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Archive for the ‘Live Music’ Category

M Linden’s now-infamous labeling of music as a “killer app” for Second Life has led to a lot of discussion and blowing of hot air. Even when some very specific and relatively easily-implementable suggestions were made during the Looking to the Future of Live Performance in Second Life session at SLCC (Really, how hard would it be to repurpose an unused subcategory in Events?), they were automatically put in the “Not in 2009” pile. In the end, the live music community has been left to its own devices to feel its way along.

I’m pretty much a nobody on the Second Life live music scene. I don’t own a venue. I am not a musician, since I can’t tolerably play an instrument as well as sing. So why is the current music venue “to cover charge or not to cover charge” drama bothering me? Maybe it’s because I’m the supposedly deep pockets that it feels like some music venue owners and musicians seem to want to reach into for cover charges.

So in the interest of market research, let’s take a look at a few facts about Feline, a representative individual among SL Live Music Target Market:

I attend live music events inworld. Recently, it has only been 4 days a week , attending at least one event, often two. I tip both the performer and the venue. I usually tip a host/hostess, but only if they don’t annoy the crap out of me with chatspam.

I enjoy interesting chat during events, and will participate in it if I am not listening while cooking dinner or chasing naughty cats. I also will not try to participate in chat if it’s just a bunch of chatspam, because, well, that’s not chat. If your venue is full of nothing but gesturespam, it doesn’t offer me anything that listening to a musician via WinAmp does, and it will impact how (and occasionally if) I tip the venue’s tip jar.

I have also purchased music from several SL musicians via Amazon, CDBaby, and iTunes.

So, to summarize your market research so far: Feline pays for her live music entertainment in Second Life.

By now, I seem like a prime candidate for the not-new-but-new-again push for cover charges in Second Life. Venue owners and musicians who read this (as if anyone actually reads this blog!) will think, “Feline won’t have a problem paying a cover charge.”

I have one more fact about me for your market research: I’m about to be laid off in real life. My entertainment budget is going to be taking a hit. My ability to tip be impaired. Tips will likely become modest, and they could possibly dwindle to nothing at all. So having cover charges being championed now feels a bit like a slap in the face to this representative individual in the SL Live Music Target Market who has dutifully paid my way in the past.

Perhaps the musicians and venue owners who are championing cover charges will feel that it doesn’t matter what I have been a Good Live Music Citizen in the past. If I have no ability to pay my way, I have no place enjoying the product they produce. Maybe goodwill counts for nothing and the almighty dollar everything.

In a time when, at least in the US, half a million more people were unemployed last month, when the job market isn’t expected to get better any time soon, is it a good idea to move from a “pay what you can” to a “pay or go away” model for live music in Second Life?

If you’ve read my rambling so far, you have already figured out that I think it isn’t a good idea. Lest you think this is all about me, I think we should widen the view a little. By its nature, Second Life population has attrition and turnover. To continue to maintain attendance at performances, new people constantly need to discover and get interested in the “killer app” of live music. Or, as Zorch Boomhauer put it, “The most prudent course of action is to take steps to build the numbers of residents interested in Live music in Second Life.” Cover charges — paying before someone even knows if they like live music — is a barrier to cultivating new faces in the audience. And the tighter everybody’s entertainment budgets are (remember that 9.7% unemployment?), the higher that barrier looms. The live music community needs to break down the walls and welcome new people to discover live music, not lock them out.

Then again, what do I know. I’m just a nobody on the Second Life live music scene. A face in the crowd. What’s the value of that random face in the crowd? We’ll find out if it turns out I’m unable to peek in the window after cover charges close the door that leads the way to live music in Second Life.

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Charging cover for live music events is back on the radar again. Maybe it never really went away, but Mankind Tracer’s new cover charge system seems to be bringing this back into discussion again. I have friends in the live music community who are performers, venue owners, and consumers, and I think everyone has been in a bit of a no-win situation for a while now. I’m not sure that a cover charge system is the solution, though, and I think it may hurt the musicians.

The problem in a nutshell: The venue pays a musician to play. The musician plays, and the musician’s fans attend. The venue is frustrated to see the tips go to the musician and not the venue tip jar. The venue owner pays their tier and other expenses out of pocket because tips don’t cover them.

