Monday, April 13, 2009

Is there a current Music Crowd Recession in Second Life?

Second Life is hopping! Anyone that is inworld knows this. Major news outlets are talking about the vibrancy within Second Life. When each of us logs on, we see there's an average of 60,000-80,000 people logged in at once.

While participating in a SL forum I frequent, the conversation came up about performers and venues not being able to pull a large crowd as well as what is expected (especially with MORE people logging into SL these days). Over the past month, many performers noticed and are noticing a dramatic drop-off in the crowd numbers. Musicians and DJs that were easily pulling in 30, 40, 50+ people to their shows, are seeing 5, 8, 10 people show up now.

The question is, why? Many of us are baffled. Could it be that people are just 'evented out'? Is the SL music crowd tired out with the SL music scene? Have they been to enough music shows in SL and are now doing other projects that keep them busy? Is it that Second Life just hasn't been working like it should, and when people can actually get in to SL, they have to complete the work they couldn't when SL was borked, preventing free time? Maybe it's that crowd members may have the notion that they must tip the performer and venue if they want to attend a show?

As we are all trying to put our finger on it, here are my thoughts.
(I decided to copy and paste my thoughts directly from the thread)

Doubledown Tandino post #1:
Since about mid-March, there has really been a dry spell [regarding the event attendance numbers]. And frankly , it's kind of annoying.

Since the same amount of people are generally logged in at the same time (between 40,000 and 80,000) that means they are inworld, and doing something else, and not attending music events.

The shows I did recently (the past two-three weeks) have been widely-varied events; including the Music Awareness 2009, an art/music show at Twilight's Peace, a few club DJ shows, a networking/marketing show with metaLIFE, a show (The Rendezvous at Muse Isle) where not only do I perform for 2 hours live, we also give away a $3800L animation equipment at every event. ... still nothing has been more of a crowd draw than the next.

The question I have been asking myself in the past weeks is:
Why has there been a dropoff in live music attendance??
And the answer I keep coming back to is: over inundated, unoriginal, same stuff day after day after day is not going to draw MORE of a fanbase.

I look at this situation from both sides. As a music lover in SL, I've been checking out SL music shows for 3 years. I am now down to hanging out at about 1 show a day, and maybe 2-4 popins.... I simply have no time or desire to see more shows, even if it's a performer I like (cause i've seen em plenty already). I am assuming many others, the ones that would normally be in the crowd, feel the same way.

As a performer I'm on stage thinking "where is everybody"
... and I reply to myself "they're not here, that much is true"

So what does all this mean?!?!?! nothing really. I guess SL is going through a phase where many people are burnt out on events? Hopefully it'll correct itsself.

In the meantime, I've always had the idea of an unofficial supporters union. A group of us that are willing to extend the support. The best way to get more people at a show is to have the people at the show spread the word and offer teleports over. My ONLY crowded shows these days are when my staff and crowd goes the extra mile for me.

I'm of the opinion that if we have a crew of devotees that want to pop-in for eachother, and help eachother get the word out, it'll make a major impact getting more people to shows, and faster.

Doubledown Tandino post #2:
There is a big illusion going on here.... The best performers in SL are not getting the biggest crowds anymore. It's the musicians that have a strong support team that get the crowd to turn up. The musicians that can focus on their music and show, while they have staff to cover promotions, tps, word spreading, more promotion.... those are the performers that seem to have the biggest crowds. When the promotion team + the venue + the performer + the crowd all work together, that's when a packed sim happens.

Doubledown Tandino post #3:
(in a response to another performer that has found group notices and IMs to be ineffective.)
Sending out group notices and IMs may not have a direct effect ....but the spam has a long lasting residual effect.

Having your name sent out to people is a good thing and if you spam (within the confines of the loose SL spam etiquette), it can never be something that hurts; only something that helps in the long run.

The question remains though: For the amount of time spent promoting in SL, is the result worth the effort? Currently, it seems like it's not worth the effort, but being a marketing & promotion professional, I still refer to old cliches about advertising. (A perfect example is Coca-cola. I've had a coke less than 10 times in my life. I think it is vile and disgusting. Yet, as a human, living on Earth, I know Coke. I know the name, the brand, the logo, and what it does.)

