Write a song for 'pop star' Miku and she may sing it live

The computer-simulated pop star Hatsune Miku (left).
The computer-simulated pop star Hatsune Miku (above).PHOTO: HATSUNE MIKU/INSTAGRAM

TOKYO • For the record, she wears extremely short skirts, sports blue pigtails that end at her knees 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.

Hatsune Miku, who boasts 2.5 million Facebook followers, 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 since 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 of devotees to purchase the Yamaha-powered Vocaloid software and write their own songs for the star.

Fans 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 anime-style outfits Miku wears.

"A Miku concert, rather than being a professionally produced concert with orders coming from the top down, is more of a collaboration of creators acting in concert with Miku to share popular songs that fans love," he added.

"It's really a kind of creative gathering of people such as songwriters, costume designers and illustrators."

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

Crypton has sold 120,000 units of the Miku software, which retails for US$200 (S$273).

It also makes money through ticket sales and character licensing for commercial purposes.

As for the future of Miku - whose full 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."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 31, 2017, with the headline 'Write a song for 'pop star' Miku and she may sing it live'. Print Edition | Subscribe