Welcome Dr Mike! As Dave Bryce mentioned, there was an SL sub-forum etc as well. I set that up when I joined SL in 2007 or so (though I didn't do music performance - I did do movie work for a RL movie though, but that's another story).
I'd love your thoughts though on the SL music scene now. I know it's still very active, and that SL itself is still going relatively strong. How's your experience been?
Thank you for the welcome! Sorry for the delay in answering...
If you're a veteran of SL, then this won't come as a surprise to you, but for other readers of this forum, I'll lay out some of my thoughts on the subject in one possibly lengthy, easily deleted post.
SL is still going (strong? yeah, I guess), and there's still a healthy community of music players and listeners out there. The vast majority of the "music" experiences are DJs spinning, which isn't what I usually have in mind when someone says "live music", but hey, each to their own, said the little old lady as she kissed the cow.
Live musicians who play in SL are essentially live streaming over the internet. Nowadays, thanks to Facebook Live and YouTube Live, this is no great shakes -- everybody does it, big whoop. But folks have been doing it in SL for over 15 years, and enjoying the unusual experience of animated VR avatars combined with live music. It also pays better than FB Live or YT Live, at least with smaller audiences.
The reason to do concerts in SL back in the day was aggregation of listeners, and to some extent that's still the case. Some tech talk:
In the virtual world of Second Life, avatars appear on The Grid, a huge patchwork of squares of virtual land (official name "Regions", everyone calls them "sims", no relation to the video game The Sims). Basically a sim is a server blade in the huge data farms that Linden Lab runs to host Second Life. (The hosting software is open source, so there are a lot of other Grids out there in competition with SL, and their own music communities, beware of rabbit hole, backing away now, back to the topic, phew.)
Sims can be linked together to form larger land masses, or subdivided into smaller chunks of virtual property (called "parcels"). Here's the thing: within a parcel, you can have a dedicated audio stream and a dedicated video stream. Any avatar that enters that parcel and clicks the Play Music button can hear what's streaming there (or watch a movie or seminar or whatever). No futzing with URLs or streaming software, just one click.
That means there's an analogous situation to walking into a club and hearing a band: you enter the parcel, and there's the live music you were wanting. People set up venues and musicians play at them, and there's even a tip jar (tips translate into real money, by the way). Some musicians make a habit of travelling around from venue to venue like virtual minstrels or bands on tour, playing regular shows for their fan clubs here and there. Other musicians or groups set up parcels of their own and invite people there when they play.
Playing in SL is a bit different than livestreaming on video in some ways: your avatar is what people look at, so you can perform in your jammies in a sloppy room and no one will care. You turn on your gear, log in, and play -- you don't have to tear down, roadie, set up, play, tear down, roadie, set up in order to go from home to the gig and back. No travel time, no sore back, no weather cancellations, no drunks puking on your gear. Similarities? A few. Audiences can be fun and the interaction very encouraging, as in a real gig... BUT you also have the option (especially if you have control of the parcel where you're playing to virtually eject and ban jerks with a click of a button. Try THAT with the seven-foot drunk biker who just called your music "crap" and hurled a beer bottle at your face!
For my part, I still love playing live and I do it a lot: everything from planetarium shows to coffee houses, from here to San Francisco to Copenhagen to London to Shanghai. Second Life can't replace the buzz and excitement of a real audience at a real venue loving your music as you play it. However, as in pretty much everything else you can do in SL, you can get a lot out of SL music if your RL (Real Life -- nobody says "First Life" but the owners of SL) music life is in order and giving you satisfaction. It's a fun, healthy add-on to whatever else you do.
For the past two years plus, I've been running a combined RL/SL music experience that now has a pretty sizeable audience around the world. It's called RadioSpiral and you can check it out at this website
. RadioSpiral is an electronic, ambient, and experimental music station that runs 24/7 with a large library of eclectic music that most mainstream folks aren't familiar with. Sure, there are lots of great streaming stations out there, SomaFM and Blue Mars come to mind, but RS is special because the entire listening experience is interactive: when a host does a show, it's not just a stream, there's also a chatroom (using Slack) for RL folks and often a presence in SL as well, at RadioSpiral HQ (it's on the seashore in the Orlov sim if you're interested).
Here's how my typical Monday night slot goes.
Around lunchtime, I put together a 2-hour playlist of music on a particular theme, then advertise it on our mailing list and in Facebook. About a half hour before showtime, I pour myself a Moscow Mule or a Pimms'n'Thums, head downstairs, fire up my computer and my studio, and make sure my streaming software is ready to take over the RadioSpiral stream. Then I go into Second Life by firing up my avatar, Spiral Sands, and prepare the virtual venue for my audience: throw on a costume, fire up the holodeck and select a setting for the show -- tiki bar, beach shack, saloon, forest glen, sweaty Mesoamerican temple, moonbase, Alice's Mad Tea Party, art deco ballroom, whatever. I log into Slack, say hello to arrivals, and wait for the show to start.
