The story of why I decided to do a live streaming video music show on Facebook yesterday (the show known to my friends/fans as the Zak Claxton Happy Fun Show, going back to its origins over a decade ago) starts a few months back. My typical performance schedule these days is one show every two weeks, with an occasional extra show thrown in here and there. While I knew that while I didn't want to increase the frequency of my shows in Second Life, I still felt like I just wasn't getting out there enough. So it was probably back in February when I started mentioning to Christina that I was going to do a ZCHFS video show during some weekend in between my typical shows in SL. But then various things happened. For one, I actually did ramp up my SL shows significantly for awhile. Another was a lovely case of bronchitis that became the launching point for my continuing efforts to quit smoking. And then earlier this month, I spent a weekend in Joshua Tree, where doing a live music show isn't really feasible (more on that below).
But yesterday was Memorial Day, and everything seemed to make it the perfect day to put on the guitar and fire up the camera. Everything, that is, except one: both Kat and I were physically not feeling so hot. I won't get into the details, but let's just say that it might be awhile before we order poke from a particular place again. Anyway, in the late afternoon, I finally decided that it wasn't so bad that I couldn't sing and be mildly entertaining, and also that doing a show would stop me from sitting around and moping and feeling sorry for myself.
It turned out I was right. I quickly threw together a list of songs, and, with no kind of announcement, started up my streaming software and was suddenly there on people's phones and desktops. I thought it went great and the folks who tuned in seemed to have a good time, and I felt physically better afterwards than I had beforehand. Turned out to be the right thing to do.
Why Facebook Live? Why Not Just Do More SL Shows?
It's a funny thing; I had several people mention something that some of us forget in our virtual world myopia. There are thousands of people who perhaps were regular steady visitors of virtual places like Second Life who, for a variety of reasons, stopped going in-world entirely. There are millions more who never got into SL at all, but have become part of the literal billions of people who are on social media every day. By confining your performances to being exclusively in SL, you are limiting your audience to the folks who are in SL on a regular basis. And yes, I know what you're going to say... that SL is monetized, that you can get tips and so on. That's understandable! But for many of us who enjoy the art of real life performance but don't have the bandwidth in life to go play clubs, do tours, and so on, the act of being "in person" even on video is an important part of our lives as a musician. I would also add that for those of us that create and sell original music, it's completely necessary to break out of our avatar selves and be able to promote yourself -- as an actual human -- beyond the limitations of a virtual environment.
How Do You Stream Music and Video from the Desktop to Facebook Live?
Facebook doesn't have a live option for the desktop, so you just use your phone, right? Sure... if you're into amateur hour. Phones aren't designed to deliver the kind of high-quality audio that people enjoy for listening to music. I'm not talking about on the listener's end; I mean the tiny little microphone that your phone employs has no chance of representing the full range of frequencies and dynamics needed for real music. In fact, that microphone is designed to accentuate the frequencies of the speaking voice (because, duh, it's a phone), meaning the midrange frequencies are bumped up for purposes of intelligibility. This is good for phone calls, and really crappy for music.
Anyway, what I do for my ZCHFS on Facebook is pretty simple. I set up exactly as if I'm doing a show in SL, which is simply running my guitar and microphone into an audio interface (mine is a Focusrite 6i6, not a particularly expensive interface but a good one nonetheless). For my Facebook Live shows, I have a special app for the Mac called Livedesk for Facebook Live. I would assume that there's similar software for Windows machines as well. I remember when I first got it, I had super low expectations. It seems to be one of those apps that some guy created in his parents' basement. But I will say, it just works exactly as I'd wanted it to. The full version (allowing to your stream for more than five minutes) costs twenty bucks, which is a pretty small price for what it does. You launch it and you log into Facebook just like any other external app. It automatically recognizes my USB-based audio interface and video camera. And... that's it. I press the broadcast button, and there I am, popping up on my friends' Facebook walls in full 1080p resolution. The one thing I recommend for serious live streaming: make sure your bandwidth is solid. If possible, use a hardwired connection as opposed to WiFi or cellular. Doing this remotely, like from my trips to the desert, sounds fun but without my good audio gear and excellent bandwidth, it wouldn't be all that great to experience for you folks.
ZCHFS on Facebook Live set list...
Say Goodbye (Beck)
Blew the Dust Away (They Stole My Crayon)
Pancho & Lefty (Townes Van Zandt)
Cat’s in the Cradle (Harry Chapin)
Things Behind the Sun (Nick Drake)
America (Simon & Garfunkel)
Among the Leavs (Sun Kil Moon)
It's Easy Like Walking (The Sadies w/Kurt Vile)
Save Me (Aimee Mann)
Falling Down (Zak Claxton)
Don’t Let It Pass (Junip)
Huge thanks to everyone who saw the show! I have no way of knowing exactly who was watching, but I can thank everyone who happened to make comments or sent reactions on Facebook!
Dreama Collins, E Marie Robertson, John Sams, Kaj Qinan, Bunny Knutson, Nina Rose Setner, Kirsten M. Max, Christina Lee, Tony Barker, Kate McCridhe, Bibi Burke, Rachael Emborg, Jena Ball, Heather Williams, Kristine Schomaker, Jeff Iverson, Daniel P O'Donnell, Mike Maglione, Rusty Seisenbacher, Joseph Tuff, Camme Carver, Vladimiro Renoir, Patty Flyingbear Rose, Trulte Andersen, Nymbus Broome, and everyone else who hung out. Thank you! Special thanks to Christina for helping me run the show and taking pics.