Virtual band

In entertainment, a virtual band is a fictional band or music group whose members are not depicted as musicians, but animated characters. Although the characters are fictional, the band itself exists outside a television and film universe, in reality. The music is recorded by human musicians and producers, while any media related to the virtual band, including albums, video clips and the visual component of stage performances, feature the animated line-up; in many cases the virtual band members have been credited as the writers and performers of the songs. Live performances can become rather complex, requiring perfect synchronization between the visual and audio components of the show.
The term virtual band was popularised with Gorillaz in 2000, though the concept of the virtual band was first demonstrated by Alvin and the Chipmunks in 1958, when their creator, Ross Bagdasarian, accelerated recordings of his own voice to achieve the 'chipmunk voice'. There have since been numerous virtual bands that have recorded material. Computer animation, traditional animation, and vocal mixing and manipulation are common features.
The term virtual idol originates from Japan, where it dates back to the 1980s and has roots in anime and Japanese idol culture. Popular virtual idols include the Vocaloid singer Hatsune Miku and the virtual YouTuber Kizuna AI.
The term has also come to be used for music groups who collaborate using the Internet, no longer requiring the members to be present in the same place.


The members of virtual groups are depicted as animated characters, with their own personality, voice, history, and playing style. For example, Alvin, the leader of the Chipmunks, is considered mischievous, and Skeleton Staff's Guitarist Stanton is a party-going underachiever. Furthermore, Freen in Green's bassist Sparky is sluggish and has been described as egotistical and pretentious, while Murdoc of Gorillaz is a middle-aged satanic bass player. Another example is Hatsune Miku who does not have a definite personality; because her way of being depends on the fans, her personality changes in each song made by the users of Vocaloid.
The style of animation used for depicting the characters varies. Some groups, like The Archies, Gorillaz, Dethklok, The Banana Splits, One-T and Alvin and the Chipmunks, are hand-drawn characters, and much of their media uses traditional animation and cartooning techniques. Others, such as Hatsune Miku, JuJu Eyeballs, Crazy Frog, Genki Rockets Gummib%C3%A4r, Pinocchio and The Bots, are computer-generated.
Some people consider puppetry as a form of animation; this consideration means groups like Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem, can be considered virtual bands.


In studio

The recording of the music is done by the human musicians and artists, whom the virtual artists are depicted to emulate. In some cases, the singing is done by machines or synthesizer applications, like the Hatsune Miku vocaloid. This is done using the normal in-studio recording process; see Sound recording for a detailed explanation.
In some instances, most notably The Chipmunks, manipulation of voices may be employed, either to achieve a desired vocal effect, or to make it dissimilar to the voice of the actual singer. The manipulation is done by either modifying the playback speed of the vocal track or by putting it through a synthesizer.
Writing and production credits may be assigned to either the virtual band characters, or the human writers and artists involved.

On stage

One of two methods can be employed for live performances. The first involves animating the entire set, with little or no allowance for audience interaction, then 'performing' it as is. The major pitfall with this method is the lack of audience interaction, which can be vital during concerts. This is best suited to short performances, where audience response can be predicted.
The second, and more complex, method differs from the first in that allowance is made for a variety of responses and interaction. This means having a wide range of animated sequences ready to play, with matching spoken lines, in response to different reactions.
In both cases, extensive rehearsal is required to synchronize spoken lines and instrumentation with animated action. This can be eliminated by using pre-recorded music and speech, however doing so also weakens the actual 'live' experience.


Early history

While the term had not been coined at the time, Alvin and the Chipmunks were the first virtual band to appear. Centered on Alvin, his two brothers Simon and Theodore, and their manager/father Dave Seville, their voices were created by Ross Bagdasarian, Sr., who accelerated the recording of his voice to create the distinctive sound; the process earned him two Grammys in 1959 for engineering.
The success of the Chipmunks spurred on another group, the Nutty Squirrels, to join the ranks. A scat-singing version of Bagdasarian's creation, they made the American Top 40 with their song "Uh-Oh". Their success, however, was short-lived.


were the first virtual band to appear in worldwide pop charts.
During this time, other television programs, such as Josie and the Pussycats and The Muppet Show, began to include bands as part of the format. Some of the groups that appeared on these shows released mainstream recordings. Some bands, however, would 'break up' after the end of the show's run.
After The Archies, produced by Filmation, became a huge pop hit, Hanna-Barbera started releasing several cartoon TV shows with the adventures of rock bands, such as Josie and the Pussycats, The Cattanooga Cats, The Impossibles, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kids, Jabberjaw, and others.
Virtual bands still appear in television: the Chipmunks appeared in their own television show for much of the 1990s, and the Adult Swim show Metalocalypse features the virtual melodic death metal band Dethklok.

