I timidly entered Musician's Playground 3D, the 3D virtual reality world for musicians, fans, and all who support and sell to them. Not being a video game enthusiast, I wondered what would greet me, and if I would be able to find my way around this brave new world.
After downloading the free Musician's Playground 3D browser, I landed at the entrance of the virtual realty world, a brand new playground for musicians, artists, fans, venues, games, and more, which can best be described as a cross between MySpace, YouTube and the virtual reality gaming software The Sims. Fortunately for virtual reality novices such as me, the launch pad of Musician's Playground 3D is full of helpful videos showing new visitors how to move, communicate and generally find our way around this new world.
I was soon greeted at the launch pad by the avatar "Mr. Heid," a friendly, open-shirted, air-guitar-playing greeter, who is Musician's Playground 3D Founder Richard Heidenreich (who is a guitarist in the non-virtual real world). Mr. Heid helped me to select an avatar from a range of avatar options (self-designed avatars are coming soon), and patiently helped me to learn how to move about and communicate, all of which are also described in the helpful videos one can play at the launch pad of Musician's Playground 3D.
Soon, Mr. Heid and I embarked on a tour throughout this virtual world, as he demonstratibed many of the opportunities that await artists, bands, record labels, fans, and others who enter into his world.
Although Mr. Heid's oops! - I mean, although Richard Heidenreich's company, MusicWorld 3D, has many services for musicians, fans and companies, in Part One of my interview we focus on the main event, which is the virtual world Musician's Playground 3D. And shortly after my arriving, we floated through the air or walked along pathways, visiting band houses, indoor and outdoor concert venues, stores, fields, steams, waterfalls, venues, and more, chatting all the while S
[The Aspiring Songwriter] When designing the Musician's Playground 3D virtual reality world, what prompted you to create an overall virtual world where all member bands and artists, record labels, venue operators, merchandisers, and music fans live in one virtual world together, rather than creating individual virtual worlds for individual bands or record labels where fans could select and visit those individual sites?
Richard Heidenreich Our wish was to create an artist, fan, industry related "community," built as neighborhoods, to initiate discovery of new music for fans, international collaborations between artist, and affiliations and connections for industry people.
[The Aspiring Songwriter] Why would music fans want to flock to the Musician's Playground 3D to experience their favorite artists and discover new music?
Richard Heidenreich It's a multi-media combination of proven formulas. People love to chat, people love to discuss music and artist, people enjoy online games, people enjoy searching for and listening to new artist and new tuneage, people love the radio, people love concerts, they love to interact w/their favorite DJs and they love to watch videos..... We have combined all of these elements into one easy and fun place to fulfill the music consumers every entertainment expectation and whim. And if we don't have what they want, we can incorporate it.
[The Aspiring Songwriter] What tech assist is available for virtual world newbees like me?
Richard Heidenreich We have a training center featuring video tutorials, which take you step by step, simplifying the virtual learning experience. Also, our staff is assembled in Teams. One of our teams consists of "greeters," guides specifically trained to assist members and tourist alike in navigating and enjoying the 3D galaxy. Most of our teams consist of individuals who are cross trained to not only guide members but also build they're band house or venue.
[The Aspiring Songwriter] Let's talk about the band houses that artists and labels can create in the MP3D world in which the band members can interact with each other and fans in a real-time environment. How do they select their band house? The houses are pre-made, but the bands' have choices as to how to decorate their houses. How many furniture and equipment options do they have to choose from to create their own world?
Interior of artist T-Rok's virtual band house in Musician's Playground 3D.
Richard Heidenreich It's a matter of individual taste for choice of the house. Within the virtual world are neighborhoods, which consist of a common architectural style. The artist simply explores, and stake out a place to call home. Our directory currently consists of 12,000 objects that can be used to construct the homes. These range from an ashtray to an entertainment center complete with a plasma TV that actually plays video streams. The size of the homes are kept to a maximum of roughly 20x20 meters because, well we had to draw the line somewhere.
