Sunday, November 08, 2009

Killing the Golden Goose

This post was originally intended for musicians and venue owners in Second Life, but it also applies to anybody who does anything "artsy" and then tries to sell their own creations. There is a reason that artists and musicians have managers. The managers are, theoretically, supposed to have at least one foot in reality, and their job is to make the artist they manage understand that there is a difference between what the artist thinks their talent or their creations are worth, and what the public will pay.

Starting in the real world, I live in Austin and we frequently have street fairs, where people can rent a stall or booth and set their wares out for sale to the general public. Over the years, I've seen tons of beautiful things at these fairs....things I might purchase if it were not for one small detail. They are usually so overpriced by the artists who are trying to sell them, that most folks remark on how nice it is, myself included, and keep walking. I have asked these artists why they price their creations so high and the inevitable answer is, "my talent and my time are worth alot of money!"

Uhm...sorry to harsh your vibe, man, but your talent is only worth what the general public is willing to pay for it, not what you think it's worth.

This kind of "you need to pay for my genius" attitude is slowly creeping into the virtual world as well, which is a damn shame.

One of my passions in Second Life is the virtual live music scene, which is quite vibrant. New performers are appearing every day. Some are great and some not so great, but for the most part, the music is amazing and up until recently, most of the musicians were content to take a small payment from the sim owner and take tips from the audience for their performance. There are also a number of sims that are "tips only," meaning the sim owner doesn't pay the talent at all and they work for tips from the audience.

Recently, however, a number of elite SL musicians who are no longer satisfied with the level of compensation received from the venue owners are wanting to charge a cover for their performances. I'm not sure whether this cover will be split with the venue owner to help defray the expenses of maintaing a sim or if it all goes in the performer's pocket. In principle, I really have no problem with charging a cover, per se, but the problem is that the performers tend to think in US dollars and not in Linden dollars, nor do they consider their services relative to what things and/or services go for inworld. They also don't consider the fact that their fans go to several concerts a week and if all the performers charged a cover for their music, the cost to the fans could run into the hundreds of real life dollars in the course of a month. There is also the fact that some, if not most of the music fans do not put their real life discretionary income into the game, but work inworld for their spending money, which covers their living arrangements, clothing budgets and so forth, so a cover charge running into the hundreds or thousands of linden dollars would be excessive and pretty much untenable.

"But it's only 5 dollars!" they say....

Five US dollars in Linden currency is L1295. For that amount, I can pay a week's rent on a virtual apartment or purchase a complete outfit, hair, jewelery, shoes and a dress, all of which will reside in my inventory until death do us part...or I use the delete key. I have addressed the SL shopping angle in another essay, but the bottom line is that one gets way more "bang for the buck" as a shopper in SL than in the real world, but these musicians do not see their cognitive disonance, or the unintended consequences of a move to charging to hear live music. In other words, not only do I get an exaggerated value for my linden money, I also have the goods in my inventory. To put out $5 USD for a virtual concert is unsustainable for all but the wealthiest of SL residents in the long run. If this trend catches on, I am afraid that these foolhardy folks will price all but the newest musicians (meaning the ones so new they're willing to play for tips only) right out of the market.

As for the venue and club owners, I have very little sympathy for their complaints about having to fork out thousands of linden dollars to pay their staffs and the talent they bring into their sims. Uhm, sorry, but you buy a sim at your own risk, and if you are counting on the people who visit your sim to pay your bills you are sadly mistaken, possibly bordering on delusional. Anybody with an SL age of over a year knows that sims are expensive. Anybody who opens a club or music venue should know that virtual clubs are money pits and be prepared to run in the red for quite some time, if not forever.

Most non sim owners look at the venue and club owners as social climbers or wannabe big shots who want to schmooze with the elite of the SL performers and patrons, and they seem to want everybody else to contribute to their "vision." What a load of crap. If you have a vision for a sim, wonderful! But YOU pay for it and don't expect those of us who come to your sim to help pay your bills. Your sim may be important to you, but I've got news for you, Mr. Sim Owner, you and your sim are not anybody else's priority and you have a nerve to ask everybody else to pay for your dream. The sim owners may have the noblest of intentions, but their begging really chaps my ass. A discreetly placed contribution basket is fine...but don't use the internal messaging system, or have the performer harrangue the sim visitors for money. You wanted to be a sim owner and wear the vaunted "owner" tag, so don't expect everybody else to pay for it.

For the past 3 years, the Second Life musicians and venue owners have benefited from the unstinting generosity of the fans, some of whom tip them until it hurts, and from those of us who have supported SL music from day one with our lindens and our time. I fear that if they try to fix a system that ain't broke, they will end up killing the golden goose that has been so good to them. I'm also afraid that it's not about the joy of sharing their music anymore, but has become about getting a piece of the linden pie, and in the end, this attitude will hurt us all.


Post a Comment

<< Home