In my last two posts, I talked about Hatsune Miku, Vocaloid and utaite (see “Hatsune Miku, the idol who doesn’t exist” and “Mere cover artists performing in Tokyo Dome?”). I wrote about how many lines are blurry within this community: copyrights, what is popular and how everyone can be both a fan and a creator. While utaite often are only one part of this chain of creation, there are some of them that extend their playground even further. This time, I would like to introduce you to two artists who don’t just sing, but also are VocaloidP’s (see “Hatsune Miku, the idol who doesn’t exist”).
While it would be interesting to just look at the views per song and see if there is a big difference between original Vocaloid songs and utaite covers, I think it is even more important to think about what these numbers actually mean. What kind of demographic do these numbers represent, is popularity and fame determined by these numbers and what can we do with this information? Are there any other ways to measure populairty? And with the information that we do have, can we say Hatsune Miku and other Vocaloids are to be considered idols, or are they just an instrument?
Eve is an utaite with a slightly boyish yet sometimes sexy voice. Although he originally only covered songs, he gained most of his popularity when he started posting Vocaloid songs written by himself, which he would later cover as well. He usually posts the Vocaloid songs on niconico and the next day he will post his own cover of the song on YouTube.
Dramaturgy on niconico: https://www.nicovideo.jp/watch/sm32076378
1.5M views (Oct. 18th 2018), posted Oct. 10th 2017
17.5M views (Oct. 18th 2018), posted Oct. 11th 2017
Dramaturgy is Eve’s song with the most views. A lot of other utaite also covered this song. The difference in views is quite huge: 17.5 million views on YouTube versus 1.5 million views on niconico.
sister on niconico: https://www.nicovideo.jp/watch/sm30152633
308.7K views (Oct. 18th 2018), posted Dec. 2nd 2016
2.8M views (Oct. 18th 2018), posted Feb. 1st 2018
According to the description on YouTube, Eve had written this song in 2015 already. He posted the Vocaloid version on niconico in December 2016, which makes it the first Vocaloid song he posted online. He mentioned that he ‘re-recorded’ the song to celebrate both Dramaturgy and ノンセンス文学 Nonsense bungaku (Nonsense Literature) hitting 5 million views. Between posting it on niconico in 2016 and posting his own cover on YouTube in 2018, more than one year passed. Even so, his own cover has almost ten times more views than the original song.
The amount of views could say something about popularity if the total amout of users of the websites are known. In the case of YouTube, this number is not a secret, but in the case of niconico it seems almost impossible to find a number of users (not premium users) any more recent than 2011. Also, even if I were to make a comparisation based on that, we have to take into account that the users of niconico are a generally more interested audience than all of the YouTube users. Unless you are familiar with these type of songs, I assume the chance very low that Eve’s songs would suddenly pop up in your recommendations, though. YouTube might be more accessible and easier in use than niconico, which makes it more likely that people from outside the original community will give the songs a listen, I do think that this does not defy the huge gap in view counts. I think, though, that posting the cover with his own voice on YouTube makes it more easy and appealing to listen to his songs for those who do not especially like to listen to robotic voice like Hatsune Miku’s.
Last time I introduced him as the currently most popular utaite. I also mentioned that he does more than just cover songs. He writes songs for his unit After the Rain (with そらる Soraru), he writes songs for other groups, he writes his own songs and he occasionally also posts a Vocaloid original song. He does not cover all of his Vocaloid original songs, like Eve does. He also posts both songs on both niconico and YouTube, which is why I chose to compare all four uploads of only one song to each other.
ハローディストピア Hello Dystopia
Hello Dystopia Vocaloid ver. on niconico: https://www.nicovideo.jp/watch/sm33260180
874K views (Oct. 29th 2018), posted May 27th 2018
4M views (Oct. 29th 2018), posted May 26th 2018
Hello Dystopia Cover ver. on niconico: https://www.nicovideo.jp/watch/sm33333652
898K views (Oct. 29th 2018), posted June 8th 2018
4.3M views (Oct. 29th 2018), posted June 9th 2018
In Mafumafu’s case as well, the views on YouTube are higher, but the difference is less shocking than in Eve’s case. Still, there’s also a slight gap between the views on the Vocaloid original songs and the covers. To me, this means that it can be said that the versions with human voices are slightly more preferred than the original versions with Hatsune Miku’s voice. Still, I am only just guessing. The number of views on a video is just a number. It only reflects how many times a video is being watched (and even slightly more difficult than that). It cannot tell me anything about what kind of people are watching.
I also do not think the amount of views on a video gives much information on how popular a song or the artist is. While Eve’s Dramaturgy has many more views than most of Mafumafu’s songs, it is Mafumafu that seems to be more well known as an artist. These numbers can give you a rough idea, but cannot be used as proof of someone’s fame. And when it comes to Vocaloids being idols or instruments: In the case of Eve and Mafumafu, I do think they were used as intstruments, as their images did not make an appearance in the MV’s, but also because uploading the Vocaloid songs gave many other utaite the opportunity to cover the songs.