The NBT Music Columns : The CyberPR Blog (Ariel Publicity)8

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Second Life Squared

 Second Life is the biggest thing going in the realm of virtual worlds, but with clones and niche focused competitors emerging, will SL remain at the top? Second Life has quickly taken a prominent position in our society since its inception in 2003 by Linden Research Inc.  They’ve actualized (sort of) dream by creating both a millionaire and a rockstar.  More substantially, SL function as one of the cutting-edge virtual classrooms for major colleges and universities, including Princeton, Harvard, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, New York University, and countless more.  In a recent New York Times article, it was reported that more than 100 islands were built for educational purposes. Now, however, countless competitors are emerging in a fight for users; the most notable competitors include There (responsible for the for some of MTV’s virtual worlds), Active Worlds (originally built as a 3-D replacement for a 2-D web browser), and the sex-driven Red Light Center. 

There are others emerging as well, as detailed in this exerpt from Raph Koster’s website: “Here’s word via Mobil Avenue on three different takes on the model, each trying to fix what they see as a key issue: HiPiHi in China, which looks like SL with easier tools; Planet Cazmo, which keeps the house decorating aspect but changes it into a browser-based Animal Crossing lookalike; and finally, reviews trickling out of the closed Kaneva beta, which is putting more MySpace peanut butter in your SL chocolate. Are they really SL clones?”  Another world is MusicWorld3D – previously discussed in our interview with Jerry Bumpskey – with the finite focus of creating a world around musicians.   Red Light Center and MusicWorld3D are interesting models because they approach the virtual world with a niche focus. 

If these programs develop out on aspect of SL to perform better than the original, then we may see a series of fragmentation into multiple niches that could drastically reduce the number of Second Life residents. The other worry for the future of the Linden has to be the budding interest from big name corporations, as many people have been following rumors of Sony’s intentions of entering the virtual world market.  There’s a rumored PS3 virtual world connection, and Microsoft is also working to integrate its Xbox 360 and Virtual Earth platforms.  Given the broad reach of gaming consoles, it’s likely that we’ll see a merger/acquisition of a major virtual world with one of these consoles.  If that entity doesn’t happen to be Second Life, then we may find a new leader of the pack.   Second Life In Pop Culture

* In Sam Bourne’s 2007 thriller novel The Last Testament, Second Life plays an important part in the story and in cracking of codes.

* Second Life girls are rated #95 on the “Top 100 Hottest Females of 2007” in Maxim.

* Law & Order: Special Victims Unit parodies Second Life in its episode “Avatar”.

* Jimmy Kimmel & Jay Z were both made as Second Life characters and Jay Z had a virtual concert on Second Life at the same time as his real life performance on the Jimmy Kimmel Show.

* Second Life was featured prominently, and used as a tool to catch a suspect on an episode of CSI: NY ( Down the Rabbit Hole), which aired on October 24, 2007.

* Dwight Schrute from the US television series The Office is an avid Second Life player; this was featured prominently in the October 25, 2007 episode “Local Ad.” Dwight plays a character named ‘Dwight Shelford’ who is able to fly and creates a virtural world within Second Life, named Second Second Life.

 http://www.raphkoster.com/

The NBT Music Columns : The CyberPR Blog (Ariel Publicity)7

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DMCA…Huh?

 Tom Schulte – the mind behind Outsight Radio Hours – gives us all a little insight on the Digital Millennium Copyright Act

 A few days back, we received a rather upset email informing us some of the ID3 tags we used for our CyberPR artists weren’t compliant with the DMCA regulations set forth for Internet broadcasters.  We realized we weren’t up on the DMCA, nor were our musicians.  Luckily, Outsight host Tom Shulte is extremely knowledgeable on the subject and was gracious enough to share his wisdom with us. 

 Trevor:  First, Describe how Outsight got its start and what’s the purpose behind it?