[The Aspiring Songwriter] Fan avatars can hang out with band member avatars in the band houses. What kinds of interactions can take place between fans and band members?
Interior of the band Primal's virtual band house in Musician's Playground 3d.
Richard Heidenreich Chatting is the primary interaction, although file sharing is another feature. The band's houses are decorated with objects that can be clicked to open the fan's web browser to any web page on the Net, giving the band member an opportunity to direct the fans to their web sites. (This means unlimited click-throughs!) When a user types a URL into chat, it can also be clicked to do the same, so everyone can share anything on the net with everyone else within 20 meters of them, as this is the range of chat.
[The Aspiring Songwriter] Tell us about the public and private chat capabilities, and specifically how they related to interaction between artist/fan and fan/fan.
Richard Heidenreich Basically, public and private chat is rangedS so if you move out of range of a person or area, people in that area will no longer see your chat, and will no longer appear in your whisper box. For messages to your friends who are out of range, or even out of world, you can send Telegrams, which are kind of a cross between email and instant messaging. They're sent immediately, but stored so you can review them or get them when you come on later if they were sent while you were away.
And all of this allows fans and bands to connect in a variety of ways in real-time or delayed messaging. There's also non-verbal communication using actions, so you can "jam" with someone and have your avatar play air guitar, or bow to someone, or wave, or dance and more!
[The Aspiring Songwriter] As the site catches on, will streets be filled up at some point, with no room for new bands or companies? Will you have to build Oburbs as the virtual the Musician's Playground 3D fills up? Is there a limit to the number of band houses that you can build? Will there be "good addresses" and if so, who gets the best addresses? Will streets or sections of the world be organized by genres?
Arabian City, one of several cities in Musician's Playground 3D virtual world.
Richard Heidenreich Will the streets fill upS.we hope so! The world is 2.25 million square kilometers. If we need more space, we simply make more. There is a place we call the Wall of Fame. All Artists, Virtual Shops and Virtual Venues get a sign on this wall with a logo or picture that when clicked will warp the user to the location of the residence.
The recreational and event areas are spaced throughout the world, so no matter where you live, you're near something that draws visitors. Locations can also be stored in a user's personal 3D browser, so it's easy to revisit.
Street signs available for advertising an a Musician's Playground 3D boulevard.
Advertising is available all over the 3Dworld, on our main website, as well as on our net Radio and TV, which can contain the coordinates of anything in the 3D world. This makes all locations as good as any.
[The Aspiring Songwriter] The Musician's Playground 3D also offers concert venues and nightclubs. How will bands and labels schedule concert stages and venues for events, and how are those events promoted to music fan members?
Richard Heidenreich The events can range in complexity, so the best way to schedule is to contact our main office firstname.lastname@example.org or 866-841-0089 with a proposal. Our staff will then offer options, and we work from there. Each client is treated on an individual basis due to the diverse possibilities we offer.
As for the promotional aspect, we employ MusicDish Network's vast capabilities, as well as blasts on a popular social networking site to all of our "friends." Additional advertising can be negotiated as part of our hosting package offered to the client requesting the event.
[The Aspiring Songwriter] What is the music sound quality for videos, music and concert events?
Richard Heidenreich We experimented with many streaming bit rates. Though we have the capability to stream in high definition, we found a happy medium is the ticket to enable most Internet users to enjoy the streams without problems.
What seems to work best is 128kbps at 44.1 kHz stereo for streamed audio, and the live broadcasts are streamed at 282kbps with FM quality audio. It is dependent on the users ISP and computer system; however, great consideration is used to insure good quality for the average user.
For example, and average computer on a DSL connection will get a video stream at 15-23 frames per second, where the same computer on a cable connection will see it at 25-30 frames per second. However, in a Virtual Venue, we give unlimited bandwidth, so the "on demand" streams are dependent on the bit rate of the video or audio the client gives usSeven HD.
