As event and festival cancellations start to extend into the summer months, musicians have increasingly turned to livestreaming to stay connected to their audience and make up some of the money they may have lost from cancellations.
The Music District tech team has put together this guide to livestreams to help our musicians level up their livestreams. Whether you’re a seasoned streamer or new to the game, you will find useful information and gear recommendations below. Once you feel ready to stream, drop us a line to book some time with one of our tech team staff members to test out your setup and get realtime feedback.
Also, in case you missed it, revisit our workshop on the topic featuring Shane Zweygardt from the Music District and Doug Usher from the Via Company & 53:14.
LOCATION + LIGHTING
First, find a location to set up for your performance. Make sure you are at least 6-8 feet from your background. Add some props – your vinyl collection, artwork, plants, lamps, whatever you’ve got to work with – and experiment with rugs, curtains, and other soft things to absorb and unwanted echo.
Lighting is important! Light your face first, your room second. The more light you have, the clearer your video will be, and shooting in daylight is a big plus (here’s a helpful article about three-point lighting)
Dialing in your audio is critical for a good livestream – people will forgive bad video more easily than bad audio. Using an audio interface or USB mic will make a huge difference over your computer microphone, and we have offered a few ideas below:
Consider a USB Mic, which can plug directly into your computer, such as the Blue Yeti Pro or Apogee Mic. Alternatively, you can look at purchasing an audio interface, which allows you to send audio signal to your computer, such as the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 or the Zoom LiveTrak L-8, which was designed with podcasters and musicians in mind. Another cool audio interface made specifically for use with your smartphone is the Roland Go:Mixer. If you are using an audio interface, you may want to use a microphone particularly suited for capturing your audio, such as a Shure SM7B. If you’d like to keep your hands free or don’t want to be holding a mic in your video, you may want to try a wireless mic like the Sennheiser Wireless Lav.
If you do not own any of this equipment and may not be in a place to purchase, we suggest using your phone camera over your webcam – in general, rear-facing phone cameras are better at picking up good audio and video than phone selfie cameras, and both are better than computer webcams. Enlist a friend to hold your phone, or purchase an inexpensive tripod or gimbal to keep your phone steady as your record.
Invest in an affordable camera such as a Mevo if you plan to livestream often. A heads up – much of this gear is sold out right now as demand increases. Another option would be camcorder or SLR cameras if you already have access to those, but unless you plan to invest in livestreaming for the long term, this may be an unnecessary investment.
In addition, a switcher is a piece of gear that allows you to switch from one input to another on the fly. If you’re looking to incorporate multiple cameras, pre-recorded video, and other elements into your livestream, a switcher may help.
Camera placement is important! Keep the camera eye level if possible, and make sure people can see your instrument(s).
Software tools can give you more control and tools for your livestream. OBS (which is free) and Livestream Studio (which is not) allows you to have a “control room” for multiple inputs, additional audio, and other functionality similar to a switcher. Vmix is an option for PC users. Along with all of the software listed above, Restream also allows you to broadcast to several platforms at once.
Running into echo or feedback problems with your audio? Loopback acts as a mixing board for your computer, allowing you to avoid any multi-input audio issues.
A general rule: go where your audience already exists. If you have a huge Instagram following, try Instagram Live for a few days at around the same time every day to start building a following. If you’re mainly on Facebook, don’t think you need to reinvent the wheel on YouTube or Twitch.
That said, it’s also a good time to experiment with each platform. The more familiar you are with each platform, the more you’ll be able to get out of it. For any platform, it’s important to remember that livestream shows are not the same as a live performance. Don’t try to replicate your live show on the stream; think about how you can use the technology to interact with your audience.
Facebook just announced a new set of features including creating ticketed events on Facebook. We’ll talk more about it once it’s up and running, but this will probably end up being a popular platform for live shows moving forward.
The most straightforward way for you to get paid for your craft!
Level 1: The virtual tip jar that you manage yourself! Be clear on how people can support you – use Venmo, PayPal, Square or another well-known service and include your information on the screen and in the event description. Don’t make people have to search.
Level 2: You can also use built-in tipping services, which some platforms offer such as Twitch, YouTube Live, or Mixer, but you have to be able to get your audience to engage on those platforms.
Ticketed or Paywalled events
Alternatively, you could go for a ticketed or paywalled stream. Very few are set up for musicians specifically, but they can work for you with a little extra set up. The tricks here are making sure your audience knows where to find your stream, how to get access and they may have to set up an account depending on the service. Here are some of the best we’ve seen:
Also, don’t forget about merch! You can show it off on the livestream, get paid virtually, and mail out your items. Keep your Bandcamp or website up to date and make sure the link is readily available.