April 11, 2008

Enterprising Musicians Seek Fame in Second Life

With the increasing popularity of Second Life, the 3D online virtual community, many artists and musicians are hoping that virtual fame can be translated into actual fame in the real world.

Leo Wolff, a 42-year old electronic musician, joined Second Life in 2005. She and eight other fellow musicians purchased a slab of virtual real estate that became their virtual garage "“ a place for musicians to perform in front of an online audience from anywhere in the world.

Under Wolff's online persona, named Slim Warrior, she has become an active promoter for other musicians hoping to get noticed on Second Life.

Created by San Francisco-based Linden-Labs, Second Life has about 13 million members -- or residents as they are known -- and just over 100 musicians performing "live" shows.

"The main benefit is being able to reach a wider audience, as well as the ability to reach out to audiences globally and create a larger fan base," Wolff said.

"Second Life also increases a musician's confidence, especially to those up and coming artists, who feel the virtual world allows them to grow into their personas before performing outside the virtual world."

Wolff said she has never actually performed outside of Second Life, although expressed a desire to. Although she has been successful as a musician on Second Life, Wolff still works in the real world, by advising artists about performing on Second Life.

Some performers charge a fee, but most like Slim Warrior play for free: "It's great for marketing, increasing name recognition, which can lead to selling merchandise," she said.

After all, the bands are saving money on equipment, booking and transportation costs.

Wolff said Second Life allows for a better connection between artists and their audience than social networks such as Myspace or Last.fm.

"In MySpace, users either stumble over your page or hear about it through friends. Whereas in Second Life you are being actively promoted, whether that be by bars, islands, or forums," Wolff said, adding that there are a few limitations for musicians on Second Life as well.

"If you have a private island you can host up to 100 avatars; on a mainland area, the general max is around 40. You can increase the number of people to attend by either having more than one island joined together or by simulcasting the event via in-world video stream or just via audio."

Mainstream artists have begun to take notice. Singer Suzanne Vega became the first major artist to perform live in Second Life in avatar form for Second Life's radio show The Infinite Mind. Also, 1980s band Duran Duran has set up its own island to perform. Even pianist and vocalist Regina Spektor held a listening party in a virtual Manhattan loft.

Last year, real world Guardian newspaper and technology group Intel sponsored SecondFest, a three-day music festival in Second Life with such acts as Pet Shop Boys, New Young Pony Club or Simian Mobile Disco.


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