Meet a pop star in Japan who is not exactly human

Hatsune Miku, who boasts 2.5 million Facebook followers, does not actually exist.
Hatsune Miku, who boasts 2.5 million Facebook followers, does not actually exist.PHOTO: FACEBOOK/ HATSUNE MIKU

TOKYO (Bloomberg) - She wears extremely short skirts, sports blue pigtails and has the boundless energy of a playful puppy. During her 10-year career, she has 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, does not actually exist - at least not in the typical way you think of a flesh-and-blood diva.

Miku is a computer-simulated pop star created more than a decade ago by Mr Hiroyuki Ito, chief executive of Crypton Future Media in Sapporo, Japan. She started life as a piece of voice-synthesis software but 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 honour of having her perform them at live gigs, in which the computer-animated Miku takes centre-stage, surrounded by human guitarists, drummers and pianists.

Mr Ito describes the concerts as a collaboration of professional and amateur creators, both in terms of the music and the anime-style outfits Miku wears.

And it appears to be very lucrative, too, both for Crypton and some of those amateur songwriters, who have penned songs for Miku and then been plucked from obscurity by record companies looking for The Next Big Thing.

Crypton has sold 120,000 units of the Hatsune Miku software. It also makes money through ticket sales and character licensing for commercial purposes.

As for the future of Hatsune Miku - whose name translates into English as First Sound Of The Future - and Crypton, Mr Ito has ambitious plans.

"We are trying to further develop (the) technology and get our voice synthesizer software as close as possible to the human voice," he said.

"We will arrive at the point, though, where we have surpassed the human voice to create something that doesn't exist. My hope is that this new technology will bring about a new kind of music."