Putting that into the SL equation, I think even if people don't make it to the current show, advertising yourself anyway puts your name in their minds for the future. There's quite a few people in my daily SL travels that know of me, and know I'm a DJ, but haven't seen a show. Because of my previous ad placement in their mind, we can jump into a conversation which could lead to gaining a devoted fan.... but i digress.

Something is currently "off" about second life music events (and perhaps events and get-togethers in general). The people are simply not coming out to the events. the meantime, while we all try to figure this out... What do we do?

I think the best method is the Doubledown: "pay it forward pop in" approach.
We all know eachother, we all support eachother.... why not stick your avatar at someone else's show when you're not doing anything? Or just a pop in... it takes a minute to pop in and say hi, maybe listen to one tune. I think if we do this for eachother, we'll have the feeling of abundance of support.

FOOTNOTE: I really hope that last years push about how important it is to tip the performer and the venue hasn't caused a sense that people should tip when they go to a show. I know as a performer, I remember who tips, but I don't remember who doesn't. The musician and the venue don't care if some people can't tip.. Lets hope the SL community understands that we were never demanding tips and donations to show up to a music event.

There are my thoughts. I wanted to point out that I, and many others in SL are feeling this 'evented-out' (thanks Maryjoanne for the term). Is there something to be done that can "fix" anything? Getting a sense of what's happening is the first step. Group discussion will lead to a turnaround in this current performance event slump in Second Life.

Are you currently feeling 'evented-out'? Do you sense that events aren't pulling crowds like they used to? If you're a performer, have you noticed any of this yourself?
Does anyone have any thoughts or ideas about how to turn around the current SL event slump?


annotoole said...

I have never come closer to just quitting SL than this morning when I woke up and realized I was surrounded by stupid grossly over self entitled digikids. Fortunately, after a nap, I came to my senses and determined I don't have to read their constant babbling bitching whining stream of drivel.

However and very sadly, the magic of 2006 is gone forever from Second Life. 20 people lag a sim so bad you can't move when, before fartlight was jammed into Second Life like a murderous rapist's member, you could have 80 people together in one place having fun. LL really needs to self evaluate why they keep coders and product managers on the payroll that fail to comprehend the fact that they are killing Second Life's social features by adding crap nobody asked for.

I mean why go anywhere. It is nothing but lag everywhere now. And ignorant assholes bitching because you dare to have an arc of 1300 which interferes with their dad's shitty commodore 64 0.0001 FPS.

Blue Mars will require nVidia 9800 or better to log in. Won't be so many whiners and financially broke edu interests there will there?

Anonymous said...

I am a casual attendee of live events in SL...I love the variety and quality of live performers and DJ's in SL. Lately I've not been attending nearly as many shows as before, and I think you've hit on most of the reasons for me...just for data collection, I'll post my personal ranking of reasons for you:

1. The shows aren't offering anything new. While there's a great variety of talent, individually, the performances don't really offer-up anything new. Comedy shows are the most repulsive in this regard.

2. The compulsion to tip the venue and the performer. You may say that they don't mind, but the spam to "show some love" at some venues drowns out and detracts from the show. It comes off as desperate...just charge a cover charge and let the show happen, or inspire the crowd to contribute.

3. A lot of venues suck. A few of the peformers I follow seem to be willing to play anywhere. I have no interest in standing on a megaprim cube on laggy mainland listening to a performance I've heard before and hoping things will rez before the end of the hour.

4. Over-exposure. I disagree with your statement that spamming events can only result in good tidings. It gives me the feeling that if I have *anything* else going on, no worries...another show will be along soon enough.

I hope this doesn't come across as negative...just being honest. I think the music scene in SL is one of the coolest things happening right now, and I hope that better venues, unique performances and more professional promotion can take it to the next level.

for Paisley Beebe said...

Hi Double, funnily enough I've noticed crowd size drops for music events over the last year really, 2007 for me, was the most wonderfull year for seeing huge crowds over 80 per performance for a lot of the big crowd drawers like Dexter, Kimmy, Max, Louis, and Komuso, and myself, when I had the trio. In the last few weeks I have been interviewed about the music scene in SL, and posted about it in several different places in the last month or so. The most succinct piece being on the Rezzable blog I have my theories too which are very much along the same lines as yours. Although I don't sing much in SL anymore mostly because of the TV shows I produce taking up a lot of time, and the drop in my own crowds and lack of fees ect...I do watch the concert circuit very closely in my job as finding Talent for Tonight Live. The numbers at concerts has been dropping steadily through 2008-2009. I think the novelty has worn off to be honest...not only are the people who are most likely to go to Concerts now blase about seeing their favorite act live, the New acts are just getting more and more professional. The choice of Acts is quite large of a limited genre (Pop rock Blues Folk) . People go to shows for different reasons, there are acts that date right back to 2005 and 2006 that have a loyal group of fans that come out to see them at their shows, and I recon its less about the music in a lot of cases but more about just hanging out a place they like and with music they like.

