January 6, 2012

The Business Side of Second Life Music - Promotions

When it comes to my own live events in Second Life, I would say that about an hour in total is spent promoting each one of my regular shows in Second Life. Of course the bigger the event, the earlier promotions need to be started and the more time is spent on marketing and PR. The combined time Brandy / Kalli Birman and I spend on marketing goes into Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Second Friends, Second Life event listings, Second Life notices, creation of a promo poster for the venue to set out, etc.

Contrarily, I would offer that only about half of the venues that hold live music shows or events of other sorts actually do any more promotions than sending a few SL notices and maybe a blog post. This is what I want to post about on this section of "The Business Side of Second Life Music" series.

I will post about my own personal experience and how I do things. Venue owners who are interested in booking me for a live show are given a constantly updated notecard, either from Brandy or myself, complete with bio information, links to my websites, blog, YouTube and other places they can check me out. I used to do this exact same thing with Real Life venues but we called it a Media Kit and Demo. It included a CD and a typed up bio about me or the band I was in, offering information about each of the members, accomplishments, accolades, some of the more well known places we were able to "brag" about having played there, etc. All of my real life material is still presented to SL venues, only it is in digital form... in Second Life form... but it's all still there. The point is that we are showing these venues that we have something to promote for them, including their own business.free, free, music, marketing, blog, free, free, free, music, pr, baby, son, kid, child, love, seo,blog,free,free,free,free,free, live music, make money, money, free money, gift, gifts, seth regan, mankind tracer, secondlife, second life, sl, facebook, twitter, social, alexa rank

One other thing that we mention in speaking with venues is a very important part of the entire equation. As I see it, coming from owning businesses pretty much my entire adult life, a venue wants to have their name, brand, etc. in front of as many people as they can. Budweiser wants that too. Apple. Microsoft. And especially the small startup. I would place SL venues in this category. They are a small business trying to compete in the world of other businesses, with our world of course being, Second Life. When we promote, we probably reach 350,000 pairs of yes for each vent we do and probably about half a million on larger events.

Why then is it that a venue relies solely on the artists to promote the event? This isn't true for all venues as I've stated earlier, but in my own experience a good number of venues don't understand that they are in business and for that matter, don't really understand business. A venue should have a professional logo. A venue should have a website... a fully functioning business website. A venue should WANT to post in as many places as they can get their hands on. Why? It will drive traffic to their location. Isn't that what they are after?

If you own a venue in Second Life, then you have gone into business ownership. If you've never owned a business before opening your SL venue, let me suggest doing a bit of research on running a real life business. Predominantly, the marketing aspect. You've invested money and obviously, you'd like a return. Some might say they do it just "for the love of it" and they're happy to pay the bill out of their own pockets to keep the venue running. To these people I say hat's off and thank you. To the others, the vast majority, I would go on the assumption that they are in business to hopefully earn a few $L from the business. All the time, I see artists posting their shows all over Facebook mentioning the venue, over and over, but only a handful of venue owners' posts are there. For the sake of your business, share the load with the artists you book, offer some of your own promotions and I can assure you, you will see the results given the right circumstances.

Brandy and I happen to own the Tracer|Birman Agency which deals with this business from professional graphic and website design all the way through marketing, PR, SEO and so forth. We don't spend time promoting our own company, thats not what companies hire us for. In all honesty, we prefer to keep a low profile and deal with companies one on one, not catering to the masses. This gives a more personal approach and more focus on each and every project. I'm not mentioning this as a shameless self promotion, but only to make you aware, as the business owner, there ARE companies out there that can help you grow your company. You might not be aware of them, but there are some amazing professionals, right in Second Life even!

For the record, I happen to be very lucky to have Brandy working with me as she knows a lot about marketing and happens to be very good at it, plus we're on the same page with many things when it comes to marketing. And I would suggest that any venue, artists... ANY business for that matter, consider hiring someone who knows how to market, promote and handle PR. 

