The ongoing global pandemic has meant tough times for everyone working in the live performance industry. Between Covid lockdowns and restrictions on performance venues and audience size, musicians and other live entertainers have been forced to rethink how best to reach their audience.
The simplest and most effective solution is to live-stream from a safe and secure location, broadcasting to an online host platform such as YouTube, Facebook Live, Vimeo, Streetjelly, and the like.
Live-streaming is not new to the music industry. In fact, the very first live stream music performance was nearly 30 years ago, when California band Severe Tire Damage performed at Xerox PARC in 1993.
It may have taken a while to catch on, but live streaming is now an industry mainstay and it’s expanding fast. Between April 2019 and April 2020, the online live streaming industry grew by 99% – and that was before the Coronavirus pandemic really took hold!
Quality is also improving rapidly. Live streams now have better buffering and video start time metrics than on-demand video. New 5G cell networks will provide speeds roughly 100 times better than their predecessor, 4G, and access to 5G is predicted to increase revenue from streaming on mobile devices by 85% from 2021 to 2028.
Nothing will ever replace the energy and atmosphere of a live performance in a club or concert hall – for musicians or the audience. The two are symbiotic. However, live streaming can offer far more than the opportunity to reach an audience which cannot be physically present. It can allow you to connect.
Live stream broadcasts have an excitement to them that on demand viewing does not and advancements in viewer interactivity has only added to that excitement. Fans have the opportunity to respond to the artists they love in real time, and have the artist respond to them.
Live-stream broadcasts can broaden your fan base worldwide, generate income, increase ticket sales, and provide a performance archive. A live stream broadcast can also be edited into smaller portions after its initial airing, allowing you to share it later as smaller posts or videos. For musicians, it is a golden opportunity.
Not convinced? Let’s look at some revealing numbers.
67% of live video viewers are more likely to buy a ticket to a concert or performance after watching a live video of the artist or event. A live video holds a users’ attention 10-20 times longer than pre-recorded, on-demand content.
Hear that sound? It’s opportunity knocking. And no artist can afford to ignore it.
Music fans want video content. They are searching for it even as I write this. And they are not just watching the artists they already know and love; they are looking for new ones. They are looking for you.
If you have decided that live streaming is for you, (and why would you not?) the next step is to make sure to do it right. So here are a few things to think about before you hit that “Go Live” button:
1. Location, location, location…
Live-streaming a performance can be a spur-of-the-moment decision, but to take full advantage of the medium, plan in advance. Remember that your broadcast will exist long after you finish playing and impulsivity can come back to haunt you.
Choose a location you can control, and one that will be conducive to your style without being too visually stimulating – or the reverse. It’s good to have a background that gives some insight into your world or personality but think it through. A shot of your bedroom wall might be charming at first, but it can quickly become tedious, and a background more interesting than you are is equally counter-productive.
W.C. Fields said never work with children or animals, and he knew what he was talking about. Unless you want to be interrupted by your two-year-old or upstaged by your singing dog, secure your broadcast area.
If you’re streaming outdoors remember that passers-by can also interrupt – either deliberately or without meaning to. If your work is going to go viral, make sure it’s because of your talent and not because of the dancing idiot in the background of your stream. The world will remember him. They will not remember you.
2. Preparation is everything!
Prepare for your stream as carefully as you would for a live performance on stage, but with even more attention to detail. Have your setlist worked out in advance, and have your equipment well placed and within easy reach. Test it all prior to showtime to ensure it’s working.
Lighting and position are important too, and remember that depending on your location, it can change. You don’t want the sun to end up in your eyes halfway through your performance, or that your face is obscured by shadow. Think about how close you want to be to the camera. Do you need to show your whole body? Would a shot from the chest up be better?
It sounds basic but you’d be amazed how many people forget to turn off their ringtone or mute notifications on their phone before streaming. The same applies if you are streaming through an app that allows viewers to message you as you broadcast.
Close inactive applications on your streaming device to free up your processing power, and double check your broadband connection to make sure you have enough speed to avoid interruptions in your stream. Even something as simple as having a charger nearby often gets overlooked.
Treat your online event as if you were appearing on a live television show being broadcast to the entire world. Because that’s exactly what it is.
3. Sound Matters
You would think that musicians would not need to be reminded of this, but it only takes a few random views of some current online offerings to realise it cannot be overstated. Bad sound makes you appear unprofessional. The audience must be able to hear you clearly. Get the sound wrong and you will lose credibility and viewers.
As tempting as it can be to broadcast using only your mobile phone, viewers will see this as amateurish. Mobile phones are getting more advanced all the time but as a rule the internal microphones on your device will pick up all kinds of ambient sound as you stream. They will not be as clear as a quality external mic that has been well placed.
Pick a quiet spot with minimal background disruption. If you’re shooting outside consider all the sounds around you, from the wind to nearby traffic. Choose a place with good but not overwhelming acoustics. Ensure the signal is clean, balanced and not peaking. If you have the equipment to enable direct inputs, either via an audio interface or the mic input on your camera, use these. It’s worth investing in some quality microphones. Place them carefully prior to broadcast and test your sound before you begin live-streaming. Do this. Every. Single. Time.
Nothing will turn fans off faster than bad sound quality.
4. Dead air is dead boring.
Silence is exaggerated in live-streaming and gives viewers the opportunity to exit your performance and move on to someone else. Remember that you are more than a musician here – you are a presenter. You are the host of the show.
