NO SET BREAKS! (and other tips to make your live stream a success)

Portions of this article first appeared on a Yamaha MusicUSA’s blog post featuring LoudSwell: Musician’s Guide to Getting Your Work Out There, Part 1 (Jake Uitti, 3/15/2021)

My good friend, Jake Uitti, asked me to comment on some livestream-related topics for a series he was writing for Yamaha MusicUSA. Understandably, a lot of my content didn’t make it into Yamaha’s post but we figured these tips might be interesting to some of you. Happy streaming!

-Gordon (LoudSwell Founder/CEO)

 

What is the benefit of live streaming a show for aspiring and established artists?
In a time when performing live just isn’t possible, there are several benefits to live streaming a show as an alternative. But I want to be clear that nothing, NOTHING will ever replace the feeling of a live show. More on that later…

For a lot of our artists, having a platform – any platform – to present their craft to an audience is an important form of self-care. When one’s identity as an artist is tied to the stage, the absence of that platform can be tormenting. While live streaming feels very different than performing to an in-person audience, the positive mental health and well-being effects can still be beneficial, if not imperative for some.

These effects are similar for audiences. We’ve received countless messages from viewers who tell us that watching a live stream of their favorite band made them forget, even just for a moment, about all of the chaos in the world and helped them feel like life has temporarily returned to normal. That, in and of itself, is an enormous benefit.

Live streaming can also bring an audience closer to an artist (and vice versa) in new ways. During a live performance, there’s a physical distance between a band and its fans. Sometimes, there are even barriers and bouncers between the two. For a live stream, the distance is virtual and can be significantly reduced. Platforms like LoudSwell.com help bridge the gap by encouraging real-time, band-fan interactions and provide chat and live tipping features to achieve this.

The key is to remove barriers and make things simple for everybody. For aspiring artists, closing the distance between themselves and their fans can help establish that early, core base of followers who will propel them through their first goals. It can also help established artists to reach new audiences and grow their brands.

 

What are the basic do’s and don’ts when it comes to streaming for those unaware or new to it?
DON’T think that you’re alone if you’re about to go live and you feel nervous. It’s completely normal. We’ve had seasoned artists who have toured the world and who are used to performing regularly to huge crowds get the same kind of stage fright they might have felt when they first started performing. I think the reasons are different for everybody but it’s a common feeling right before downbeat. Rest assured that it almost always washes away after the first tune or two.

DON’T take a set break. An internet audience has practically no attention span and it’s not like there’s a bar for them to hang out at while you take a break. Try to play your show straight through and call it a night.

DON’T live stream for free. Your time and your art are valuable. At the very least, give your audience a way to contribute to your PayPal or Venmo accounts. They WANT to support you. At LoudSwell.com, we make it simple and rewarding for audiences to tip artists in real-time. Our artists earn an average of $750/hr and some of our bands have earned many thousands of dollars per hour. It’s a good gig!

DO strive for high-quality audio and video quality but also DON’T break the bank to achieve it. Audiences are getting inundated with live streams and the quality bar has risen over the past year, so be sure that yours looks and sounds good enough or folks may tune out. There are tons of expensive cameras and audio rigs out there but you might find that you already have the right components. For example, mobile phones have great cameras but terrible microphones. A laptop can provide great audio via an audio interface or even a USB microphone but they have terrible built-in cameras. You may have to get creative to find the best mix of quality audio and video and find ways to make the devices work together. But the single most important factor to any live stream is the INTERNET. Slow, unreliable internet is the #1 live stream killer. Avoid WiFi and get a hardline ethernet connection to your router, if possible. Test your internet speed. If you’re getting less than 10Mbps upload, call your ISP and ask for an upgrade. Some of our artists hadn’t called their ISP in a decade and were delighted to learn that they were eligible for a free speed upgrade. If your internet is slow, just make the call. It’s worth it.

DO aim to make your live stream a SHOW. I’ve seen too many low-effort live streams where an artist is streaming from their room and the bed’s not made or they’re just running down their setlist and don’t seem into it. I mean, artists are creative people by nature and so it flummoxes me that some don’t take the opportunity to do something new that hasn’t been seen before. Invite some special guests, use costumes, creative lighting, do some audience Q&A, tell a story – ANYTHING. Make it a show and do something special. Your audience is worth the effort.

DO acknowledge and talk to your audience when possible. This goes back to my earlier point about bridging the gap between an artist and their fans. Live streams will often have accompanying chats for fans to participate while they watch. If an artist can monitor their fan’s conversations and also participate, magic often happens. Artists: say “hi” to folks, take requests, answer questions, check-in.

DO try to make it easy for people to watch. Paywalls and complicated ticketing systems aren’t the only way to monetize your show and can limit your potential exposure. Also, promote your show online well in advance and with the same effort you had when you once stapled your band’s posters to telephone poles all over town.

 

What do you think streaming will look like in the future, even when COVID dissipates?
The live streaming genie is out of the bottle and it’s hard to imagine things going completely back to the way they were before COVID.

For those artists who have figured out how to monetize their live streams or found their audiences online, streaming will supplement the live concert experience well after COVID and into perpetuity. There are plenty of streamable moments outside of a live concert experience: streaming rehearsals, tales from the tour bus, providing a window into an artist’s creative process, etc. Fans will come to expect this kind of content and will reward artists who provide it.

Speaking of fans, I think many have been spoiled by the convenience that live streaming has brought us by catching a performance from the comfort of our own homes. I want to reiterate that I believe NOTHING will ever replace the feeling of a great live show. But, even after COVID, there will be some nights when going out just isn’t possible and audiences will expect a way to not miss out.

This is also true for venues: we’ve helped several venues set up and monetize live streaming, which has expanded their audiences (and revenue) beyond the confines of a brick and mortar. For instance, we recently helped a couple of Seattle venues fundraise and, in each case, brought an amphitheater-sized audience to their relatively small spaces. It’s a new revenue channel that no venue will want to shutter after COVID.

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