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  More Rockers Jump on Virtual-World Bandwagon  
Posted 2006-11-04 by Tony Walsh
Old musicians never die, they just retire in virtual worlds. Such is the case with Duran Duran, Ben Folds, and now Oasis. The aging Britpop band has taken up residence in the aptly-named virtual world Faketown, where users can watch computer representations of the band "performing" their new single--sort of like how visitors to a Disney theme park can watch creepy animatronic robots sing "It's a Small World." Faketown is a 2D web-based environment that looks something like the lovechild of Habbo Hotel and Dollz. I took a few minutes out to watch Oasis "peform" in Faketown and found the experience totally underwhelming. The two avatar audience members in attendance were both sleeping. One of them was me.
  Ben Folds Underwhelms ‘Second Life’ Residents  
Posted 2006-10-20 by Tony Walsh
A recent launch party for recording artist Ben Folds held in the virtual world of Second Life last night appears to have bombed. Australia's The Age reports that only about 25 avatars attended the invite-only event, while in-world media outlet In the Grid paints a more detailed picture: "[F]or some reason, the event actually started over at the new 'aloft' hotel [clickback]... a full hour and a half before Folds was scheduled to show up, basically a dance party for a bunch of journalists who didn't want to dance... it was never really explained what 90 minutes of high-energy techno dance music had to do with uber-slacker pianist Ben Folds, being spun by a non-Sony DJ using non-Sony music." During a Q&A session with Folds, reports The Second Life Herald, "Ben did show his edginess (tm) by telling a questioner to 'fuck off'... As an employee of MTV put it after the event 'He needs SL more than SL needs him.'"

Matt Mihaly of The Forge calls bullshit on the whole affair: "Almost two dozen people attended. That's right, two dozen. Just think of the impact! Why, if only half of them buy his album, he’ll have sold twelve albums!" Obviously an effort like this isn't about record sales, but it's also clearly not about offering Second Life residents a valuable experience. Like the handful of similar events preceding it [1, 2,3], this one could only be leveraged for its external media buzz potential. The Age and other mainstream publications don't know enough to identify events like this as anything but a major-label snow-job (that's what we have bloggers for). The business community thinks events like this are about engagement. Frankly, I think users could be more effectively engaged with a streaming video concert or web-based interactive narrative--at least the audiences in this case could number in the thousands.
  The Shape of Virtual Music Spaces to Come?  
Posted 2006-10-12 by Tony Walsh
The Electric Sheep Company will be opening a music space in the virtual world of Second Life for Sony BMG on October 19, 2006: "Sony BMG’s space features a gorgeous club and loft, a shop that will contain licensed Sony BMG merchandise including full audio tracks from your favorite Sony BMG artists, and lounges featuring images, information, and streaming audio and video content for 8 of Sony BMG’s hottest acts, including DMX, Justin Timberlake, Ben Folds, Christina Aguilera, and more."

I thought I'd point out some visual similarities between the Sony BMG space in Second Life and Universal Music's The Lounge (originally launched as the Pussy Cat Doll Lounge).
Image- Visual Comparison
I find it interesting that both music publishers seem to think the best way to market their brands is in large part through the use of urban spaces peppered with billboards. Both the Second Life and The Lounge music spaces above feature exclusive avatars resembling recording artists. In Second Life it's entirely possible to create lookalike characters, such as an entire U2 tribute band--brand-hijacking, anyone?
  ‘Electroplankton DS’: First Impressions  
Posted 2006-06-26 by Tony Walsh
Electroplankton is not a game, but it can be played on the Nintendo DS handheld game console. At worst, it's a toy, and at best it's a live performance tool. Users can interact with (i.e. "play") digital plankton, each with their own musical abilities and functions. Improvised and generative musical compositions can be created through Performance mode, but not recorded (except through outside means). Generative music can also be appreciated through Audience mode--basically, you can just set up Electroplankton to play crazy electronic music all day.

While I appreciate the well-crafted, intuitive interactivity, colourful, cute graphics and animation, I think Nintendo missed the boat on this title. It's totally overpriced (roughly $50 CAD) for a toy. At the very least, I would have expected compositions to be recorded, but better yet, shared through WiFi. Unfortunately, the audio seems to be comprised of samples rather than chip-based synthesis, resulting in sub-par quality. And my final gripe is that there's no built-in way to broadcast the images from Electroplankton to a video device during a performance, but that's really a fault with the DS.
  ‘Universal Motown Records’ Rolls Into ‘Second Life’  
Posted 2006-06-14 by Tony Walsh
The virtual world of Second Life will play host to another major music publisher this summer. Hot on the heels of Sire Records, Universal Motown Records and Universal Republic Records plan to launch promotional events in digital space for artists Chamillionaire and Hinder. According to an official announcement by the music publishers, "Fans utilizing their 'Second Life' avatars can... enjoy music, videos, photos and other never-before-experienced content celebrating the respective artists..." I have to wonder how many of Second Life's 128,734 active users (or, how many of the 6 or 7 thousand users online during peak hours) could be described as "fans" of Chamillionaire and Hinder.

A location called Soundscape, built by InWorld Studios, will serve as a persistent brand experience inside Second Life, while scheduled events featuring the artists will take place on June 25 and 26. Exclusive Hinder-specific content will be deployed in-world on July 15 and July 29.