Even before the bottom dropped out of the economy and tightened up everyone’s entertainment budgets, it seemed that there was a lot of resistance to the idea of cover charges. A thread in the official SL forums, titled “Would you pay to attend a live performance?” has some insight into how the rank-and-file viewed this back in June 2008. The general response answer to the question was an unsurprising “No.”

Argos Hawks had a really good point in the thread: “With all the free stuff out there, charging a cover will be hard to pull off effectively. It could even lower your revenues. In RL, whenever a tip is added to the bill for me, I end up tipping less than I would have. I don’t like people telling me how much I liked the service. In SL, paying for a live performance upfront would feel the same way.”

I think that if you charge a cover, you’d better be sure that the cover charge is all you expect to bring in for the event, because a lot of consumers are going to feel like they did their part up front. There will likely be no additional tipping of the musician, the venue, or the staff.

A year or so ago, according to Ticious Trotter, “Now, roughly 75% of the audience is tipping the musician (average fees are now 3k-8k) and nearly 10% are tipping the venue.” I would guess that musicians count on this tip money. I know some of them do. Would cover charges be high enough and the split be generous enough to pay a musician’s usual performance fee plus what they would usually earn in tips? If not, you’re just taken away a lot of incentive for your best talent to play at your venue.

It’s a tough balancing act. I don’t really envy venues trying to go through it. I think that the most sustainable venues are either those whose owners are resigned to coming out-of-pocket for them, or those who have managed to get sponsorship. Oh, those in the middle of hideously gaudy malls seem to do OK, too, possibly because they’re riding the coat-tails of another business model entirely.

I do firmly believe that if every venue went to a cover charge model today, we would see a huge contraction of live music inworld. A small fraction of the total user population of SL will spend money at all. Attempting to force those who do to spend money won’t work. So that means there are less attendees to go around. Are smaller, paying audiences better than larger, partially nonpaying ones? I think that’s going to be the question we see answered when or if venues begin to implement this new cover charge system.

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Rich Desoto at the Blarney Stone 1-13-2009
Rich Desoto played at the Blarney Stone Irish Pub last night in Dublin. It had been a long time since I managed to hear him play inworld, and judging by the turnout, I’m not the only one who has missed having him around.
Rich Desoto rocks the Blarney Stone 1-13-2009
I remember hearing Rich for the first time only a few weeks after I had come to Second Life, in May or June of 2007. Like last night, he played at the Blarney Stone, though the bar looked a lot different than it does today. That was both my introduction to Rich’s music and also my introduction to live music in Second Life. I’ve been a fan of both ever since.

After Rich’s set, I posted a few snapshots from the event to Flickr, then went to add them to the appropriate Flickr groups… only to realize that there was no Flickr group for snapshots of Rich. Well, I can fix that! Behold the Second Life – Rich Desoto Fan Club Flickr group. Got snapshots of the man? Add them!

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Music and Me

I grew up in a household surrounded by music. My father played guitar and sang — still does — and he had the most amazing collection of cassette tapes. Literally thousands of them, lining a whole wall. The only recording of me as a child is one on a scratchy old cassette, and it’s me singing along with my Dad.

So it can’t be surprising that in Second Life, I have a strong affinity for the live music community. They are the ones whose craft speaks to me, whose music is “just like home.” I have avoided in the past telling certain performers, “Hey, my Dad plays that!” After all, I don’t want any of my musician firends to feel alienated by my relegating them or their music to another generation. It wouldn’t be meant that way. But I often have the urge to say it to try to express how much it moves me to hear someone singing the music that filled the walls and the air as I grew up.

So to all the musicians I don’t say it to… thanks for sharing that bit of magic, and for taking me back down the fond roads of memory.

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After a less-than-stellar day, nothing makes me feel better than some good music.

Tonight, Cylindrian sang one particularly great song abandoning all actual lyrics and instead riffing about what she would like to do with Takamura Keiko’s ice cream. A much-needed laugh. I love how talented musicians do that, keeping their music in the moment, making it relevant to the people who are present, listening.

Music makes everything better… and tthankfully there’s lots of good live music all across the grid.

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