I also agree that spruking for tips is probably a disincentive to a lot of folks particularly at the moment when we are all cutting puts pressure on people, and you feel bad if you don't want to tip and you are reminded constantly to do so. There's a bind there...people that know about tipping, will tip a new performer big cause its exiting to see a new good performer, as time goes on they tip that performer less...they expect good things from them ...not so thrilling now after you have seen them up close 5 times. And the noobies don't know about the culture of tipping so to be prompted about it gives them the ides.

On the Fan side of things when you discover a new Talent you might go see them several times to start and tip a reasonable amount, but then you stop going you have seen them, love them, but... even with a new song or new special effects you have seen them and heard them...people get bored even with great artists, I could not go see an RL act I love over and over even if they did something different, some fans do, but they might be the more obsessive types.

SL is like a small town. You can't really "Tour" here. So you reach saturation point at some stage...where everyone who is going to love your stuff has seen you 20 times and bought your album if you have one, and they may only come back to see you every 6 months or so just to pop in. So as an artist you either cut back on your exposure, or soldier on getting less and less crowds. Some people don't mind playing to a small dedicated crowd but I think for most artists seeing your crowd get smaller and smaller is naturally feel unloved and as if you are failing.

There are complex reasons why the SL music scene just isn't mature enough to support ongoing Music in the long term and I discuss many of them here do have a unique position of being both performer and talent scout in SL, and I do interview many many performers. so I have a different overview than many other people, but Im not the final word either on the Music scene :) But its not hard to log on, go through the events and check the green dots on the map and see who has big crowds, and what events are marketed and put together well in places where you are likely to get bigger crowds.

One solution I have thought of..and I applogise if this has been touted before...
I would like to see the SL log in screen more interactive, I would like to see it more like Club Penguin actually, where you have icons to click on, for say Shopping, Live music, events, building classes as soon as you get to that log in screen you can, as a new user, or seasoned one, make a choice to go to a search screen to choose where to go. Or have it so each day there is a nominated event to go to like the show case....favoritism there. But finding things to do in SL is just too bloody should be so much easier without showing favoritism.

Thats my big idea.

Supporting one another is great, but may not bring record sales or tips...(and as musicians or DJ's we have a right to earn Lindens for our work..even just to pay our stream costs and rent) unfortunately 80% of SL users still don't know about events of any kind and how to find them and to get Music Listeners numbers up, they need to be able to find them MUCH easier. That will help a long way. And making technology better so that relay casting is easier will help, basically the more people who know about live music in SL and can find it easily the less problems you will have with tipping. In 2006 there were far more "paying" venues cause the crowds were bigger (there were less artists) ....get more people watching and more venues will be able to afford to pay musicians again, (if they have a good business model). Demand will create more work and more money for artists and venues. But really we just have to make it easier for SL users to find us!

Then you will have less saturation, less reliance on tipping, and if the music scene gets really popular again...ticketed events.

You can't discount the economic climate now, RL concert promoters are discounting ticket prices and offering all sorts of package deals to get people to buy RL tickets to shows. Forget all that guff about the 1930's depression making cinema going such a popular thing so people can escape the awfulness of their poverty, The price of concerts tickets and the theatre and the cinema are so huge today compared to the prices back then, even with the rate of inflation, and the alternatives to that sort of entertainment like TV or DVD's means we are not going to see the same thing today in this recession.

One other thing....people get sick of seeing one guy or girl singers with a guitar or piano ...they want to see bands to hear interaction between them ect..but you won't see that with tips-only venues, Bands won't come in for that, the exposure is so small its not worth it for them, even up and comming bands. Thats why if you are a one person Band or a Duo that live together you have it made. You don't have to share income with band member, don't have to and beleive me if you are in a band, the crowd do not tip per-person you get the same tips for a band as you do a solo act....Ive brought my trio in enough times to know that.