Continue reading: ‘Universal Motown Records’ Rolls Into ‘Second Life’
  Sire Records Launches ‘Second Life’ Listening Party  
Posted 2006-05-23 by Tony Walsh
Sire Records will launch a listening party for recording artist Regina Spektor in the virtual world of Second Life next week, according to an official press release and Warner Bros. Records Tech Director Ethan Kaplan.

Earlier this year, Kaplan had expressed interest in "someone who knows Second Life like the back of their hand to create a mini-world type thing for a band of ours." That someone turned out to be Millions of Us, a company created by former Linden Lab employee Ruben Steiger. Steiger writes that "This is the first time a major US. label has done something big in Second Life," and that "This project basically takes a record album and turns it into a socially-enabled music video — it becomes an album you can live in... Once you're 'in' the album, listening to the songs which are only available here before the official release on June 14th, you can invite friends to come hang out with you and listen as well. The entire build changes (like theatrical set changes) to match the mood of various songs. You have to hang out a little while to see this, but it’s definitely worth it."

Continue reading: Sire Records Launches ‘Second Life’ Listening Party
  BBC Radio 1 Holds Real, Virtual Festival  
Posted 2006-05-12 by Tony Walsh
BBC worker Alice Taylor, who blogs in Wonderland, revealed today that a Radio 1 festival slated to take place in Dundee, Scotland, will also make an appearance in the virtual world of Second Life. The fest launches on Saturday, May 13, featuring streaming audio and nearly-live video highlights beamed across the internet from the real-world locale. Performers include Primal Scream, Snow Patrol, Keane, Pink, and Feeder. Sadly, the bootlegged version of U2 unique to Second Life will not be making an appearance.

According to Taylor, "Every virtual festival-goer will get a wee digital radio to take away with them, which will broadcast Radio 1 in-game, wherever you are. There's also, I hear, these Radio 1 teeshirts for your avatars. And dancing. And a chance that you could appear on-screen at the actual festival - the jumbotrons may or may not take screengrabs of the in-game festivalgoers." This is a fairly high-profile event for Second Life, although it's not the first live music event to be staged across virtual and actual space.
  Virtual ‘Pussy Cat Dolls Lounge’ Open For Business  
Posted 2006-05-08 by Tony Walsh
Modern burlesquers the Pussy Cat Dolls lend their brand-power to a virtual environment where visitors can dance, chat and be exposed to advertising. In a preview press-release sent out in mid-April, the Pussy Cat Dolls Lounge (now abbreviated to "PCD Lounge") was touted as "a holy grail for partners/advertisers (such as media companies & music artists) who are always seeking new ways to reach teens." A link to Universal Music via the PCD web site, an in-world screenshot Universal-friendly billboard, and the fact that the Pussy Cat Dolls are Universal artists suggests that sponsorship of the PCD Lounge is already locked in.

The PCD Lounge features a 3d virtual world populated by cel-shaded, customizable avatars. Activities include listening to music and sitting in a hot tub. The Lounge's communication channel is AIM-compatible, allowing cross-talk between the virtual and "real" world. Unfortunately, PCD Loungers can't yet share a hot tub with AIM users. The Lounge is currently in beta, but according to its official web site, will be released in May--which gives Evil Twin Studios, the makers of the product, 3 weeks to launch.
  ‘Second Life’ Inhospitable For Some  
Posted 2006-04-18 by Tony Walsh
While the virtual world of Second Life has grown rapidly since 2005, the number of residents logged in at any given time hovers around 6,000--about 3% of the total number of accounts created--and is usually scattered across Second Life's massive, contiguous 3D spaces. It sometimes becomes difficult to find more than a handful of gathered avatars in a single spot. Combine this with frequent, required software patches for the client "viewer" that connects to the virtual world, resident-initiated attacks on the "grid" of servers that binds Second Life together, crotchety performance on either or both of the server and client end of things, an overabundance of information, sub-par search tools, and an overall lack of creative cohesion. What you end up with is a harsh environment for some newcomers to adjust to, despite the world's boom in population.

Metroblogging co-founder Sean Bonner isn't sure what to make of "Sucknd Life." Although his localblog network added the game world of Azeroth to its stable of real locales, Bonner isn't adding Second Life any time soon. On his personal blog, Bonner wrote: "Here's my usual Second Life experience - Log in. wait for everything around me to load. Keep waiting. Finally loads, Try to move, no luck. Keep trying. Keep having no luck... check the map to try and find some people. Ok, there's some. Teleport there. Oh, that's a private zone that I can't get to, so instead I've been teleported off to this other place where no one is....Finally get some place where there are other people. They are all Away or talking about scripts. I try to talk to several of them. No one ever responds."

Continue reading: ‘Second Life’ Inhospitable For Some
  Warner Bros Records Seeks ‘Second Life’ Mini-World  
Posted 2006-04-08 by Tony Walsh
Ethan Kaplan, Director of Technology for Warner Bros Records, is looking for "someone who knows Second Life like the back of their hand to create a mini-world type thing for a band of ours." While Kaplan wouldn't offer any further details, he promised to let us know when the virtual world project is ready to go public.

Let's hope the Warner Bros effort does better in Second Life than Wells Fargo's Stagecoach Island.
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