instruments), are singing songs written by someone else, and are having their vocals put through filters and auto-tune in production, and live out a personality in public groomed by their marketing agency."
        Like say, Bing Crosby and Doris Day?
        Do you know whom we can blame for this modern phenomenon that has lasted over a Century so far?
        John Philip Fucking Sousa.

        Sousa made quite a good living Composing, Arranging and Conducting, and significantl

        • Re:Still. (Score:4, Funny)

          by sheramil ( 921315 ) on Monday October 30, 2017 @06:31AM (#55456597)

          "Tonal hooch, the substitute for real music, beloved of apes, morons, half-wits, cake-eaters..."

          Hey! There's no call for that kind of language.

        • Re:Still. (Score:5, Insightful)

          by geekmux ( 1040042 ) on Monday October 30, 2017 @08:04AM (#55456829)

          "Now, consider modern pop stars: who can only sing (not play any instruments), are singing songs written by someone else, and are having their vocals put through filters and auto-tune in production, and live out a personality in public groomed by their marketing agency." Like say, Bing Crosby and Doris Day?

          No, not like Bing Crosby or Doris Day. Stars of yesteryear actually had a recognized talent. A natural ability to sing anyone's songs.

          We have mostly entertainers today, who are more valued for their porn star looks and ability to dance around on a stage. Many rely on lip-syncing and Autotune because they cannot actually sing. Society accepts this because they now value entertainment more than natural talent.

          The rise of a virtual singer only clarifies just how far we've fallen. Regardless if Hatsune's vocals are based on a "real" person, it's still a manufactured product at best. I don't even call an Autotuned human voice authentic, because it's not.

      • Re:Still. (Score:5, Interesting)

        by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) <mojo&world3,net> on Monday October 30, 2017 @06:32AM (#55456599) Homepage Journal

        Vocaloid technology was originally designed for backing vocals and harmonies. It wasn't very good at doing real lyrics in most languages, including Latin-descended languages like English.

        However, Japanese has some unusual properties that meant Vocaloid could sing in Japanese surprisingly well. The most important of these is that Japanese is basically a string of unconnected and discreet sounds. In English the sound the characters make depends on the other characters in the word, for example the different 'c' sounds in "cat" and "choose". That doesn't happen in Japanese (with a couple of minor exceptions for certain local accents/dialects).

        So for an English voice synth when you type in "example", it has to run through a complex system that converts it into the vocal sounds for that word, before it even starts to consider adding expression. In Japanese it just takes each character of "tatoeba" (ta, to, e, ba, they are single characters in Japanese) and plays back one of about 50 samples at the selected pitch. People actually play Japanese vocal synths in real-time on a keyboard.

        Remember that this was a decade ago. Nowadays English vocal synthesis is a lot better and probably could do lead vocals on a song.

        Anyway, I don't think any music producer would have used Vocaloid for lead vocals. It took indie artists doing it to prove that people would actually listen to them. Part of the attraction is that indie artists could suddenly add lyrics to their work without any recording equipment or singing ability, and part of it was that she ended up singing about memes and the true, honest feelings of the nerds producing those songs. It was more real than real singers.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          > Japanese has some unusual properties that meant Vocaloid could sing in Japanese surprisingly well. The most important of these is that Japanese is basically a string of unconnected and discreet sounds.

          Vocaloid was actually invented by a spanish science guy named Jordi Bonada while doing PhD in the USA. He met a japanese guest professor who had connections with the musical instruments branch of Yamaha zaibatsu and he convinced the board to pour a few million dollars into the research in exchange for IP

        • by Aereus ( 1042228 )

          The biggest irony to me about the whole Vocaloid scene, especially once they started doing "live converts" with hologram tech, was how it is reminiscent of Sharon Apple from Macross Plus. An OVA from 1994 that includes a virtual idol hologram that sings songs at huge concert venues. It seemed so far-fetched and unrealistic at the time, and yet here we are...

      • > Her vocals are based off samples of an actual person.

        Its not that simple. Let's see:

        Vocaloid gen1 engine, 2002 - late 2006, e.g. original Kaito Shion:
        Voice provider's samples are not actually used to procedurally generate audio output, they are just utilized as envelope curves which the synthesis engine tries to imitate with entirely artificial produce. Result is sometimes suprisingly good, but very uneven and the UI was extremely hard to work with.

        Vocaloid gen2/3/4 engines, 2007 - present, e.g. all of

    • Re:Still. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by sheramil ( 921315 ) on Monday October 30, 2017 @02:34AM (#55456215)

      She isn't real.

      I've seen videos of Hatsune Miku. I've heard sounds that give the impression that she can sing. You, you're just text on a screen.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Does Slashdot really think most nerds don't know about Hatsune Miku at this point?

    • Does Slashdot really think most nerds don't know about Hatsune Miku at this point?

      Know about her? She's my ex-waifu. Made me sign a prenup, so I got nothing when she kicked me to the curb.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Never heard of it before. I guess I'm in that group of nerds that aren't Japanese fanboys?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The 'bots are going to take the jobs of live performers too.