The Tonight Live show is a live event also, and our crowd is very steady at between 50 and 70 people every week. But the audience see a different show each week, and we don't ask for tips. I definitely think those 2 things make a huge difference.

Any way thats my 2K's worth.
Paisley Beebe Host of Tonight Live

Kwame Oh said...

I might be biases as my interests would point me that way,but the level of music I follow on second life, and virtual worlds specific has actually stayed the same, its the format that has changed, I now mainly watch real streams from real club/venue in organic, on some of the sims out there connected to the real world in this way.

Perhaps the question is maybe the nature of how we want to interact with our music has changed?

In my case its the added bonus of being inworld this week for concert/gig, and real life streaming into SL the next.

Just my opinion LOL

Julius Sowu Virtually-linked London "Kwame Oh"

hexx said...

Main reason, I think, is that most of the people simply don't come to SL for the music. They like to do other things.

Then there's of course the reality that most live music in SL is the same old stuff: people with guitars playing greatest hits. Would you stop to listen at all buskers you run across in RL, who are playing that kind of stuff?

IMHO, the musician scene in SL shouldn't be focusing on making money or getting famous. It should focus on creating music.

Such a focus offers, of course, no guarantee for success. For instance, The Invisible Band! is (again IMHO) one of the most creative and amazing acts around and they hardly get an audience.

Basically, I have a strong feeling that hard work, commitment, craftsmanship and creativity aren't enough. An artist also needs to be lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time, and know the right people.

For every artist who makes the big time, there's at least 100 artists who are just as good but who will never be known.

Bottom line: all we can do is keep on keeping on creating.

Jura Shepherd said...

Play less and promote more when you do. There's already tons of choices but when I see a notice about a show I might be interested in, I know that I can probably see the same artist 3 more times during a 1 week period. I may love the musician but that one show just isn't all that special.

Prokofy said...

I was hugely enthusiastic about SL music when I first encountered it and found the live interaction the best thing about it, but then several things happened over time to diminish my enthusiasm.

First, I discovered that a lot of SL musicians sucked. Lots of them. Not just those covering tunes of other people and essentially just doing karaoke, but even some of the original ones who wrote their own stuff. I found it embarrassing, and then painful to be around them. It dampened my enthusiasm to explore and find more new talent. There also didn't seem to be any serious music criticism and reliable blogs or sites that would somehow consume and critique all the wide variety of music -- that's what the music industry in SL has to wish into being, because without it, people have no guidance and give up.

Second, if I didn't have the money to leave a big tip, I didn't feel comfortable to leave a smaller one, so I didn't come at all. I think SL musicians need to be paid -- and paid something near to what I'd pay going into an Irish bar on the corner on a Friday night, which would be $5 or $7. It seems $1000 should be a minimum ($3.71). But if business is not so good, then I feel reluctant to give even that -- especially when the hat is being passed to tip the venue owner as well.

So that's unfortunate, I could be at least leaving $500 or $250, and yet I don't -- because each and every tip is scrutinized and acknowledged.

I came to realize that the interactivity that I first enjoyed -- the musicians recognizing me as a "regular" and saying thanks for the tip -- then became a burden as I felt I was being examined each time to see if I left enough of a tip. It's a strange dynamic.

Venues should stop asking for individual tips and putting everyone on the spot thanking them for the tip -- it's actual counterproductive.

Instead, they should charge a minimum cover at the door by making people join a group that opens up at the time of the session with a fee attached to it that only distributes to managers. That's easier to set up than land passes which are glitchy.

Then after paying the $250 or $500 cover that everyone will be forced to pay, tips on top of that are welcome, but the venue owners don't have to scramble for them so hard.

Third, I'm sure I'm like other people working more hours and more jobs during the recession to make ends meet, and actually wanting to do creative things in SL when I do come on, or scramble to take care of my own business. Sitting on a sim, trapped unable to do anything else loses its thrill then. All of these music venues will multiple their income and their popularity when they can take the stress of socializing and being on display and having to lag out away from people -- again, by having a simple group that you join at the time of the concert by paying, *and get the URL to the shoutcast server or other server* to listen to on your own land!

Seriously, this isn't rocket science. Musicians and venues have to be willing to try new things, their business is flagging, and it's hard to keep flogging us.

Mister Crap said...

I've spitballed on SLIFOC, and I am still adding to it based on things I'm seeing here and there.

