Thursday, July 29, 2010

Report: Zak Claxton Live! on StreamJam (episode 1)


It's now been 12 hours since I finished my very first live music show on Facebook via StreamJam, and I still don't think I've fully recovered despite getting a good night's sleep. Just about every live performer will tell you that they put a lot of energy into their shows, but with some shows in particular, you draw upon every ounce of energy you have available, leaving you a drained husk afterwards. And those shows, my friends, are usually the best ones. Some performers -- James Brown and Bruce Springsteen come to mind -- seemed ready to collapse at the end of every show, and I don't know that I could do that night after night and expect to have a long lifespan. Still, when the vibe is right and you're inspired, it's cool to give it all.

And that's what I did at my first StreamJam show... gave it all. So, as I sit here this morning and reflect on last night's festivities while sucking coffee down like my life depended on it (and it might), I'm happy to give you a few details.

Taking a look at the StreamJam stage set before my show started.

My shows are usually as fun for me as they are for my audience. Probably more fun for me, actually.

First, some deservedly positive points about StreamJam itself, from my performer's perspective. Technically, it was 100% no-hassle. The way it works is that I broadcast audio and video via Ustream, a free online live video streaming service. It's the same process I've used for my bi-weekly Zak Claxton Happy Fun Show that I've done for the last six months or so, and I'm familiar with the interface as a result. The video comes directly off my MacBook Pro laptop camera, while the audio comes off my mixer into the line input of the computer. Anyway, all I did was start up Ustream and hit the "broadcast now" button, and StreamJam did the rest. My video feed popped up in the little club-like screen of StreamJam without a hitch. I'm not sure how this is going to work as StreamJam gains popularity and more artists will be broadcasting at the same time, but I'm sure they have a plan for this eventuality.

I start rocking while my global audience on Facebook watches and listens via StreamJam. What a wonderful world we live in!

My audience was able to communicate with me through a little "Ask the Artist" button in the StreamJam interface. I think that this may change to something a little more integrated as the app develops past its current Beta state, but for the time being, this was set up to feed a special Twitter page that I logged into before the show. I kept the Twitter window open next to my Ustream broadcast window, and it was no problem seeing when I had new questions and comments from my crowd.

Checking my messages from the audience.

So, as far as I'm concerned, the app worked flawlessly. I know that the developers, the Electric Sheep Company, will be continuing to improve the app during and after the current Beta period, so I have high hopes for StreamJam as well as high expectations.

I would be remiss to not point out one aspect of StreamJam that might take some adjustment for people like me, who've done a lot of performing on real stages as well as hundreds of shows in Second Life. You do have a loss of connection with the audience to a degree. Even if you were logged into StreamJam while performing, you would only see the people who are in one "room" of the show, and that's limited to around 12 people. If you had 50 people in your crowd, there would be at least four different rooms going. If you're a performer who's used to being able to look around (in person or at an SL venue) and see the faces of everyone in the audience, you'll just need to accept that StreamJam is not meant to replace that sensation. Rather than compare it to those types of shows, I prefer to think of StreamJam as being on TV, where you wouldn't expect to be able to see or communicate with your audience at all, and the ability to connect with them in a limited capacity is much better than nothing.

Anyway, back to the show. I think it went really well. Later today, I'll get in touch with the StreamJam folks and see if they can give me any info regarding the number of people who saw the show and all that good stuff; at the moment, I'm only aware of those who contacted me via the Twitter feed. But regardless of that, I felt good about the performance, which was entirely comprised of original material of mine.

ZCL on StreamJam #1 Set List...
Fade Away (Zak Claxton)
You're Like a Cloud (Zak Claxton)
Time Never Waits for You (Zak Claxton)
This Afternoon (Zak Claxton)
The Sands of Redondo (Zak Claxton)
Falling Down (Zak Claxton)
Shine (Zak Claxton)
Always Tomorrow (Zak Claxton)
Thanks Anyway (Zak Claxton)
Come Around (Zak Claxton)

I strap on the fifty dollar guitar for "The Sands of Redondo"...

... and then the harp for "Falling Down".

Huge thanks to all the people who checked out StreamJam and watched my premier show there! In case I didn't tell you before, I'm going to be continuing this little residency there for the entire month of August, every Wednesday night at 7PM PDT/10PM EDT, so please tune in for my next show on August 4!

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