How Do I Send My Music to Listeners in Second Life? Shoutcast, Icecast, and Streaming Explained
DJs, karaoke track artists, singer/songwriters, and bands can all find a ready-made, world-wide, paying audience in Second Life. What all is involved in getting your music streamed into Second Life?
Music in Second Life operates on a technology known as Shoutcast. Shoutcast, along with its open source compatible follow-on Icecast, is the same technology that underpins all of internet radio. When you stream your music into Second Life, you are essentially operating your own internet radio station!
There are several links in the chain between you creating your music and the listener hearing your music.
- – you create your music on a computer
- – a program known as a source client encodes your music for the server
- – a Shoutcast/Icecast streaming server broadcasts the music to multiple Second Life viewers
- – the listeners’ Second Life viewer plays your music for their enjoyment
Let’s look a little deeper at each stage of this process.
Again the first step in the chain is that your music must be input to a computer. If you are DJing from WinAmp, iTunes or other music player, this is already taken care of by the music player program. If you are performing in real-time — such as playing a guitar and singing — you will need to input your performance into the computer’s ProstaStream sound card through the use of a microphone and/or a mixer. Many computers have microphones built right into them that would be suitable, though you may notice an increase in sound quality with a more sophisticated microphone.
The Source Client is the link between your computer and the internet. This is a program or utility that runs on your computer. It has essentially two responsibilities. It creates and maintains a connection to the Shoutcast/Icecast server, and it encodes your music into the data stream that the server needs. Source Clients are available both as standalone programs, and as plugins that operate with your Music Creation program.
Shoutcast/Icecast streaming server
The Shoutcast or Icecast streaming server is a ‘virtual machine’ that runs on a computer. While you can technically install the server on your own computer — even the one you are using as the Music Creation computer — it is generally inadvisable to do so. The reason for this is that the primary function of the Shoutcast/Icecast server is to take as an input the single stream from your Source Client, and redistribute it as any number of of streams — one for each listener. Each additional listener consumes more bandwidth. A typical home internet connection can accommodate only a few such listeners before all the available or upload/download capacity is exhausted.
As such, a Shoutcast/Icecast server is most typically rented — as one would rent space on a web host. There are numerous companies that rent streaming servers for a few dollars per month. Further, most Second Life venues have already rented such servers. If you are slated to perform at a given venue, they will most often have you employ their existing streaming server.
Second Life viewer
The last link in the chain is up to the Second Life viewer. Each parcel of land in Second Life is associated with a Music URL. When an avatar steps onto a given parcel, the Second Life sim sends the Second Life viewer this Music URL. This URL should be the location of your Shoutcast/Icecast streaming server. The Second Life viewer then sets up a connection to the streaming server. It accepts the stream of your music from the server, decodes it, and outputs it through the audio system of the computer upon which the Second Life viewer is running. In this manner, each listener is able to hear the music you are making. Your listeners may even be on the opposite side of the Earth!
What do I need to get started?
While all the pieces described above are needed to stream your music into Second Life, only a minimum set is required to get up and running. The absolute minimum is that you will need a Music Creation program and a Source Client. There are many options available in these categories, both free and commercial. They are available for Windows, Mac, Linux, and other platforms.
As mentioned above, there are many venues that supply Shoutcast/Icecast streaming servers for your use. I spent about a year as a Second Life musician before I decided to rent a stream of my own.