As I walked down 6th street in Austin Texas recently, I was met with an array of live musical performances, with the exception of the 104 degree weather it was not unlike teleporting around the musical venues in a Virtual World. On multiple grids professional musicians, hobbyists, students, career changers and potentials all perform for an appreciative live audience. Setup in a virtual venue includes plugging equipment into a computer to provide a live stream and logging into a virtual environment. Virtual worlds offer easy to access venues so the novice band playing in a garage or the professional blues singer and guitarist in a practice room are able to logon and perform for a live audience from the comfort of their home or studio. Musicians even perform with colleagues from another geographic location, appearing together inworld.
The Arts are experiencing cuts in education spending and students hoping to pursue a career in music, drama, or art related areas may need to access alternative arenas for exploring, practicing, and performing their talent and related skills. Accomplished musicians perform in virtual venues, across virtual grids all times of the day, every day. Perhaps “virtual performances” will become a mainstream outlet for entertainment, at the very least it is a potential learning ground for aspiring performers.
In addition to performing, song-writing and employing technical tasks, aspiring musicians can practice skills necessary in the music business such as working with an agent and dealing with bookings, public relations, promotion, marketing, and even managing finances. As the mode that we access music is changing, so is the way we provide and access entertainment.
How can performing in a virtual setting help aspiring musicians? Performing in a virtual setting includes characteristics of a
A "live" musical performance in the virtual world
real life performance as well as some unique qualities available only in a virtual world. A musician on Second Life told me it was more like being in a sound studio, missing are the auditory and visual cues that a real audience provides. In a virtual environment, you must ‘read’ your audience through chat. Setting up equipment so that you can see the computer screen while you perform allows a performer to be able to read the chat and thus respond to audience cues. Typically the audience will respond with applause and commentary, the commentary does not disrupt the performance and is typically a conversation about the performance (the lyrics, historical references, personal reflections). Another unique trait of entertaining an audience of avatars is that you can see all their names and additional ID tags providing the performer with a supply of information for personal interaction with the audience.
Technical aspects of performing online require some hardware setup as well as software to enable audio streaming. A basic requirement is a high quality microphone and a quality sound card. Some software is available online for free and some have an associated cost. Setting up to a streaming server and entering IP addresses are part of the setup. Then of course the performing avatar must develop their stage presence including attire, hair, appropriate instruments and animations. The ability to create supernatural effects to enhance a performance brings an additional magic to a virtual show that could be cost prohibitive or simply impossible in the real world.
A student who is interested in performance as a future career may be able to learn a great deal by performing in a virtual setting. There are the technical and studio aspects as well as the “live” aspects. The virtual stage can provide a feeling of “being there” without some of the barriers of physicality and on stage jitters that often accompany new performers. In a recent LA Times article, Thriving Music Scene, a musician who regularly performs inworld, and makes money doing so, states that “…the interactive experience that the virtual platform provides can actually surpass that of traditional live gigs.” Perhaps this venue can provide a “training stage” to help prepare future performers, something for our performing arts instructors/schools to consider.