Vocaloid is a singing synthesizer application, with its signal processing part (concatenative synthesis) developed through a joint research project between the Pompeu Fabra University in Spain and Japan’s Yamaha Corporation, who developed the software into a commercial product. Vocaloid enables users to synthesize singing by typing in lyrics and melody. The main parts of the Vocaloid system are the Score Editor, the Singer Library and the Synthesis Engine. The project started in 2000, the first commercial Vocaloid version was presented by Yamaha at the Musikmesse in Germany in 2003 and the Vocaloid version 3 was launched in October 2011.
Each Vocaloid is sold as “a singer in a box” designed to act as a replacement for an actual singer. Today seven studios are involved with the production and distribution of Vocaloids, among them are three studios creating english Vocaloids, the other four are solely creating Japanese Vocaloids.
- Zero-G (english virtual vocalists) : Zero-G Limited was founded in 1990, trading under the name Time+Space, by Ed Stratton and Julie Stratton. Zero-G rapidly became the largest distributor of soundware in the UK and one of the most critically acclaimed sound developers in the world.
- Power-X (english virtual vocalists) : PowerFX is a small recording company, based in Stockholm, Sweden. The company has been producing music samples, loops and sound effects since 1995.
- Crypton Future Music (japanese and english virtual vocalists) : Crypton, is a media company based in Sapporo, Japan, created in 1995. It develops, imports, and sells products for music, such as sound generator software, sampling CDs and DVDs, sound effect and background music libraries.
- Internet Co. Ltd. (japanese virtual vocalists) : Internet Co. is a software company based in Osaka, Japan. It is best known for the music sequencer Singer Song Writer and Niconico Movie Maker for the video sharing website Nico Nico Douga.
- AH Software (japanese virtual vocalists) : AH-Software is the software brand of AHS Co., Ltd., an importer of digital audio workstations and encoders in Tokyo, Japan. It is also known as the developer of Voiceroid, a speech synthesizer application only available in the Japanese language.
- Bplats (japanese virtual vocalists) : Bplats, Inc. is an application service provider (ASP) based in Tokyo, Japan. The company offers Software as a Service (SaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS) solutions, such as the Vocaloid series VY1 and a Vocaloid online shop.
- Ki/oon Records (japanese virtual vocalists) : Ki/oon Records is a Japanese record label, a subsidiary of Sony Music Japan.
A complete list of the Vocaloid products is available at the Wiki website. The marketing of the Vocaloids is done by the studios.
Just like any music synthesizer, the software is treated as a musical instrument and the vocals as sound, belonging to the software user. The mascots for the software can be used to create vocals for commercial or non-commercial use as long as the vocals do not offend public policy. On the other hand, copyrights to the mascot image and name belong to their respective studios and can not be usedd without the consent of the studio who owns them.
There are a number of derivative products, for example Vocaloid-Flex, Vocal Listener, Miku Miku Dance, Project Diva and MMDAgent. An online Vocaloid service (NetVocaloid) in English and Japanese is available at the Y2 Project website.
The following virtual vocalists are the most famous :
- Hatsune Miku (by Crypton Future Media)
- Kagamine Rin & Len (Twins : boy & girl by Crypton Future Media)
- Lola (by Zero-G)
- Leon (by Zero-G)
- Miriam (by Zero-G)
- Megurine Luka (by Crypton Future Media)
- Meiko (by Crypton Future Media)
- Kaito (by Crypton Future Media)
- Sweet Ann (PowerFX)
- VY1 alias Mitzki (by Bplats)
- Cantor (by Virsyn)
A number of figurines and plush dolls were released for some of these singers, some have their own Twitter, Facebook and MySpace accounts.
In Japan, Vocaloids have a great cultural impact and lead to a lot of legal implications. Vocaloid music is available on CD’s, iTunes, AmazonMP3 etc. Open air concerts with virtual vocalists have been organized recently with great success :
- 1st live concert (Animelo Summer Live) : August 22, 2009, Saitama Super Arena, Saitama, Japan
- 2nd live concert (Mikufes 09) : August 31, 2009,
- 1st overseas concert (Anime Festival Asia) : November 21, 2009, Singapore
- 3rd live concert (Miku no Hi Kanshasai 39’s Giving Day) : March 09, 2010, Odaibo, Tokio, Japan
- 1st american live concert : September 18, 2010, San Francisco, USA
- Vocarock Festival : January 11, 2011
- Vocaloid Festa : February 12, 2011
- 4th live concert : March, 9, 2011, Tokio, Japan
- 2nd american live concert : October 11, 2010, Viz Cinema, San Francisco, USA; screening in the New York Anime Festival
- 3rd american live concert (Mikunopolis) : July 2, 2010, Nokia Theater, Anime Expo, Los Angeles, USA
During the concerts, 3D animations of the Vocaloid mascots are projected on a transparent screen giving an effect of a pseudo-hologram. Videos of different Vocaloid concerts are available at the following Youtube playlist.
A similar software as Vocaloids, developped by Ameya/Ayame, is called UTAU and has been released as freeware. Cracked copies of Vocaloids are called Pocaloids.