Japanese virtual idols

Virtual idols originate from Japan, with roots in anime and Japanese idol culture, and dating back to the 1980s, starting with the Macross mecha anime franchise. The first virtual idol was Lynn Minmay, a fictional singer who is one of the main characters in the anime television series Super Dimension Fortress Macross and the animated film adaptation '. Voiced by Mari Iijima, Lynn Minmay became the first fictional idol singer to garner major real-world success. The theme song "Do You Remember Love?" reached number seven on the Oricon music charts in Japan, and the song has since been covered numerous times over the next several decades.
The Japanese cyberpunk anime Megazone 23 took the virtual idol concept further with EVE, who is depicted as a computer-based artificial intelligence who takes the form of a virtual idol within a proto-Matrix-like virtual reality. Megazone 23 was a success in Japan partly due to the appeal of EVE, and it was later adapted into
' in North America. A similar concept later appeared in Macross Plus with the virtual idol Sharon Apple, a computer program who takes the form of an intergalactic pop star. The same year, the fictional Japanese rock band Fire Bomber from Macross 7 became a commercial success, spawning multiple CDs released in Japan.
The Japanese talent agency Horipro created the first real-life AI virtual idol, Kyoko Date, in 1995. Her creation was inspired by the success of the Macross franchise and dating sim games such as Tokimeki Memorial, along with advances in computer graphics. Her initial announcement drew headlines, both in Japan and internationally, before she debuted as a CGI idol in 1996. However, she failed to gain commercial success, largely due to technical limitations leading to issues such as unnatural movement. Despite her failure, she provided the template for later virtual idols who gained commercial success in the early 21st century, such as the Vocaloid singer Hatsune Miku and the virtual YouTuber Kizuna AI.
In 2007, Crypton Future Media and Yamaha launched Vocaloid 2, with the voice bank of Hatsune Miku. In 2009, Hatsune Miku had her first concert. Other Vocaloids include Kagamine Rin and Len, Megurine Luka, and Kaito.
Virtual bands can also originate from video games, as proven by the 2015 Wii U game Splatoon, which features songs credited to various virtual bands, the most notable being a pop duo called the Squid Sisters, who have performed several real world concerts as holograms. The game's 2017 Nintendo Switch sequel, Splatoon 2, introduces more virtual bands, most notably Off the Hook, a duo similar to the Squid Sisters. The two duos have performed together as holograms. Prior to it, Nintendo had already made a virtual band composed of characters from Pikmin called Strawberry Flower, to promote the games. Their first single, Ai no Uta, was a massive success in Japan, reaching #2 on the Weekly Oricon Top 200 Singles chart.

Western virtual bands

During the 1980s, Hasbro released Jem, an animated TV series featuring two enemy bands with a music video in each episode.
Britain's Gorillaz was formed by Blur's Damon Albarn and Tank Girls Jamie Hewlett in 1998 and produced by Deltron 3030's Dan the Automator. The group brought virtual bands to the musical fore again, with their scoring numerous Top 20 positions around the world. The band has since released six studio albums: their self-titled debut album Gorillaz, Demon Days, Plastic Beach, The Fall, Humanz, and The Now Now, in addition to two B-sides albums and two EPs.
One-T was a similar French virtual band concept created by Eddy Gronfier and Thomas Pieds that centred around a fictional animated hip-hop group. It saw brief success in the early 2000s with the hit singles Music Is the One-T ODC and The Magic Key but since then only showed little activity.
Dethklok is an animated heavy metal band that originates from the Adult Swim animated television series Metalocalypse. They have released three albums so far.
K/DA is a virtual K-pop girl group consisting of four themed versions of League of Legends characters, which unveiled at the 2018 League of Legends World Championship with an augmented reality live performance of their first and only song, "Pop/Stars".