Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Letters to the Editor:

A Performer's View of SL Music: 
    A State of the Music Address

    "Can I get a "Yep. We're okay. We’re fine.”? 

    No, this is not another gripe about SL music or "SL MUSIC IS DEAD" rant. But, if you will indulge me: I think SL Music may be "showing its age".

    Once upon a time, in the early days of SL music, the music scene was abuzz with creativity and excitement. New venues were opening at a rapid pace. New musicians were finding their way into the music community. Collaboration and camaraderie between performers and the voracious, music-seeking crowds was palpable. There were many musicians playing original material back in the golden era of Second Life music. 

    It wasn’t uncommon for track singers to ask live musicians for a track of an original song they loved and they’d include that performer’s song in their own sets. Everyone felt so privileged to be a part of these performers' musical journeys. With each new performer there seemed to be a new sound and style. It was like there was a major concert every day. 

    People logged in and never knew who might suddenly be playing that night. All kinds of collaboration and creative events were happening. There was also curiosity about who would be in the crowd. Who was dancing with whom? What interesting and fun things would happen during the course of the day/night around the music crowd? It felt more like a community than an ‘industry’. 

    So many people packed venues at times that sims would crash!  Having overflow areas when two musicians collaborated for a show was a fairly common thing. Making sure you were paid as much as or more than other performers and refusing to play somewhere because it was an only tips venue didn’t automatically make someone more valued as an artist than another. The main focus was on making music and supporting each other’s efforts. There were no management companies. You either asked a venue if you could play there, or you found someone you trusted, who believed in your music, and they would become your manager. 

    That person would go to venues and get you booked. They would handle your notices and your group chat; they’d be your host and biggest cheerleader. It was more personal and connected. If you saw someone gesture “I love this voice!” you believed they meant it and weren’t just paid to be there. 

    Musicians valued their fans and took the time to get to know them. People came out to support every artist. Other musicians even supported their fellow performers by actually attending their shows and cheering them on. Behind the scenes, most of them knew each other and, other than the occasional drama as has always been a part of SL – people got along with each other. 

    Being in someone’s group wasn’t just a way of finding out where they’d be playing next. It also meant you were part of their circle. They’d invite their fans to do other fun things with them. They’d hangout with everyone after shows, play games, and get to know their audience better. Ah, yes. The good old days of the mid-Noughts and the early Twenty Tens. 

    They are but a memory now for the seasoned and determined veterans who were around then during that heyday and continue to stick with it, hoping for the return of the musical brotherhood that once was. Music in SL is fine. But therein lies the rub. It’s just ‘fine’. 

    The SL music offerings are uninspiring and bland. Dare I say – boring? 

    Yes. There are many fantastic performers still to be found in SL. But the spirit of SL music has withered away. If you are new to the music scene in the last 6 or 7 years, you don’t understand the difference. You won't miss what you never knew. Going to shows in the current SL music landscape is akin to going to your grandmother’s house. Sure, you want to go see Granny. You’re even excited about it. But then you get there and it’s all familiar and nice, but after that first 15 minutes of greetings, then you’re bored, and your mind wanders to what you’re going to do after your visit. 

    Between the "Songbird/Sex Kitten Whisperers" and the "Introspective/Sensitive Guitar Guy" performers, there is extraordinarily little variety in one’s daily intake of SL music. From show to show, you consume the same thing. Even the rockers of the bunch tone it down as to not wake the audience. And performers all seem to play many sets a day, so there’s really no build-up or excitement about going to see them. If you aren’t at one show, you can catch their next show in a couple of hours. Dual streaming and collaborations are all but dead. 

    A few people do it now and then, but it’s not as common as it once was. And if a couple of performers decide to get crazy and dual stream, they seem to be bound to only dual stream with each other. Only a handful of performers seek out other people to collaborate with. People aren’t reaching outside their immediate inner circle (or management group). Thinking outside the box is non-existent. 

    Where’s the energy? Where’s the passion? Where’s the creativity? 

    It’s all backwards, really. 

