Streaming music in Second Life

Updated 26/01/2023

One of the questions I am asked most is how to go about streaming music in Second Life and set up a streaming music service so that avatars can become DJ’s.

It’s a question that I hope to answer here, providing info and links to further reading. I hope it goes some way to explaining it all, and perhaps offering you further thought. I can only speak from a Windows operating system point of view though. Sorry about that.

There are a number of ways to achieve streaming into SL. I begin by highlighting 3 main points to consider.

1/. PLAYING MUSIC
The first thing is to understand how streaming works. If you know, skip down to another heading.

First, you need to have some way of playing songs on your computer. Some people use Winamp, others use the Microsoft Media Player. Those with a different operating system, i.e an Apple Mac or Linux will have their own media players to choose from. I use a specialist free playout system called RadioDJ, but so long as you can line up a queue of songs, any software system will do.

2/. A STREAMING CODEC

Next you need a streaming codec. Note that some online streaming software offers a codec built-in, or is available as a plugin, such as Winamp DSC. I prefer to have a stand-alone codec.

What a codec does is convert your line-out to a steaming protocol that transmits to your audio streaming service online. I use the BUTT codec, don’t laugh. Download BUTT from this page. I find it’s the best version of this free software. Radio.co.uk/butt

3/. STREAMING AUDIO SERVERS

There are many, many companies out there that offer audio streaming services. There are quite a few of them based on Second Life itself and useful if you’re wanting to pay by Lindens in-world. I’ll provide some info below which I hope helps. Use some of them to find information for yourself about audio streaming and get an idea of what’s available and for what price per month.

Additional information to consider:

LISTENER SLOTS and BANDWIDTH USE
First think about streaming your audio out to 100 listeners. All those listeners would be bogging down your computer and internet connection, if they all listen to you transmitting off your computer. You may ask why you shouldn’t stream directly to the Internet from your computer. It’s because your machine and Internet connection can easily become bogged down with people listening to your stream. The more that listen, the more your precious bandwidth gets eaten up, and it is likely that your service will fail if too, and you could be in breach of the TOS of your broadband provider for their ‘Fair Use’ policies.

So you need an online streaming service who’s job it is to take your audio stream, and farm it out (distribute it), to as many listeners as allowed on that service.

Be aware that the more listeners you have, the more that you can be charged for listener slots. Most offer between 20 and 200 listener slots. I find in Second Life that the most I needed was 50 listeners for club work in Second Life, and more often in some clubs, as low as 20 is enough. It depends on how big an audience you anticipate having. Some clubs have low attendance, some have high attendance. At big charity events though, for example, if you are broadcasting/streaming at a fundraising event where many avatars are present, you could need 120+ listener slots. Work within your ambitions. Don’t try to jump too far too fast. Recognise the league you are in as a DJ and adapt, reconfigure or abandon the idea. Life is full of choices.

A WORD ABOUT STREAMING AUDIO QUALITY

Another consideration to think about is what bitrate you should use to broadcast your stream. 96, 128, 192, or 320 kilobits per second? Obviously, the lower the bit rate, the less bandwidth your streaming service will use (and which your streaming audio company might bill you for). Most DJs seem go for 128 kbps, from my own observations in SL. I was using 320 kbps as default, but had some connectivity issues on the broadband service. See my URLs at differing bitrates, on my ‘About’ page here.

It’s a known fact that the lower the bitrate used, the poorer the quality of audio people can listen to. In SL clubs, 128 kbps is common. Near CD quality.

I guess there are so many other sounds going off in clubs, through gestures and other background sound effects, some people talking to each other in Skype, Discord or another private sound channel somewhere, that the quality of the audio of the tunes in the club is not that critical, and 128 seems to be what most DJs use.

It’s worth noting that audio streaming services online charge less for servers running at 128 kbps, than, say, at 320 kbps, in general.

I’ve had many discussions with providers who tell me that the perceivable difference between 128 and 320 kbps isn’t noticed by the average Second Life listener. I respectfully disagree and can always tell when someone is using a lower bit rate, but it is subjective. Use what you think is adequate and a trade-off between quality and the cost of streaming, and between quality and the number of lister slots you need to pay for. While I’m on a roll let’s look at microphone use in streaming a DJ service.

