Monday, November 23, 2009

Decisions, Decisions

Or, "How to turn something relatively simple into a giant pain in the ass".

Most people would agree that today's technology is pretty amazing. However, one thing that comes with seemingly limitless choices is the act of actually getting anything done when there are no boundaries to force your decision.

What the hell are you talking about, Zak?
Glad you asked. As you know, I'm putting together the plans for my album release party at The Bean Counter in Redondo Beach, CA on December 11. In case there's any confusion here, this is a real life venue, not a location in Second Life. Perhaps you'd think that I would be wholly focused on the task at hand -- like, playing live music for a bunch of people who will come out to see me that evening, as well as hosting the first public playback of the album itself. You'd think I would be interested in inviting members of the entertainment press to get some real life media coverage. That kind of stuff. Right?

Well, the good news is that I actually am focused in that general direction. However, it seems to me that my friend/fan base in SL is also very interested in how this event goes. It also has been my experience that folks in SL enjoy events that integrate real life with the virtual world. A good example was seeing hundreds of people checking out the video stream from the recent Texas Jam of SL musicians. And yet, anything I do to try and integrate this real-life event with SL has to, by definition, divide my focus between these two worlds.

Hmm, looks real enough. Maybe I should let reality be the star of the day. Or should I?

The best laid plans...
So, I started thinking, which is usually a huge mistake. "Zak," I thought to myself, "Integrating the show into SL should be really easy. Just bring your laptop and audio interface to the gig, and stream the audio from the show into SL!"

Problem solved, right? I'm a genius. Except I'm not. If it was just a live performance with me playing guitar and singing, it would be about as simple as that. The coffeehouse has a speedy Net connection, so there's no worry there. It also has a large TV screen with an HDMI input, so I could send my laptop's video output to the TV so the folks at the Bean Counter could see me doing my SL thing. Fun, huh? However, it's not just a typical live gig. It's an album release event, meaning it's both a live show and a listening party for the album itself.

"No problem, Zak," my brain continued. "Just run the audio of the CD through your system, and you'll stream the album into SL at the same time." Brilliant!

But wrong. See, there are two things wrong with this plan. First, as those of us who do streaming shows already know, it's not simple switching between live sound sources and recorded sources. It usually means stopping your stream and restarting it each time you switch over, and it's a pain in the ass that I'd rather not deal with while focusing on playing and singing. But much more importantly, the CD will not be going through my simple PA system. That would sound really crappy (like, I'm only using one loudspeaker... hello? Stereo?), and the goal of the show is to present my shiny new disc in its best light. So we're running it through the sound system of the venue, which is high quality and is set up to pump music out into the street, attracting more passers-by. Problem: since the CD playback won't be going through my system, it won't be heard in world very well. Are you with me?

Hmm. I thought this was going to be easier. Famous last words.

What to do?
I had to make a decision on this matter, since it was driving me a little nutty trying to figure out the best way to handle it, but I think I came to a conclusion that will work. Here's the challenge:

1. Focus on the live show.
I've played literally hundreds of shows in SL. I mean, hell; I'll be playing twice in SL that same week. For that show, I need to really keep my focus on the real life aspect of it. However...

2. Don't ignore SL.
Even for just the few hardcore fans I have in SL, I'd really hate to ignore it entirely, since it's been through SL that I've gained the confidence to get back to songwriting, recording and performing as a solo artist. As far as I'm concerned, I owe the SL music community a big debt of gratitude, and even if it means jumping through a few extra hoops that I'd hoped to avoid, I'll do what it takes.

The "Fly On the Wall" Compromise
Here's how we're going to make this work for everyone.

• I'll be nearly completely focused on the live show.

• At the same time, we will stream the show into SL.

• It won't be much of a show in SL, but the attendees will be like a fly on the wall for the real life event.

• They'll hear my live performance in a way that's similar to my usual SL shows, except I won't be addressing them directly in world as I usually would. Instead, they'll hear me doing my thing for the live attendees.

• For the CD playback portions of the night, I'll just leave the mics open. Granted, it won't be the best audio quality in the world, but they'll hear the songs in the background, hear the crowd mingling, hear me making comments about the various songs. It's not perfect, but it's better than nothing, I believe.

• And by the way: we're going to host a completely separate album release event in SL perhaps a week later, on 12/18/09, where I can playback the album in world and let it really shine. So, that will make up for the deficiencies of the live event.

The current schedule of events

7:00PM: The show starts. We'll begin by playing back a few songs from the album while people are arriving and settling in.
7:30PM: I will perform a select number of songs, maybe 5-6 of them, live.
8:00PM: We'll continue playing back the album and telling people about it.
8:30PM: Show's over... goodnight.

Again, I'm going to basically plop my avatar on a stage and not really have any interaction other than that. However, I do plan on telling my live audience about SL, and showing them why SL is such a cool platform for live music. So, even with a little compromise, I think it will be a cool experience for all involved.

No comments: