Expectations by Tara Lopes

Webster’s definition of expectation:   noun \ek-spek-tā-shn, ik-\ : a belief that something will happen or is likely to happen : a feeling or belief about how successful, good, etc., some- one or something will be.

This is a simple definition for a complex scenario. These days, we all hear words about the decline of music in both real life and in Second Life®. Does this mean it really is the DECLINE or does it mean we need to change our expectations of music and the community? Let’s explore the viewpoints.

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Musicians

In years past, the expectation was to develop a good sound, get signed, make money, tour the world, make more money, sell songs, make money from that, then license songs, and make more money. It seemed there was money around every corner. Having lived in the music scene back then, I can tell you this was very true; there was money, and lots of it. But the music scene was different back then. Musicians got on stage and rocked out the way they wished: there were no rules. If a band felt like doing a twenty-minute jam in the middle of a song they did. If they felt like doing five encores, they did. If they wanted to jump out into the audience, they did.

Then record labels wanted more control (probably so they could make more money). So bands were no longer allowed to play whatever or however they wanted. Every song, note, chord, crowd interaction, all had to be approved first by the label.

As much as I would LOVE to blame the decline in music on technology, the ball started rolling when labels took decision making away from the performers. Bands started to revolt against the labels and even against themselves. The late 80’s and 90’s saw the breakup of many long standing bands with the start up of solo careers. Later, tech- nology came along strong. But turmoil had set in and, unfortunately, these EXPECTATIONS did not change when they should have.

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Venue Owners

Real life and SL have significant differences, but both have changed over the years. A real life venue makes money from the sale of drinks and food, plus perhaps a cover or door charge. They paid a performer for the show, and still came out ahead. Bands might get reduced prices for drinks and food (or soometimes get free), which cut into venue profits, but not enough to create a reduced fee. Bands brought a following, so the venue could expect a good crowd, and new people to experience the club. It was a win-win for the venue and the band. In the SL early days, venues had casinos or gaming that would bring in money. If players liked the venue, they would make generous tips. To own a full sim cost about $300 US dollars a month, which did not include the cost of entertainment. If they had game revenue, they could easily recoup. And, they were attracting new people into their club through the fans attracted to thevarious performances.

Then flooded in an over saturation of performers in both worlds. Karaoke (or track performers) emerged in large numbers. Venues, in both realms, discovered it was cheaper and easier to have this type of entertainment, rather than live bands. Karaoke also provided a more interactive experience, as many people, and their friends, would show up to take a chance at singing their favorite songs. Occasionally, audiences would be blown away by an incredible voice. Or they might be stunned, and amused, at a tone deaf drunkard suffering illusions of sounding fantastic. In real life, people came out in droves for karaoke events.

SL is similar, but there is one singer for a set’s duration. A track performer can offer a more full and complete band sound compared to an acoustic performer. A track performer uses familiar songs with many more to choose from. In most cases, the learning process for a track show is far less demanding than the learning process for a live show. Many (not all) track performers will accept less money than many (not all) musicians, which includes doing tips-only shows. It is a win-win for the venue because it costs less and brings in people, if the track performer is good (though even some who are not so great can still get a decent crowd, probably because the selection of music is current, massive, and has a full band sound).

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Music Fans

When the real life economy was better, bars were the place to be. Fans drank and drooled over band members (who played for four hours) in the hopes of getting a shout out from the performers with a request in exchange. Then the fans tipped the bands.

SL was similar except the buying of drinks was replaced by playing games. or other things, to support the venue. Shout outs and requests became easier to accommodate because of a smaller and more contained crowd, who did not always tip in response. It became an EXPECTATION of the fan, the performer, and even the venue, to recognize those in the room by name, and to play their requests.

Realistic Expectations

What should the musician expect now? The venue isn’t making money, so how are they to pay for performances? The fans struggle with the economic decline, so how are they supposed to tip? The musicians are also struggling with the economic decline, so how can they play for free?

The music community needs to come together and figure out what can be done. Everyone needs help with bills, to feel valued, and to provide a positive experience.

Nothing is going to change until the EXPECTATIONS change. There are several ways to bring more money into the community, but requires egos to drop and everyone to work together. Let’s hear some NEW ideas— not the usual ‘charge the fans’ stuff. Music should be paid for, but as the first priority is the wrong EXPECTATION. Music should be shared. So the ques- tion really is: what role does each participant wish to play in sharing it? —Tara Lopes

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