    Performers are given a place to play. That’s their reward. They should be grateful for that. And though most talk the talk at shows (“Please donate to this venue. I wouldn’t have a place to play without places like these.") they obviously don’t walk that walk. Many demand to be paid, and paid well, before they agree to play. They expect tips on top of that as well. 

    The real truth is, for a majority of performers, it’s all about the lindens.  For some, it's also about status. They play in SL to make extra cash for any of several reasons (many cash out their linden for real world money). Others act like they are Elvis-like and are looking for validation and love from venues and their adoring fans. They need their ego stroked and their goal is bookings at the ‘in’ clubs, getting people to attend their shows who will tell them how wonderfully talented and amazing they are.  It's like a drug for them even if they are neither. Harsh? Maybe – but also true. 

    If you don’t believe it, go ask almost any performer if they’ll play your club for less than their booking fee or for tips only. It’s beneath many of them. They will give you the “I’m giving you an hour of entertainment and deserve to be paid” line which, for most, hardly applies (refer back to 'uninspiring and bland'). 

    Truth be told, most SL performers would be sitting home playing to their plants for nothing if venue owners didn’t agree to give them linden from their own SL pockets. Before someone steps in to say that some performers actually do play shows at real venues and make money doing it in RL - Ok. Then log off and go make money there. SL venues aren’t calling you at home to book you on a Saturday night. They’re providing you with a place to play for free, with an audience to play to, when you don’t have a booking on a Saturday night. 

    SL is not a concert hall or a bar generating money because you’re coming in to do a few songs. But the compensation system in SL has long been debated – so we’ll leave that for its own article. Performers should remember the gift they have been given which is this music outlet in SL. They have a dedicated and committed audience of listeners who are enthusiastic and want to support them.

    Unfortunately, dwindling audiences have spoken. The standards have been lowered and not much is expected from a performer or a performance. SL music audiences are partly to blame here too. They ask for little and demand nothing for attending a show. Gone are the days of collecting gestures and t-shirts and actually participating during a show. Being in a group and getting excited when the group chat window opened up to announce someone was going to do a show! 

    So many shows are done in almost a total text blackout now except for "Song. Applause gesture. Silence."  Audiences are boring too. A performer feeds off the energy of their crowd. If you have a crowd of 20 or 30 people, but they aren’t saying much and aren’t requesting songs, I don’t care who you are – you start to feel like you’re not doing well. Could it be the material you’re choosing?  Could it be your playing is off? Could be that your singing is awful, but they like you so they’re just hanging out? 

    Even if people are tipping them, in a performer’s mind – a quiet audience is a disappointed audience. Venues are less to blame for the general lackluster SL music experience, but they do bear some of the burden to the overall dulling down of the music experience in SL. Running a venue is time and money intensive. If you don’t have much of either – *please* don’t open a venue. 

    Also, don’t think the burden is on the musicians to bring people in. You are asking people to come perform, yes. You aren’t asking them to bring a crowd with them when they do. IF they do – that’s a bonus. Gather your audience. Create a space people come to for the fun and friendship. It takes a village to have a successful club. You need to be an actual ‘club’ – as in cult. You need to have people who will be there, no matter who you book. Musicians do not bring their audiences around the grid with them like they used to either. Sure, they may have a following and people will come see them, but there are fewer musicians and less music lovers who go to every show (refer back to the – same time/day/songs). They go to one show and then skip the next 2. If you want your club to be a success, make it a success and then add performers to enhance it. It doesn’t work well the other way around. 

    Also – unless you stop actually paying performers stupid amounts of linden to come do a thing they’d do for free if you made them – then you’re going to keep paying stupid amounts of money to run your venue. Owners should unite and set ground rules they all stick by. Back in those good old days, people cared about SL music so much, there was even a series of meetings between musicians, managers, venue owners and Linden Labs! Can you imagine? The entire community felt passionate enough to go to 'Big Brother' and ask for things like the 'Events' listings and more promotion on the Destination Guide. 

    Maybe there needs to be a call to action again? Maybe that would infuse some much needed oxygen into the stagnant air of the music sector. 

    Maybe no one gives a shit anymore. 

