Updated: Oct 3, 2019
Playing and listening to 'live' music in a virtual reality environment has both benefits and drawbacks. Among the benefits are that it's easy for performers and fans to connect, from pretty much any place in the world. Performers can gain an audience most any time of the day, without leaving their own homes, from people who may be scattered across the globe. Those who like to listen to music can effortlessly 'teleport' from one virtual location to another to listen to a wide variety of styles and types of music.
As a result of this free-flow of music, a music 'community' has grown up in the SecondLife virtual world. Musicians/performers and fans/listeners get to know each other, share music, fun and laughter. In many cases very close friendships and even romantic relationships develop within this virtual reality.
There are drawbacks to music within this environment, however. The 'physical' element is not present: you can see an 'avatar' which represents the person your talking to or listening to. The performer can see a collection of avatars in the 'venue' where he/she is performing, but you don't get to see the nuances of expression on people's faces, hear applause, or give and receive physical touches, such as handshakes and hugs.
And, while performers in SecondLife have found work-arounds for being able to collaborate live and jam together, which can provide a great experience for those listening to the performers, it's not fully satisfying for the performers themselves, because it involves 'chaining' together the musicians' audio streams, which means that only the last person in the chain hears everything. In some cases there are virtual 'bands' with three or four members. The first person in the 'chain' only hears him or herself, while the last person in the chain hears all the others, as well as themselves. The audience hears all performers in one blended stream.
Some years back, the idea was floated around that it would be a wonderful idea if people who were a part of this SecondLife music community, performers and fans alike, could come together in 'real life' for a time, so they could meet the people behind the avatars, perform solo and collaboratively without the restrictions of the online environment, and just have fun together. As a result, the SecondLife music jams were created. Now, there are several of these a year in north America, and in other parts of the world as well. Those who have attended often find them addictive, and keep returning.
I attended my first SecondLife music jam in 2018, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and another one that same year in the Minneapolis/St Paul, Minnesota, USA area. I am registered this year for one in Dallas, Texas, USA, for the fall.
For me, the highlights of being at a jam are these:
1. Meeting the people. No matter how much time you may spend chatting with someone online, or even via phone/skype or whatever
other medium, there is nothing like meeting and talking with people face to face. As great as technology is, it can't replace that 'human element' that you experience in real life.
2. Seeing/hearing the people who are listening to my music, and receiving both the visual and audible feedback, elements which are missing when performing in the virtual environment. Someone can tell you 'that song moved me', but it's even more powerful to see people's facial expressions during the song, and realize it is touching someone's heart. That deepens my experience as a performer and draws me deeper into 'heart' of the song.
3. Seeing/hearing other performers in person. Just as it is more satisfying as a performer to see the faces and hear the reactions of those who are listening when I perform, it also
provides more pleasure to be able to 'watch' the performer - his/her body language, facial expressions, which add depth to the experience as a fan. In addition, if the other performer is also a musician, I can observe and learn by watching their techniques.
4. Live collaboration with other performers. There is a lot of fulfillment in being able to create a musical moment with another performer or performers in a live environment, where our energy and creativity can flow together and bounce off of one another.
5. The "after hours" acoustic jams, which occur after the PA system is turned off and people just gather around and jam, often for hours into the wee hours of the morning, just for the love of music. There's no stage, no one is 'performing', performers and fans
alike just hang out and play/sing because it's fun, and there's a lot of love and laughter. To me, this is the 'heart' of the jam experience.
The "Downside" of the music jams.
While the jams have many positives, there are a few things which might be seen as the 'negative' aspects of them, though they are only negative because the jams themselves are so positive overall.
1. After jam 'blues'. Overall, anticipating and being at the jams generate such positive emotional 'highs' that when the jam is over there can often be the emotional 'crash down'. As the saying goes "what goes up must come down" and sometimes the after jam coming down can be very emotional and sad. Saying goodbye is the hardest part of the jam. It's normal, and it does eventually pass, but for the first few days afterward it's very normal to experience a sense of loss.
2. Jam addiction/frustration. For many reasons the jams can be an extremely addicting experience, and after attending one, people often find they want to go back to it, to recreate the positive feelings, as soon as they possibly can. However, most of us simply don't have time and/or money/opportunity to attend every jam, and even if we did there are usually several months between the jams. So, by attending a jam, an addiction may be created which can't be fully satisfied. While the jams usually have most of the performances streamed over the internet, for the jam addict that is just a 'tease' and makes him/her wish even more to BE there, experience all that IS seen on the video, and all that is NOT seen as well.
The benefits outweigh any negatives
The music in SecondLife, and other virtual environments, is "real" music. What the jams do is give the opportunity for performers and fans to step out of the screen into each others' lives for a bit and share music and friendship without the constraints of the virtual world for a few days.
I think it's an experience everyone involved in the virtual music world, whether as performers, managers, venue owners, hosts, or fans, should seek to have if possible. While there are some 'downsides', they are greatly outweighed by the positives gained.
I believe that overall it deepens our friendships and appreciation for what each brings to the table in the virtual experience.
-♫ M ♫-