Nothing could persuade me to be a Second Life venue owner. I genuinely admire anyone who decides to make that their Second Life objective. They’re applying a great many skills and abilities that I simply don’t possess.
The costs of operating even quite a small parcel can be eye-watering for somebody on a modest income. I don’t know of a single venue owner who has made a surplus from hosting performers though I know a great many who thought they could when they first started. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve received an IM from somebody who says “We’re excited to announce the opening of a new venue and would love you to perform there.” They then go on to say, “We intend to start making generous payments to performers as soon as our income will allow, but for the moment we hope that you’ll perform for tips only.” Conversations with many of the experienced venue owners I know convince me that the likelihood of making a surplus is next to none. So, I normally work for tips only and I’m happy with that. Some venue owners are generous enough to tip me during the performance, but some don’t and I certainly don’t expect them to.
If the author of the notecard is somebody I know, someone who’s been to my shows and expressed appreciation of what I do and their suggested schedule works for me, I’m quite likely to agree to their request. If I don’t know them, I might visit the venue and if I like what I see and they seem to be a friendly bunch who know what they’re doing, I might agree to do a few gigs before we settle in to a regular arrangement. Otherwise I tend to delete the notecard and forget all about it. Occasionally they want a percentage of my tips. I hope there isn’t a Second Life performer who would agree to that, but be assured that I wouldn’t countenance such an impertinence (just in case you’re thinking of asking). That’s a request that goes in the bin without a second thought in either life.
I’ve discovered the value of choosing venues carefully. Now, I never accept a booking from a venue that regularly features singers who use backing tracks. That isn’t a value judgement, they simply tend to attract an audience that don’t seem to enjoy what I do. I’ve had occasions where I’ve taken over the stage from a backing track singer and at the start of my first song there were over twenty avatars in the audience. Three minutes later there was one – the hostess! The same applies to venues that primarily focus on DJ’s.
I’m not a builder, so creating a venue as a virtual entity would, for me, be nothing but difficult and tiresome. I stand in complete awe of those with the patience and skill to start with an empty piece of land and create a convincing facsimile of anywhere in the universe. And there is a huge difference between building a venue and running it. Many venue owners are good at one or the other. Some are good at both. I would be hopeless at either. I’m happy to organise myself; I’m not so fond of organising other people. Posting my own notices is the least interesting part of my performance, though of course it has to be done. Having to do it a dozen times a week for a bunch of performers who might not show up at the appointed time would drive me mad.
These are just two examples from a wide range of often beautiful and well managed venues I’ve had the privilege to play in over the years. However, if you’ve ever wondered what’s really going on, here’s a picture of me in my Plymouth home during a performance. You can see Brendan on the monitor. (Incidentally, Morgue McMillan took all of these pictures).
I once thought that I’d build a base of supporters who would follow me to whatever venue I happened to be appearing at. For some, it does work like that, but there are plenty of venues who have their own following and groups of friends who will natter away to one another regardless of what I happen to be doing. I’m very happy to see a lot of traffic in local chat. At least they haven’t parked their avatar and gone shopping! They might have the stream switched off of course, but I think it’s presumptuous of a performer to assume that she or he has the complete and undivided attention of everyone there throughout the performance, although I do have to behave as if I have your undivided attention, at least until you slump over and announce “AWAY”!
I’ve been told that on average, I earn around twice as much in tips as the venue does and whilst I have my own expenses to look after, particularly when it comes to updating equipment, I do not have the grinding and punitive expense of renting land from Second Life. Some venue owners put in a great deal of work to build a solid base of supporters by being there and available frequently and regularly, keeping their followers informed and choosing performers very carefully to ensure a consistency of style, genre and professional ability. I admire venue owners who make the effort and have been known to tip the venue myself, though that is something I rarely do.
I once assumed that the venue was irrelevant to the quality of my performance. I’m always in the same place (my living room in south west England) doing the same thing time after time. I’ve discovered that I was wrong. Some venue owners are wonderful at creating a genuine buzz and a tangible atmosphere. They’re the ones who attend and pay attention to every performance that takes place in their venue. They’re the ones who are participating in local chat and helping to create a very real energy. Just as in a good real life performance, I’m able to feed off that energy and it unquestionably raises my game. If you are one of those venue owners, I salute you! You have a rare and valuable gift.
You’d like me to perform at a charity event?
I spent seven years of my career working for a domestic violence charity in real life. For most of those years I was the principal fund raiser and Company Secretary. If my experience made me into anything, it would be … cynical. The charity world is often just another commercial sector and all about getting the largest slice of the pie. I was one of the people fighting over the pie. Far too many charities represent just another facet of capitalist (as opposed to humanist) behaviour. If they can work images of starving babies into their campaign, so much the better.
Therefore, I rarely agree to a charity event. If I do, it will be because I know and admire the person who did the asking. I’m much more likely to agree if the cause is something I feel able to talk intelligently about during the performance. That would be Amnesty International, Women’s Aid and .. well .. that’s about it. There is no shortage of worthy causes, so I pick and choose. Anyone I don’t know who sends me a strident notecard demanding that I support something about which they feel strongly is unlikely to receive a reply. If you want to support a cause, just go ahead and give them whatever they need; please don’t wait for me to intervene on their behalf.