Written by Greater Des Moines Music Coalition
Article by Andy Duffelmeyer Wednesday, 27 August 2008
Bryan Baker lives a double life.
By day he works as an I.T. consultant in Des Moines, Iowa. He has a wife, a young family and a dog named Henry. At night he performs several gigs a week as Kaklick Martin, traveling to exotic island venues and playing for fans all over the world.
Bryan Baker is one of a burgeoning number of musical artists in Second Life , a free gaming platform introduced in 2003 by Linden Lab. He streams his live performances through his avatar, named Kaklick Martin, to crowds of other Second Life players. Second Life has millions of users around the world.
Baker has been composing music since he was eight years old. He played with several bands, including The Keyz, a group he joined while studying theatre at Iowa State University; and Sh*t Happens, an experimental band he joined while earning a masters degree in theater sound design at the California Institute of the Arts.
After receiving his degrees Baker dropped out of music for several years, concentrating on his day job. It wasn’t until Apple came out with GarageBand in 2004 that he decided to start composing and recording songs again.
“I thought ‘wow this is great,’” Baker said in his West Des Moines home-studio, as his yellow labrador lay at his feet. “GarageBand gave me an environment to get in, work, not mess around too much with the tech stuff and then get out. I started posting a lot of stuff on macjams.com. Then I found out a couple people had already done shows on Second Life.”
For a small fee, Second Life users can own a piece of virtual land in the game. When you own land you can control much of the environment, including what other users hear when they enter your area.
“If you plug a live stream into that, you have a live show,” Baker said. “And when you have an avatar there it becomes an interactive thing. Avatars can dance and you can see comments people type.”
Baker has released two albums since he started performing on Second Life in 2005, Big Bad World and Roadhouse Ranch Saloon, available on iTunes and at ZZZ Records in Des Moines. His lyrics range from playful to political and everywhere in between, while his musical style floats from pop and punk to reggae and blues.
He has even been able to make a little money gigging electronically from his home studio.
“I make some money. Not a lot,” Baker said. “My main thing is trying to promote my music. The secondary thing has been the money.”
"Because I have a full time job, I don’t play a lot of shows, but it’s a lot more than I could play in real life,” Baker, 45, said. “The great thing is it’s allowed me to gig at all. The other thing is there’s a pretty good chance that I’ll be performing for people all over the country and parts of Europe, Asia and Australia.”
Baker charges 5,000 Linden dollars per performance. Lindens are the currency in Second Life and are exchanged at a rate of about 265 to one U.S. dollar. He also receives tips from his audience.
“At this point I do a lot of shows for free,” Baker said. “It’s not a great amount of money.”
He usually sings and plays an acoustic-electric guitar during his live performances, although he has backing tracks from his albums that he uses occasionally. A woman from Great Britain even did some back up vocals for one of his recent tunes, “The Road.”
His more serious songs cover issues like the Jose Padilla trial and the election of President Bush. His Second Life-targeted songs are about issues like users crashing, avatars loading slowly, anthropomorphic character skins (or “furries”) and cyber sex.
“It’s kind of frightening writing songs about technology because things are changing so fast,” Baker said.
“I’d say I write two or three regular songs for every Second Life song. And there’s been a few that are somewhere in between like ‘Closing Time At the Roadhouse.’ That song is named after a place in Second Life that I liked to hang out, and the atmosphere of that place reminded me of this scene of the last couple in a bar: having one last dance before they have to go back to their regular lives. But most of my Second Life stuff goes for the funny as much as I can.”
Although Baker says he has made a couple thousand dollars from gigging and CD sales, he doesn’t plan to quit his I.T. job anytime in the near future.
“My goal is to break even,” Baker said. “I would like to sell CD’s at a brisker pace. But
I’ve never been invested in making a career in Second Life music. There are people that play two or three shows a day and that’s enough to kind of eek by. I think of it mostly as a place I can do shows and sell stuff while at the same time interact with people.”
Not many big-name artists have performed in Second Life. Once more than about 100 avatars are in the same area the game slows and users experience lag, making it nearly impossible for a well-known band to perform in-world. However, there are several performers from Second Life that have gone the other direction and made a real-life career from electronic gigging.
"Keiko Takamura, she was on MTV, so she’s gotten a lot of press about that,” Baker said. “She’s a fabulous songwriter and a great performer.”
Baker said there has been a lot of debate about what Second Life is and what it can be. For some people it’s a game where they can role-play, explore and meet other players. For others, like Baker, it’s a platform to perform when it might be difficult to otherwise.
“The nice thing is I can come into this room, plug in my guitar and do a show. And when I’m done I can wander to the fridge and get a beer or go upstairs and go to bed,” Baker said, smiling. “Another advantage to playing online is I can cheat and look at my lyrics.”
Second Life Requirements: You need a pretty beefy machine to run Second Life, especially if you want to stream music. You also must have a broadband connection.
For more information on Bryan Baker aka Kaklick Martin visit: