I've been writing and playing music most of my life. For most of those years, performing music 'live', for me, meant standing in front of a audience of people I could see (when the stage lights weren't in my eyes), or occasionally, standing in a television studio or a radio station studio as the broadcast was recorded or sent live over the airwaves to people I could not see, but who were still in the same general geographic area as me.
Although I spent some time in a recording studio during my younger years, for various reasons my music was never released, so my audience remained local - people who were near me, geographically. Then the internet came along, and offered avenues such as YouTube, SoundCloud, Reverbnation, (and let's don't forget MySpace music ..ok, why not, everyone else has!) and a host of other avenues for sharing musical creations. Still, most of those opportunities were meant to share music that was already created, recorded, not to present live performances.
There are now, however, many avenues online to perform 'live', some with video, some with only audio, some with audio and virtual reality visual components. That's what I'm looking to explore in this category of the blog, "Online Stage". I have been personally involved with using a few of these avenues, and those are the ones I will start with, but I hope during the course of writing this blog that others will share their experiences in those and other avenues, and we can explore many ways musicians have online to share live performances of their music. I also hope to get perspectives from those who are "fans" of live performers in these virtual venues, and find what they like, what they don't like, and where they would like to see the world of online live music performance go.
The primary venues of live online music performance I have been involved with are:
** "Virtual 3D Worlds"
** "Social Sites Live Videos"
** "Live performer video sites"
Virtual 3D Worlds - SecondLife is where I have spent most of my time and energy with performing in online virtual worlds. SecondLife is probably one of, if not the largest of the online virtual worlds where live music is frequently performed. At any given time, around the clock, you are likely to find live music being performed in SecondLife. At the busiest times, you may find 40+ live performances ongoing at the same time across the virtual world! As you might expect, there are a wide variety of styles, musical genres, and skill abilities. Users are represented visually as 'avatars' and interact primarily in text based chat, although in SecondLife, and others as well, there is the option to communicate in voice. In most cases, the voice option is turned off or not used when performers are doing live performances.
Musical performers (and those who wish to DJ at virtual clubs) do so by using an audio stream (typically shoutcast or icecast), and some streaming software. Many live performers use a very easy to use software tool called B.U.T.T. (Broadcast Using This Tool). It takes only a few minutes to configure, and the stream only need to be loaded into the virtual land's sound source by someone (usually the venue owner or a representative) when it's time to begin the performance.
Most live performances in SecondLife last an hour, and performers usually receive tips in the form of the SecondLife currency (referred to as "Lindens", which CAN be converted into "real" money through a currency exchange which exists for this ecosystem). Many performers also receive a predetermined 'fee', which has been negotiated with the venue management, and which is also paid in the "Lindens" currency.
With several years of performances and hundreds of shows in SecondLife under my belt, as well as years of performing live in the 'real' world, I can say that for the average musician, SecondLife offers a lot of perks: You don't have to lug equipment around; if the weather is crappy, you don't have to trudge through it to get to your gig. You have the opportunity to have live performances where your audience is composed of people from virtually all parts of the world. I have had shows in SecondLife where I had people from the US, Canada, South America, Europe, New Zealand and other places listening to my music live as I performed it..all at the same time, because they were in this same virtual venue! In many ways, performing in SecondLife (and I would assume in other virtual worlds type avenues) is really a great 'work from home' opportunity for live musicians.
There are downsides, of course. For one, although you can make money performing this way, you're not likely to make enough to survive on (though I have known some who DID use their SecondLife earnings to pay their utilities). For me, the income tends to help support my musical instrument and gadget habit.. Another thing which takes some time getting used to is the lack of audible (and visual) feedback. You don't hear people applauding, though they may 'applaud' in text, or giving other audible responses, nor can you look in their faces and tell whether they seem to be engaged with what you are doing, or are totally bored.
Because there are so many performers in SecondLife, and often many shows ongoing at the same time, coupled with the fact that people can move from one venue to another in a matter of a few seconds, there are no guaranteed audiences. Some people are 'groupies' to one or a select few performers, and will follow them around to their shows. Others are venue hoppers, who pop in and out of various venues, catching a bit of a
show here and there. Only a very small percentage are people with venue loyalty, who will be at a venue pretty much anytime they have an event. So, you can't simply 'hang your shingle' as a performer, and necessarily expect to draw a crowd. In real life venues, people will often have a loyalty to a particular bar or club, and will be there for many of their activities. That's not as likely to be the case in SecondLife.
However, I would have to say that I do find performing in SecondLife a very fulfilling experience as a musician. It gives me an opportunity to perform and to showcase my original music to a wide variety of people from around the globe, and do so from the comfort of my own home. I still enjoy performing in front of a live flesh and blood audience, but I have found this avenue offers a lot as well.
-♫ M ♫-