How do I send my music to listeners in Second Life? Shoutcast, Icecast, and streaming explained

Music in Second Life operates on a technology known as Shoutcast. Shoutcast, along with its open source compatible follow-on Icecast, is the same technology that underpins all of internet radio. When you stream your music into Second Life, you are essentially operating your own internet radio station!
This article explains the links in the chain between the musician and the listeners. Technologies and software components are described for each link in the chain.

DJs, karaoke track artists, singer/songwriters, and bands can all find a ready-made, world-wide, paying audience in Second Life. What all is involved in getting your music streamed into Second Life?

Music in Second Life operates on a technology known as Shoutcast. Shoutcast, along with its open source compatible follow-on Icecast, is the same technology that underpins all of internet radio. When you stream your music into Second Life, you are essentially operating your own internet radio station!

Overview

There are several links in the chain between you creating your music and the listener hearing your music.

  1. – you create your music on a computer
  2. – a program known as a source client encodes your music for the server
  3. – a Shoutcast/Icecast streaming server broadcasts the music to multiple Second Life viewers
  4. – the listeners’ Second Life viewer plays your music for their enjoyment

Let’s look a little deeper at each stage of this process.

Music Creation

Again the first step in the chain is that your music must be input to a computer. If you are DJing from WinAmp, iTunes or other music player, this is already taken care of by the music player program. If you are performing in real-time — such as playing a guitar and singing — you will need to input your performance into the computer’s sound card through the use of a microphone and/or a mixer. Many computers have microphones built right into them that would be suitable, though you may notice an increase in sound quality with a more sophisticated microphone.

Source Client

The Source Client is the link between your computer and the internet. This is a program or utility that runs on your computer. It has essentially two responsibilities. It creates and maintains a connection to the Shoutcast/Icecast server, and it encodes your music into the datastream that the server needs. Source Clients are available both as standalone programs, and as plugins that operate with your Music Creation program.

Shoutcast/Icecast streaming server

The Shoutcast or Icecast streaming server is a ‘virtual machine’ that runs on a computer. While you can technically install the server on your own computer — even the one you are using as the Music Creation computer — it is generally inadvisable to do so. The reason for this is that the primary function of the Shoutcast/Icecast server is to take as an input the single stream from your Source Client, and redistribute it as any number of of streams — one for each listener. Each additional listener consumes more bandwidth. A typical home internet connection can accommodate only a few such listeners before all the available or upload/download capacity is exhausted.

As such, a Shoutcast/Icecast server is most typically rented — as one would rent space on a web host. There are numerous companies that rent streaming servers for a few dollars per month. Further, most Second Life venues have already rented such servers. If you are slated to perform at a given venue, they will most often have you employ their existing streaming server.

Second Life viewer

The last link in the chain is up to the Second Life viewer. Each parcel of land in Second Life is associated with a Music URL. When an avatar steps onto a given parcel, the Second Life sim sends the Second Life viewer this Music URL. This URL should be the location of your Shoutcast/Icecast streaming server. The Second Life viewer then sets up a connection to the streaming server. It accepts the stream of your music from the server, decodes it, and outputs it through the audio system of the computer upon which the Second Life viewer is running. In this manner, each listener is able to hear the music you are making. Your listeners may even be on the opposite side of the Earth!

What do I need to get started?

While all the pieces described above are needed to stream your music into Second Life, only a minimum set is required to get up and running. The absolute minimum is that you will need a Music Creation program and a Source Client. There are many options available in these categories, both free and commercial. They are available for Windows, Mac, Linux, and other platforms.

As mentioned above, there are many venues that supply Shoutcast/Icecast streaming servers for your use. I spent about a year as a Second Life musician before I decided to rent a stream of my own.

The last item is the Second Life viewer. While you do not technically need this to stream into Second Life, you will want it anyhow. Otherwise, you will find it difficult to connect with venues and fans. There really isn’t any downside, as it is free. Plus, Second Life is just a lot of fun!

Is it for you?

After reading the above, you may be eager to delve into Second Life as another marketplace for your musical endeavors. As you can see, the opportunities are nearly endless. Further, it costs nothing to try your hand at it — plus, it’s just a whole lot of fun. No matter what sort of musician you may be, there is another market waiting for you in Second Life.