The Business Side of Second Life Music - The Show

Making the transition from Real Life shows to Second Life, or starting to include Second Life shows in your calendar of performances can be a bit shaky at first. I remember when I first started performing over 5 years ago in Second life. I had split from my band, and was writing a new album, but was still missing playing live. I think I saw an ad for Second Life and thought it just sounded really cool. So I joined.

There's a few things I picked up while touring, both RL and SL, that I want to share. Likely, you know some or all of this if you've done any performing at all, but for the benefit of those that don't, I thought I'd put it down.

What I'd like to cover really quickly here, for the benefit of others who might be considering starting to perform in Second Life, are just a few simple pointers that might help you out a bit. Like I said before, I think many of you will know this stuff, but it never hurts to hear from someone who's been doing it a while. And trust me, I'm guilty of at least a few of the following so I'm talking from my own experience of falling on my face at least a few times!

Before starting in Second Life, I hadn't really tried the whole "streaming" thing and the one thing that threw me a bit at first was the delay time from when I play, until the audience heard what I played. This is known as "latency". Usually, when I record my music, there is such a slight latency from my instrument to the computer that it isn't even audible... we're talking maybe only a few mili seconds. Streaming into SL on the other hand can give a latency from 5-25 seconds (to those on the receiving end). The reason for such a wide discrepancy can be based on several factors including distance, operating system, the computer itself, Second Life preference settings, etc. When you become accustomed to the latency, you'll begin gain a feel for the change in typical live show "protocol" you might need to alter or otherwise effect.
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Promoting your shows, event and yourself, in my opinion, is probably THE most overlooked part of performing live in Second Life. There are many avenues of promoting your events, many of them free. First and most obvious is Second Life Events > Live Music. I'm very optimistic that the layout  of Events listings will be fixed soon to be less cluttered with different kinds of events, more separated in fact.

Right now under Live Music, there are the Live Musicians' listings but there are also DJ events listed, Karaoke nights, Track Singers and more. I suggested that these be separated into individual categories to allow the Second Life community easier access to what it is they're looking for and to eliminate the current clutter of this jumbled mess we now have to work with. In the meantime, it is what it is and it's THERE so use it, be sure to have every one of your events listed by the venue if possible and if not, get invited to the land group and do it yourself. 

You might also consider creating your own Facebook Group and/or page if you haven't already, create a Twitter account and tweet about all your shows, post on Myspace and so on. Google offers free calendars which you can quickly and easily embed onto your website or blog, letting people know where and when you'll be performing.

You can also join Second Friends for free! This is a growing social network designed by myself for members of Second Life ONLY! You can list your events including, images, description and the SLurl. You can post whatever you want like a link to your own website where people can listen to your music, links to your YouTube or other social networks Keep in mind that you can also easliy and quickly "share" your event to the other networks like Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and more. JOIN FREE HERE!

Personally I also like to design my own promo posters for each show. They always include my picture, my logo, the venue name, date and time. Ok to be fair, I do own a website/graphic design firm in real life so I have the luxury of being able to do it myself. But even if you have someone on your staff who can create the first promo, then it's simply a matter of changing the venue name, date and time info for each show, then upload the texture. This takes, seriously... all of about 3 minutes. So if you have to pay someone, make sure it's not robbery!

I cannot stress this enough. Arrive early at your shows! Many venues' owners have likely invested time and probably some money in your show. When a venue owner sees that you are late, haven't set out your board, tip jar, etc and you're rushing to get it done, it also tells them that you are not serious about your career, or about the work you are doing for their venue. Absolutely right... you are working for the venue when you perform there. More on that later.

Seriously though, try to get your stuff out early. Chances are there are people already at the location, on the sim, etc. Why not have your logo and gear up for them to see anyways? Sure there are off days, we all have them. Just don't get "known" for being a last minute kinda performer.

