Why did Japan create Vocaloid

Hatsune Miku is an expression of an interesting trend: the people who were previously known as fans, consumers and users are now at the center of a product creation. This is a mass phenomenon in Japan both online and offline. There are tons of creative artifacts. For example, more than 100,000 songs and more than 400,000 videos that were created in the name of Hatsune Miku. And in the offline world too, fans who are creators at the same time come together for concerts, costume parties and much more.

The inventor of Hatsune Miku is Crypton Future Media - currently the largest distributor of music software in Japan. The company supplies its products to individual content manufacturers, game companies, music producers and many others. Most of these products were based on a software called voice synthesis Vocaloid developed. All of this is characterized by “consumer generated media”, ie works created by fans.

The birth of Hatsune Miku

With Vocaloid2 Crypton created some pretty amazing software. She records the voice of a real person and synthesizes it with the pre-recorded singing voice of Saki Fujita - a well-known dubbing actress in Japan. Next, this voice got a face. The manga artist KEI developed a character who gave the software an identity: a young girl with the almost stereotypical appearance of a manga heroine. The voice, the face and the character were given a name: Hatsune Miku.

After its release in August 2007, thousands of graphics, songs, and videos quickly appeared on the Internet. At the moment, 360,000 Hatsune Miku videos can be found on Youtube, while around 100,000 original and derivative works can be found on the website Piapro are displayed. The adaptations and adaptations of the face with the long blue braids are innumerable and range from playful baby versions, handicraft templates, hand-drawn transfigurations, (partly porn-infected) glitch variants and the usual desktop fan fantasies.

To popularize Hatsune Mike, Crypton organized concerts in Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, and Los Angeles that drew thousands of people. In November 2013, Crypton entered into a collaboration with designer Louis Vuitton and director Toshiki Okada for Hatsune Miku. A Vocaloid opera was staged together in Paris. Title: "The End".

Traditional PR and new approaches

Hatsune Miku has long been celebrated as a star in various commercials, for example for Toyota, Playstation or Domino Pizza. Crypton combines such more classic PR work with a new approach: The company tries to involve its customers in a dialogical manner. It enables them to get creative and to exchange ideas with one another.

An example of this: As the Vocaloid movement is expanding internationally, Crypton has developed a service called Mikubook that keeps fans up to date with the latest news about the widely dispersed activities. At the same time, interaction among them is encouraged. In addition to traditional PR, for many this is the real key to Hatsune Miku's success.

In response to the growing popularity of Hatsune Miku remixes, Crypton launched the online community Piapro in December 2007. Here Vocaloid fans can upload their own content, such as music, art, lyrics, characters and 3D models. The name "Piapro" stands for "peer production".

When Crypton released the Piapro platform, there was a real explosion of creativity. One example is the “Miku Miku Dance” software developed by fans, which enables users to animate characters themselves and thus create their own music videos.

Co-creation as a variety of complicity

The success of Hatsune Miku can be explained by the "chain of co-creation". A Google Chrome advertisement sums up this process. We see hundreds of people participating in the creation of a single Hatsune Miku piece. One person works out texts, another guitar chord or a keyboard sequence, then a dancer develops a choreography. The highlight of it all is the cohesive performance of everyone in one live concert.

The phenomenon developed a special dynamic after Crypton made changes to the copyright of the figure and software. “All rights reserved” became “some rights reserved”. The Piapro Character License (PCL) was born. The Hatsune Miku illustrations are now under a kind of Creative Commons license that allows the creator almost complete freedom for non-commercial use of Hatsune Miku.

Fans responded to this release by posting hundreds of thousands of music videos with a variety of common costumes and images on the video-sharing website Nico Nico Douga posted. This site works like Youtube - with the difference that users can scroll through the comments while they are watching a video.

Nowadays, leading MikuPs (that's what Hatsune Miku producers call themselves) are selling their work online. You can sing Hatsune Miku songs in karaoke bars.

Reinventing cultural production

Crypton's President Hiroyuki Itoh sees the Hatsune Miku phenomenon as an opportunity to rethink the entertainment industry. “It's a different form of creativity,” he says. “We're reinventing the process of creating content.” I agree with Itoh. I believe that pop culture can reinforce social dynamics and thus contribute to the vitalization of citizen media. Ultimately, this happens through the collaboration of amateurs and professionals.

What can we learn from the collaboration between amateurs and professionals? What lessons can be learned from this for the future of cultural production? I think the long-standing relationship between canon and fanon needs to be reconsidered.

In short, the canon represents the values ​​and practices of professionals; the fanon represents the values ​​and practices of the amateurs (or fans). I think our goal should be to enable a strong and continuous dialogue between the two camps. This creates a breeding ground for complicity on a new scale and in a new quality. But how do we get there?

I would like to suggest a few guidelines:

  1. We have to overcome the “cult of the original”.
  2. We need to rediscover the value of copies, variations, versions, and updates.
  3. We need to recognize cultural creativity and the rights of fans (readers, users and consumers).
  4. We have to recognize fans as a source of competence.
  5. We need to support the complicity of traditional publishers and professionals with the amateurs.
  6. We need to encourage exchanges between professionals and amateurs.
  7. We need to develop the cultural and legal as well as the economic and political mechanisms for the appreciation of user-generated content.
  8. Finally, we need to get ready for an era in the name of “third content”. In the new era, the works of fans and other creative people are no longer suppressed and dismissed as unofficial content. Complicity between amateurs and professionals will be seen as a collaborative approach to content creation. I call this new type of content "third content".