Oh, and Ann - if you were to run up to the cliff's edge as many times as you have said you have, you'd have slipped and fallen over by now.

Quit dramaqueening, roll up your sleeves, end the pretend "Oh, I'm almsot gonna leave" and either crap or get off the pot.



Anonymous said...

I don't attend music events anywhere near as often as I use to. Several reasons you've posted. One that I didn't see mentioned is one that has impacted the events for me... the hoots, howls, applause and other sounds drowning out the chat of the performer. Part of the magic of SL music was hearing the chit chat of the performer between songs. This presented a more intimate club feel for me. Although this isn't the only reason, this intimate club feeling was a big part of what attracted me to music in SL in the first place.

Brad Reason / Doubledown Tandino said...

Thank you everyone for your amazing perspectives and contributions. Here's links to blogs expressing opinions as well.

Dianna Voight said...

Live music was the reason i came into SL. The possibility of chat and meet other ppl while listening someone from other country playing is awesome, add the visual appeal and it becomes even more atractive.
Actually, what i notice, as a listener, is that now we have a change at the high crowd times. In the past the 6pm, 7 pm schedule were ok, but with so many live events at the same time, the audience will go down for sure. I have seen big audiences (50 is good enough IMO) at 9pm to 10 pm slt.
About the promotion, it is really sad that ppl (venues, musicians, suporters, LL)dont explore it more. It is free to post at foruns, twitter, put videos on youtube, photos all around and make the musician name shows up at google search. Collaboration is the key and it works perfect in a health community.
I see a positive future. The stronger supporters of live music in SL are still around and we have more ppl engaging on that day by day. Musicians, music and audience changes.
In a decade, there will be no difference between rl musicians and sl musicians anyway.
This is just my view.

Brad Reason / Doubledown Tandino said...

A contribution by Nexeus Fatale can be found here:

Here is a recent article by ArmistasX
"Falling Revenues, Explained?"
and then further thoughts by Wagner James Au on NWN:

Brad Reason / Doubledown Tandino said...

More great comment links found here:

Homeless Martian's Music Blog:

Via GigaOM and New World Notes:
New World Newsfeed: Second Life's Growth Plateau Ends

Zak Claxton said...

This has turned into a really good discussion with plenty of fascinating responses. I've enjoyed reading it, and have learned a lot (as well as had a lot confirmed that I'd suspected).

Doubledown posted this topic here based on a thread I started at another forum, as referenced up top. I knew I wasn't the only person seeing diminishing crowd. Like most musicians in SL or otherwise, I'm also a music fan, and I was going to see performers who always had seemed to draw good-sized crowds getting much smaller audiences, as DD referenced. Based on the fact that we now have more concurrent SL users online at any given time, it didn't seem to make sense that the crowd sizes were essentially going the opposite direction that you'd expect.

I've seen many points in the comments so far that are great. The ones that seemed to nail the issue the best:

- The fact that even with an artist you like a lot, there's only so many times that you can see them do their same stuff in a period of time.

- The fact that many SL artists play too often to make each show more of a special event, which can be promoted in stronger ways to encourage better crowds.

- The idea that more people are receptive to ticketed shows so that they lose the stigma of tipping and all that goes with it.

- The idea that people are more concerned with the venue build itself than I'd previously realized.

All of these challenges are things that are solvable and can be put into play relatively easily, with the cooperation of the community. I actually feel more optimistic about things after reading through your ideas than I had before.

Brad Reason / Doubledown Tandino said...

Thanks Zak! Yes, it's not just me, it's not just Zak, it's not just some, it's many that are feeling the vibe of less people, so, that's why Zak began a conversation, as well as I. I'm so glad other blogs are hosting posts on this conversation as well.

Herne Diker said...

I believe the most successful artists have developed a raport with their audience. The audience has developed into a group who do enjoy hanging out together, chatting, nice venue, and listning to good music. Like a neighborhood tavern. Live music isn't a months awaited act but an intimate bar with friends. You learn the regulars, welcome noobs, and just have a good time. Social networking! And you will go every week, the music is gaurenteed to be good and you see friends. The artists that grasp this interrupt their playing to chat with you, laugh at your jokes, and don't take their presentation too seriously though they obviously do love playing well.
The point is it's fun.

Nuuna Nitely said...

