Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Live Music Roundtable with Linden Lab

I don't spend much time on this blog talking about Linden Lab, the creators of Second Life. Honestly, there's been very little reason to, since in the years I've spent there, I've had very little contact with them, and only think about them on the occasions when SL isn't working for whatever reason. Think about it like your ISP: you tend to not think much about the structure of the service until it doesn't do what it's supposed to.

Anyway, I was pleasantly surprised last week to see that the PR branch of Linden Lab was reaching out to the SL music community in putting together a roundtable discussion. They had us fill out questionnaires about our musical activities in SL, as well as our RL music and how it ties into SL, and so on. I filled it out and sent it in, and was happy to get a fast response from Pete Linden, who invited me to take part in the meeting in-world, scheduled for 9AM this morning.

With a fresh cup of coffee in arm's reach, I got into world at 8:50, and was magically teleported to PR Island. No, I didn't get a standard TP request. Pete pinged me and asked if I was ready, and as soon as I replied that I was, WHOOOSH... I was there. It's good to be the king, I suppose!

I'm not sure how they put together their list of attendees, but I think they did a good job at making a cross-reference of many different types of musicians with their own performance styles and goals, both in SL and RL. Here's who was there (hoping I didn't miss anyone, and my apologies if I did):

- Alazarin Mondrian
- Dakota Pluto
- Debi Latte
- EvaMoon Ember
- Grace McDunnough
- Keiko Takamura
- Kyle Beltran
- Lance Rembrandt
- Lou Mannock
- Rola Hykova
- Skye Galaxy
- Zak Claxton

- Blue Linden
- Catharine Linden
- Pete Linden
- Jennifer Dolores
- Travis Pooraka
- Vanessa Emerald

We could have had a nice jam session after the meeting.

After a welcome from Pete Linden, we proceeded to go around the room, with each person giving a mostly-brief introduction of themselves and what they do in SL (and RL in cases where it applied). Since most of the people there were veterans of the live music scene, I think we all knew each other fairly well previous to today's get-together, but I learned some new stuff about my fellow SL musicians nevertheless.

What was immediately apparent was that the Linden PR team did a good job of vetting this crowd to show the variety of performers in SL. You had people like Debi and Lou, who mostly do covers. You had Alazarin, who does his unique brand of progressive rock. There were people like me, Keiko, Lance, and Eva, who focus on our real life music careers but still are very involved in the SL music scene, and combine both parts of our lives in that aspect. And of course, the wonderful Grace McDunnough, who doesn't perform live in RL but makes up for it tenfold with her immersive shows in SL. A nice cross-section of the live performing scene. Well done, Linden PR peeps.

When Grace talks, I listen.

For the most part, the discussion focused on the goals and feelings of the musicians. It wasn't entirely a one-way street conversation, but given the limited time we had, the priority seemed to be a fact-gathering mission for Linden's PR team, rather than a chance for us to quiz them. The specific topics included comparing SL to other social networks in terms of effectiveness for music promotion, asking what unique qualities of SL made it attractive for live musicians, and so on in that vein.

If a bomb went off in this room, there would... still be about 700 too many musicians in SL. Kidding! The more, the merrier.

There were surprisingly few fireworks at this meeting. I think everyone there understood that this meeting was not about bitching Linden out for the perceived lack of support of music in SL. Any number of grenades could have been lobbed, like getting clarification on the rights of artists to perform covers in SL, the 25 group limit, the small audience sizes due to sim limits, and of course the crippling of search functionality in Viewer 2. But while some of these topics were broached, they were all done respectfully, and with the understanding that these were not the people responsible for fixing this stuff anyway.

