Workshop: Basic music streaming in Second Life

Burgess with Donnas looking on

Among the many things that make Second Life great is the ability to collectively listen to music. For a lot of us, after we’ve gotten used to listening to other people perform live or dj, being a listener isn’t enough. But if you’re like me, you didn’t really have a clue as to how to go from listener to life of the party.

When I first wanted to dj a party in SL, I was already fairly savvy with computer audio, yet I found it was a pain in the ass to get it set up and there wasn’t much information to go on. Of course, if I’d bothered to look at the SL Wiki entry on streaming music, it might have saved me a lot of time. So make sure you visit it and bookmark it.

If you are building a club, or just want to stream audio into a little 512k plot you own, you’ll need to set the audio address on your land. If you know how to do this, or want to know about how to rent a stream or get your dj mix into SL, you can skip down.

Setting audio on land:

Go to World=>about land=>media. Enter the music URL or IP address with the port number of the stream. That will look something like:

http://www.streamserverco.com:8001 or http://207.666.11:8001

That last number after the colon is the port number. It is likely to be a number in the 8000s. If you are renting your own stream, that information will be supplied by your provider.

Also, you can get a “server,” basically an object containing a script that will allow you to select from different streams or “radio” stations. This can be helpful if you’re running a club, or if you just have a bunch of internet radio stations you’d like to pick from. (A “radio” in SL is basically the same thing.)

Renting a stream:

There are a number of streaming media providers on the internet. You can stream music into you land from any stream, so it’s not necessary to rent from an inworld provider, however doing so offers a number of advantages. First, there doesn’t seem to be much difference in price, and if anything inworld deals are better. Second, you can pay in Lindens. And lastly, tech support is often more personal and responsive. I’ve rarely had trouble with the stream I rent, but on the two occasions where I had questions one time the provider was on line and the other time he IM’d me back within a few hours.

I’m not plugging any one provider here, so take some time, use search (“streaming”) and check out 3-5 places to compare prices and packages. Then, rent something short term first to see how it works. I’m paying L$3,200 per month for a 128 kbps stream at 44.1 khz that supports 100 listeners. A good deal and one that generally runs without too many hiccups, though it’s not perfect.

Streaming your own audio signal into Second Life:

Here’s where it gets fun. Getting your music (recorded or live) onto your stream requires software on your computer that will send your audio output to the streaming server. First, have a good connection. Cable is better than DSL. Don’t even think about it on satellite or modem.

If you’re on a mac, I suggest getting Nicecast. It’s simple and well-designed. It only requires filling in a few fields to set your output to connect to your rented stream server.

On a pc, for a basic set up, I’d use WinAmp and Shoutcast broadcasting tools. If you don’t want to use WinAmp, you can download SimpleCast from Spacial Audio and use that to stream from other programs like iTunes. There are also plug-ins for winamp that will also allow you to plug itunes into it if you use itunes to organize music on your pc. Here’s where you want to use the SL Wiki for specific instructions, especially for WinAmp. If you are using SAM Broadcaster or Traktor to dj, you won’t need separate streaming software.

As far as technical details, in addition to the URL/IP and port, tou will need to know the bit rate of your stream (higher is better, 128kbps is the current top and is the same sound quality as a standard mp3 from eMusic or iTunes). Then you will need to know the sample rate, cd quality is 44.100 khz and you want to stream in stereo. You will also need the password for your stream. Again, supplied by your provider. Sometimes you will need an account name, but many providers don’t bother with this. If you do need it, you should be told.

If you want to dj using more than iTunes or Winamp, with something that will allow you to do better mixes, then you’ll want to at least step up to DJ 1800 on a Mac, or FutureDecks Lite for PC, which will give you a taste, and then for real pro quality mixing capability, you can use SAM or Native Instruments’ Traktor, which has tremendous mixing, looping, and fx capabilities.

Once you’ve connected to the stream and tested to make sure your audio is playing in world, it’s done. You can focus on playing or mixing.

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~ by Alex on January 12, 2008.

24 Responses to “Workshop: Basic music streaming in Second Life”

  1. wow that was informative! does this mean you’re not going to do it for me anymore? I’m supposed to learn it myself? grrrrr….

  2. Oh, I’ll do it for *you.*

  3. 🙂

  4. Very informative post Alex, I hafta say that I had reservations myself about learning to stream music in-world, or being a “DJ”, but that has ended up being one of my favorite things in SL. It is so awesome to be able to play for a group of friends at the house, DJ at Clockworks once a week, or to set the mood for the evening all based on what I am feeling for the day. I strongly encourage it if you are into music at all, because it can REALLY enhance your SLexperience.

    Plus I guarantee you will score more chicks!! nuff said. 🙂

  5. Great one.
    One question left: if I stream-up 128 kbps to the server, what up bandwidth I need to have SL going as well? That is, how much SL client requires? And one more, do you (and what do you) use to put a quota on upstreaming so the audio has its safe amount of bandwidth?

  6. OK, one more…. (dammit you have touched my private hotspot of the month)…. any way to host music somewhere, put a nice playlist and stream from there, not streaming to original stream to the server?