USING A MIC

A lot of DJ’s just stream back-to-back music at parties but some of the more engaging talk on the mic between songs. So how does one use a microphone AND play songs?

MAKING AUDIO CONNECTIONS

Use your computer MIC IN jack. Plug a mic in and start talking. That’s the simple answer, but for the more technically inclined, There are software solutions.

These include a software solution that acts as a mixer, and you control the volume/mix using a graphic-user-interface on screen. There is one software solution here at https://vb-audio.com/Voicemeeter/ Again some knowledge of routing audio channels in your PC may be necessary. Have a look online for other solutions too.

Physical Mixer

There is also a hardware solution using a mixer between your PC Line Out audio jack and a physical audio mixer, then feeding the audio mixer Line Out connection back into your PC to the codec. Those new to my column may not know this requires knowledge of and configuration of your sound card channels. There are many links here in Google search that go into detail how to configure audio settings in a Windows PC, by example choosing the default sound channel, and routing/setting audio channels.

Sound mixers vary in cost and performance. For reference here’s a quick list of sound mixers available on Amazon at the time of writing.

My current preference (for ease of use) is an analog sound mixer. I have never had great success using a USB mixer, but that might just be me! I like the look and sound of the RodeCaster mixer. The following link leads to a lengthy recording of how to use the mixer. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fL7IeWYqTd4 Also shown as an in-line video below.

A RodeCaster promotional video found on YouTube.

FEEDBACK
It is important to understand that you cannot feed the physical mixer Line-Output back to the default Line-In on your computer else, under certain conditions, will just feedback and sound nasty, known as a feedback loop or ‘howl ’round’. Routing of the audio in Windows can be a science in itself, but well worth learning about.

Note: You might need to have a spare sound input channel. For this, you might need a second sound card in your machine (beyond the scope of this article), or find some other solution.

Other consideration – The Virtual Audio Cable

Alternately to a second sound card, use a phantom ‘audio pipeline’, and hook your mixer output to it and then your codec to the other end of it. Such a virtual audio pipeline can be downloaded free from here at Sourceforge.net and these can negate the need to use mixer software or avoid the need to complicate sound settings in Windows. The notion behind using these is to ‘route’ your physical mixer output away from the main sound channel in your PC. Keeping it totally separate to feed your audio codec.

SUMMARY

It can be a complicated business and a degree of technical knowledge may desirable, depending how simple or complex you want to make things for yourself. Many individual computer users will have their own way of doing things, that’s fine.

In summary, I pass on my own experiences. Ensure your station sound output goes to your codec. Hire a Shoutcast or Icecast server, Create a DJ input to the streaming server. Log your codec on and start broadcasting!


INTERESTING GUIDANCE

There is a post in the Second Life forums that offers some interesting general guidance for DJs in Second Life. In the entire thread, this is probably the most useful post. In this the author speaks abvout audio streaming, and interestingly her observations about how it feels to be a DJ in second life from here point of view.

quote:

“DJing in SL is all about the way you present yourself.   You can’t just play music.  Anyone can find a radio stream to do that. So you have to present yourself as a real DJ.  I do it without voice and I love doing it.  People seem to like my style.

Now the process:

1. You need something to broadcast to SL. Winamp is the easiest to use but many clubs require SAM, Virtual DJ, or Mixxx.  SAM and VDJ are pro models you have to purchase. Winamp and Mixxx  are free. I use Mixxx now. Once you get the software I would practice setting up a playlist and presenting it. You can do that in RL without broadcasting to SL.  Many DJs use voice, so you need a way to broadcast voice too.  You can use voice in SL, but I think broadcasting through the software would be better.  I don’t voice, so I’m not an expert on that.  Before you can broadcast to SL you have to setup the URL and password in your software.  More on that in the next item. Most are fairly simple, some are not. Mixxx was hard for me to find. 