 Tom:  I started off as a music journalist in 1988 and “Outsight” was the name of my column that appeared in various underground music publications, like Carbon-14, Glass Eye, Caustic Truths, and others. During that time I was a bit of a political activist. So, I ended up in an organized act of civil disobedience supported by local Libertarians, National Socialist Party and more. This was a pirate radio station called Radio Free Detroit, which at 10 watts was the largest of its kind at that time. We actually wanted the FCC to shut us down in order to draw attention to the microwatt revolution, but for a long time they wouldn’t. The result of this unexpectedly long time behind the mic was that I became addicted to broadcasting. Seeking to legitimize my experience I ended up with a Thursday morning drive-time show called “Outsight” on local AM radio. From there I went to Public Radio and, when it became technically possible, Internet radio with now defunct CollegMusic.com in late 1998. That’s how it started, and now my show is heard on WXOU 88.3 FM in Michigan, as well as Live365, LUVeR.com, NewArtistRadio.net, Radio-Freedom.com and other Internet Radio sites and just about everywhere you can get a podcast, including iTunes.

 The purpose was to satisfy a need for immediacy and direct transference of sharing new music I am excited about with an audience, compared to the remoteness and delay innate to publishing, even Web publishing.

 I had decided to phase out my journalism to focus on graduate school, and this was also a way to continue to work with a subset of my label, publicity, and artist contacts. I had to tell everyone anything they sent would be broadcast and not reviewed. I actually wanted many people to say “no” if only to free up time from handling mail to give to my studies. Actually, the opposite happened and I got more email and communications to handle for programming my shows than I had for writing my column!

 TD:  As a digital broadcaster, what are your thoughts on the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, especially in terms of music content?

 TS:  I agreed with the spirit of the DMCA as soon as it came out. That is, Internet promotion of new music should not be used to enable or make more convenient unlicensed acquisition and copying of music. To do so, in my opinion, would be mistreating the music I am given for the show. So, from as soon as I read the guidelines I have followed the spirit of this directive. For instance, I bleed the ending of one song over the beginning of the next and don’t play whole album uninterrupted. All this prevents people from being able to easily rip individual songs or whole albums off my streams or my podcasts. So, my podcasts are not individual MP3s, but one two-hour MP3 of the whole show.

 TD:  Have you ever been forced to take content off your site due to the ‘DMCA Takedown Provision’?

 TS:  Oh yes, since I want to get broadcast as many places as possible in order to benefit those that supply me with music and share the songs I am excited about, I have to abide by stricter and stricter rules. See, I produce one show every week and then make slight edits, for instance to include underwriting, to make the show appropriate. So, in order for me to work this way, I have to abide by the strictest rules of any of my outlets. So, basically, that means following the DMCA to the letter. So, I have had to stop doing artists tributes (too many tracks in a row) and other things that are allowed on terrestrial radio – even if it is simulcast over the  Web!

 TD:  Many criticize the DMCA for placing too much favor on behalf of the copywriter, as a broadcaster do you agree with this opinion?

 TS:  Well, the DMCA was the first time that I recall that the Internet broadcasting community lost the fight to have imposed on them radically different and more severely limited laws that those that apply to terrestrial and even satellite radio. So, this set up the “separate and unequal” premise that led to the current crisis of nearly punitive royalty rates for Internet radio. We have to change the minds of legislators so they take it for granted that all broadcasters, regardless of media, should be treated fairly and equitably.

  TD:  What should a musician know about the DMCA?

 TS:  Serious, career, professional and semi-professional musicians that take their careers seriously will take it upon themselves to learn the essential features of all laws that affect their art. This includes, but is not limited to, the gist of the DMCA. The DMCA is, for instance, as relative to the modern career musician, as the laws regarding mechanical and performance royalties.

 TD:  As digital broadcasting continues to take new norms all over the Inetner, what merits and downfalls do  you see with this?

 TS:  Well, the merits are it is a great time to be a music fan! So much music and so much convenience in accessing it! For the working musician or any sort of broadcaster, the competition is just tremendous. You have to compute for ears against iPods, cell phones, satellite radio. Next, we’ll have to compete against MP3-enabled kitchen appliances!

 However, I feel there is hope. As the breadth and utility of consumer electronics widens, Internet radio and podcasting will be embraced more and more. Eventually, a critical mass will be reached that will make Internet-based music streaming explode into the mainstream. Some tipping points in this development to look for are when the center of gravity for access to Internet music moves from the computer to the home’s main entertainment center where the TV and stereo are. Also key would be Internet-delivered music accessible in the car as conveniently as FM is. Look what that did for satellite radio!