    • by mark-t ( 151149 )
      I think you only have to worry about that when you have synthetic pop stars opening for other synthetic pop stars at an event that is not specifically geared at catering to the demographic that would find the novelty of the singer being virtual to be worth attending the event.
  • by khchung ( 462899 )

    She has been around for 10 years and now it is "news" for Slashdot.

    Next, are we going to get "news" about the 10-year old sub-prime crisis on the front page?

  • by raind ( 174356 )
    Still people will play, because we can.
  • by DJ Rubbie ( 621940 ) on Sunday October 29, 2017 @11:14PM (#55455895) Homepage Journal
    Unlike typical Japanese media enterprises that exert their draconian copyright laws to squash usage of IP (including what Americans consider to be "fair use"), the creative forces that started Hatsune Miku put her design as part of the Creative Commons [creativecommons.org], thus freeing her design to amateur and professional artists alike for reuse. As a result, the original rights holder receive even greater recognition for their voice synthesizer software line from the artists creating all the derivative visual works involving her likeness.
    • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

      Unlike typical Japanese media enterprises that exert their draconian copyright laws to squash usage of IP (including what Americans consider to be "fair use"), the creative forces that started Hatsune Miku put her design as part of the Creative Commons, thus freeing her design to amateur and professional artists alike for reuse. As a result, the original rights holder receive even greater recognition for their voice synthesizer software line from the artists creating all the derivative visual works involvin

      • by Draeven ( 166561 )

        It may only be part of a "marketing strategy" as you say, but it still illustrates the fact that having things open for use leads to further creativity and production of art.

        Putting the vocoder itself aside, there's far more to the scene than the voice itself. Had this only been a piece of voice software without a character attached, it wouldn't have been nearly as successful. Evidence of this is scene in the prior releases of the Vocaloid software, such as Lola (http://vocaloid.wikia.com/wiki/LOLA). Whi

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      Unlike typical Japanese media enterprises that exert their draconian copyright laws to squash usage of IP

      Japanese media is very supportive of fan efforts. In fact there is a sizeable industry built around making unofficial versions of popular franchises, often pornographic but not always. They are extremely tolerant of fan works, seeing them as both flattering and a way to build up support for their franchises.

      According to Wikipedia the "doujin" market, as it is called, is worth nearly $800m/year.

    • "Unlike typical Japanese media enterprises that exert their draconian copyright laws to squash usage of IP" Man, Japan doesn't even like people overseas buying their media [cdjapan.co.jp].
    • Only, the software is Windows only-- or, requires "Cubase" on a Mac. Not quite so open.

  • by grasshoppa ( 657393 ) <`gro.oc-onpt' `ta' `ydenneks'> on Sunday October 29, 2017 @11:23PM (#55455915) Homepage

    Music companies have been manufacturing stars for years, this is really just the next step in the process.

    A very very small step, truth be told.

    • Yes. This is why all the talk about "I want to support the artist, not the studio" is such claptrap. Much of popular music is a studio product, after all.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) <mojo&world3,net> on Monday October 30, 2017 @03:43AM (#55456313) Homepage Journal

      That's the thing about Hatsune Miku - she is a genuine grass roots effort, one of the least manufactured pop stars in Japan right now.

      As TFA says, she started as a voice pack for the Vocaloid software synthesiser package. Fans used it to create songs and upload them to Nico Nico Douga, a site similar to YouTube. These were pure fan creations, the Vocaloid software was just the firm time that someone working from a PC at home could use high quality vocals without having to record them themselves.

      As is often the case in Japan, other people started to supplement the popular songs with fan art and videos. In Japan it's common to have a mascot for your product, and since this was a female vocal synth they had already created Hatsne Miku with the intention of releasing other characters (voice packs) later.

      Eventually independent record labels started collecting these songs and releasing them. Since the software is a just a synth like any other, the creators no more own the copyright than the creators of a drum synth or a real instrument would. As her popularity grew they started doing concerts and bigger CD releases, but most of the songs are still created by independent artists and posted for free online.

    • You can't force this one to give you a blowjob, though. So that's a loss for the music executives in Japan's version of the RIAA.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    A decade ago called asking what the fuck you're doing, EditorDavid. Got anything you want to tell us about this new cell phone Apple's supposedly working on while you're at it?

  • It's not revolutionary when she can't dance as well as Richard Stallman.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

  • Not to rag on the OP or anything, but this is like a decade overdue.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    I follow Hatsune Miku dearly, but let me say the crowd-sourced part of her consist of the consumer posse, the non-productive fans, who go to see "live" hologram concerts, buy the albums and all kinds of merch.

    I am convinced the songs written for Miku are 95%+ paid comissions, rather than spontaneous amateurs rewarded only after the act, if successful. Why I think that is because it seems they just pulled the plug on her during autumn 2011, after SenBonZakura (i.e. 1000 cherry trees) was published. That song

  • by backwardsposter ( 2034404 ) on Monday October 30, 2017 @10:00AM (#55457393)

    The success of Miku is taking music ownership in the right direction for us all.

  • I wish this story only popped up when there was a 'version increase' of some sort with Miku. I understand there is is always someone for whom this is new and shiny, but it would be more interesting for the others if there was more meat to the story.
  • As an amateur song composer, I'd gladly participate.

  • And that means I love you.

    Well, that was easy. Next!

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