 2.  Go to SL and rent a stream. I use Streamhood because its 25L a week, works well and  well, I’m cheap. It says it’s compatible to 128 but my music is all 192 and works fine. You can enter the stream as a url and again practice broadcasting. Make sure you keep a record of the information to input in your software

3. Collect an assload of music.  However you want to do it, but you’ll need a lot.   A LOT. I have close to 70GB of music and I know some who have well over 100GB.

4. After you’ve kinda go used to handling the software, you’ll need to secure a gig. There are many clubs looking for DJs.  Unfortunately, there are too many clubs for the amount of DJs available.  Most new clubs don’t have the traffic to make a lot of money. But they are places to practice your craft and pad a resume.

5. Voice.  This is a choice of your own. I don’t for various reasons,  but that’s me. Many bigger , more established clubs REQUIRE voice.  I think that’s a mistake because there are some REALLY good DJs who do not voice.  There are a LOT of Djs who voice to the point they are a distraction. I go to clubs to listen to music, not hear someone drone on and on. Having a good speaking voice helps. 

6. Tidbits.

Do not DJ for less than 100% of tips. You’re buying music and maybe software. 

Many clubs think you’ll bring a crew of friends that will come to their club.  Maybe they will but probably they won’t  People tend to go to clubs they like or where there are friends. They don’t tend to go to a new club just because you’re there.

Finding a good host or hostess can be a great help. Most good clubs will pair you with one.

Some clubs want you to be part of the “family”. Meaning they want you to devote all your time to the club.  Sorry that’s not my thing. I’m hired to do a job. DJ.  That’s it.  If they want family, marry someone. 

Be yourself. Clubs may want you do things a certain way (sending notices, for example). If you have a style that works, calmly present your reasons.  If YOUR way brings in people to the club that’s the best reason. 

Hope this helps.  They may be some that disagree with what I’ve said, but I think this a decent blueprint to get you started.   It based on reality, not some youtube video.   Oh, and there are people who claim to be able to teach you to DJ.   Don’t waste money.  You would be better off talking to someone who actually DJs in SL.    That’s what I did.    

Do you listen to the music in RL or through SL media stream?

Personally, I listen in RL so I can cue songs as I need to. (although with Mixxx I don’t have to do this)   I know people who do both.  It’s a choice you’ll need to make based on how you like doing it.     I did have an older DJ tell me that he always listened in RL.    I turn the SL music down, so it doesn’t get weird.  There’s often a lag (latency-Rl and SL don’t normally match up. SL will be behind RL by as much as a minute or more) between RL and SL sound”.

https://community.secondlife.com/forums/topic/417219-how-to-become-a-dj-in-second-life/

Audio Settings

If you want to go more in-depth about audio settings, and if you have the time to spare, watch the video below. The creator uses the Rodecaster mixer and the info given in this video is a lot about how audio is fine-tuned, what filters do to it, why compression can be useful, and more, this video explains a lot more detail than just demonstrating a mixer. The narrator explains fully and with audible and visual examples what ‘shaping’ the sound does to the output.

MORE LINKS

I am throwing in some other links that may help you. Use these to get more info on that which is available. Some offer info about how it all works. They were all valid at the time of publishing.

Good luck, and happy broadcasting.

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Mixxx DJ Free DJ Mixing Software – https://mixxx.org/

Sam Broadcaster (not free) – https://spacial.com/

Virtual DJ (not free) – https://www.virtualdj.com/

RadioDJ Free – https://radiodj.ro

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Radio.co – https://radio.co/

Sonic Panel Audio Hosting – https://onlineaudience.co.uk/sonic-panel/

Magic Streams Audio Hosting – https://www.magicstreams.services/en/sonicpanel.php

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How to make and host your own radio in Second Life (YouTube Video) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VehcCsjmiBg

Steaming Music in Second Life (SL Wiki Page) – https://wiki.secondlife.com/wiki/Streaming_Music

What is the difference between Shoutcast and Icecast audio servers? – https://www.lfmaudio.com/shoutcast-vs-icecast-the-showdown/