Building a Second Career

I've performed in clubs, festivals, street fairs, and concert halls since I was a teenager, but I've grown tired of the normal gig scene. I started performing
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I've performed in clubs, festivals, street fairs, and concert halls since I was a teenager, but I've grown tired of the normal gig scene. I started performing in SL as Von Johin after learning that an old friend, ambient musician Tony Gerber, was gigging there. Eventually, I bought land and built a venue, Johin's Blue Note Club, making it look like an amalgam of the juke joints I've played around the country. Every Wednesday, the club fills to capacity, which is about 20 people seated and 35 standing. My wife soon joined SL and learned to make clothing and other items to sell. We bought more land and attached it to the club, and Johin Village was born.

To make the club feel realistic, I added a jukebox, a pinball machine, and a P.A. system with floor monitors. Von Johin sits on a stool with mics for voice and guitar, while people dance in front of the stage, sit at the bar or tables, or stand and socialize in an open chat as he plays. They can also type in song requests.

I capture my real-life audio with a pair of Violet condenser mics — a Globe for vocals and an Amethyst Vintage for the guitars — going through a Focusrite Platinum Penta preamp/compressor into a Digidesign 002R interface (see Fig. A). When I travel, I use an Mbox 2 interface and use the high-speed Internet connection at the hotel. When you see Von Johin holding a Gibson J200, it's because I'm playing a Gibson J200. When he switches to a Gibson J160E or Hound Dog Dobro, it's because I've switched in real life. I don't have to do that; I just think it's fun.

I use Nicecast for streaming. It hosts AU and VST plug-ins, so I can add reverb if I want. But I find that effects can make things less stable, so I broadcast dry. I use a direct cable connection to my high-speed cable modem. Wireless and SL is not the best combo due to packet loss of data, and you're asking for problems if you do a show wirelessly. When I'm not performing, I use Nicecast to send music into my land and club from my iTunes playlist.

Renting a Shoutcast stream from another avatar in SL costs me $16 a month for 100 simultaneous listeners. (For slightly more, I can have unlimited listeners.) I also use Nicecast to capture a 128 Kbps MP3 archive of all my shows, which I edit and make available on the Von Johin Web site (www.vonjohin.com), because I often get requests from Internet radio operators in SL for my recordings.

In the first few months, I played about 40 concerts, earning the equivalent of $40 to $50 in Linden Dollars (L$) at each performance outside of my club. The exchange rate is about 1,000 L$ to 4 U.S. dollars, and my average take each show is from 10,000 to 15,000 L$ in tips from concert attendees and fees from the club owner. Obviously, when I play my own club, I don't get a fee from the owner, so I earn about 5,000 L$ less there. Sure, I make half as much as I would in a real club, but I don't have to leave my house.

And I now have fans all over the real world who log on to hear me play. What's not to love about that?