Thursday, 18 July 2013

Follow the (Vocaloid) Money

While visiting me here at the Flat au John  yesterday, my father asked how anyone in the Vocaloid part of the music business made any money out of it.

It was a good question, and one that I had pondered before, coming to the conclusion that there are several money-making avenues in this part of the market though they are not necessarily all that easy to explain on the spur of the moment, owing to the significantly different shape of that market area.

It is a lot more fan-driven than the traditional music markets – though, as I personally witnessed during my years involved in that business, it was always a significant part of it – yet still very professional, with lots of scope for contributors to make at least a partial living from it, and some can do even better than that.

First, there is the Vocaloid software itself, which is sold by Yamaha – so they do quite well out of it, to the extent that they have been actively developing the technology for over a decade now.

Then there are those who produce the Vocaloids themselves, such as Crypton Future Media, I-Style, Internet Co, SBS (Korea), and a fair.number of others including geographical areas and convenience store chains. Most if not all of these sell their creations to composers/producers, generating income for themselves.

When it comes to those composer/producer types, the same basic rules apply as in the more traditional routes to music publishing, but without any of the hurdles that have always beset that market – as I well know from my years as a tech' provider to the players within it. The names I could drop...

The producers of the music are now able to get their work into the public arena via the Internet, which in the first instance is a freely available source of (often) very good material, much of which I have showcased on this 'blog during the past six months or so. By showcasing their talents thus, these producers can then be commissioned by commercial outfits to write (paid for) material for something they are doing – and there are a number of instances of that happening.

Others gain such a reputation that they are able to place full or extended versions of their work on paid-download sites such as iTunes, and even release CDs or (with impressive and memorable videos) DVDs, such as Tripshots' Super High Definition videos that I have mentioned here before and embedded reduced-resolution versions.

Then there are the character designers such as Lat, Tda, Saboten, Mamama and tourbux, whose designs are often made into figurines by the likes of Good Smile Company and Max Factory, including Figma and Nendoroid types. Whether the original designer is paid is per-sale royalties or a one-off licensing fee I do not know, but for copyright reasons it has to be one or the other.

There is plenty of other merchandise available as well, from costume play (cosplay) outfits and accessories (everything anyone could need from wigs to leeks!) to magazines.

On top of all this are the live performances, where ticket sales, merchandise and glow-stick sales provide ample scope for the entrepreneurial types to do well.

Overall, it's a big market, though not 'shaped' in quite the way we tend to see in the west. It's more Forbidden Planet than (say) Lady Gaga in style and form, so not that easy to explain to someone unfamiliar with the way this works in much of the rest of the world, having largely passed Britain by, to date.

Nevertheless I hope that what I have written here gives at least a flavour of what is a large (and growing) part of a market area that is big in the world, though not – yet? – in all countries. There's money to be made by those who understand the nature of the genre and, most importantly, its fan-base...

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