Saturday, 13 April 2013

Vocaloid: This is how the economic sorcery works

Today we look at another simple lesson in confusing economics. Yamaha's vocaloid software has been around for 10 years now. If you do not know what it is, you have not missed much. Vocaloid is Yamaha's attempt to emulate the human singing voice on a computer. They have been successful in emulating the voice, but has not been able to do it convinsimgly enough to make people run out in the millions to buy the software. The vocaloid voices does not sound realistic enough to be used in any serious commercial release in the place of a human singing.

They have been very successful in the Japanese market, where vocaloid achieved cult status amongst a very small group of kids who like to play with this sort of thing.

Zero-G developed the voices, while Yamaha developed the editor software to enable you to use the voice. Up to version 2 of vocaloid, the editor was included in the package. That means, when you buy a singer voice library, you get the software to operate it as well. Zero-G used to sell the libraries, including the software, for $99. Most of the time you just had to wait a little bit, and the package would become available on some special for $69.

Now, with version 3, Yamaha realised that they are not breaking into the mass market, so they decided to rather try to make more money. Previously they had to share the money with Zero-G who developed the voices. They are now selling the software seperate from the voices. This means that, when you buy the voice from Zero-G you can not use it. You have to buy the editor from Yamaha as well. You get a watered down demo version of the eitor with the voice from Zero-G, but that version is almost useless.

On their web site Yamaha states that they have taken this step so you have to buy the software only once, "so the price is cheaper". Ok, so Zero-G now sells the voice for $99 and you buy the editor software from Yamaha for $129. That is a total of $229. That is much cheaper than the $99 I used to pay. Well, I actually never paid $99. I always waited for the 2 for the price of one specials came out and paid only $50 for a voice, including the editor, but let's for now ignore the specials and work on the list price. Fact is that you now pay $229 for the same productvthat previously cosr $99. But, you should be happy, for Yamaha said that is now much cheaper.

Yamaha say that you have to buy the editor only once, and you can then use it with every voice that you buy from Zero-G. Well, how does that differ from the past? With version 2 you got the software inluded on the package, but when you install a second voice package, it will be combined with the previously installed voice, which enable you to use all voices in the same editor. With the version 3, you can buy a second voice one day and install it and use both voices in the same editor. See how this is different? Ha! Well spotted. There are no sevond voices available, which means you can use only one voice in the editor! Clever hey?

Maybe one day a second voice will become available somthen you will be able to buy the second voice for $99 and install it and use it in the same editor. Much cheaper then?

So, how does the economics work? At least now Zero-G keeps the $99 they make for themselves and Yamaha keeps the $129 they make for themselves. Previously these two companies had to share the $99 you used to pay. Now I can see how this is much cheaper for Yamaha.

Not really much cheaper for the buyer, but why should they care about that?


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