Just because you’re stuck indoors and not able to play gigs IRL, that’s no excuse not to play live to your fans in this digital age. Enter the humble live stream.
Live streaming has quickly become a focal point of any good social media strategy since all the key platforms made it an easy-to-use part of their service. Now anyone can have their own direct-to-fan TV station and engage their audience in a more intimate way than ever before.
To get the most out of streaming, there’s a lot you need to consider. It’s worth taking your time with over it and investing in some equipment to make sure it’s as good as it can be
Ideas for streams
Before you do anything, have a good hard think about why you want to stream and what your live content will offer fans. Do you want to promote new releases? Do you want to engage with your fan base more and build more of a community? Do you want somewhere to test out new musical ideas? What are you more comfortable and natural doing?
If you aren’t much of a talker or a native social butterfly, you might want to choose something where the viewers are more passive. If you want to make them feel part of what you do more and give them some sense of ownership over what you do and the choices you make, you might want to go for something that involves active engagement and user-generated content.
Some common ideas for streams include:
• Live performances (you’ll need a way to mix the sound properly, though)
• Fan Q&As where your audiences can ask you questions through comments
• Studio masterclasses where you demonstrate a technique or how you wrote a song
• A live DJ set or radio show
• A live stream from one of your shows (again, ideally you’ll have a direct feed from the mixing desk for optimal sound)
• Direct-to-camera vlogs
• Podcast-style shows where you interview guests (e.g. other musicians)
The more innovative you can be with your idea and the more you can own it, the more likely your stream is to stand out in people’s feeds.
Your live stream should be a genuine reflection of who you are or who you want to be as an artist. Make sure that your plans are aligned with the rest of your career and online presence.
Location (location, location)
Think about where you’re going to stream from. Your bedroom or living room is fine for the more candid streams, but try and make it look as visually appealing as possible. Good lighting, nice decor and a nice background can all help your stream stand out in people’s feeds.
If you’re looking to do live performances, think about friends who have spaces. Can you take over a friend’s office or workplaces after hours? Do you hire a studio for band practice that you could use? What about a public space?
Again, the more ingenious you can be with your locations, the more interesting it is for your potential audience. Check out what upcoming English DJ, SUAT, has been doing with his innovative live streams for proof of this.
But don’t forget, you can stream anywhere you have a phone and a solid data connection. Just make sure that it’s something worth streaming if the video and audio quality aren’t going to be great.
If you’re using a laptop or desktop computer, invest in a good external webcam so you have more flexibility over your camera angles, and USB mics or standard mics with a USB soundcard to ensure the best sound quality too. If you’re playing a live performance or DJing, make sure your mixer output is providing your audio source and not your laptop’s internal microphone. Make sure you know how to switch these settings before you go live!
You can also buy accessories for streaming via mobile phones and tablets such as microphones and audio adaptors that let you send external audio signals directly into the device.
While you can broadcast a live stream using Facebook, Twitter or Instagram’s built-in apps, you will have more flexibility and control using an external program on your computer that sends live feeds to these platforms. Or you could try out one of the newer kids on the block, Twitch. Historically a platform for gamers it’s becoming more and popular with the music making kids too.
One of the most commonly used free solutions for creating live streams is OBS. It allows you to overlay text and graphics, combine different sound and audio sources, balance the volume levels and create other effects. It’s easy to use and there are plenty of how-to guides online.
A more advanced, paid-for service like Switchboard Live allows you to broadcast to multiple platforms at once.
Pick your platform(s)
Wherever your most engaged following is, that’s probably the best place to focus your live streaming efforts. But as outlined above, there are programs that allow you to broadcast to multiple places at once. The only problem with this is that you will find it hard to monitor and reply to comments in more than one place at a time, so bear that in mind if you’re flying solo.
The most engaging content is often habit-forming. So try and broadcast with a consistent schedule, giving your fans something to look forward to and build into their weekly routine. Of course, you might feel spontaneous sometimes, but if you have a good idea that can run and run, try and make it a weekly event.
What to do before the stream
Test your setup!
Give yourself a good hour before go-live to make sure your broadcasting software or platform is receiving your visuals and your audio loud and clear. Make sure you have your sound source switched to your external mics if you’re using them. Don’t forget to check your internet connection is solid and close any programmes and windows you don’t need. Disconnect any other computer or mobile devices that don’t need to be on wifi too to give your streaming device the maximum bandwidth. And have at least a vague outline of the structure of your stream and what’s going to happen in it.
What to do during the stream
First of all, make sure you share your stream across all your networks for maximum exposure.
Pay attention to your comments and engage with your audience if that’s the theme of your broadcast. Give people shoutouts and respond to their comments. If you’re playing live, you’re not going to be able to do this, so see if a friend might be up for helping reply to and like comments. They could even do this remotely if you make them an admin of the page.
Pay attention to live viewer numbers and if they seem to drop for a particular reason. It might help you to plan better content next time around.
What to do after the stream
Check out the analytics on the video. How many peak viewers did you have? When did they begin to drop-off? Does the average watch time look high or low? Use this data to shape your future content.
You can re-share your live stream for those that missed it and greatly increase your total views as a result.
Leave a final comment underneath with a call-to-action like ‘subscribe’ or ‘check out my new release’ or links to anything else that you mentioned in your stream.
Remember that if you play any copyrighted music in your broadcast, the platform may block or partially mute that section of your broadcast in the post-stream video upload.
That’s all the basics covered which should be enough to get you on your way. Get going and practising and honing your live streaming craft, and if your content is good, you should soon start reaping rewards. Just make sure that it’s worth your time and that either the numbers look worthwhile, or if your audience is small that they are truly engaged with what you’re doing.