A couple months ago there was an article in Pitchfork (I searched but can’t find it specifically; their site-search function is terrible) about musicians who are playing gigs in the Second Life world. Second Life is just that; it’s like a massively-multiplayer online (MMO) game but with no explicit goals. People use it to chat, shop, play dress-up, run their business, fight Halo-style, hang out, and now go to shows.
A show in Second Life looks like a video game. The artist sits at their computer with a microphone, playing and sending the signal into Second Life and their onscreen avatar character. Listeners navigate to the club to hear the music; they may even have to pay a cover charge to get in.
Pretty wild. It reminds me of Pete Townshend’s original vision for the never-realized “Lifehouse” project; a science-fiction concert film in which kids would unplug from the ubiquitous “net” and gather for a real flesh-and-blood rock concert featuring the Who. Songs for the abandoned film ended up becoming the Who’s Next album. But in this case, kids are plugging in to the web, in order to have a shared experience that would not be physically possible.
Second Life, or what comes next, may never capture the visceral nature of live performance but it does offer some other things instead. Like seeing a show by your favorite obscure artist, who only has 15 fans in your town, while standing between a pixie and Wilt Chamberlain and eating home-cooked organic fish tacos.