Virtual Gigs

The movie Avatar was released last Friday. Haven’t seen it yet, but I plan on getting the 3-D glasses and experiencing it in a movie theater very soon. Critics say it revolutionalizes the way animation will be done in film. It reminds me of my experience a couple of years ago with Second Life.

Second Life is a virtual online world. You can join for free, but to really get the most out of it requires spending some money. The first thing you do is create an alter ego for yourself – an avatar. You decide how it looks, how it is dressed, how it moves, what vehicle it drives, where it lives, what it does. Some things are already made for you, but the good stuff is scripted and created by experts who charge for their services. The currency is Linden Dollars, which actually have a real monetary conversion rate. 5,000 Linden Dollars is currently worth about $20.00 US.

You can buy “land” – even own your own island. You can open up a business with a storefront on a main street in one of the cities. By spending a little real money, you can have a great virtual second life!

What about entertainment? It’s there, too. In real time – streaming to you live from someone’s desktop computer. Yesterday, I met one of the more popular Second Life entertainers – Noma Falta – in the flesh. She’s been “gigging” online now for the past two years and has built up a great reputation as one of the best blues singers in the online community. There’s a fee to watch and hear her perform, and it’s enabled her to bring in a steady stream of revenue to the point that this is pretty much all that she does.

You have to know that this wasn’t an instant thing. It took a long time for her to get the skills to not only control her avatar in real time but also stream a live performance over the internet and interact with the paying customers in the virtual room. She’s running an 8-core Mac, if that gives you an idea of how serious this is.

She also plays blues with a couple of guys in other countries in real time using NINJAM. She plays bass and sings from her location in the US, the drummer is in Japan, and the guitarist is in Germany. Sometimes they join her at the gig in Second Life.

It’s just nice to know that in this day and age where brick-and-mortar clubs are expecting free entertainment or even charging musicians to play, that the virtual online world offers a way to earn a living.

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