Tuesday, March 2, 2010

How to Stream Your Music Into Second Life - Six Software Source Clients Compared by Joe Bear

How to Stream Your Music Into Second Life
Six Software Source Clients Compared
By Joe Bear

Were you aware that your music can be streamed into Second Life using the same technology as internet radio? Bringing your music to this new audience requires a Shoutcast source client, which sends your music to a streaming server, which subsequently rebroadcasts your music to all the listeners in Second Life.

This article lists the leading choices in Shoutcast/Icecast source clients. This source client is the piece of software that runs on your computer, connecting the music you play with the streaming server.

What it does
The Shoutcast/Icecast streaming source client takes audio input from a program or hardware device, encodes it into a media stream, and sends the media stream on to a streaming server. Each step of this process requires configuration, and each program differs in the specifics of where you may find these settings. However, the settings themselves are fairly universal.

Music source
The input to the source client may come from a media player such as iTunes, Winamp, or Windows Media Player, or it may also come from a hardware device connected to your computer -- such as a mixer connected to a sound card or even an integrated laptop microphone. Your chosen source client will present a list of possible inputs from which you can choose to broadcast.

Some source clients may be able to encode into multiple media formats. However, for compatibility with Second Life, you will need to use mp3. The Second Life viewer on your listeners' end does not support WMA, AAC, Ogg, or other formats. Further, you will find that if you try to use the most pristine mp3 encoding settings, your listeners will experience skips in the stream. It is best not to use anything higher than 44.1 kHz, 64 kbps, stereo. You should be able to find these settings grouped together.

Specifying the stream server
Lastly, you will need to specify the Shoutcast/Icecast streaming server to which the source client will connect. This will be in the form of a URL or an IP Address, a Port number, and a Password. Some streaming clients allow you to build a 'library' of servers, each with their own URL, port, and password. This is handy if you regularly perform at a number of venues. Each venue will have its own server. This allows you to, once configured, merely select a given venue's server from a list, and have all the values set at once. If your source client does not have this feature, you will need to manually enter this data every time for each venue.

For each listed software streaming client, I list the price, where you can obtain it, what platform it runs upon, and other attributes. After reading this article, you should be ready to choose a streaming source client that meets your needs.
Before I list the choices, I will first define what the various attributes mean.

Operating System (OS) - This tells you what operating system the streaming source client is compatible with. There are choices for Windows, Mac OS, Linux, and other UNIX-like OSs.

Plugin vs. Standalone - Some Shoutcast/Icecast source clients are 'plugins', which operate inside of other programs. An example is the Shoutcast DSP Plugin, which installs 'into' Winamp as a host. Other source clients run in their own window, providing all needed functionality themselves.

Record functionality - Some source clients will also record (or 'archive') your stream. The stream is not only sent on to the streaming server, but it also is written to your computer's disk as an mp3 file. This allows you to play back your stream at a later date.

Presenting the candidates:

butt (broadcast using this tool)
  • Free
  • Linux, MacOS and Windows.
  • Open source project hosted on Sourceforge
  • Standalone
  • Streaming and recording simultaneously with different bitrates
This relative newcomer provides all the functionality that you would need or want. The fact that it is free, and runs on almost any computer, makes it a great choice.

Winamp with Shoutcast DSP Plugin
  • Free
  • Windows, Mac OS, Linux, other UNIX
  • Winamp makes Winamp Standard
  • Shoutcast makes the Shoutcast DSP Plugin
  • Host media player and Plugin
  • No built in recording functionality
This solution has been the mainstay in the Windows arena, mostly due to its price.

  • $40 (free demo)
  • Mac OS
  • Rogueamoeba is the company behind Nicecast
  • Standalone
  • Archive function
For years, this has been the standard in the Mac arena. Full featured.

  • $139
  • Windows
  • Spacialaudio produces simplecast
  • Standalone
  • No built in recording functionality
This selection comes from a company with a full line of professional internet radio tools.

Reaper with Shoutcast plugin
  • $60 (free demo)
  • Windows
  • Cockos makes Reaper
  • Landoleet is where you can get the reaper_shoutcast.dll plugin (this is NOT the same as the Shoutcast DSP Plugin for Winamp)
  • Host DAW and Plugin
  • Full multitrack recording capability
Reaper is a full-functioned DAW, from a company founded by the guy who first invented Shoutcast technology. Extremely powerful, with complexity to match.

  • Free
  • Windows
  • Oddsock makes edcast
  • Available either standalone, or as a plugin for Winamp or Foobar2000.
  • Recorder not built in.
Both EdCast and its precursor Oddcast are from the same developer, along with a number of other useful music tools (including a stream recorder).

The envelope, please
If you are just getting started in streaming your music into Second Life, I recommend that you start with butt. Silly name, I know. However, it is free, does everything you want it to do, and runs the same way on any computer you're likely to have. Plus, it is an open source program, meaning that its future is pretty much assured.

Any of the other choices would be fine as well. They all work pretty much hiccup-free. If your needs are unique, there may be some reason to prefer another over butt.

Myself, I use Reaper with the Shoutcast plugin. Reaper is a full-featured music production DAW like Pro Tools, Logic, Sonar, etc. In fact, it was my DAW before I started streaming into Second Life. The fact that Reaper is from the guy the guy that invented internet radio (as well as Winamp, Gnutella, and other modern necessities) holds strong sway with me.

Get going!
You really can't go wrong with any of the above. Just grab one, grab the free Second Life viewer, create a free Second Life account, log on, and start performing for the eager Second Life audiences!
I hope you join us in this journey to a strange and wonderful new world. In the meantime, you may wish to do some early exploring on your own - it is free to get started! Just click the link below:
Joe Bear is an Ezine Articles Expert Author! Join Joe in Second Life -- you can find the tools you need to get started with a free Second Life account at his website Metaverse Musician -- just click here to get started!

Joe Bear has been making music for several decades on a commercially-successful basis. Bands and solo acts; live and in the studio; rock, blues, jazz, country, bluegrass, pop, and others; guitar, voice, keys, bass, drums, mandolin, and other instruments; singer, songwriter, producer, instrumentalist, teacher, engineer. With the demise of the traditional recording industry, and the plethora of new outlets for enterprising musicians opened by new technologies, he has been focusing upon these new markets.
Always a believer in extending a hand down to help the next person up, he is now sharing the knowledge he has gained in this uncharted territory. He is sharing this info on his blog at http://MetaverseMusician.com/blog/about. Please register at the Metaverse Musician blog for regular updates on these and other topics. This will entitle you to exclusive information -- including detailed step-by-step instructions on setting up to be a Second Life musician at no cost. Hurry -- time is limited on this offer!

(c) Copyright - Joe Bear, All Rights Reserved Worldwide.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Heya Brad/DD -
Glad to learn you found my article to be of some utility.
We have spoken inworld from time to time - thogh now that I think of it, I've not seen you in some months.
Ah well, hope all is well with you.