Questions? Comments? Let me know if there is any specific aspect of being a Second Life musician that you’d like me to cover!

This is but one article in a series on opportunities for musicians in Second Life. Further articles will cover resources, technical issues, groups and organizations, revenue streams, publicity outlets, and more. Next up, however, will be a survey of the software choices for Music Creation and Source Clients required to pipe your music inworld. I hope you join us in this journey to a strange and wonderful new world. In the meantime, you may wish to do some early exploring on your own — it is free to get started! Just click the link below:


secret to convert facebook friends to fans with a Fan Badge on your profile linking to your page

It is hard to underestimate the impact that social networking has had upon the music industry. With over 350 Million active users, and a six month growth of 70% in the first half of 2009, facebook is destined to be the dominant social media site for some time.

Most bands and musicians are probably aware of the value of facebook pages as opposed to profiles. Accordingly, most musicians maintain pages in addition to their personal profiles. But facebook does not automatically make others aware that a personal profile may also be related to a fan page. But how does one create an awareness of a page’s existence?

The process I describe herein will allow the artist to permanently and prominently display a link to a given page from their profile. Further, this link will appear in the profile’s sidebar, so it can be seen whether the Wall tab or the Info tab is currently being displayed. Better yet, the link will also contain the page’s ‘profile’ picture, leading to recognition for your page’s graphical brand.

By making it easier for people to find your page, you should collect new legions of fans.

It is hard to underestimate the impact that social networking has had upon the music industry. The entire market is being reinvented with the demise of traditional record companies, and the ascendancy of direct band-to-fan marketing. While a successful marketing campaign would use multiple outlets, it seems clear that the most important social media site at this time is facebook. With over 350 Million active users, and a six month growth of 70% in the first half of 2009, facebook is destined to be the dominant social media site for some time.

Personal Profile vs. Band Page

Individuals register a personal profile with facebook. Publicly-known brands, companies, figures, and most germanely musicians, can also register a Page. A Page is similar to a profile, but comes with some additional benefits. Among these benefits are the ability to advertise the page, and a relatively unrestricted number of fans (as opposed to the hard limit of the number of friends any given profile accommodates). Other benefits of the Page include:

  • info tab tailored to your business type
  • additional widgets such as a music player
  • review section
  • ability to share page administration tasks
  • analytics on page interactions

Making others aware

Most bands and musicians are probably aware of the value of pages as opposed to profiles. Accordingly, most musicians maintain pages in addition to their personal profiles. But facebook does not automatically make others aware that a personal profile may also be related to a fan page. How does one create an awareness of a page’s existence? A person can become a fan of a given page. In doing so, facebook will by default display this linkage upon the Pages section of the Info tab of the profile. However, there is no way to force facebook to display an artist’s own page in preference to the other pages which are displayed therein. What is displayed there is a small random selection from all the pages of which one is a fan. As such, there is no guarantee that the artist’s own page will be selected for display at all.

The process I describe herein will allow the artist to permanently and prominently display a link to a given page from your profile. Further, this link will appear in the profile’s sidebar, so it can be seen whether the Wall tab or the Info tab is currently being displayed. Better yet, the link will also contain the page’s ‘profile’ picture, leading to recognition for your page’s graphical brand. You can see an example of this on the left sidebar of my personal facebook profile.

Two elements

There are two elements to pull together to obtain this benefit. The first is that we need the ability to place arbitrary content on our profile’s sidebar. The second is to create the desired linkage to place in the sidebar. The former we will accomplish with an application called Custom Profile Box. The latter we will accomplish with a native facebook tool called a Fan Badge. The following is a step-by-step tutorial on these objectives.

Custom Profile Box

Our first objective is to add the application ‘Custom Profile Box’. This application will create an element that we can fill with arbitrary content. We will later fill this element with our page link Fan Badge, and then move it to our profile sidebar.

