Week 4: The Producers

After initially considering discussing the J-Pop producer as a sub-culture, an invisible entity propagating the industry, I found myself drawn to a link of sorts with my group assignment which explores the culture of the 100% manufactured J-Pop star Hastune Miku. We have been doing research into the production programs used to create her, both animation and vocaloid software and not being independently wealthy I was investigating free options for the vocaloid software. Vocaloid software enables the user to create an artificial singer by either downloading packs, (Hatsune Miku being amongst the most popular) or alternatively turning yourself into one through recording phrases. In investigating free options I came across someone asking for similar help on Yahoo. The answers to the question gave me an intriguing glimpse into the sub-culture of people who use the software. I was taken aback at how vehemently they defended buying the software and actively dissuaded against downloading it illegally as programs known as pocaloids. One response explained that it was a major issue if you wanted to join the community through use of a pocaloid and the serious ramifications of exporting and publishing content from a pocaloid if you are discovered, which seemed to be quite severe online discrimination. This user linked me to a forum where the community is strongly based simply entitled the vocaloid wikia,where I had the opportunity to explore pocaloids further.

Pocaloid Disclaimer Source: http://vocaloid.wikia.com/wiki/POCALOID

Pocaloid Disclaimer Source: http://vocaloid.wikia.com/wiki/POCALOID

I was initially presented with this banner at the top of the page, but as stated was nonetheless given a detailed description of the illegal software and presented with strong discussion at the foot of the article. It seems however that the community is quite welcoming however if you take the honourable path with detailed instructions and help in getting started with vocaloids. These instructions were in English as well which is important, as it was only recently that they introduced English versions of the software, originally in Japanese only.

It is interesting that I was so confronted by this discussion on illegally downloading programs, a practice which wasn’t discouraged to such an extent in my experiences with similar software until this point. Perhaps it is because of a sense of professionalism that I found in investigating the community. I have also concluded that it might be because the phenomenon is at an earlier stage of exclusivity, the programs having a high cost? Or perhaps the noted importance of the commercial potential of the content produced? These questions definitely warrant a further investigation in our group assignment.

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5 comments

  1. That is a really interesting response to piracy from the Vocaloid community. Like you, I feel like it is commonplace for people to illegally download software.
    I was interested, so I did a quick search and found this thread (http://www.vocaloidotaku.net/index.php?/topic/28353-the-great-pocaloid-debate/page__st__60) discussing it. One user says downloading the software is /degrading’ to the community and one person points out that people refer to it as a drug – ‘Friends don’t let friends use Pocaloid’. It’s amazing how strongly they feel about something that is common practice is many media sphere. I would guess that not only is it professionalism, but the fact that they are creating their own content using the software, so they feel more of an attachment to its success/theft.

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  2. Well even though this is relatively recent it may be a contributing factor? In 2010 Japan introduced piracy penalties. In this article from BBC it states that ‘illegal uploads of copyright infringing music and videos carry a maximum 10 year prison sentence and a 10 million yen fine’. Sounds pretty intense to me, although strangely enough they haven’t actually ‘cracked down’ on that many people. http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-19767970

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  3. Although Vocaloid allows users to record their own samples, my understanding is that the majority of users create admittedly unique works through the use of provided packs of
    existing artists’ productions. While certainly a unique form of digital artefact creation enabled by digital distribution, I find it interesting that this channel in particular has a strong community stance against piracy, whilst other forms of music piracy are seemingly socially acceptable, almost to the point of ubiquity. Vocaloid’s backing by the Yamaha Corporation, in my mind, aligns it with other digital music distribution tools, such as iTunes or Spotify, in that corporate profits drive development, and therefore I would argue that users of ‘Pocaloids’ are part of the same piracy community who justify their practices as only cutting into the profit margins of the greedy, and not truly damaging the artist. It is possible that community support for Vocaloid stems from genuine utility, where as other forms of DRM-riddled digital distribution have overtly offended users through lack of control over a purchased product. Regardless, I believe contrasting social norms related to piracy in Vocaloid and other forms artistic distribution would be an interesting avenue of investigation.

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  4. This is a really interesting topic – Is this software being used specifically for J-Pop, or is this slowly making its way to the Western media? I find it amusing that there is a Wiki pointing to the existence of such software, literally informing people that there is illegal software downloads available. I just read the article linked in the above comment about the legal ramifications for piracy in Japan, that’s insane. Learned a lot reading this, good luck with your group study!

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