[The Aspiring Songwriter] The Musician's Playground 3D offers means for fans to interact with each other and promote events and bands. Explain how that happens.
Richard Heidenreich Picture this: Someone comes in, hears the radio off the batS they see the signs that show them how it all works, then they go exploreS they run into other fans or musicians and chat about light hearted topics, and then the person tells the new person about a great bandS and they know where their house isS so they take the new person to the band house or venue, and show them where to hear the tunes.
New person loves the music, checks out the link back to the band website where they can buy the CD. Then they read on the website that the band is playing live at one of our venues soon. They show up there for the live performance and enjoyment is had by all. The band has picked up a new fan, and the new person has made new friends.
[The Aspiring Songwriter] Are there incentives built into the Musician's Playground 3D for fans to promote bands, such as street teams in the non-virtual world? I see that band are "ranked" by page views, song plays and fan votes. When you say page views, does that mean visits to the band's Musician's Playground 3D virtual house?
Richard Heidenreich Ah, noS those are actual views of JUST that person's website at http://www.musicworld3dbands.com in-world visits can be tracked a number of ways though, for those who wish to, but that gets a bit beyond the technical scope of this article.
[The Aspiring Songwriter] The Musician's Playground 3D will promote battles of the bands. Tell us about that.
Avatar band performing at venue in Musician's Playground 3D
Richard Heidenreich "He who Rocks, Rules" is the name of the game. Fans will gather at a pre-determined venue and the bands will either perform live via streaming video or pre-recorded video and they're fans vote at the end of the performances in chat.
A tally will be taken and calculated and the winner will be announced live at the conclusion of the show by the hosting DJ, and until the next Battle of the Bands occurs, Bulletin Boards thru out the galaxy will promo the winners... as well as announcements being sent via emails, bulletins etc....
[The Aspiring Songwriter] What are the weekly underground concerts?
Richard Heidenreich The Metro Underground is our 1st Virtual Venue. It is an ornate opera house in the 3D world that is occupied by a venue in Melbourne, Florida (see http://myspace.com/metroentertainment ). They stream, via our servers, every Friday and Saturday.
Interior of concert stage in the Metro Underground venue in Musician's Playground 3D
[The Aspiring Songwriter] Fans experience music and bands in the Musician's Playground 3D as a videogame-like experience. Can they also purchase music and other media content via the Musician's Playground 3D if they find bands they like?
Richard Heidenreich Yes they sure canS We can link directly to a musician's CD purchase link online in their house if they desire, and then they simply click a sign, the page opens in their web browser, and they go buy the music. It's that simple.
[The Aspiring Songwriter] What is the "Virtual Venues" section about?
Richard Heidenreich It's similar to a band house, except it features unlimited bandwidth live and on demand audio and video. The size is also considerably larger. The equipment is the responsibility of the client for live streaming, though we do provide technical support and advice. It also gives a considerable discount to the client for our advertising platforms.
A good application would be a record label that wanted a meeting place to showcase their services and artists. Another would be a retailer that wanted a web based "shop" in which they could interact via chat with potential consumers.
[The Aspiring Songwriter] You also offer an Internet radio station. Whose music gets played on that and why?
Richard Heidenreich The 24/7 automated station includes Indie bands who submit music for play. We are a bit selective, so radio play is not guaranteed. Our DJs pick from all music submitted and feature them on their shows. Often the DJs do research on artists and share what they find with the listeners.
Planned to start in Jan '07 is a show on Monday nights called Indie Line, where live phone interviews will be done on the show of Artists and Industry Reps. Anyone interested can email email@example.com or call 866-841-0089 12noon to 11 pm EST.
[The Aspiring Songwriter] How many bands/labels/fans do you anticipate would make for a vibrant virtual community, and do you have a timeframe for that?
Richard Heidenreich We can currently handle 1000 simultaneous users. However, as mentioned before, the 3D world is a scalable platform, expanding is only a matter of demand. To host more listeners and viewers of our Net Radio and TV is a matter of load balancing more servers. When? Yesterday would be cool.
