My initial reaction was you have GOT to be shitting me, followed closely by huh. that kinda makes sense. That’s been my chain of response to most everything about the online virtual world thingy Second Life thus far, from the basic concept to its immense popularity to the gazillions of dollars spent on it daily to the notion that for many users it’s just high-bandwidth cybersex to the fact that major brands are establishing a marketing presence there. That it even qualifies as a “there” is troubling, but according to consensus reality, it exists. And where people go, they will be sold to. Certainly advertising in video games is nothing new, dating at least back to the Marlboro ads in Pole Position II. The blatant promotion of cigarettes to ten year-olds (as opposed to the comparatively more subtle Joe Camel approach) has that certain early-eighties charm, doesn’t it?
So after a momentary incredulousness, I realized the lack of shock value that the allegedly beleaguered music industry (whose tolerate/hate relationship with the internet is probably the most well-documented struggle since World War II) is attempting to get a piece of the virtual pie’s very real money, in such forms as the imaginatively named Sony Music Media Island. In Second Life parlance, an island is the same thing as in meatspace: a mass of land surrounded by water. The owner can do pretty much whatever they want with it, allowing for the fulfillment of more than a few fascist fantasies. Rule your vampire clan while sitting at your computer in a bathrobe! We may not have flying cars, but the Future’s still pretty great.
Sony’s island is doing fairly well for itself, receving about three thousand visitors since going live in mid-October, considering the lack of promotion combined with an off-putting name. I mean, really: “Sony Music Media Island.” That’s the best they could do? I understand the need to promote the brand, but it’s so sterile, and as Kassia recently pointed out, media consumers generally consume by title, not label. Then again, their big kickoff event was a chat and album preview with Ben Folds, so it’s clear dynamism isn’t quite on their agenda as much as “affordability.”
Beating Ben Folds to the punch this past August was Suzanne Vega, in what was hyped as the first Second Life performance by a major recording artist. Due to technical reasons, the event straddled the line between creepy and just plain weird. Watching it, I find it difficult not to wonder what the point of the graphical Second Life angle is, at least at this level of technology. It’s all so very disconcerting, the lack of synchronization and the expressionless faces and the cut to the large-breasted blowup doll at thirteen seconds in, which is almost Tyler Durden-esque in its inexplicability. At least the nightmare-a-tronics at Chuck-E-Cheese moved their mechanical mouths. We’re stumbling deeper into the Uncanny Valley, folks.
This is somehow more intimate and immersive than simply listening to the audio? I suppose so, if you’re inclined to accept Second Life as equal to meatspace, and consider the experience of watching a looping graphic of Suzanne Vega and hearing the real thing clack away at a (computer) keyboard as she tries to get her make-believe guitar to render properly to be an exciting, you-are-there experience just like a real concert.
Personally, I’m waiting for Journey’s return. They did it first, and best.