About the only moment that my ears pricked up in this regard was when Dakota Pluto asked pointedly, "So why is Linden interested in us now? Some of us have been doing this for five years, and this is the first time you've bothered to talk to us." I really enjoyed that barb, but Pete handled it adroitly, and Catharine Linden seemed only marginally defensive about it. I think the overall message from the musicians was that we're all aware of the shortcomings of Second Life as a platform for live music, but that we all care enough about it to overlook some of those issues to focus on the positive aspects that will help push forward both SL and our own careers as musicians.

Dragons and sexy cartoon people. Yup, this is SL.

Thanks, Linden PR!
It was good to feel that we're being heard, even if it's only for Linden's PR benefit for the time being. Hopefully these communications channels can continue to open for us, and allow SL to be viewed as a viable platform for musicians around the world, as well as a place for music lovers to discover some great live performers and their music.


Kwame Oh said...

Fact finding my friend, is the name of the exercise, and kudos to LL for the outreach.

However as there was again the lack of a two way conversation, am still not convinced about motive, and would point out this outreach is in fact going on in all fields of creativity including ours with regard direction of virtual worlds, and hope this will not again come back as a white paper or document extolling the virtues of SL without you and others getting the credit/recognition due.

believe you me I hope am wrong

Julius Sowu virtual-London

Eliza Moody said...

Great article Zak! Informative stuff! Im not able to meet up for Thursday's roundtable relating to clubs, it would be great to have an article follow up like this to reflect more feedback..

Zak Claxton said...

@Kwame, all I can say in that regard is that some type of contact is better than none. The fact was that they honestly did seem receptive to hearing our concerns, and no one was slammed for expressing their opinions. I can't help but try and take the optimistic road here.

Zak Claxton said...

@Eliza, there are still two more roundtable sessions of this sort; one for DJs, and the other (that you referenced) for club owners, managers, and associated folks. I won't be at either, but I'm sure someone will report back. I'm glad people seem to be jumping at the opportunity to participate, and not just for selfish reasons. It seemed at this morning's session that all of us were most interested in helping the SL music scene as a whole, and were not just looking for individual glory. I hope that will also be the case in the subsequent meetings.

Anonymous said...

I'd be wary. What can LL "GOM" with live music? Perhaps LL will create a live music venue and that becomes the only live music venue that is visible in Second Life. Something along those lines. Or maybe a tax on performances?

If LL cared they could have been signing on with alts and experiencing what it is like first hand to try to find something to do. As it is the only time I ever hear of anything cool is *after* it is over and someone blogs about how great it was.

Did LL ever deal with all the fake events that make it futile to find something to do?

Whatever. Hopefully good will come out of it all.

An actual possibility is a new section of the secondlife.com website dedicated to music and entertainment. This I really do hope for.

Good luck real musicians. SL would be a lousy place without you.

Brickhouse Frog said...

Kinda makes me wonder, like someone said, why is LL interested in Live Music after all these years... having been on the music scene repping musicians, for 2 years, I'm leery tbh, but will sit back and see what LL does. Great representation of musicians!

Alazarin said...

Blimey... you wrote all that after the meeting? My mind went numb and I lost track of proceedings.

for Paisley Beebe said...

Did anyone discuss ASCAP agreements? Or music licencing ? All discussions are mute if L.L don't sign an agreement to cover themeselves with a music streaming licence

Zak Claxton said...

@Paisley, it was brought up, but not by the Linden folks. Lance Rembrandt and some of us chatted on our own about it. Keep in mind, the entire point of this roundtable wasn't for Linden to address our concerns in the music community, but rather for them to gather PR stories. In that aspect, it was fine, but at no point were the tough topics discussed. It probably wasn't the right venue to bring that stuff up, nor were they the right Linden people to discuss them with. C'est la vie.

Durzle said...

Paisley, great point about the PRO's, it's the largest question I have for not only live music covers, but all the streaming that goes on in SL. I am currious if it will be through some sort of blanket licence or will each venue be responsible for their own license. Ultimately, it's going to depend on the revenue that's being made through music associated with the venue. If PRO's deem it enough, they will want their piece of the pie.