Interpret and Connect by Kevin M. Thomas
When in a real life band, we toured regionally, and signed to an indie label out of Hollywood, California. This expanded from my solo project, which signed in 2003. Then, in October 2007, as we winded down our touring season, a real life fan told me about Second Life®. She was a DJ and managed a virtual club called the Lava Pit. So I came inworld. It was an absolute perceptual overload to realize that I per- formed to people all over the world. It was the most amazing connection I ever had in music!
What I play depends on the venue and mood of the audience. The piano and the acoustic guitar have an intimacy with different fans around the world. Gauging audience engagement is key, and being able to interpret and adjust to what they are looking for on the fly, are a few of the most challenging things as an artist.
To remain fresh while performing the same songs over and over, I constantly reinterpret them, whether it be on piano, a different melodic structure, a different rhythmic approach. Reinterpreting covers, in just about every genre, influences my original music creation. Both the covers and the original works benefit from each other. But I feel most passionate about my originals, and the way my fans react. It’s more personal and makes music worth playing.
To test material is another benefit. A song like ‘The Moment’ would sound totally different on guitar and I might try that in a SL show that focuses on artist creativity.
I use different interpretations, depending on the venue and the fans present. In formal environments, I might take a traditional approach. In others, I may completely freestyle. In SL, there are no bounds to what is possible other than the bounds you place on yourself.
I learn songs in German, Spanish, and a variety of different genres from country to heavy metal. It broadens horizons as a musician when playing to an international body. The performer is not playing to two or three zip codes in a small locality, but to a world-wide audience. So I play at various times throughout the day, with the coordination of my management team, to reach as many people as possible.
I perform roughly fifteen SL shows a week. In some, I perform bass guitar behind other musicians in a multi-stream environment. Others are my own shows. Most of my time in SL is spent performing. I love to visit new sims in the pursuit of reaching new friends and potential fans.
To build fans, the artist has to get off his ass and thank everyone individually for spending their time with him. It is an involved process to deal with a variety of cultures and time zones. Real life limits performance to particular zip codes or smaller subsets of people which is easier but not as effective.
Reach people individually, and believe me, each feels a hell of a lot more connected and can reach right out to you in an instant message. Personality is everything. It helps shape the tone of the environment, it helps an artist truly open up the song choice that can take them to the next level.
Real life gives a more physical or tangible reaction. However, it is limited. So, nothing on this earth can compare to the grasp or reach of SL. It is intensely more personal and more rewarding.
Broaden your perceptual mind and be open to a variety of new sounds, song constructions, and cover interpretations. Constantly evolve with the audience, yet stay true to the core of what you are. Balancing both is an enormous undertaking for a musician.
A musician must connect to the audience. Feedback takes me to the next level which helps drive my inspiration in ways that have no bounds. The amount of constant and direct feedback everyday presents a new reflection of self. This interaction is fuel to shape each other. We inspire, grow, and expand with one another.
SL audience size is not a limitation. Events like Music Awareness simulcast to dozens of sims. We reach thousands, potentially tens of thousands, at one time. Never in the history of mankind has an indie artist been able to reach and touch so many at once.
I do not perform in any environments other than SL. Having taken so much time, with the assistance of my management company, to market and promote myself, drawing attention away from that medium would be a waste of time.
There really is no “me” in musician. To get to the maximum exposure level, it takes the commitment first of shaking hands and kissing babies all over the grid. And it takes the international promotional reach of a management company, that has a host at every show to help connect to as many people as humanly possible. This partnership is critical.
Even as an infant I was extroverted; perhaps even dating back to the womb.
The Kevin M. Thomas Brand is transparent—the same in-world and out. With the combination of real world websites and my musician group in-world, I have reached, quite honestly, hundreds of thousands of people combined. Choosing to have a different persona, only limits you.
There are a select group of musicians that I have had the pleasure to jam with in real life, whether it be through one of the SL/RL jams or with those I have met individually. It’s an incredible experience, and one of the rewards of the virtual world.
I have achieved more than I could possibly imagine in SL based on the support of my friends, family, and management team. We, as the pioneers of virtual performing, will shape the future of art and performance as real life outlets continue to diminish.
My advise to a musician new in SL: never give up, never give in, never gravitate toward the powers that be, but continue to be yourself, to be fiercely independent, and be real. People will identify with, and respond to, that level of genuineness.
There is no one way that I write a song. I don’t start with either the lyrics or the music. My approach lies in the particular moment, what state my OCD is facing, and ultimately, in reflecting upon what I want to convey. Writing is random, based on mood.
I inject myself into the art. Sometimes a particular melody calls for a heavy lyric that may never be appreciated by anybody but me. Sometimes it’s about a simple melody that can affect the world and lyrics that inspire others. To connect, to convey the message, decide whether to make it intimate or gear it to a wide audience. Each has its challenges.
To pick a favorite song that I have written is almost like picking a favorite child. I think each has its own mood, its own personality, though some are more dominant than others. Two of the strongest are ‘The Song is Mine’ and the more recent ‘The One For Me.’
Real life music is in critical condition. The doctors around the patient don’t have the heart to pull the plug on the inevitable. Meanwhile the evolution of thought, art, and creation by bold pioneers shed light on a concept that, just a few years ago, was thought only to be a geeks’ paradise.
—Kevin M. Thomas, musician
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