September 6, 2007

Machinima promotion of Second Life virtual art

- by Magellan Egoyan

I have been conducting a bit of research concerning the effectiveness of machinima/video productions for the promotion of artists, both in and out of Second Life. I find the results intruiging, and since Cy has made it clear that the promotion of virtual art is an important topic (by producing a much needed "self-promotion kit"), I am following her lead to talk a bit more about the "marketing" of virtual art.

Despite the dramatic rise in the use of video to convey information (witness the explosion of youTube's content in the past couple of years), it turns out that there are not very many promotional videos for artists in general. Using obvious key word searches such as "artist" "promotion" "intro" and "presentation", I found roughly twenty such promotional videos outside of Second Life, and less than a dozen for inworld artists.

The oldest posting seems to date back about a year. For non SL artists, the average view count comes in at about 200 views per month when spread out over several months. This view rate is fairly constant even when one excludes very amateurish video blogs or promotional videos done by or for high profile well-known artists. I have found in the viewing curves for my own machinima productions that they have a characteristic shape, a relatively steep increase in views for about a week and then a stabilization of the rate to a roughly constant level. The variation in view rates across different artists, however, is high - it varies from a minimum of about 40 views per month up to more than 600 views per month for some relatively well known artists.

For the promotion of Second Life virtual artists, the average view rate appears to be about 50 views per months (excluding my own machinima productions), so significantly less. The view rate varies from a minimum of about 15 views per month up to maximum of about 80 views per month.

Another interesting feature about these statistics is that the production values of the video or machinima affect these rates. For the non Second Life artists, view rates of amateurish productions are significantly lower than for more professional efforts.

Now to my own productions by way of comparison. My four artist productions generate view rates of an average of 135 views per month, with relatively little variation from one artist to another - a slightly higher rate for better known artists. The minimum rate is 110 views per month, the maximum about 150. So my productions seem to fall intermediate between the "standard" promotional videos of Second Life artists, and those found in the mainstream. I say standard in quotes, because the professionalism of most Second Life promotional videos is actually relatively low compared to the mainstream promotional documents, and so a fair comparison between the two sets of productions is somewhat difficult.

My own reflections about these statistics is that there are grounds for improvement. Second Life artists seem to be reaching a more limited audience than mainstream artists in their self promotion efforts, and there must be ways of improving exposure outside the Second Life community. I am presently exploring these issues and expect to change my videos as a consequence. It is also worth pointing out, however, that some increase is possible simply by raising the quality of the machinima productions that are made - I think my own work here demonstrates that.

Machinima productions do appear to be a viable format for promotion, different but complementary to a website. There is need to develop more of an active use of machinima to promote virtual art - there is so much of it in Second Life, and much of it goes largely "unsung". Time to change that, I think!