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Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Trials and Tribulations of a Beginner DJ – Stareyes Galaxy Reporting…


Disc Jockeys (DJs) form the backbone for the social encounters in clubs in Second Life ©. Who wouldn’t find elation in dancing to the tunes of DJs who can select, sequence, and execute a night of entertainment in a club full of your favorite people? Many club patrons will, in time, aspire to provide this entertainment as their own initiative, but it is not easy to get started as a DJ. I went out clubbing to find out about the woes of beginner DJs.




DJ Zack (Zack Wonder) has just begun his career as a DJ in Second Life. “I just found that I had amassed a nice collection of oldies, soul, and funk on my mobile phone, and I was listening to my collection in ‘shuffle’ mode all the time. Sometimes there was this sensation of serendipity in the sequence of tunes, and I thought I could create ‘mix tapes’ that would more or less tell a story,” he explains his beginnings.
DJ Zack says he brought up his DJ aspirations in discussions with people he didn’t even know had tried this before, and quickly got a handful of contacts. “The DJ community is very collegial,” DJ Zack explains with enthusiasm. “Everyone was so helpful, and when I was running into little snags, quirks, and problems as I plowed my way ahead, my DJ contacts quickly found the answers to my questions.”
The mechanics of DJing in Second Life are quite straightforward. You need to rent a stream from a vendor (this is basically a URL with a port) and access rights to change the parcel sound to your stream. On the real life side of this, you need software to broadcast your music to that URL. Free software for this includes Winamp © and Mixxx ©. A commercial solution is SAM Party DJ © broadcast package.

Aside from the technical side, getting actually to play somewhere is the next step. “You need somewhere to test your technical setup,” points out Zack Wonder. “Once you are confident that the streaming works, you can approach club owners.” Established clubs have full schedules and are hesitant to take on beginners. The venue song format can also limit the opportunities of beginner DJs with smaller collections. “The biggest collection I heard of was 90 000 songs, and I only have about 4 000.”



DJ Zack was lucky to find a few starting clubs who were looking for performers, one of which is Bagdad Café, a classic blues and jazz club, set in a 50’s diner style and owned by Van Hoffnung. Bagdad Café has been in operation for two months now. “I built it years ago as a copy of the real-life venue,” explains Van. “It used to be a live music venue,  but I got bored and let it gather dust...“ Laya Hawker, the Club Manager and Van’s business partner chimes in: “…which we are still trying to get out of the corners. We both wanted a place where people could relax and enjoy great music.” DJ Zack’s first gig at Bagdad Café was to a few members in the audience. “It was fun to do anyway, as the few people liked what I played,” DJ Zack reminisces.



I met Laya Hawker and Van Hoffnung at Bagdad Café to discuss their experiences with new DJs and Zack in particular. DJ Zack and one of the regular Badad Café patrons, Elli joined in the discussion as well.












Laya: There are a lot of great clubs in SL, but hard to find one where people can just hang out at.

Van: ...or one that allows completely green DJs or acts on a stage.

Laya: People need a place to figure out how things work.

Van: In truth, we welcome new performers, new DJs.

SLE: That's how Zack led me to believe.

Zack: Yes, I was surprised when I came around that they asked me to do a set.

Laya: Our Entertainers and DJs can have a set spot, or they can drop in and do it on an impromptu basis.

SLE: So, how did you find Zack?

Laya: I'm not so sure we found him....

Van: I was introduced to him by Elli, one of our regulars.

SLE: Okay. So, what led you to believe he could DJ here?

Laya: He said he wanted to, and we listened.

SLE: Really, is that all it took?

Laya: Everyone has to start somewhere! See, in order to DJ, you have to invest yourself - you need the music library. You need a stream, and you need the software in order to stream it, then you have to learn and understand how all these work together. So if someone goes through all that, why would you not listen?

SLE: Thanks Laya - that does make sense.

Van: The strange thing is, it’s hard to find DJs. They all want work and tips, but won't wait to build a public. If you can’t offer a DJ a crowd, they won’t come - and the crowd won't come until you win them over.

SLE: Ah, all right. So, it's a chicken-and-egg thing?

Laya: It really is… It's slow going: you don't open a club and expect to make money.

SLE: How do you deal with a DJ prospect if all that doesn't work out? Like, there is a technical glitch, bad sound quality, dropouts, or dead air?

Laya: Well, life happens. We've had glitches. DJ Boards freeze up - but you need to just take it all in stride... With everything, you learn something new from it.

Laya then went on to describe the welcoming atmosphere of Bagdad Café, and how building family-like relationships is important. “We may be pixels, but there are people behind each of us... so you need to interact with those people.” It really sounds like Bagdad Café is more about the ambience and people than about just the music. Others chimed in after Laya as well, echoing her sentiments. Van said, “A club has its regulars just like a bar in RL. Those regulars can be open to people or closed.”

SLE: So, you have heard Zack play. How would you compare his style, to others who play here?

Laya: He's got a good feel for songs that lead into one another.

Elli: Well, Zack doesn't do just blues, he has his own style and the music so far has been good. He asks for requests.

Laya: And he was really good at working in blues, along with the soul and back and forth...

Elli: His last set was really good. He downloaded stuff he knew we liked, which is good to keep the customers happy, and he's great fun.

Laya: Again, that goes back to the ambience... We talk and we listen.

Van: A good DJ knows what track will follow what track instinctively. Some DJs just throw the music on, with no flow.

SLE: Surprising to hear that, knowing Zack is new.

Elli: He learns fast.

SLE: It sounds like you want to retain him?

Van: He has a love of music!

Laya: We hope he does stay.

Zack: That I will do! And I can play here what I like to play.

Van: If you like the music you're playing and understand it, it is easy to present.

Laya: You had said about technical issues, Stareyes,  Zack had a couple of them, and there are some people who would have just given up... Zack kept trying to sort them out, kept playing his tunes. But even with the issues, Zack did a great set, he kept us engaged using text and keeping us informed.

Elli: And kept saying sorry.

Laya: That is something even long term experienced DJs don't do well.

From the discussion, I got the impression that Zack could not have landed in the company of any more encouraging and caring people, and for a beginner DJ something like this can be a great boost in confidence. Bagdad Café really looks like a promising new venue, and the managers and personnel as well as the patrons all are open to see it grow, offering their venue for new DJ prospects.

Before joining Bagdad Café, DJ Zack had played at two other starter clubs, both of which folded almost at their conception. He also passed an audition at a premier jazz club, and other clubs are soliciting to get him to play. “In the future, I may need to limit as to how far and wide I try to reach with my contacts, as the DJing is actually quite taxing on time.”
With these opportunities at hand, there is no telling how far his career might take him.
 DJ Zack concludes, “It is really instructive learning how the streaming works, and how to go about creating play lists and responding to requests and dedications. But the most amazing thing to me has been how helpful the people on Second Life are, everybody having helped me enormously over the last few weeks!”

Bagdad Café SLURL: http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Los%20Arboles/126/247/2002

Bagdad Café in Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bagdad_Caf%C3%A9
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