What is the draw of online musical performance for the artist or the audience? It would seem that performing in the real world has more benefits. The artist and audience have direct contact. They can speak directly, look at each other directly, and basically have a conversation with several people without the confounding problems of emerging technologies. Meanwhile, the virtual space is disconnected by many miles, not only between the musician and an individual in the audience, but also between the audience members themselves.
Still there are benefits to the online performance that bring in both parties.
Titration of Experience
A performance online allows both the artist and the audience to titrate the degree of exposure to each other.
While performing online, there is also a more direct access to a solitude that can be very beneficial towards artistry. One can turn off the sounds of the computer, turn his back to the monitor, and just play music knowing that an Audience is out there. When the piece is finished, he can return to the world of the Audience where he can discuss the piece or hear and read the comments between individuals that occurred during the performance.
Similarly, an audience member has the ability to titrate exposure to the musician. He can turn the volume up, down, or off rather than simply accept the levels as is. He can teleport instantly to another location of the world where another musician is playing or where there is no music at all and continue on with the day. At any moment, there can be a handful or more musicians and DJs performing throughout the world performing their craft several times per week.
A huge boon to both artist and audience is the ability to schedule a performance without transit time.
In an RL show, a musician needs to pack up gear, transport it, and set it up at the show. This is, of course, followed by the performance, and the repacking and taking it back home. Transit time can easily be four to five times the length of the performance. Depending on the weight of the gear, too, it can be an adventure in physical exertion as well. In the virtual world, the only parts that need addressing is the testing of the sound to make sure it is getting through to the audience and the performance itself.
For the audience, the experience is as easy or as difficult as a logging in. Directions to a place are now in the form of html meaning that getting there is just a matter of clicking a link.
Recorded Chats Allow for Extended Communication
Oddly enough, the performance online can seem to be a closer, more intimate, experience at times. Due to the capacity to chat via a chatlog and IM, a person can start a conversation and continue it as some later arbitrary point in time. An audience member can feel inspired by the musician and type something to the artist during a performance rather than wait. She does not have to feel that the only communication is an applause. Rather, she can say specifically how she feels.
Because of the difference of both content of communication as well as the less stringent requirements of response times, the artist can wait until after the show and some time of recuperation before considering the comment and continuing the conversation. This difference may seem small at first, but it is really quite significant.
Still, artist and audience can communicate during the performances as well. Since the chatting from the audience is a visual reading experience, the musician can read and respond while performing. Again, there is a shift in the experience of communication.
Lastly, there is a community of musicians online. Real people are behind the avatars with real conflicts and concerns. Living in an online environment is like living in a city. After a while, it is a part of the player. People and places become familiar and friendships develop. Playing online for a while, a person gets to know his audience and the audience gets to know the artist.
Learning the landscape of these new virtual lands in terms of music as well as simple exploration are a type of bonding experience that is quite enjoyable.
– Post inspired by conversation with Schmophitt Neruda