 TD:  How do you feel about taking questions from fans via email or chat room to increase fan interactivity?  Do you use this on the site?

 TS:  I think it is great! This really speaks to immediacy I mentioned before. I really appreciate the listener feedback and love requests. On good nights, the audience teaches me more than I have to share with them! I use the same id in MSN, AIM, Yahoo! Messenger, etc. and that way I can allow listeners to contact me live during live shows or moderated re-casts.

 TD:  What’s next for Outsight?

 TS:  I want to take my listenership to the next level! Outsight only began broadcasting a few months ago. I am still learning how to make my shows most suitable to the podcast listener. Feedback from listeners is really helping. Each show features a phone interview with an artist archived at http://www.new-sounds.net/coolstreams. For instance, this week, we had on Martin Atkins (PiL, Killing Joke, Pigface, etc.) about the independent music scene in China. I find the best thing to do is more Outsight toward letting that interview set the theme and content of the show so that each episode out there in the “podosphere” can stand alone as self-contained and coherent entertainment and information. That is taking effort on my part, as the history of Outsight has been very freeform and eclectic up to this point.

 For more from our favorite political activist turned broadcasting junkie, check out Outsight Radio Hours at www.new-sounds.com  

The NBT Music Columns : The CyberPR Blog (Ariel Publicity)6

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This week Trevor Dye interviews Yours Truly. It is an honour J

 Let It SpreadA Conversation with Martin Smit, the multi-platform guru behind Next Big Thing. 

When asked about the purpose of Next Big Thing, Martin Smit approaches it as a mission of broadening our horizons, “I guess my hope is to force the listener to overcome his or her prejudices… to make a country and western fan swoon over a perfectly formed hip-hop song and a metal-head become hopelessly devoted to a beautifully composed techno track.”  While these are lofty ambitions, they’re fueled by a very genuine motive, as Smit merely wants listeners to “fall in love with music all over again.”  The site started with a webspace – more a quirky web application than a website – and has evolved to thriving web 2.0 entity, complete with a blog, podcast, flickr site, and all the trimmings.

 NBT covers all genres of music, perfect for the most adventurous of listeners.  But there are obvious hurdles in promoting emerging bands, as Martin describes the power of the mainstream, “Their sole purpose is to get the guy out there in cyberspace to buy their product and only their product.”  In mass media culture, being a curious, adventurous listener seems like a counterintuitive thing.  “(Mainstream labels) know a lot of customers want what is only a few mouse clicks away and they also know that a lot of customers want, in fact NEED to be told what to buy and what is cool.”  This observation paints a bleak landscape for any music broadcaster focusing on the obscure or emerging.  This may not necessarily be the full story, however, as Smit became overjoyed when I inquired about, from his experience, how intelligent the average listener actually is when it comes to discovering new music?  He replied, “Thankfully Way WAY more intelligent than the majors give them credit for.  Sure there are a thousand slackers who will go buy a single by the Fray just because they are always on the front page of MySpace, But more and more, there are kids and parents and grannies and truck drivers who want to discover for themselves what or who will be the next superstar band or performer.”

 Even though listeners are willing to deviate from the mainstream conveyer belt, some bands are still going unheard and at their own fault.  “A Lot of bands are good at making great music but basically are AWFUL at promoting themselves. They don’t seem to get that creating the tune, the art, is only a tiny part of the process…the hardest part is getting that music heard and that it’s time consuming and difficult work.”  In Smit’s mind, a few bands have distinguished themselves, mainly through persistence.  “Bands like Rotten Cheri from New York and Colour Cold in South Africa are good examples of acts that go that extra mile, they send music to website after website, they make music available for play and they don’t stop, they keep promoting and working and playing.” (Check out their URLs in the blog roll opposite),  He continues, “What is amazing is I get SO many bands like this.” In 2008, expect NBT to continue its expansion, as Smit wants “to simply provide as many platforms as possible for all that brilliant music.”   Check out more from Next Big Thing:

Podcast: The NBT Podcast

Blog:  http://www.nbtmusic.wordpress.com

MySpace:  http://www.myspace.com/martinnextbigthing

Homepage: http://www.nextbigthing.co.za

Visual Page: http://www.flickr.com/photos/nbtvisual

Thursday Night US Show:  http://www.luver.com/nextbigthing.html