Monday, May 23, 2011

Virtual Musician Tip #1: Save Your Chat!

Between 2006 and the present, I've performed hundreds and hundreds of shows in virtual worlds such as Second Life, and I think it's high time that I start paying forward on some of the expertise I've accumulated over that time. Therefore, I'll be doing occasional articles on tips and tricks for the virtual live musician. Our first one is simple, yet it's something that's come in handy many times over the past four+ years: save your gig chat!

How to Do It
Couldn't be easier. When you finish your show and have said your thanks and goodbyes to the attendees, don't log out just yet. Instead, open your chat history. It should contain everything that was written publicly (i.e., everything but IMs) within earshot of you since you logged in. Select all of the text, and simply copy/paste it to a text document on your computer, and then save the file. My simple organizing system is that I call the file "gigchat_(date)", so that the show is easily findable in my archives. Betcha had no idea I could be that anal retentive, huh?

Why Do It?
Many reasons...

1. You shouldn't be focused on chat while you're performing. Note that I didn't say "You should completely ignore chat." When you're just starting out, it can be a big distraction, trying to watch text fly by while you're playing an instrument and trying to sing. As a noob, it can affect the quality of your performance. As you get more accustomed to playing in a virtual world, it's fun to glance down every so often and be able to give verbal responses to people typing things to (or about) you. But your first job is to put on a good show and entertain with your music. Therefore, plan on missing a lot of the audience banter while you play. However, having the chat after your show means you can go back and see what was going on in your crowd while you played. That brings us to...

2. You can see what people liked... or didn't like. In real life, it's easy to know how well you're doing onstage. You can see and hear people's immediate reactions when you start a song, sing a certain section, play a solo, or finish with a flourish. You have the benefit in real life of seeing the looks on their faces, and hearing them cheer and clap... or, possibly, boo and throw things. In any case, you're able to use that instant feedback from the crowd for later shows. In virtual worlds, all you really have is the chat, so if you're not seeing it in real time, you don't get the benefit of learning from your audience. I like to scan through my chat after the show and look at the time stamps. I know roughly what I played at various points in the show, and can see which songs received the best reactions. That's cool.

3. You can see who was there. Granted, it's my opinion that virtual musicians should take a moment and pan around the room to greet folks, but everyone has their own style. In any case, you might have missed someone who came to your show, and it's cool to be able to see after the fact who the attendees were. Also, just in case you didn't peek at the map to check the number of little green dots on the sim during the show, you can get a rough idea of your total attendance this way.

4. It's fun! Hey, when you're the entertainment at an event, you don't get to really participate in the event the same way that your audience does. That's true in real life as much as your virtual life as a performer. However, at least in the case of my crowd, there's a lot of fun banter that happens, and since I only am able to see bits and pieces of it while I play, I get to replay all the silly little interactions between my Zaksters and other fans while I'm relaxing after the event.

Do You Keep them Forever?
Sure, why not? Text files are tiny, and the hundreds of files of chat logs that I have from years and years of shows take up a miniscule amount of space on my computer. I can tell you at this very moment that at 5:55PM on Monday November 5, 2007, Suka Nishi said "Nothing like a man with a guitar and magical fingers," or that at 3:49PM on Sunday February 17, 2008, Triana Caldera stated, "That's okay - i'm in the north pole. snowed in. can't get home."

Is any of this crucial info? No, not at all. Can I live without it? Sure. But ultimately, since it takes all of 10 seconds to grab your chat before poofing out of world, what can it hurt? There have been times where I've wanted to see when the first time a particular person came to my show, and a simple search of my hard drive sorted by date tells me the exact day and place. That's pretty cool. So save your chat logs, my fellow musicians. You might be glad you did someday.

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