After you've setup, before ANYTHING else... dear GOD please TUNE YOUR GUITAR!!! I remember one show in real life, when arrived barely on time and decided to skip tuning. So I started playing the first song of my first set and of course, right away I heard I was out of tune, but at that point, it was too late... or so I thought. I mean sure I could have just stopped after a few strums when I heard this abomination, excused myself for a minute from the audience (big deal right?), but instead I pressed on, playing the entire song out of tune. I can't tell you how quickly after that show, that I began tuning BEFORE every single show. Like I said, it's a simple thing, and certainly most musicians know this, but if on your first song you are out of tune, do you think people will be impressed. I mean I saw the expression of "YIKES!" on a few people's faces in the audience that night and trust me, I DON'T want that EVER again! In this regard, however, Second Life is not like in real life. In real life, people have already made the effort to get dressed, travel, park the car, get seated, etc. and they'll most likely stick around. But in SL, leaving is as easy as teleporting out. So make a great first impression by respecting the audience with a tuned instrument.

What this really comes down to, is just doing your best to sound as great as you can. Sure we all have our of nights, but if you willingly contribute to MAKING it an off night by playing on dead, out of tune strings, well that just shows you aren't serious about your music and haven't taken the audience into consideration. Again, I'm guilty of this too but it's a hard lesson learned to complete a relatively simple task.

Take this a step further and spend about 30 seconds making sure your gear is all plugged in, batteries working, no inputs crackling, etc. and if you come across this after you've already arrived late, you're going to be under the gun to rush for a quick fix which may crap out half way through your set. So to reiterate above, arrive early for this and other reasons. Personally, I prefer to just stay on top of things during the down time. I'm on the guitar daily so I know when things go sour, when strings lose their "shine", when cables start crapping out.

Through the course of your shows, make sure you ask for venue tips as well. The venue hired you, even on a tips only show, you are hired by the venue. The more tips you bring in, the better off the venue will be to be able to provide a place for live music in the future. Running a venue costs money too.

When people in the audience tip you personally, for the love of GOD, please make sure you thank them personally. I have been to shows where at the end of the show, the artist says "Thanks everyone for your tips!" Thanks "EVERYONE"? People are tipping you. Thank them... each and every one PERSONALLY! This isn't a ploy, this is respect. Let people know that you appreciate that they took the time to come to your event instead of the 50 others going on at the same time.

Continue on to the next part of the series: The Business Side of Second Life Music - Promotions

January 4, 2012

Humanoid Robots? Blade Runner watch out!

I caught this video on Yahoo about a Humanoid robot named Philip. It's definitely kind of creepy, but at the same time is an amazing indication of just how far technology has advanced in such a short time.

Check it out here:
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January 3, 2012

The Business Side of Second Life Music - Performing isn't Free!

It's no news that over the past few years, the economy is still in bad shape, not just here in the USA but globally. Its effects can be seen all over and similarly, in Second Life. Today I looked at the national average for gas prices on GasBuddy and it's almost $4.00 per gallon (at the time of writing this Blog). Lucky me, here in California we're at the top of that list at >$4.05 per gallon. As a good friend pointed out who lives in the UK "... where we pay $12 USD per gallon!"

There are many content creators (CC) in Second Life... fashion designers, animation creators, scripters, hair, shoes, on and on the list goes. These CC's provide something that SL residents purchase for $L which of course, equates to real money. NoLook at the time spent on creating a single pair of jeans for example. It could be a few hours or it could be more (in total amount of work). Once these jeans are done, the CC sets them for sale in their store(s) and if they know how to do a bit of marketing and if the jeans are of a good caliber and quality, they can sell for at least a few hundred $L... repeatedly.

Now let's take a look at a day in the life of a live performer in SL. There are performers who have to travel to a studio to hold their live performance and pay for studio time. For the sake of this example, let's take that travel time, studio costs and gas expense out of the equation for a minute. This performer has equipment like a guitar, which has strings, which most pros will change quite often. There is setup time, rehearsal time, writing new songs (as original artists do), learning new covers, purchasing backing tracks (for track singers). 

Brandy and I spend a good amount of time writing and sending out promos and marketing in Second Life, Facebook, blogs, the web, etc. for each and every performance/event I hold. Then the artist gets to the venue... early... because they have to setup the venue with their tip jar, group invite, etc. They then perform, usually for an hour, many playing free at tips only venues, hoping that the residents who have just spent $L1,000 on their avatar's hair will tip them a few hundred. Sadly, as I have experienced, most attendees do not tip. So an artist walks away after all this work and expense with maybe $10-$20.

