Clearing the Fog by Yanik Lytton
Back in 2007, when I joined Second Life®, it was still mostly unexplored territory. I had absolutely no expectations. We lived it as it was, while helping Linden Labs to make it better. They were listening back then, and were often online. SL has gone a long way since, and for those complaining about bugs and lag, you don’t want to go back to 2007! Furniture looked like blocks, poses were awkward, dances were hmmm… basic. Crashing was a way of life. Crossing sims borders was an adventure. And when LL had to push a new update, they would close SL completely for an hour or two.
I’ve always been a music fan. After learning to build, doing rentals, helping friends with a pirate-themed multi-sims estate, trying my luck at a classic Rock club, a strip club, I sold everything. Months passed where I explored, attended concerts, and was just lazy. Hanging out at some Blues clubs, I realized that there were none (maybe one) that played Blues only. There is fine line between Blues, Jazz, and Rock, but Blues reaches deep down in your soul, and I wanted that, and only that.
Then, I bought a used sim. The first thing I worked on was the club. I felt sorta saturated with seeing tropical beaches and I wasn’t building a rental sim. So we had the idea to make the sim an old fishing town, probably on the coast of Maine, and lost in fog all year long. Meredith came up with the club name. In this kind of town, there aren’t many things to do except for fishing, and when the fog sets in, people gather at the local club to warm their bones and socialize. It had to be inviting, cozy, and a size just perfect for people to chat, dance, drink, and have a good time together. FogBound Blues was born.
Strangely, I am not a group person. Being in one all the time, doing everything with the group—that’s not me. Fog is not a group, like a closed gang. But its not always the same ten faces day-after-day; you meet new people all the time.
We used to have lots of live events. The greatest blues performers have been on stage at FogBound—like DanLange, BigJim, Ziffy Zarf, and Arman Finesmith, to name a few. At one point we we had four to five shows a week. But we realized that live events bring fans of the performer, that come in only for the show. We may have got a few to become regulars, but it was just a tiny bunch. We also found that live events are expensive to run, and the income in tips barely covers a tenth of the expenses. I was torn in the decision between stopping events, or paying out of my pocket, and seeing it as a personal expense, same as spending money on a night out in real life.
After a year or two, I had real life events that greatly reduced my income, and I just couldn’t afford it anymore. It was a sad day, but I had no choice. Many of the performers went on to try new avenues, whether real life performing, or simply taking a break from it. However, we now have Blindboink Parham performing live on Monday nights.
For Fogbound to focus only on Blues is a tough challenge. It’s not something you set once at the start, and it’s done. You need to work on it day-after-day, especially as the popularity of the club grows. It’s not perfect, but overall, we sorta manage to keep it under control. There’s a fine balance between not hurting the DJs (each has a particular niche), and not hurting the patrons (who want to listen to their favorite tunes, and help keep the place going with their donations).
We had over 65 DJs in the first 2 years. I wanted the best, and only knew three. People came knocking, and we tried them. Its not that they were bad, but we have this old-school theme to fill. We want those who are knowledgeable and autonomous, who want to work here specifically, and not for the tips. DJs who come for their set, and you don’t see them till their next set? Not what I’m looking for. We are a family. The hard part is managing the schedule, which has grown a lot.
The first two years were tons of work. There was more competition back then. DJs and many regulars spread the word. Once we got 1000 group members, we grew much faster—then boom!
Actually, I’ve never had a goal of being huge. To me, thirty people, was awesome! Some clubs owners wish to be the biggest, bestest, most popular place. I never have. It just happened. Perhaps the best things do just happen, though sometimes it does need a little help.
I really don’t promote the club, per se. We show on the Destination Guide and Editor’s Picks. This is on a rotation, and when it gets onto the first page, its Newbie Night. But it amazes me that most patrons have family names [older than 2010]—and aren’t newbies.
It is much harder to start a club, and get it off the ground, than it is to maintain it. There were many sets when Evan was DJing, and there was only him, Meredith, and me in the club. And several DJs we had left Fog to start their own places: Voodoo Blues, Riverside, Wharf, etc.