  1. From your personal profile, on the lower left select ‘Applications’, then select ‘Browse More Applications’.
  2. In the ‘Search Applications’ field, enter “Custom Profile Box”.
  3. Click on the desired ‘Custom Profile Box’ application in the search results.
  4. From the application’s Fan page, click ‘Go To Application’.
  5. Click the ‘Allow’ button.
  6. Go back to your profile wall.
  7. Below your status entry box, click ‘Options’, then click ‘Settings’.
  8. Click the link ‘applications settings page’.
  9. On the list of apps, a drop down ‘Show’ menu select ‘Authorized’ to show all the apps authorized to access your profile data.
  10. Click on ‘Edit Settings’ link next to ‘Custom Profile Box’.
  11. In the pop-up window, make sure the ‘Profile’ tab is highlighted. *
  12. Next to the “Box” item is the word ‘Add’. Click on this to add a box to your profile for this app.
  13. Decide and modify the Privacy — I suggest setting this to “Everyone”.

You are done setting up the app.

* There have been reported cases where there is no ‘Profile’ tab on the popup at this point. Further reports indicate that this may be alleviated by editing the Box, and adding some content, then returning to this step of the process. More as it develops.

This problem, and its solution, are now more fully understood. The issue is that the Custom Profile Box application will not have a ‘Profile’ tab on the Edit Application Settings popup until such time that some data (any dummy data is sufficient) has been added. The solution is to place some data in the Custom Profile Box as per steps 1-5 of ‘Place the Fan Badge in the Custom Profile Box’ below. After that, return to this process. Note that any data is sufficient — it does not yet need to be the code for the Fan Badge, and it does not need to be entered in ‘Source’ mode (though it will need to be later, as described below).

This also applies to the sister application ‘HTML Profile Box’.

Generate a Fan Badge

We have so far installed the ‘Custom Profile Box’ into our profile. Next we need to generate a Fan Badge for our page. Later we will place this Fan Badge in our Custom Profile Box and move the Custom Profile Box to our profile sidebar. Oddly, to make a Page Badge, you need to travel through your (personal) Profile’s Profile Badge link. The code for the Fan Badge will be copied and pasted into the Custom Profile Box’s editor. Accordingly, it may be easiest if you open another browser tab for this next bit.

  1. Go to your personal page’s Info tab.
  2. Near bottom left is a link entitled ‘Create¬† Profile Badge’. Click it to go to the Profile Badge page.
  3. On the Profile Badge screen there is a column where you can choose what type of badge you want. Choose ‘Fan Badges’. This will take you to the Fan Badges Widget screen.
  4. On the Fan Badges Widget screen, find the dropdown entitled ‘Select a Page’. From that dropdown, select the page for which you wish to create a badge. Note that you must first be a fan of that page.
  5. From the 2nd field on the Fan Badges Widget screen, copy the HTML code for your Fan Badge.

Place the Fan Badge in the Custom Profile Box

At this point, we have installed the Custom Profile Box application, and created a Fan Badge for our destination page. The code for the Fan Badge is in out buffer. We next need to paste this into the Custom Profile Box. Later, we will move the Custome Profile Box to our profile’s sidebar. Go back to your earlier browser tab.

  1. Click on the ‘Applications’ status bar menu and select the app from the pop up window.
  2. An editor will load, and takes 30 secs or so on busy connection.
  3. On the editors toolbar, click the button named ‘Source’. This allows you to enter raw FBML code.
  4. In the editor window paste the (FBML) code for the Fan Badge, which should be in your buffer from the earlier objective.
  5. To save your creation to the app box, click on the ‘Update’ button. If all is well your box should appear in the boxes section of your profile.
  6. Click on your profile, and select the boxes tab. See your app box and your creation in it.
  7. You can drag your box to any desired location on the page by left clicking the box and dragging around.

Move it to the profile sidebar

OK, we have added the Custom Profile Box application, generated a Fan Badge for our destination page, and placed the fan badge in the Custom Profile Box. The last step is to move our Custom Profile Box from our profile’s Boxes tab to the sidebar.

  1. Go to your profile
  2. Select the Boxes tab
  3. Locate the Custom Profile Box on the Boxes tab
  4. There is a pencil at the upper right corner of the Custom Profile Box. Click it.
  5. Select ‘Move to Wall tab’.
  6. Go to your wall. You should see the Custom Profile Box, with your Fan Badge linking to your artist page, in the sidebar. You can change the location of this sidebar element by left-clicking and dragging it where you want it. There is however, the restriction that it cannot appear higher in the sidebar than the standard facebook sidebar elements.

