(Ed. From time to time, we are
pestered greeted with the suggestion that we check out some cutting-edge new music-related Web 2.0 thingamajig. And so we do what any self-respecting group of old farts would do: We make the interns do it. After the click-through, Cortney Harding investigates The Lounge):
A few days ago, a friend of mine forwarded me an e-mail about a year-old social networking and role-playing site called The Lounge, which seems to be a mash-up of Second Life, MySpace, and a record label marketing exec’s dream. Kids can hang out a virtual nightclub, create profiles and add friends, and pretend to dance at clubs while listening to the latest hits. I live in Williamsburg, so I can go to actual clubs, but I took a Saturday night off and camped in front of my computer, pretending to party it up in The Lounge.
I signed on, created an avatar that looked nothing like me…
…and set to work. I could choose to hang out in two cities: Miami or San Francisco; I chose Miami, because I’ve actually been to a few cheesy clubs there. And then I virtually did the same thing I do in real life at clubs: I stood around and listened to horrible music while rolling my eyes. Because the avatar-creation choices are somewhat limited, it’s hard to guess whether anyone’s virtual personality mirrors their real-life appearance (oddly, while you can change your height, you can’t alter your weight, leading to a virtual room full of thin people). The “clubs” are likewise generic–bright lights, minimalist décor, and lots of shiny objects.
After about half an hour, some dude posted a message looking for a fake girlfriend, and I responded. Said dude gave his age as 31, which struck me as a bit old for The Lounge’s target demographic (as well as slightly creepy and pathetic). We then had a poorly spelled conversation (sample: “r u hot? How old r u?”), where he told me that he hung out on the site “to meet friends” and that he wished the music was better.
I had to agree with him there–most of the tracks played during the few hours I spent in the virtual club were generic dance club tracks, including a Brooke Hogan song and a Chamillionaire tune. According to the FAQ, different genres are played in different parts of the clubs, but I couldn’t easily figure out how to move around the spaces; additionally, while The Lounge has a partnership with Nicole Richie ex/sneaker aficionado DJ AM and his club, LAX, hanging out there wasn’t an option during my session. The site also offers a social networking function, where users can create profiles and connect to virtual friends, but the population of the site is still pretty small and most profiles offer no more clues to a user’s personality than testimonials of devotion to Fall Out Boy.
Still, the main selling point of the site is the music–users can rate songs played in The Lounge, and the site posts a daily chart of the highest-rated tracks. The higher a track’s rating, the more often it gets played, and record companies are no doubt hoping that such exposure will compel visitors to actually pay for the songs they hear. While the site has thus far stuck to plugging Tyra Banks’ virtual chats and DJs, it recently inked a deal with Interscope that will probably lead to more virtual “live” shows.
Overall, The Lounge seemed pretty deserted, and the 31-year-old virtual-girlfriend seeker eventually disappeared to deal with boyfriend-stealing drama happening elsewhere. If anything, the site acts as great preparation for rural teenagers who dream of big city nightclubs and are then faced with crushing disappointment upon experiencing the real thing. The music is lame, the guys are sketchy, and you spend most of your time standing around doing nothing–much like any club in New York’s Meatpacking District. At least the cover was cheaper.