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Just as people who do data tagging have no idea how much wealth their training algorithms are creating, the people behind virtual idols do not experience the happiness of “idols”-even though most of the time they are the ones that fans really like.
To make matters worse, no one in the virtual idol business seems to be really benefiting from it, and everything is “virtual”.
The virtual idol who will never collapse and never fall in love, the AI women’s group that runs 24 hours a day, the first virtual vtuber with 3D live broadcast and real-time motion capture, the trainee of the largest artist company (the real-life actor behind the virtual image), and the byte bouncing to endorse the password of the largest traffic on the Internet today. The virtual idol group A-SOUL has attracted a lot of people’s attention since its birth.
A-SOUL did break the circle in May this year. However, it was not these reasons that made A-SOUL break the circle, but it was A-SOUL who became the protagonist of the biggest “house collapse” incident of domestic virtual idol.
Jia Le, a member of A-SOUL, was declared “live dormant” by the operator.
Strictly speaking, it is not accurate to use “house collapse” to describe the virtual idol group A-SOUL, which is different from the situation in the past caused by entertainment stars, artists’ scandals and scandals that led to their public image and personality collapse. In the eyes of many fans, the cause of this “house collapse” incident is not the virtual idol group A-SOUL or the person behind it, but the company behind it.
The trigger is the news of the withdrawal of a group member announced on the official A-SOUL account on the afternoon of May 10, the news said: one of the A-SOUL group members, the team Vocal acts as a result of physical and academic problems, in addition to the signed commercial and cooperative activities, will terminate the daily live broadcast (including unicast and group broadcast) and most idol activities from this week, and enter “live dormancy”.
Photo Source: bilibili A-SOUL official
More than ten minutes after the announcement, there was a comment at the bottom: “it’s very euphemistic, and those who have chased after the women’s team know that they will never come back.” This does mean that Jiale has dropped out of the group completely, but it is difficult for fans to accept the withdrawal of important members of the group without warning and are not convinced by the official explanation of “physical and academic problems”.
Image source: A-SOUL member Jia Le
In order to find out, someone soon dug up the personal social platform account of the person behind Jiale. In their personal dynamics, fans cobbled together the real life behind a person-a workplace full of PUA, unattended occupational diseases, endless excessive overtime, dancing at their own expense, and family support for some of their living expenses.
Picture source: NetEase Yun
Picture source: NetEase Yun
Then, a netizen exposed in the forum: “A-SOUL members in the internal status of the project is very low, the salary has always been only 7K, the later operation proposed to raise the salary to 11K basic salary + 1% of the live revenue commission, but the salary increase condition is that the member must renew the contract.”
Jiale is bilibili’s strongest captain of the year in 2021 (bilibili received the most gifts from the captain in the whole year). The number of gift ships rewarded by fans throughout the year is as long as 12000, but, even if calculated on the basis of a higher 11K base salary + 1% of live revenue, the live reward B station will be divided into 50%. Jiale received a captain worth 138yuan from fans and only got 69 cents. Among the 12000 strongest captains of bilibili in the whole year, what the people behind Jiale can really get is only 8280 yuan.
Picture source: bilibili
This is also why, although A-SOUL urgently refuted the rumor that the online salary was “all fake” in the early morning of the 11th, and announced on the 14th that the salary structure of its members was 10% of the monthly fixed income + bonus + live streaming, and then denied the situation of “bullying and squeezing”, fans are still furious and continue to seek their answers on the social network that hides all the details.
Under the golden eyes of fans, the Weibo account of A-SOUL ‘s most popular pet Jia ran was also pulled out. Fans found that the mobile phone he used to post Weibo was still the middle-and low-end model OPPO Reno5 released a few years ago. Through Taobao recognition map, he found that his favorite skirt was less than 100 yuan, and he was wearing a 39-yuan plastic necklace. Another member often eats instant noodles in the evening, the switch handle is not effective, often drift but reluctant to change for half a year, the new old man ring (Elden ring) and quickly returned because of dizziness 3D ……
Source: Weibo screenshot. Chicken breast-A dead body that tastes stiff, dull and soulless.