So, it’s important to start talking to your audience as soon as you begin your broadcast. Welcome your viewers, introduce yourself. Remember that they could be watching from anywhere in the world, so tell them where you are, and anything else you’d like them to know. Greet them as you would an old friend you haven’t seen in a while.
Actors rehearse before a play. They prepare by learning their lines. It’s an excellent idea for you to do the same. You don’t have to memorise anything. Just take a little time before your stream to write some things down. Where can people find more of your music? What have you been doing lately? What do you have coming up?
Make a mental note of any little jokes or stories that go along with what you’ve written. Then make yourself a ‘cheat sheet’ you can refer to during your stream. Have it written large enough to read at a glance and place it so that you can view it without having to squint or look down at a piece of paper.
Talking to an audience that’s not physically in front of you is hard. So, practice the speaking parts and the transitions between songs before you go live. You will be glad you did.
5. Look Them In The Eye.
This is a not a live performance in a club or concert hall. It’s important to look directly into the camera when you are not singing. It allows you to engage with your audience.
If this feels strange to you, you can cheat a bit. Get someone to sit behind the device you are using so you can look and speak directly to them. Check their placement to ensure that it does appear as if you’re looking into the camera, and not at the person behind it. Barring that, you can do something as simple as putting a sticker just above the camera eye for yourself to focus on. You don’t want to look above or to the side of the camera either.
Live-streaming affords you the opportunity to create a more intimate atmosphere than a concert hall or club. People are bringing you into their homes, their circle of friends. So be sociable and invite interaction whenever possible. It’s very important to keep speaking to your viewers, even if no one appears to be watching. The majority of your views might come after your stream has ended.
While it is possible to live-stream all on your own, it’s much better if you have help in case it’s needed. Your job is to perform and present. It’s difficult to do the job of the camera, sound and lighting people too, should it be required. If you disappear offscreen to fiddle with something, your viewers are left staring into empty space. Guess how long they will watch that?
So consider having a friend or crew member present to give you a hand.
If all else fails and you do need to fix something yourself, remember to keep your audience engaged. Tell a road story. Talk about the inspiration for the next song. Take your mic with you so they can hear you. Don’t turn your back on the camera or walk out of the frame unless absolutely necessary, and if you must, explain what you’re doing as you do it. Don’t leave your viewers guessing.
6. Now to get creative….
If you have the option of interactive real-time feedback, use it! Ask your viewers a question or two. Repeat their responses to incorporate them into the live show experience and share their contributions with the rest of your viewers. At Going Live TV, we believe that increased interactivity is the future of live stream broadcasting. If you can involve your audience in your stream, do so.
Try new things. Bring on a guest artist to perform alongside you. Spend a streaming session telling road stories with another musician or teach the audience how to play one of your songs. Stream a live Q&A session. This is your show. You can make it different. You can make it anything you like. The possibilities are endless.
Remember to thank your audience at the end of your stream. Let them know how much you appreciate their support. Tell them where they can find more of your work, how to get in touch or when your next live stream will be. Direct them to any payment options you might have. Repeat your name or the band’s name and thank them again before signing off.
7. Your Streaming Platform
There are a multitude of streaming platforms out there ready to host your live performance, all with different advantages and disadvantages.
Some artists chose to go with popular mainstream sites that viewers are already familiar with: YouTube Live, Instagram Live and Facebook Live. Others might opt for a specialised platform like Streamshark, Brightcove, Streetjelly, or Patreon. Restream.io and OBS Studio let you stream to multiple platforms at once, so you don’t even have to choose a single option.
A little research before streaming will help you decide which one is right for you. Keep in mind that over a third of viewers want high-definition video without ads and look for platforms with HD or 4K streaming and no limits on viewers.
Some platforms offer an analytics dashboard, an extremely useful tool that can tell you more about who and where your audience is. It can let you know how many viewers you have and the amount time they spend watching. This information is highly valuable for identifying where your online audience lives and other information that can help you make future events even more successful.
You can make money from your stream as well. You can sell tickets, just like a regular gig. You can host ads, sell merchandise, or set up a monthly membership option – then share special offers and incentives to viewers who become members.
In the case of platforms like Twitch and Streetjelly, viewers can actually tip artists directly. Fans purchase virtual tokens through the site and then tip the performers they like. The artist cashes in the tokens for real money. Some platforms – like DIUO – will offer the option to share revenue with your road crew. Remember them? The people you can’t do without once you tour or play live onstage again? Maybe they even helped with your live stream? Share the wealth. These are trying times.
Just One More Thing…
Yes, there is a lot to think about when it comes to live streaming. You can throw caution to the wind and impulsively hit the ‘go live’ button without thinking about any of it.
But for professional working musicians, this is the future, and it can work for you. It can enrich your world. Taking a fraction of the time you spend composing and performing to get it right, can reap you endless creative and financial reward.
If you would like to hire professionals to help you live stream, get advice or provide quality equipment, you know where to find us. You’re here already. Have a look at our site. We, at Going Live TV, know live production and live streaming. It’s what we do. Feel free to drop us a line anytime and tell us a bit about yourself.
Last but not least, yes, things can and do go wrong. It’s live, after all. But if you are relaxed and having a good time, your audience will be too. Even if it all inexplicably descends into chaos.
Viewers will forgive anything if you approach it right. So don’t take yourself too seriously and keep a sense of humour as finely tuned as your instrument. Everything will be fine.
You got this.