I agree even if I really like the artist I would not go listen to them everyday. Maybe like once in a 4-6 months. I'd like to see better venues and atmosphere. I'm sure if musicians would play one concert a week or a month it would attract more people. Also promoting on youtube or having a special events blog etc.
Search for live music could be better too. I wouldn't but Dj that play winamp playlist under live music. From a DJ I want to hear real mixing.:)

Anonymous said...

I wish people would stop paying attention to concurrency numbers. Think about it. Are *you* seeing more real, live people? Where do you suppose all those people are? Going to live music events?

No, I'll tell you where they are. In boxes at 4000m, and in clubs, spewing random crap into open chat.

Von Johin said...

Well, its not "everyone" but I've no doubt its happening to some. I'm not going to surmise why that might be, I just don't know. I suspect most of this talk is not quantitative evaluation but more speculative, gut-feeling assumptions based on something other than checking visitor logs and tip income trends.

i have not personally experienced a crowd recession in Second Life. Maybe I'm just lucky, but I have some rabid, faithful fans around the world who consistently come to nearly every show, bring new people and quasi-evangelize my concerts Notice I didn't get my revenue quoted in CNN's article, I asked them not to talk about it, it wasn't that important, but its a very nice side income for working 10-12 hours a week like I do performing in SL. No slag on Grace, folks. She's awesome, amazing performer, and entitled to tell the press whatever she wants. :) I am a CR fan.

We're still doing the same or larger sizes of attendees at my shows now, vs this time last year. I'd say we're steadily growing the audience. PLEASE DON"T TAKE THIS THE WRONG WAY (the reason I so HATE posting stuff online now particularly in musician discussions), but I really work at it, folks. THAT DOES NOT MEAN YOU DON'T WORK AT IT. Sorry, had to throw a disclaimer in to hopefully avoid any "who does he think he is" pisseee BS. I'm just commenting on my personal experience now having played just short of two years, and thousands of hours performing.

But I disgress.....

Any act, real world or virtual world, has to constantly, work at it, aggressively. My website gets a lot of traffic, I refer a lot of people to it, to the tour dates page, and I keep a social networking connection to them in-world, on MySpace, in Facebook. I am constantly adding new songs to the list, which has grown to over 150 now. I play long concerts, minimum two hours, but sometimes longer than 3.5 hours. All of these, combined with their apparent enjoying of what I do, has lead to more attendees, not a recession in attendees.

I work hard to make sure my sound is excellent. Like Zak, I'm using very expensive microphones and pre-amps, very expensive guitars and keep my gear in good shape. I treat these shows with the same seriousness I would if I were setting up another show at Great American Music Hall, the Fillmore, or the Haight Street Fair again. I make sure my levels don't clip and distort. I make sure my shows sound as best they can sound, and then I try to put 110% into the performance, lots of energy, lots of enthusiasm, I keep the talking between songs to a minimum, thanking the folks who tip en-mass rather than stopping to read each and every name. I keep the music flowing, that's why they are here, so that's what I give them. I stay in character (yes, Von Johin is a character who only exists in the virtual world).

Your mileage may vary. I'm just not ready to proclaim a "crowd recession" happening in SL. My attendances are up, my income is up, my ability to get press in-world and physical world, is up. If your crowds are shrinking, maybe there are some things you can tweak to get them back up again. Announce new songs added, work on the social networking part (which is CRITICAL), get some press with the in-world and real-world media, make a website, publish a performance calendar, collaborate with people you admire and do a Ninjam or double-header concert. Promote it as an event. Make posters, IM friends ahead of time, ask them to bring a friend. Pay attention to your sound, record you show and make sure its something you'd personally enjoy if it was somebody else performing. Buy the right kind of microphones if you don't have them. Change your strings. Tune.

Like I said, your mileage may vary. If you're in a rut and need somebody to bounce ideas off of, feel free to drop a notecard on me or email von at von johin dot com.

Anonymous said...

The numbers they show online I always believe are inflated, not counting bots, such as camping bots and traffic bots..

I know a great many places I go, not just live music venues, but other places that used to be packed, now have a lot less people in them, I think the economic times are having effects, people are cutting back, and things like SL are not in the budgets anymore, and some are getting 2nd jobs, all kinds of different factors. I know my friends list has been getting smaller.

And you can't count out those that are 2 plus years are just getting burnt out, the newness and excitment is wearing off, and they are looking for new things, most MMOGs have drastic sub reductions after a few years, boredom sets in.