Collect more fans!

That’s it. Now all visitors to your personal profile will be met with a graphically branded link to your artist page. By making it easier for people to find your page, you should collect new legions of fans.

Got a facebook topic you would like to see covered? Let me know in the comments section!

Second Life provides musicians with new moneymaking opportunities

There is a burgeoning new online market for musicians of all types. Recording artists, performers, singer/songwriters, turntablists, playlist DJs, karaoke aficionados, and more can find paying audiences in Second Life. This article provides a top level view of Second Life from a musician’s perspective. It quantifies the market opportunity, and touches on some of the considerations in reaching this worldwide music market.

There is a burgeoning new online market for musicians of all types. Recording artists, performers, singer/songwriters, turntablists, playlist DJs, karaoke aficionados, and more can find paying audiences in Second Life.

Second Life

So what is Second Life? It is an online 3D virtual world, or Metaverse, where people meet and interact with each other through digital ‘avatars’ in a virtual landscape. Visually, this Metaverse bears a passing resemblance to Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORPGs) such as World of Warcraft. However, this resemblance carries no further than the ‘look’ of such MMORPGs. Second Life is an alternative universe where avatars (people) are free to carry out whatever activities they wish. In my mind, the three qualities of such a metaverse that distinguish it from an MMORPG are:

  1. There is no previously defined goal or objective by which one may ‘win’. Instead, avatars live the life of their choosing.
  2. Everything inworld is created by the residents. With enough talent and time, you can recreate every thing you would encounter in the metaverse — be it a house, a landform, an article of clothing, a manner of moving, or any other ‘thing’, tangible or intangible, that can be discerned.
  3. Second Life has a freely functioning real economy, with a unit of currency that is freely exchanged to and from US dollars.

Size of the economy

So how big is this potential marketplace? Linden Lab, the creator of Second Life, reports that over $1 Billion in resident-to-resident transactions have been made since the inception of the metaverse. In 2010, the projected figure is in excess of $500 Million per year, and growing quickly. As quoted from San Fransisco Business Times:

In 2008, Second Life users spent more than $360 million on virtual goods ranging from land to designer shoes to lavish homes. The Second Life economy almost doubled in size – 94 percent up – between the second quarter of 2009 and the same period in 2008. User-to-user transactions now amount to nearly $50 million per month.

To put this figure in perspective, in 2009, all sales of digital downloads of music combined totaled about $1.9 Billion — barely a little over three times the size of Second Life’s economy. Indeed, Second Life’s economy is larger than the GDP of some real countries.

Music and other economic activity

Of course, not all this money reflects musical purchases. There are many other activities and goods vying for the avatar consumer’s dollar. Again from the aforementioned source:

In total, users around the world have spent roughly 115,000 years in Second Life socializing, attending live concerts, creating, selling and shopping for virtual goods, learning languages, attending business meetings etc. User hours grew 33 percent year-over-year to an all-time high of 126 million in the second quarter of this year….

However, music does represent a significant part of the overall inworld economy. At any moment of the night or day, there are multiple performances occurring across the grid. Rock, country, Hip Hop, or Americana … solos, duos, bands … some completely live, some with backing tracks, some doing mimed ‘role play’ … about any form of music you can imagine can find a worldwide audience on Second Life.

At any given moment, there are dozens of thousands of people logged in as their avatars to the Second Life virtual world, or ‘grid’. And for many of these people, attending musical events is their primary reason for being inworld. They visit virtual venues, hosting musicians on their stages, at virtual concerts. There they can sit and listen, or dance and interact with the other avatars onsite. While partying there, they may converse with the others in text chat about any given topic. As a musician, you are also able to see the local chat, thereby providing you with a direct communication channel between you and your fans. This provides a higher level of interactivity than typically possible in real life.

Dancing to live music
Dancing to live music

Employment in Second Life music

There are several broad categories of musicians performing within Second Life. Linden Labs makes an official distinction between Live performance and other forms of music:

A live performance in Second Life is presented by a person who is represented in-world by an avatar, and is creating the performance in real-time, streaming the audio (or audio and video) portions into Second Life as they are being created.

