Performing via live stream has become a venture that intrigues artists of all calibres, but pressing “go live” isn’t the same as rocking up to a dive-bar gig. The platforms and gear you use will have its own pros and cons, so make the best of these tools by understanding why you’re doing it and what effort you’re willing to put into it. What’s in it for your audience? What’s in it for you?
Where’s the gig?
Multi-streaming to all your platforms can give you great coverage, while sticking to one platform may have greater value to your audience. Get creative with how you want to utilise these platforms as each avenue has different approaches and results.
Playing where the people are
A good rule-of-thumb is to stream somewhere easily accessible to your fans. Facebook and YouTube are great places to reach your audiences, but when you choose any platform it’s important to understand its tone and how users like to interact on there. Most views on Facebook Live typically come only after it’s been published – embrace this by aiming for good replayability and treating it like any well-performing post.
The algorithm of Facebook’s news feed can make some users shy to engage with you compared to platforms like Instagram. IG Live reaches the bulk of your audience more directly by embracing the casual encounter of the Stories format, giving participants the confidence to cheer you along without their grandmothers getting involved. Better yet, Instagram Live will see monetisation features in the near future.
While Facebook might be most accessible for your audience, there are high eligibility requirements to monetise your streams and makes direct earnings. Twitch, however, has financial incentives for building an audience on their platform. You can take advantage of their built-in tipping if you stream enough in a month and become an Affiliate, which is also more accessible than YouTube’s tipping feature that unlocks at 1000 subscribers. You can bypass these steps with software such as Streamlabs by using their easily-setup widgets and links for fans to donate directly to your PayPal account.
Broadcasting software such as OBS or Streamlabs (both free) allows you to stream to multiple platforms from your phone or computer (simulcasting) and lets you stick to one process across all platforms. Streamlabs is relatively straight-forward to use, giving you tight control over your audio, vision and your platforms’ respective chats, with additional features such as graphic overlays, tip-jars, and remote control.
“This used to scare me; now, it comforts me because I am in control (mostly).” – Bijan Stephen, The Verge
Ticketed live streams
While you can’t charge for a live stream the same as a real gig, people may still be willing to open their wallets to see a tight set. Ticketed streams are often organised with methods similar to booking a normal gig – when finding a site to host your stream, treat it as a venue that provides nothing more than a door person. After confirming a virtual venue, you’ll need to organise backline, marketing, run sheets, and production crew to make it all happen. List the stream on your Spotify etc by submitting it to concert tracking sites, and assess whether partnering with a booking agent may be beneficial for promotion.
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Choosing a time
Consider your audience’s lifestyle and when they have time to give you their full attention. Target a particular timezone based on your analytics, and prepare the demographic by announcing it in advance and encouraging people to get notifications for when you go live.
- See how other Australian artists do it – many choose to stream mid-week
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@gigpiglet‘s high production example of live streaming with Hockey Dad
The general aim of live streaming is to engage with your audience, so don’t fall in the trap of thinking live streams have a free pass when it comes to social media tactics. Unlike a traditional performance, merely starting with a good song will only have so much weight in your success (unless you’re promoting a ticketed stream). Viewer engagement in the first few moments will determine your reach, so be quick to lure the audience in and find a way to make them feel included.
Make the conversation easier by telling the viewers how to engage with you. Ask what songs they want to hear or if they have any Netflix recommendations for later tonight. Approach it as if you were mingling through your crowd rather than standing on a stage – if the audience feels they can interact with you, your rate of retention will be much higher. Think outside of the box too – just because you’re a musician doesn’t mean the stream needs to be a musical performance.
Whatever you do musically, you’ll need to mix your sources of audio down to stereo channels before going into your PC or phone. This often requires microphones, cables, an interface, and a mixer. A smartphone mixer can be a quick-and-easy way to stream smaller arrangements and USB-compatible mixers are a cost-effective solution to multitrack streaming. If your streams are less musical in nature but you want more control than your EarPods, you can use your broadcaster software’s inbuilt audio mixer to, for example, mix your PC’s internal audio with a USB microphone.
Just like any gig, you’ll want to do a soundcheck ahead of time. Even if you plan to stream to one platform at a time, getting familiar with a broadcaster like Streamlabs means you can be confident about your audio settings ahead of streaming on any site. If you’re not confident with the technical stuff, hire an audio engineer to assist and show you the ropes for future streams.
- Read more on live streaming equipment
The video format
Think about what your viewers will see on their 6-inch phone screen and whether it is visually interactive enough to hold their attention. A generally well-lit room will suffice to perform in, but try sculpting your vibe with anything from lamps to LED bars. Using visual assets such as themes and widgets is often an easy and effective way to keep the visuals engaging.
Your phone can be used as a webcam by downloading an NDI app and connecting it with your chosen broadcasting software, but consider various HD DSLRs and camcorders to enhance the visuals and pick something that performs well in low lighting. If you have a vision switcher and a capable friend available to you, a multi-cam setup will leave little room for dull visuals. Viewers have better retention if they can see your face, making multiple cameras particularly useful for band performances.
- Plan and rehearse your stream. What are you going to do or say in those first moments?
- Don’t listen to your stream over speakers – soundcheck with headphones
- If you’re using mastered music in your stream (important for DJs), consider using MixCloud to avoid copyright infringements
- Test your internet connection ahead of time. If your ISP doesn’t give you the recommended 5.7Mbps upload speed, hotspot your mobile as a reliable alternative.
- Australian Music Industry Networks’ Best Practice Guide for Live Streaming
- Keep an eye on the upcoming Australian-operated ticketed live stream host
- Eventbrite’s Everything You Need To Know About Livestreaming Concerts
- 8 pro tips for live streaming
- YouTube’s guide to getting set up with broadcasting software