My show usually starts with one hour of music on the theme, during which time my playback and streaming software does the heavy lifting while I chat with the audience in Slack and on Second Life. (Lots of menu switching.) At the top of the second hour, more often than not, I do a station ID, give an on-air shout out to my listeners, and then play live music, improvised on the spot in my studio and fed into the stream. I call these little pieces "Live Ambient Rants" -- depending on how inspired I'm feeling, I might play for ten minutes, twenty, thirty... or an hour or more. (My record is four hours. This is ambient, remember?
) After that, I DJ some more music to fill out my show to the end. I then sign off the stream, button up in Second Life, and head upstairs to kiss my wife and make some food.
Now, check this: I've spent two hours sitting in my creative space, chatting with friends from all over the world. I've had a chance to play music for them, maybe refining a song from my catalog, maybe trying out a new synth or guitar pedal or whatever. If it sounded good, I get thanks and praise from the listeners, and if it fell flat, we had a good laugh, no harm no foul. I've recorded the stream as a 16/44.1 AIFF, so if my improv was really inspired (most aren't, but hey, even a broken clock is right twice a day), I have a CD-quality recording to clean up and release on Bandcamp for money. I've had chill time with people I like and who like me, letting off creative steam after a day of work. I didn't have to leave the house to go to a restaurant and pay for a meal (that's for other nights in the week, with Dr. Mrs. Dr. Mike), I didn't have to tear down, pack, set up, and load my gear in or out. And when I pick up my tip jar, it's got anywhere from $5 to $35 in real folding American Long Green in it... from a pleasant evening's "work" that I'd have enjoyed doing for FREE.
Beyond the obvious, there's also the intangible pleasure of hanging out in Second Life. And this is where things get problematic for most folks, because Second Life is not for everybody. I don't mean that in any sort of exclusive or snobbish way, the way one might say "owning a Bugatti is not for everybody", but in a very practical literal sense, the way one might say "going to raves is not for everybody" or "Thai food is not for everybody." It just ISN'T. It's an experience, and some people get it and most people don't. If you don't get it, you should probably stay out of it; it starts out as a video game like World Of Warcraft or Elder Scrolls, but you quickly realize that there's no way to "win" or anything, and no defined goals or premade pathways. A lot of people try it, shrug, and leave. If you're intrigued, though, you get past that and realize that the "world" is open-ended, user-created, and contains everything you can think of and more. Ready Player One was largely inspired by Second Life, and it fell woefully short of the real experience.
Linden Lab has tried and failed to market Second Life directly for years now. They make their money by selling the underlying code framework to firms that need high-resolution low-latency virtualization environments; SL is just their showpiece. But that doesn't mean they didn't try! "Second Life is..." An interactive educational platform? A blank canvas for digital artists of all kinds? An online community and social network with all kinds of shared activities? An open-ended platform for MMORPGs? A virtualization area to create mockups of places and things in the real world? Yes, all of the above, and often right next to each other!
But basically, all those things aren't Second Life. Second Life is Second Life. It's free, it's literally what you make of it (practically everything in the virtual world is made and sold by members), it offers all sorts of possibilities, and if you're the kind of person who plays WoW and wishes you could just walk around and explore and meet people and build things and have fun without having to worry about some kid coming up behind you and killing you, you'll go bananas over SL.
What does that mean for the average musician? It's a layer of video-game childishness wallpapered over a live music opportunity. It's silly and funny-looking and you're likely to get a little bit embarrassed when you realize that the world is seeing you as anything from an elf to a monster to an angel. (You can actually build an avi that looks a lot like you if you want. I have one, complete with slight paunch, bad posture, and broken nose. But why bother? If I want to look like that, I can turn off my Mac and look in a mirror.)
If you're using a Windows machine, getting the client software set up can be a real pain. (The official Second Life viewer is sorta okay, but the free third-party Firestorm viewer is way better, just saying.) Regardless of what machine you're running, SL will absolutely fry your GPU -- it's not very well optimized and is hugely complex, and has been throttling and bricking computers for 16 years now. A lot of musicians can't justify having a computer that's optimized for high-stakes video gaming just to add this aspect to their live music streaming, and cheaper computers will run SL at low frame rates but that takes some of the charm away.
But if you get SL, and you love playing live music, the two can potentially make a very nice combination. It's built up enough of an audience so that RadioSpiral went from one person on a rented stream to a staff of nine with a 24/7 worldwide presence, audiences that average around 5 to 10 when Spud (our robot) is playing music and jump up to 20 or 30 or more when a live DJ comes on. We do quarterly all-day music festivals, special events, and our staff has been hired by Linden Lab for official Second Life music events. It's a ton of work and we spend a lot of money on server upkeep and Wordpress and the like... but it's so much fun, and it's so good for us, that no matter how frustrated we get when the Mailchimp settings send the wrong announcements out and the streaming server software has a glitch leading to dead air for an hour or two and SL is so laggy that people can't teleport into our sim and and and... we couldn't give it up.
Your mileage may vary. Thanks for reading.