I left off yesterday recalling how I saw my first concert in Second Life, performed by an old friend of mine from the real world, who had become a celebrity in the virtual world. I saw him earn a couple of hundred bucks in one night while sitting in his own house in a suburb in Nashville, and I wanted in on the action. Cypress Rosewood was an evangelist for Second Life and musicians. I was fortunate enough to have somebody I knew show me the ropes, which helped me quickly gear up as a potential new performer in Second Life.
I’ve played in front of tens of thousands of people at a time in the real world, played at festivals and fairs, in concert halls and clubs, frat houses, bars, pubs, you name it. I’ve traveled on and slept in tour buses, flown to gigs, been in limos and also driven my car to gigs, crammed myself into a van with six other people pulling a trailer to a gig, the whole enchilada. At 40 years old now, I was a little burnt out on the idea of doing that again, and I’d detoured in my music career from performer to publisher, which found me more accustomed to cushy business travel rather than road trips with a PA crammed in a hatchback.
I figured I knew how to perform as a musician already, and was comfortable with my chops to pull of a good show, and having performed over the years live on the radio, so I kind of understood what was really going on with this whole Second Life live concert thing. It’s basically a 3D streaming live radio performance gig. Before Second Life, this concept was possible, but it was much harder to pull it off.
Years ago before the publicly-accessible Internet came about, I was involved in setting up the first-ever live interviews for online services using text “chat rooms” to host events with famous musicians like Lou Reed, Thomas Dolby and others. People were told about the scheduled interviews and then logged themselves into the online service to take part. They could type questions on their screen, which we would read, and then reply in text also. Second Life has that component as part of their virtual world experience, and it’s a critical one at that. It allows the performers, fans, concert “staff” and others to communicate with each other before the streaming audio portion begins, and it’s the vehicle by which the “community” forms around the enjoyment of listening to live music in a virtual concert setting. So, conceptually, the planning of a virtual concert is the same thing, and one element from the old days remained, the ability to chat via text with other attendees and the star of the evening.
We didn’t have streaming audio back then, everything was in text. Heck, we couldn't even dream of streaming audio back then. Now with the advent of streaming audio, its surely possible to tell people that you’re going to be web-casting you live performance on your website and invite fans to listen in while chatting with each other in a chat room during the show. You won't have the ability to capture the attention of large groups of people online at the time very easily, but you can announce the planned event on your website, your MySpace page, etc. This concept happens every day with radio stations around the world. The live chat rooms are an important part of programs like Opie and Anthony where people are sharing the listening but communicating with each other and the radio personalities at the same time using chat programs.
If you want to boil down a Second Life concert to easy-to-digest terms, it is a 3D world where people show up at a 3D website which puts them in that chat room where they can turn on the audio stream, listen to the performance together like they would in a real life club, or like they would sitting in a chat room in a 2D website environment, and interact with other listeners. The difference in the experience being in a 3D vs 2D environment is huge, though. Psychologically the feeling of being represented by an avatar with human qualities that you can customize to full represent you as a person in this 3D world, and having that avatar animate into a dance to music being performed, while typing conversation with others taking part in the same experience is very much like doing it in real life. Well, it is in your mind, anyway.
Its quite easy to get caught up into the experience. And its different than the experience you would have listening to a radio program and chatting in a chat room in a 2D environment. Emotionally, there is a difference. People feel it, they connect on a real world level; and these connections build mighty bonds. Tomorrow I will explain how this feels from the performance end, and begin explaining how to start checking out Second Life concerts for yourself so you can decide if you’re ready to try to be the next big virtual world star.
This is important. Mentally, the attendees get some of the same sensation of attending an event in person. What's more, the buzz you get from playing a gig in the virtual world to a real world audience that is instantly responding, cheering you on and throwing money, its just like the buzz you get from an in-person gig. I swear its true. Even the need to wind-down from your show-high afterward, its the same sensation for the performer. I was really blown away the first time I did a show, got done and felt that old familiar buzz I got from standing on a stage in front of the same kind of crowd. Maybe its all in the mind, but its real. No denying that.
Check back tomorrow, I'll give you some insight into the gear you need to pull this off, from the hardware to the software, to the kind of Internet connection you'll need. If you're reading this far, chances are you're intrigued enough to consider a virtual concert as well. Hopefully this series of posts will help you the same way Cypress Rosewood helped me. If you do create an account and log into Second Life, feel free to "add friend" Von Johin and I'll give you some pointers when I'm on, or you can visit my forum SLProMusician.com where you can meet other musicians from around the world who are doing this stuff. Ok, seeya tomorrow!