Last month I announced that I was doing a quantitative study of Second Life music format diversity. I have completed an exploratory study of 838 Second Life music events that occurred over July 2006. Please find here my research, entitled "Your World, Your Music: An Exploratory Study of Music Diversity within the Virtual World of Second Life." Thanks to all of you who provided feedback, constructive critiques and encouragement to this work.
The introduction to my paper follows after the fold…
As I write this a digital representation of myself — my avatar — grooves to the jazz stylings of a musician who goes by the name of “Flaming Moe. ” Flaming Moe’s avatar at the moment appears to be playing a saxophone, but from my computer speakers I hear the sounds of a trio performing a jazz-fusion number. Someone from the audience jokes that Flaming Moe must be drumming with his toes.
I am logged into “Second Life,” a 3D virtual environment managed by a company called Linden Lab, based in San Francisco . More specifically, my avatar is in an open-air concert space at the Rockcliffe University sim, with twenty or so other avatars enjoying the jazz being played for us live by Mr. Flaming Moe. It’s a rather mundane audience for the virtual world – no robots, furries, samurai or floating balls of spaghetti gracing the dance floor. Clearly this event is much more about the music than about flashy displays of your coolest digital outfit. Some of them dance, others pose artfully with digital cigarettes. Everyone keeps the chatter to a minimum and concentrates on the music.
Musical events like this one happen every day, several times a day, in the virtual world of Second Life. From your internet-connected computer you can zip around to various digital venues and catch live musicians and DJ’s performing everything from reggae to Celtic to swing.
As a fan of various genres of music and someone interested in the intersections of culture and technology, I have wondered how does this new channel for sharing music in this virtual environment compare to other more traditional music distribution channels? Do virtual performance spaces enlarge the opportunities for listeners to be exposed to music not available in other media? Are there ways to measure this?
In order to get at these questions, I conducted an admittedly crude data analysis of musical events in Second Life over the entire month of July 2006. Specifically, I analyzed 838 public music-oriented events that occurred during this period and coded them by music format, which I used to draw some initial conclusions about the presence and absence of various kinds of music in Second Life. My hypothesis is that Second Life music broadcast provides greater exposure to certain niche music styles that are under-represented within more traditional music broadcast media, while also subject to its own internal imbalances in musical diversity.
In this paper, I will give a brief background on Second Life and music within Second Life. Then I will describe how music formats are used to measure other forms of music distribution, particularly broadcast radio. I will describe the methodology I used to conduct a data analysis of Second Life music events. And I will close with my initial findings and recommendations for future research.