[The Aspiring Songwriter] It appears that early participants will have a leg up on developing a virtual fanbase.
Richard Heidenreich Competition among artist for stature is true on anyone's playing field. The bands that have joined us from the beginning will of course be ahead of artist coming in the door from here on out. That breeds a healthy competitiveness that will spur the artist(s) to play and create to the best of they're ability in order to stay or climb to the top therefore enhancing the experience (s) for their fans.
Interior of Artist Matt O'Ree's band house in Musician's Playground 3D.
[The Aspiring Songwriter] For those companies that might be interested in advertising or sponsorships on the Musician's Playground 3D, are there going to be such opportunities? If so, what kinds of companies do you envision would be interested in a virtual music world?
Richard Heidenreich Yes, in fact advertising and sponsorship is our target revenue. We have already become affiliates of companies such as Musician's Friend, Zzounds and Emusic among others. When discussing advertising in the 3D world, you must keep in mind that this is Virtual Reality.
Boulevard of stores.If you want a giant flying Fish pulling a banner made of water with flashing words saying "shop at Joe's Bait Shack," we can do that.
Mercedes Benz is interested in this aspect of advertising by featuring their cars as some of the many vehicles users can get in and ride. We also have advertising opportunities on our web site, as well as commercial spots on our Net Radio and TV.
[The Aspiring Songwriter] And what about the affiliate program?
Richard Heidenreich These have been offered to us by the companies listed on the affiliate's page of our web site. The links embedded in the banners contain a code that identifies the "click through" as emanating from our site, and entitles us to a conversion rate if that user subscribes or buys.
[The Aspiring Songwriter] How many languages does the Musician's Playground 3D offer to users, and will different language groups be able to interact?
Richard Heidenreich We are primarily English at this time, though there are other languages for the buttons and such selectable. We don't have any immediate plans to include translation services, but we know we've had French and Spanish-speaking people come in, and we've used web translators to speak to them with some degree of success.
[The Aspiring Songwriter] Are there any other points you'd like to make?
Richard Heidenreich The concept of Virtual Reality is so new it's a bit alien to most. The only way you can truly understand the potential is to see it for yourself. We are very confident that with the help of promotional platforms such as MusicDish Network, the Indie Community will discover this exciting new concept, and embrace it.
The most important aspect that sets us apart is the social interaction that not only gives the consumer a fun way to discover new music, but gives the musician and consumer direct access to each other in real time in a way never before experienced. We also promote Internet safety.
All public chat is monitored by our staff, and inappropriate behavior and language is dealt with politely. Repeated offenders can be ejected or banned as needed. Any user can "mute" any other user, which will omit that users chat from the screen.
[The Aspiring Songwriter] What age group of music fans it your primary target group and why?
Richard Heidenreich Come one, come all. If you have a computer and an Internet connection, you can enjoy the place. Not only age groups, but genres, too. If you like music, we have it. If you like social interaction, we have it. It's a place where you can play a relaxing game of chess, take a stroll in the park or along a beach, attend a concert, listen to music with others from any where in the world at the same time.
[The Aspiring Songwriter] Who do you see becoming the masters of the Musician's Playground 3D: indie artists, record labels/signed artists, or music fans and why?
Richard Heidenreich Well, we hope to have a balanced atmosphere here. We want to cater to all we want fans to come and enjoy the tunes and videos, we want the bands to be able to promote themselves, and we want the industry to be able to reach all of them. But in the end, it's all about good music and good friends, we think.
[The Aspiring Songwriter] Thanks, Rich, for the interview, but I've gotta go. I'm driving my Musician's Playground 3D virtual car over to catch a virtual concert at the Roman Arena S will I see your avatar there?
Stayed tuned for more from Musician's World 3D...
Provided by the MusicDish Network. Copyright © MusicDish LLC 2007 - Republished with Permission