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Live Music Shows: Free or Not?
by Scarlett Qi
December 12, 2006

Venue owners and musicians feel strongly about musical shows in Second Life. All think they add to the richness of the SL experience. But charging for them? That is where the controversy lies.

The rescheduled SL Blues n’ Roots gig (originally scheduled for November 10 and now moved to December 15 between 6-9 p.m.) has been much of the gossip around the live music scene. Forty tickets were sold at L$1000 each. The concert sold out in 2 ½ days through advertising in private groups. Artists performing are Komuso Tokugawa - Slide/Harp BoogieBluesNoise, Charles Bristol Blues Project - Funky Piedmont, BluesNance Brody - BluesRoots Acoustic Guitar/vocals and Ricardo Sprocket- Piano Blues/Vocals.

Komuso Tokugawa echoes the feelings of many musicians who feel that the charging for live performances varies depending on the circumstance. “Musicians in SL have very different goals, objectives and technical setups that need to be maintained (and that) = money.

Working musicians (journeymen/women) who are earning a living gigging in rl/SL versus wannabe pop stars willing to play for free to get noticed versus professionals promoting their latest CD release, versus jam sessions, versus open mics…”

Second Life live musicians offered a wide variety of opinions on the matter:

Brumm Bricklin, singer and guitarist, feels that “open mic should stay free. I really love to play and really don’t play for money,” he said.

“In the big events, where you have more than one musician and/or special location, charges would be appropriate. It’s all about getting the music heard, but not taken advantage of,” said singer and songwriter Cylindrian Rutabaga.

JueL Resistance, songwriter and singer, mentions that in real life musicians can make $50 to $100 U.S. dollars in a show, but if paid L$1000 -the payment is just under $4USD. Approximately $100 US Dollars would equal L$29149, a rate not many SL musicians earn. “But if we focus on the money, we lose our spirit in the music. It’s kind of a Catch 22,” she concluded.

“One thing venue owners have to keep in mind is that music is a huge attraction to their establishments in SL, incredible advertising,” Rutabaga said. “All of us have to work together to keep the economy going in SL for the musicians and the venues.”

Most musicians believe that if venue owners start charging for events, tips will go down even more.

Ricardo Sprocket, pianist and vocalist, had this to say: “There is an assumption that musicians just show up and play, but we put a lot of time and effort into our shows. For one hour weekly scheduled performances, the venue owner should just pay the musician and not charge the listener.”

Matthew Perreault, guitarist, vocalist and songwriter, added his point of view: “Well, musicians are providing a service that many people value. It’s really no different than paying for anything else you want. Plus it gives musicians a budget to create more music. I’m using the money I’ve earned in SL tips to pay session players on my new album, which fans in SL have expressed interest in. The arts have always needed patrons, and SL residents I’ve met have shown no hesitation at all to offer their financial support for music they love.”

Mel Cheeky, guitarist and vocalist, said, “For such a long time now, live music has always been free to the listeners. If they were made to pay a fee to come listen, I doubt that as many people would. If they did, they would not pay the musician as much in tips. I just think it’s a very negative thing to do. I would rather play for free, so no fee would be placed. But not everyone can afford to do so.”

A popular musical venue is the Old Salt’s Pub has considered charging a cover fee. CaveCub Milk, one of the owners of the pub, had these comments “Charging for performances is not done to make ends meet for the club owner. Sim owners shouldn’t expect for the musicians to pay for their sims and should foot the cost for that themselves. We provide two streams that the musician can log into, at no cost to them. The purpose of a cover charge is to pay the musicians the fees that they charge. However, the fans should pay the musicians and not the sim owners, just as they buy tickets to see a live show in real life.”

“I’ve been here since 2004, and it’s a place for me to enjoy what I love and give back to the community what I love - that has been so much fun for me since I started playing. What we are asking is that the fans recognize that part of the reason the musicians are here is for two things: exposure and to get paid. We don’t want to charge a cover charge. Basically the cover charge would be collected to guarantee the musicians the fee they charge, instead of depending on the measly tips some people pay,” Milk concluded.

The Three Lions Pub also hosts many musical performances. Phill Plasma, owner, shared his feelings: “Well from my perspective, I am very reluctant to charge for any entertainment at The Three Lions Pub. The whole point of the place is an escape from the commercial side of SL. I have a couple of tip jars and that goes toward paying entertainment, DJs and live music. I do not really run the pub as a business as such. It started out as a place for friends to hang out and has now grown to 1500 members. I pay the island costs out of my own pocket. Any money I make from tips, sploder, etc., goes straight back into providing more entertainment."

“I think I have the same concerns as every other island owner. We are concerned that SL is pricing the venues such as mine out of business with the increased tier pricing. There is no way to run this sort of club on the mainland. The sheer number of people in here some nights would be unfair to local residents. It will be a shame for SL as a whole with less community feel, if island venues are forced to close. I hope it doesn’t come to that,” Plasma said.

A “fair” tip caused a lot of discussion. A good tip is approximately L$300, an average one more like L$100 according to Resistance. “Tips aren’t expected; they’re nice to have,” Sprocket says. “Don’t stay away because you don’t have the tip money. The steady listeners are so crucial to this scene.”

Charging for large multi-musician performances seemed to be acceptable for all musicians interviewed, especially if a benefit concert. In a single musician concert, most musicians wanted the option to decide if they would accept a ticket fee or tips. Club owners wanted to be supportive and assist musicians in getting fair compensation for their musical performances.

Lots of controversy – but one thing all agreed on. If the listeners don’t come, a musician is just playing for Mom and the cat. It will be interesting to see how this evolves in Second Life.

Article can be found here.

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