Living in the Virtual World

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This is Celia Hirschman with On the Beat for KCRW.

Now that music has developed a strong foothold in the digital online medium, the cross-marketing potential is limitless. The online world is a well spring of interactivity, and those who harness its power well find extraordinary dividends.

One website that is quickly gaining traction is Second Life is an MMO, a massively multiplayer online game. It's a three-dimensional game, currently with over one million users. Second Life is a cross between the computer role-playing game Sims, the puzzle Myst and MySpace's social networking world. Members of Second Life build an animated personality, called an avatar, and proceed to live their second life online.

This is by no means simply an animated game. Second Life is a robust world that will knock your socks off with its creativity. Everyone who enters interacts in a virtual real life. Whether you want to become wealthy, become a painter, get married, find your guru, buy real estate, go dancing, or build a multinational corporation -- it's all possible in your new virtual life. For many, second life is indeed a second chance to do it all different.

Living in Second Life is free, but buying goods, services and real estate still cost, so the site has built its own monetary system. A credit card can make an exchange for the currency used there. Small monthly subscription fees allow the user to build the life of their dreams.

One of the real-life benefits that the game offers is creating a virtual world to make real income in -- not virtual dollars, but US currency. Second Life reports that millions of dollars have exchanged hands by its members since its inception three years ago.

Big business is jumping in as well. Major League Baseball, Harvard University, Sun Electronics and are all actively involved in building virtual operations on Second Life, to augment their real life business.

The whole concept was created by Phillip Rosedale and his company, Linden Lab, in San Francisco.

Digital technology is giving rise to such extraordinary creativity. Progressive businesses should rethink their strategies, particularly the music business. Building a significant career as a rock star is no longer just about radio airplay, a tv appearance, a national tour and discs in the local record store. Today's music business has to integrate far more deeply into the lifestyle of the consumer, to engage them where they relax, enjoy and can respond. Second Life gives many people a virtual place to do that.

In August, major label recording artist Suzanne Vega, took her Second Life avatar and gave a concert to a small group of invited avatar guests. The concert was available on Second Life, and hosted by the virtual John Hockenberry, an avatar for the radio journalist.

Duran Duran and Regina Specktor have shows scheduled as well. And it's not a closed door to the independent musician either. They also can perform at local Second Life nightclubs with their avatar for the virtual fans who attend. Just like in real life.

We live in the most amazing times.

This is Celia Hirschman With On the Beat for KCRW.