There are not a million Blues lovers, and we have a product that is different. So it is not easy to find DJs that can stick to the Blues, but I do my best.
The first thing people talk about, when they come to Fog, is the build. It has a real life feel to it, and many say “it’s like a place I know in real life.” This makes them comfortable right at the start. This is like making the entrance to your home is welcoming.
The design of the build has stayed the same through time, except some posters on the walls. I had done a lot of building before Fog. Then, it was the main thing that kept me in SL. So I was a builder first, then a club owner. The design started with what I enjoy—a place to relax, chat, and with great Blues. The stools don’t isolate people the way seating does in other clubs. I like to sit, and I spend my evenings here. I don’t build much anymore; the club keeps me too busy. But I still like it.
The next thing patrons notice is that we avoid annoyances that can spoil their evenings (non-stop gestures, harassing them to tip the house, bugging them with dance balls, etc.). After we greet and welcome them, we let them be at their own pace. They ask if they need help. Most importantly, we give patrons what they came for—Blues.
There are so many great Blues artists—my favorites include John Lee Hooker, Brownie McGhee, Sonny Terry, and Buddy Guy, to name a few.
The greatest rewards in SL are the people I’ve met and the friends I’ve made. The avatar is secondary to me. Reaching out and meeting incredible people, transcending boundaries and values that we usually are trapped in, are the greatest goals LL has achieved with SL.
What’s real life? In SL, I don’t need to cook—a real plus! Oh—and I can keep the same clothes on for days (weeks?). My real life is nothing exciting. My work field is technical which I can’t talk about. It’s like gibberish to people.
About two years ago, I took an early retirement, which leaves me all the time I want to be in SL. The way I am, feel, and act with people and friends, I share in both worlds.
SL is my artistic side, and my social side. It is very far from an engineer job, with its pressures and no place for mistakes, where people walk with their noses up. Here, I develop sides of my potential that I could not in real life. I also have a musical background, as a musician. This is a huge part of my life, and not only Blues.
The management part of running a club is not something I knew much about. I learn as we go along. One skill, or trait of character, which helps a lot, is empathy. This is not totally a second life, its part of me. I like this era, for the technological side, but not for the musical side.
Dealing with 70 people is a lot—too many conversations, too many moving around, flying, sitting on you—it makes me dizzy. I have a hard time managing chat and IM at the same time, and the IMs pour in nonstop all night.
Drama is a club owner’s worst enemy. You cannot let it set in, and you have to deal with it quickly, and efficiently. You may lose friends in the process, but in the long run, you’ll make more of them. Be nice, warn politely, be stiffer, still politely, and if all fails, ban and mute, politely.
The staff that helps me are all friends I have met at Fog first. I don’t hire people that come in out of nowhere, wanting to work here. Those on the staff roster asked to be on it to help, out of friendship. These kinds of trusted friends are rare in SL— I can count them on the fingers of one hand. Really close friends know me, and most importantly, they know what Fogbound is all about. And they are polite.
For anyone starting a venue in SL, surround yourself with people you trust, and that share your vision. Have a goal and stick to it. Be patient. You won’t fill it with sixty people in a month. Make sure you know exactly what’s out there, who your competitors are, and be original.
Patrons come from all over the world to listen to Blues, which is typically an American thing, and they have very different ways of life and values. We have DJs from Costa-Rica, Spain, Egypt, Australia, Romania, to name a few. All enjoy their time, and chatting. Try that in real life!
Music bridges cultural barriers. The international form now brings different kinds of Blues, more uptempo. Blues is a widening genre. Mainstream radios don’t care about it, but its still alive. Fogbound helps this cultural fusion. Often the traffic goes over fifty people; it means they like the Blues.
It is a certain kind of person that relates to the Blues—usually older. I will not tell you anyone’s age, but there are grandpas and grandmas out there. It’s very far from Pop, and not just three lines repeated over a catchy beat. You need to feel the Blues more than hear it. I’m mostly a happy person. Not all Blues is sad, but it tells some-thing. I’m not sure what attracts me most to this music; its deep inside. It takes you on a ride and fills you. It doesn’t die after a month to make room for a new hit.
—Yanik Lytton, Fogbound Blues
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