Wait, it gets better. As I mentioned before, the jeans designer is done once they've finished designing and setting out their merchandise for sale. After that, each and every sale that comes in is what I like to call "cake".. A.K.A. recurring revenue or even Passive Income. They don't have to do any more work on those jeans that are already set for sale.

This is the major difference. An artist does not have that luxury of being passive with their work. They MUST constantly be engaging, looking for new shows and bookings, creating events, on and on the list goes as does the work for both artist, their booking agent, their manager and even hosts (all of which also need to be paid).

The short of it is, I am writing this blog because I am seeing some incredibly talented artists in SL, both veterans and new artists, busting their asses entertaining, showing people a great time and sadly, going unrewarded for their hard work. Why is it so hard for people to understand that artists are "working" too and that they too deserve to be paid for their work. Is the "content" that performers provide any less valuable than those jeans? Performing is a service and some artists do sell products in their CD's and other merchandise. So if nothing else, show your support by purchasing their merchandise.

I'll close this blog with a reminder $L250 = $1.00 USD

In SL you don't need to drive to a see your favorite live performers. You don't need to shower, get dressed, buy food or even buy drinks. That's a whole bunch of money saved. If everyone in attendance at a performance would tip one dollar to the venue and one dollar to the artist, things would change in a big way. So in essence, for two dollars, you CAN make a BIG difference! I've owned and operated businesses for most of my adult life and after over 5 years of performing live in Second Life, seeing things, watching and personally being on the front lines, you can trust that I do know a thing or two about it.

I certainly don't mean to come off in a bad light or stir up controversy here, but I have friends that are struggling and it frustrates the hell out of me when I see a very good artist walking away with $3.00 USD for a full one hour show and all the work that goes into it. Yes three dollars! As for the venues, well even more importantly, as they are the ones footing the bill for the residents' entertainment pleasure.

Let's all do our part to help keep live music alive and well in Second Life. PLEASE think about this and in the kind heart that I know you have, do the right thing.

January 2, 2012

The Business Side of Second Life Music - Your Brand

You may know me as Mankind Tracer, a live performer in Second Life since 2006. I have also toured for 20+ years in real life before stumbling across SL. This blog post is not about me or promoting anything I'm doing. I only want to share a bit of insight into the business side of being a live musician (as my business) in Second Life.

In real life I've owned businesses pretty much my entire adult life. One of them is a professional website/graphic design firm. I've done work for Coke, Pepsi, Ralph Lauren, Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros., etc. Why am I mentioning this? One of the first things I ask my clients that are, for example, seeking a new website is... Do they have a logo? Do they have a corporate identity or brand? Many do have a logo, but between you, me and the walls, they are usually not very professional nor do they represent their companies in a professional aesthetically pleasing manner, especially when it comes to the smaller businesses. And that leads me to the main point: A small business, like the SL performer, needs its brand. You may start promoting yourself without it, but it's a huge plus if you already have a logo. It separates you from the newbies and people will have an impression that you are a bigger fish in the pond.

A company's brand, in my opinion, should be one of the first steps when beginning a marketing and/or PR campaign. Without brand recognition, a company will likely have to work harder to build themselves up to a point where they are recognizable. Look at any product in your home... Coke, Pepsi, even the Post Office has a logo. I sit staring at Apple's logo every day on my computer. There's a logo on my printer, on my jeans even on the tools in my garage. Just about very company who has had success has a solid brand identity.

Take a quote from Sir Richard Branson: "The music industry is a strange combination of having real and intangible assets: pop bands are brand names in themselves, and at a given stage in their careers their name alone can practically gaurantee hit records."

And here's one from Ralph Lauren: "When you think of the blur of all the brands that are out there, the ones you believe in are the ones you remember."