Playing back a previously recorded performance, whether audio, video or Second Life machinima, is generally not considered to be a live performance if there are no live elements performed while the audience is watching the show.

We do not intend to imply here that either Live or non-live music is superior to another. This is just being pointed out in order to understand how to present your performance consistent with inworld norms. If you are presenting a playlist DJ type performance, it would be a breach of protocol to list this as a Live Music event — however, it would indeed be appropriate to list it under the Nightlife/Entertainment event category.

And the variety of opportunities is quite staggering. I have seen the following types of acts, all paid for their performances:

  • Playlist DJs performing various styles of music for the dancing enjoyment of the venue’s patrons
  • Scratch or BeatMatch DJs creating unique layered performances using prerecorded tracks and synthesizers for real-time creation
  • Singer/songwriter types with a guitar or keyboard and vocals
  • People singing over Karaoke backing tracks of hit songs
  • Solo musicians performing with backing tracks of their own creation
  • Duos, trios, and full groups completely live
  • ‘Tribute’ acts, where the ‘musicians’ construct and animate elaborate imitations of chart-topping groups — to the original recordings by those groups
  • ‘Role Play’ or ‘listening’ sessions where original artists mime performances to their own recordings

Much as in real life, some performances are the main focus of the venue, and others are an adjunct to some other commercial or social venture — such as a mall opening, or a mingler. There are also inworld opportunities to sell digital downloads of your music — either limited to playing inworld or as universal mp3s.

Is it for you?

After reading the above, you may be eager to delve into Second Life as another marketplace for your musical endeavors. As you can see, the opportunities are nearly endless. Further, it costs nothing to try your hand at it — plus, it’s just a whole lot of fun. No matter what sort of musician you may be, there is another market waiting for you in Second Life.

This is but one article in a series on opportunities for musicians in Second Life. Further articles will cover resources, technical issues, groups and organizations, revenue streams, publicity outlets, and more. Next up, however, will be a brief overview of the software required to pipe your music inworld. I hope you join us in this journey to a strange and wonderful new world. In the meantime, you may wish to do some early exploring on your own — it is free to get started! Just click the link below:

Secondlife.com

Second Life for musicians — the series

Hi All!

I am starting a series on Second Life. Second Life is an interactive 3D world where one interacts with others through a digital representation of their selves. This platform has numerous musicmaking opportunities. Plus, it’s just a whole lot of immersive fun!

In this series, I will cover what Second Life is, and how one gets started in it. I will speak to the market for music inworld, and the potential for making real dollars from such. I will cover the technologies involved in piping your music into the virtual world, and how to acquire and configure software for doing so. I will cover the nature of paying gigs available, and speak of various venues that cater to new musicians. I will also cover the various promotional avenues available to garner an attentive audience.

Join me as we discuss all these issues and more. Together, we’ll embark upon a grand adventure in bringing your music to a new and very sizable audience. Best of all, basic participation is completely free — including all you’ll need to be an SL musician.

If you can’t wait for the next installment in this series, you can dive in right now with a free account — just click below!


Travel-Virtual Worlds

flawless digital copy? maybe!

In a previous post, I bemoaned a problem i was encountering with some supposedly identical CDs. I had a pile of CDs from a project, which should have had identical tracks on each — but ripping and comparing the resultant files yielded miscompares.

After collecting further data, it appears that perhaps the miscompares are explainable. As it so happens, one of the people doing the duplication did not understand the differences between .wav, .mp3, .wma, etc. file formats. While all the CDs were audio CDs, they were burned at different times, some having been ripped as mp3, or as wma, or as…

Perhaps the best news is that I was able to locate proper mastered versions of each track that had not been through this rough treatment. I procured copies of each track as they came from the mastering house.

Even better — the process seems very durable. After sequencing the tracks, I uploaded them to our store on BandCamp. This upload was in the form of .wav files. I then downloaded these files in .flac format. Then I used MediaMonkey to convert the .flac files to .wav files. Finally, I used ExactAudioCopy‘s built in .wav file comparison tool to compare the original files to the ones procured from BandCamp. Again, these were uplloaded as .wav, converted to .flac by BandCamp, downloaded as .flac, then converted back to .wav. In each case, the files’ audio portion matched exactly.

So I again believe in the integrity of digital audio. Woo-hoo!