All this points to an absurd but true conclusion that the people behind A-SOUL, which earns tens of millions of dollars in live broadcast throughout the year, may be worse off than fans.Fans lamented that the captain saved from the 996 meal instant noodles was given to the idol, and the people behind the “idol” could not escape the fate of staying up late to work overtime to make noodles, all reincarnation.
So, where’s the money?
If we have to come to a conclusion, who is profitable in the virtual idol A-SOUL project, the answer may be different from the imagination that capital mercilessly squeezes digital workers to make a lot of money in the end. In fact, operators are also losing money on investment.
Su Shi, head of A-SOUL project and head of Jiangnan Studio, said in a reply to fans that A-SOUL ‘s investment in technology and operation is very high, which is far higher than the revenue currently available to virtual idols. In addition, A-SOUL ‘s revenue Lehua, bilibili and byte jump all have a share, while the research and development and art costs of the A-SOUL project are extremely high, so the whole project is in a state of large loss.
The cost of 3D live streaming plus real-time motion capture is indeed high. NOKOV, a domestic motion capture equipment provider, said: “different motion capture systems have different capture effects and have a wide price range, ranging from thousands to millions.” Virtual human technology provider fun shows on its website that the full range of high-end motion capture systems used in some movies can even reach hundreds of millions of yuan.
The cost of virtual idol in addition to the early fixed asset expenditure such as motion capture equipment, the subsequent operation also needs the support of artificial intelligence technology, the training of people, art design, 3D modeling and the distribution of traffic and channels. According to public information, in October last year, with the popularity of meta-universe and virtual digital human concepts, the cost of a single video was about 1 million, including 400000 for video production and 600000 for channels, and there were more than 1 million people serving her behind the IP. Although the A-SOUL operator did not disclose the specific operating costs, but by analogy, the number of its operating team is definitely not small, and the expenditure cost is certainly not a small number.
The production and operation cost of virtual idol is high, but its commercialization ability is limited. Lehua Entertainment said in its prospectus that it would increase its investment in the operation and business development of virtual artists.Derived through live streaming, virtual concerts and endorsementsTo create more profit margins. In other words, in addition to live streaming, A-SOUL wants to rely on endorsements and derivative creations for profit.
However, the effect of virtual idol endorsement has not been fully trusted by the market, and the categories of products that can be endorsed are limited, which is still in the stage of exploring and testing the water.
Virtual people can’t “tell the truth”. Virtual idol Ling Ling once endorsed a lipstick product to promote “moisturizing and not drying”, but was eventually withdrawn from the promotion after netizens complained that he could not convey the real consumer experience. Derivative creative market has been lukewarm, not to mention, it can be said that live streaming is still the main source of revenue for virtual idols.
This obviously can not support the income of virtual idols. Luo Tianyi, the ancestor of domestic virtual idol, took six years to make a profit. A-SOUL is still losing money after reaching the top of the virtual idol. Liu Yexi is a broken circle, but do you know Ling Kite yousa, Hanser, Duoduo poi, rock candy IO and other virtual idols? Most of these virtual idols, which are popular in a small circle, are not known to more people. Judging from the current cost input and revenue sources of virtual idol, it is very likely that the project described by the head of the A-SOUL project will be in a state of huge loss.
The emergence of virtual idol is the result of the technological progress of AI, the explosion of concepts loved by the capital market, such as meta-universe and virtual digital human, and whether it can survive under huge losses depends to a large extent on whether the capital buys it or not: compared with the happiness of the people who follow it, it obviously emphasizes the story of “investing heavily in dynamic capture and AI technology to build the threshold of the ‘virtual’ part and finally win the market.” It is more in line with the “human design” that all parties have been building for the “virtual idol” business.
Maybe the meta-universe will change the entertainment ecology in the future, but at the moment, the impact of the “virtual idol”, which can’t make money and can’t stop, may just be creating new data weavers.