Days in the life of a songwriter (Amphibic) 35

So, there was another installment of Darker Music Talks by Tommy Darker tonight. Anastasia Emmanuel from Indiegogo talked about crowdfunding and she pretty much sold it to me. More about that later. Yours truly also waxed lyrical about cyber gigs at the event tonight and I wanted to gather my thoughts and collect them in this little blog here. I have been playing gigs online for the past year and a bit. I got introduced to this world by my friend Jordan Reyne, a Kiwi singer-songwriter with a slightly darker industrial angle. Anyway, cyber gigs can be good for you, especially if you; would like to find more fans, build a community, create a new (though small) stream of income, and if you want to get better!!

These gigs are divided into two main categories. Webcam based ones and others, using virtual reality platforms. I will talk about the two that I use, which are Second Life and Numubu, but there are more platforms to choose from. Playing gigs on VR (virtual reality) platforms requires the steepest learning curve, so if you want to ease yourself into the world of cyber gigging in a more gentle way, you might want to try the webcam based ones first.

I am assuming you have songs and you know how to perform them. The VR gigs can be done with cover songs but I am also assuming you have your own wares that you can bring to the market. As far as I know, you can’t play covers on the webcam based platforms. Apart from songs, you will need a mic (plus stand), a guitar or keyboard or whatever else you want to accompany yourself with, a small mixer, an interface (USB or Firewire/Thunderbolt soundcard) and a computer. Yes, an internet connection is necessary too. Numubu (webcam based platform) does the streaming for you. So once you are on their web site and clicked a few buttons, their software will pick up your audio and broadcast it to whoever comes to your page and opts into listening to you. It is possible for people to tip you, as long as you say yes to it, which basically means you give it the green light and people can tip you via paypal. Here’s the address to my profile on Numubu: http://www.numubu.com/nealhoffmann I aim to play there once a week, normally 8pm on Wednesday night. Tell them I said ‘Hi’, if you want to give it a try, you can talk to Cliff Schwartz or Rob Taylor there. It’s super easy for friends, all they need is a browser and a speaker.

The VR gigs mean, you have to learn quite a few things in a short space of time. You need a (free) account in Second Life, where you choose an avatar, then download a piece of software called a viewer (like a 3D browser) and another piece of software called Butt (also free / butt.sourceforge.net), which will stream your audio into that virtual world. You need to book someone’s services, in that world, in order for your audio to be streamed to the venue. This is cheap, but has to be done. Roughly between one and two coffees per month. You need to enter their server address into Butt and once you have booked your first gig at a Second Life venue, give them all the right addresses for the stream. Then you just have to make sure you make your avatar appear at that venue, in time for said booked gig, 20 minutes early is not a bad idea. Walk on stage after the previous performer finishes, and kick off once everything is in place. Almost all VR gigs are one hour in length which brings me to a point that gets overlooked by many. Playing online gigs for some time will seriously improve your performance skills, even if you were good, you will get even better!!!

A quick word about online communities. People who populate these online worlds are extremely loyal and it is not uncommon for them to come to 2-3 of your gigs a week!!! They enjoy the intimacy of the chat environment. There is a local chat window, where you can read what people are saying and you can respond via your mic, which is like playing a very intimate club set where you actually hear almost every communication between members of the audience. Once established you can make somewhere between 15-20 pounds per gig. It helps if you have someone to help with booking gigs as you will have lots of venues trying to book you for nothing. They are tips only venues. There are a couple of established good ones that will help you break in and find other gigs, but there are also venues that you might want to avoid. Whatever you make, will be a mixture of fixed fee, plus tips! Second Life uses ‘Lindens’, where 4000 Lindens is roughly 10 squid. www.secondlife.com

You will make some new and sometimes dear friends in these worlds. You might find friends in Sweden, Brazil, New Zealand, places where your budget, or lack of, would have never allowed you to travel to. But some of the fans you’ll find will start showing up to your real life gigs as well. So yes, a great way to make everything feed into each other. Virtual world gigs, webcam gigs, real life gigs, Youtube, Facebook …. each of these areas can benefit from the others!!!

Keep your eyes peeled for my own label which is coming soon. If you’d like to listen to my songs: http://www.reverbnation.com/amphibic    And of course, here: https://soundcloud.com/amphibic

Please don’t be shy if there is anything you’d like to know!!

Jordan Reyne has written a book called ‘Gigs in Space’ and just had an article published in Sound On Sound magazine with lots of links and info.