    To sum this all up – currently, the state of music in SL is – BLAH.  And if everyone likes blah, then I guess "it’s fine."

- SG -

Opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect those of Vendetta Publications.

"Dear Mo ... "

Dear Mo,

Sometimes when I go to venues, the host doesn’t greet me. I think it’s rude if the host doesn’t greet everyone as they come in. If they are saying hi to everyone, that should include me. Is this something I should talk to the host about, or would you suggest I talk to the venue owner directly?

"Feeling Overlooked"

Dear Feeling Over,

Really? This is the first submission to my column? I thought I’d be tackling tough interpersonal relationship issues or settling down some SL drama, but you come at me with feeling sad that someone didn’t type your name when you came into a room?

Hey, here’s my advice. Maybe you say hi to THEM first? They're probably busy hosting or something.

If they don’t say hi back, THEN you can feel sad.

Let me know how that works out for ya’. (or not)

-- Mo


Dear Mo,

I have a friend who constantly flirts with my SL boyfriend. It was fine at first, but she does it almost all the time now. He’s started flirting back. I am in a different time zone than they are, so I go to bed while they’re still up for hours. This has me wondering what they might be doing when I’m not in SL and they are.

I have talked with my bf about it, but he laughs it off and really doesn’t act like it’s a big deal. But it is to me. I’ve asked him not to hangout with her when I’m not there, but he says he isn’t going to leave a place just because she’s there too. Which means they are probably flirting with each other when I’m not there too.

What should I do about this? 


Dear Flirty-something,

Now HERE’S what I signed on to do! Give solid, yet unprofessional advice to the SL masses!

SL is fertile flirting grounds for anyone prone to do it. It kind of comes with the territory. If someone is a RL flirt, they’re going to do it here as well.  Is your bf just a flirty kinda guy, or is this only with this specific friend? If it's just a one-off with her, he's suspect.

I’d suggest you go at this from a girl power angle. Talk to your friend about it. Explain how it makes you feel and ask her if she’d like it if the shoe were on the other foot. She may also play it off as a big nothing burger, but you will feel better having spoken up. If she doesn't realize it and stop doing something with your bf that is bothering you - perhaps she's more a frenemy? 

The real issue here isn’t your friend though. It’s your bf not validating your feelings and you apparently not trusting him. That is a conversation you should have if you’re in a serious SL relationship, just as you would if you were in a RL relationship. Feelings are feelings. Doesn’t matter if it’s SL or RL. No one wants to think they’re being made a fool of, especially when they aren’t around to see what's going on.

It's pretty much numero uno  in the SL Relationship Commandments. "Thou shall not  flirt or hangout with Thous best friends man/woman when Thou is not around nor have they given express permission to do so". Look it up!

Talk to them both. Maybe together. Lay down the law and tell them this is not something you’ll tolerate anymore.

Also – come in under an alt after you’ve logged out and see what they’re up to. You know you can do that, right?

-- Mo


Dear Mo,

My avi is a large woman. I made her this way to give some indication of how I look in RL. I like to keep it real, even in SL.

I have had many rude comments said to me, in IMs and in open chat. People comment on my ass and boobs all the time. I’ve had skinny little avatar people I don’t even know ask me how come I make my legs so big!

Why do people make rude comments when they see a larger avi? Just like in RL. They fat shame avatars!

I don’t tell them they have ugly clothes or make fun of the way they dance.

What should I say to these people?

Big Booty Mama

Dear Big Booty Mama,

How RUDE! I agree with you. It is no one’s business if you want to be a fat ass in SL!

It takes all kinds and in SL, we see ALL kinds, right?

How boring would it be if everyone looked the same…a bunch of Amazon-tall women with legs up to here, long blond/red hair, flawless skin and shapely curves… oh, right! That IS how it is in many areas of SL!

You just do YOU! Do not worry what they say about or to you.

It’s your SL, Mama. You WORK it anyway you like!

When someone comments or IM’s you, just tell them – it’s big, it’s juicy, and it’s mine!

Rock on with your big self! "Screw the scrawnies!"

-- Mo

- SG -

Opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect those of Vendetta Publications.