Artists performing in Second Life are similarly, a business... no different that Pepsi. Seriously? Yes... seriously! Ignoring the obvious size difference between Pepsi and my own SL music career, I look at what I'm providing in SL as a business. I need a logo, marketing, PR, etc, etc. Same as Pepsi. Sure they do it on a larger scale, but the principles are the same.free, free, music, marketing, blog, free, free, free, music, pr, baby, son, kid, child, love, seo,blog,free,free,free,free,free, live music, make money, money, free money, gift, gifts, seth regan, mankind tracer, secondlife, second life, sl, facebook, twitter, social, alexa rank

Look in Second Life, there are tons of businesses... clothing, fashion designers, builders, animations, scripters, etc. What the successful SL businesses have in common with each other is that at some point, they knew that one of the first steps in marketing their company is creating a logo or brand identity. SL artists are similarly a company, a brand, and should be treated as such. As a  musician, my product is my music and the  service I offer are the shows I perform. You bet your booty I make sure to include my logo on as much marketing as I can.

When I use the word "logo", I'm not talking about making some colorful rainbow text and calling that a logo, or having you neighbor who "happens to own a copy of Photoshop" come up with something. I'm talking about creating a cool icon, something that represent the artist, professionally, something that states what her/his music is about and is totally recognizable so that when friends and fans see it, they KNOW it's that particular musician's post or event. Look at other artists like ACDC, Kiss, Foo Fighters, and on and on, and thousands of others who have a recognizable brand identity. Whether you have given it thought or not you, "SL performer", you are a business and need branding!

I have been very fortunate to have had my share of success in SL. The global friends and fans have been nothing short of amazing to me, but I'll tell you straight, the first step I took when I first started performing in real life was creating my own logo and brand identity.

To reiterate that from a professional standpoint, I would strongly suggest to Second Life performers, old and new, that the over saturated music scene is going to continue to grow and in order to set yourself apart, take the "right" first step and get a professional designer to create your logo. It may cost a few dollars, sure, but it will cost you more in the long run not to do it.

In the least... just think about it.

I wish you the very best for health and prosperity in the New Year.


January 1, 2012


First off Happy New Year to all!

2011 was an amazing year for me personally. Second Life has continued to be incredibly generous to me in support of my music and other areas. In real life though, my life continues to be ever evolving. The main reason is one word... Aden. There is a lot of adaptation in parenting... who knew?!?! As Aden is growing, his needs and wants are ever changing.

Not too long ago, my Second Life friends and family threw a party for me, back in May 2008, the month Aden was born. Yes it seems like yesterday and those of you that are parents, PLEASE don't tell me "wait till he starts driving..." or "just you wait till his teens..." LOL! Trust me, I've heard A LOT of that. But he IS a little boy now and he wants to do little boy things with his Daddy.

I started late, admittedly, with being a parent. I had Aden later than I had hoped but you know, he was given to me when the time was right, when the planets aligned, or something like that. Either way, he's here now and hopefully he will be for a loooong time.

2012 is here and to you, oh Father Time, I say this... take it easy on me! While Aden grows and is becoming the beautiful, amazing, incredible little boy he is becoming, I have found myself maybe less patient than I would like to be. I see it in myself. I'm not really an impatient man, mind you, and I don't want to come off in a bad light as some neglectful, evil jerk. Anyone that knows me will tell you how devoted I am to the little guy, but he is after all, a little boy. He loves his Daddy, he loves spending time with me, playing, building, tinkering, having me teach him, etc. But sure, sometimes there are those minutes when I'm working or otherwise busy that when he keeps nipping at my hells, I feel, hmmm, what's the word? Well.. impatient!

So my resolution is to be conscious of my tipping point and when I feel I've reached it, give myself permission to take a deep breath and just look at him and REMEMBER how much I adore him. I mean, what if this is really my last day with him? For whatever reason. (God forbid something should happen to him... it would completely be the end of me). But I know there is always time when I can take a moment to look at his smile, at his eyes  - and oh how bright his eyes are -  when he looks up at me wanting something. It pains me that I even have to think about being patient with him. I love him so incredibly much!

So it's a decision I have made that in 2012, I will be more patient with Aden and remember that it's ok to stop what I'm doing for a few minutes to make him happy... and to MAKE him show me that smile!

Smile, Aden... smile.
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