  7. @dandellion: I haven’t had to figure out that bandwidth question for SL. I am lucky enough to stream my music off an older laptop separate from the computer I run SL on, and my cable doesn’t have bandwidth limits that are low enough to affect this. My not-so-helpful answer would be to just experiment. See how SL runs with you streaming at the same time. SL is heavier on the graphics card than the processor, but to be on the safe side I’d just reduce the overall quality in preferences for SL to the bare minimum, and then start adding things in while you are streaming and see what things make it lock up and crash.

    As far as you second question, I’m not sure about that either, but it sounds entirely possible. :\

  8. It is not problem of processor nor graphics as I plan to revive that old PII machine for that purpose. But the internet connection has to be shared and I would like not to get into situation that some heavy upload cut the audio stream….

  9. dandellion: Well that sounds good. I’m not sure of the exact bandwidth values, but what I would do is go into the router and limit the bandwidth for each computer, beginning by giving each one half of the amount alloted to you by your cable provider and see how that runs. Then if one machine runs poorly, give that one more. If both run poorly you’re getting a bad deal from your provider. Though I have particularly good cable, I am able to run SL wirelessly on two computers in Voice and still stream music on a third–and I haven’t had to assign specific bandwidth allotments to any of the network IPs.

  10. I can only dream about that kind of connection.
    But yes, a search for a good router and a bit of experimentation are in front of me.
    Thanks a lot.

  11. Sorry I missed this post earlier, Alex. Good info, especially about setting up your own stream (cheaper than I thought, dude 😛 ). As for SAM..WHY did I wait so long to get it? It makes DJing so much easier, I’ve already forgotten how much I paid for it.

  12. Thanks for all the infos, Alex! I’m really tempted to try this some day. The question that now comes to mind is how heard it would be to set up your own streaming server on a (virtual) root server, as I’m planning to rent one of these for two websites I’m working on and might use that as streaming server, too, if the setup isn’t to complicated and the software is available for free (or a reasonable price). Does anybody have experience with that?

  13. Timothy – I haven’t set up a streaming server, but you can download the Shoutcast server for free, and if you’re at all techie and have worked with scripting it looks like it’s not too difficult–especially if you like tweaking.

  14. Hey Burgess – you use traktor, you said? How the crap do you get it to interact with Shoutcast? According to the manual and forums its only got icecast? Apparently I’m supposed to get winamps line in to get the stuff from Traktor but shy of annoying wiring I’m not sure how.

  15. Xax – I think Icecast should interact with the server directly, but I’m not 100% sure. (I’ve been using Nicecast to manage my streams because it allows me to switch between apps.) When I get a chance I’ll see if I can get Traktor interacting directly and let you know what I come up with.

  16. Nice explanation Alex, could really help me out in the future!Thanks.

  17. Do SL clubs usually take care of the hosting end of things for you? Or is this like bringing your own slips and records to a real club?

  18. Hi bananatree – Most SL clubs have their own hosted streams, so all you need is the stream url, port, and password to connect to. Bigger djs who do a lot of gigs at different clubs will rent their own streams and use that wherever.

  19. […] Adam Ostrow wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptThere are a number of streaming media providers on the internet. You can stream music into you land from any stream, so it’s not necessary to rent from an inworld provider, however doing so offers a number of advantages. … […]

  20. i have the same system back at my home. i have a linux router and icecast set up.. i broadcast from windows/traktor to icecast and then to sl.. but unfortunaty my other pc (linux) crashes SL when i try to listen to it.. everyone else does hear my mix, except me on laptop. any workaround? i thounght that could be network or

  21. i have the same system back at my home. i have a linux router and icecast set up.. i broadcast from windows/traktor to icecast and then to sl.. but unfortunaty my other pc (linux) crashes SL when i try to listen to it.. everyone else does hear my mix, except me on laptop. any workaround? i thounght that could be network or some fault in icecast settings .. :/

  22. It’s a common misconception that as long as the stream host is paid, your st ream is legal. Royalties MUST be paid on these streams. The laws concerning royalty payments are different depending on the country where you originate the stream (not the stream host). All internet streaming requires some sort of licensing. If you’re not paying royalties on the music you play, then you are part of the problem for the rest of us who are doing it legally.

    Thanks

  23. With regard to the legalities of “streams” I understand that royalties should be paid by a “BUSINESS” who uses music attract an audience they profit on by selling them products, services or advertising “air time.”

    However, If I choose to play music that I purchased for the listening enjoyment of my friends in my home, virtual home etc., that is entertainment, not profiteering.

    Running a stream into a private SL residence should in no way require the need to pay licensing fees and royalties — and the respective legislation needs to address this concern and where the line of distinction between business and personal entertainment exists.

  24. Purchased Music vs Licensed.

    When I DJ’d at nightclubs back in college, 90% of my records were supplied (free) through my local record distrubutor/promotor — who were using the “night club” as a way to introduce music to new listeners and expand record sales. This process worked for everyone. The record company supplied music to the Entertaiment Venue who paid the ASCAP/BMI fees. The Venue drew customers by playing music that drew and audience and that audience bought drinks at the establishment and a portion went on to purchase the music they heard. The artist received money from the recording label, the venue, and record purchases from the audience.

    The big difference now is “streaming DJs” also pay for all the music they stream.

    The DJ pays for the music, pays to stream it, pays royalties on top of that.

    Everyone seems to “win” in this business model expect the DJ. Seems that we should revisit the legality of “payola”. You want me to play it so you sell it? Pay me instead Mr Record Promoter instead.

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