In defense of Vocaloids Part 4: User-generated Content

On Thursday, December 8, 2011 2 comments

You guys remember that dandy article I wrote about stupid pop songs? Well, Vocaloid songs aren’t excused from nonsensical lyrics. However, they key difference is that Vocaloid songs are user-generated. That means most of the songs (with the occasional exception of bands like Supercell) are made by one person. Of course some of them are wildly stupid or esoteric. However, it also means that the artist is in charge of their work, and not big record labels.
These are the big name record companies. If you don't get signed with them, you might as well not exist.

Even though some pop stars write their own songs (Lady Gaga, Ke$ha, Taylor Swift, etc.), that doesn’t mean they have total control over their music. They work for record labels, who work for money. No, the record labels don’t dictate what the artist does (this isn’t some crazy conspiracy theory). What they do is good business: they help the artist brand an image they think will sell.
If you don’t have the “sound” the record label wants, then you don’t get sold. In an industry as over-saturated with hopeful musicians as mainstream music, there is no room for what a band wants. It’s what the record label is willing to sign, and if the band and the record label match up, then everything works out. However, the other 99% are left out of the loop. Not necessarily because they’re bad, but just because they aren’t what the industry is looking for.

I’m not trying to demonize record labels (I save my demonizing for publishing houses). It’s not their fault that there are so many more bands than there are slots in the top forty. All they do is make the same decision any rational human being would: pick the bands that are most likely to sell. And not all the artists record labels sign suck. However, neither do all the bands they turn away.

Vocaloid music provides an excellent middle-ground. Yes, if a song makes it big KarenT (the Vocaloid record label)  picks it up for distribution. However, that’s not the only way to find artists. Almost all of my favorite Vocaloid songs were found through old-fashioned browsing the internet. I listen to probably a hundred new songs every week, just clicking through related videos on Youtube or posted by some of the people I subscribe to. And I listen to a lot of crap. However, every time I find a song that rocks my socks, I take a little pride in knowing it was my choice to listen to that song, and not the record company’s.
Behold! A very scientific breakdown of the music I listen to. But it's totally worth it.

Vocaloids put the power back into the hands of the people who generate the songs. The whole Vocaloid fandom is one made by fans, for fans. Everything from the PVs to the songs to those silly little fanarts you find on the web. It’s a community that decides for itself what will be popular. That’s a kind of power that’s worth viewing a few crappy videos for.

What do you think? How does user-generated content affect the way media is marketed and made? Is having an interactive community important to enjoying something? Let me know!


  1. I REALLY like this conversation - because I get annoyed when everyone talks about how horrible movies are these days. The fact of the matter is that for the most part, the big film companies (similar to recording labels, publishing houses, and the like) are ultimately looking to make some money. Some of my favorite films have sidestepped that process (Crash, Little Miss Sunshine, and others) through the new and developing "Indie" genre as I am sure you are very much aware. If we want to blame anyone for how trashy films are these days, all we need to do is look at the general public that is putting money towards the films, not the film industry itself.

    YouTube, online publishing (like your new book), blogs, and all these things that are user-generated affects media in remarkable ways because folks are starting to get their voice out. Justin Beiber (yes I am talking about him right now) is a really great example, he was noticed by an agent on YouTube. He didn't take the Disney channel path, or anything like that but I guess now he is in the system as much as anyone else.

    I am not sure how essential an interactive community is to enjoying something, though I know watching a film with the right people - or discussing a book with a certain group, is much more rewarding and exciting than just doing it by myself.

  2. At this point, I'm thoroughly convinced that Liana will able to turn an ACG culture hater into a Vocaloid connoisseur. I'd like to append this paragraph from karent's website, to this article
    The name KarenT is derived from an American futurologist, Alvin Toffler.
    Nowadays, it is much easier for individual creators to make public their work and gain recognition by posting them on the internet. This has been making a far-reaching impact on economy and changing our values. Surprisingly, Alvin Toffler already predicted such changes in 1980s, and in his book "The Third Wave", he coined a new term "prosumer" and described that the role of producers and consumers would begin to blur and merge.
    He had a daughter, who supported his works.
    Sadly, she died at young age before seeing a world of The Third Wave .
    Because we have been greatly impressed and inspired by his books, to honor Alvin Toffler, and also as a symbol of coming future, we named KarenT after his daughter, Karen Toffler.