Artist’s Guide To Creating A Compelling Live Stream Show
While live streaming shows have been standing in for actual concerts during the pandemic, such performances are actually quite different from an in-person gig, and as such require different techniques to successfully pull off.
Guest post by Randy Chertkow and Jason Feehan of the Disc Makers Blog
Creating compelling live streams goes beyond setting up a camera and performing like you do on stage. Use these techniques to create a better performance, get more viewers, and make more money from your live stream show.
Many musicians have switched from playing live onstage to playing live online through streaming platforms, but building a solid online show isn’t quite as simple as pointing a camera and playing music. There are many techniques you can weave into the live show process that will help you create better performances, get more fans to watch, and make more money in the process.
Use these seven techniques to build an engaging and compelling live stream show.
1. Gradually build your production set-up
At first, start simple by just using one camera, such as your laptop or phone. Then, over time, you can improve your set-up step-by-step by improving lighting, improving the audio, and creating a set that looks good on camera, has links to your sites, and has your merch visible. You can also start using tools like Open Broadcaster Software (OBS) which gives you the ability to create overlays, add effects, and use multiple cameras. Each time you make a change, test it out as a recording first and see how it looks. Although all of these things take some effort and time, they can make you stand out compared to other performances online and make it more likely your audience will enjoy the performance and keep coming back.
2. Modify your performance
Your goal is to create an entertaining online performance that your fans will enjoy watching. This is not necessarily the same show as your live stage performance, though all of the techniques we covered in our previous article, “Work To Create A Killer Live Show,” are still true: because every song is different, they shouldn’t look the same to your audience. In fact, your goal should be to make them so visually distinct, you should know what song is being performed even if you play back the song with the sound muted. To do this, use the different parts of your “stage” area and screen.
Even if you’re playing in your living room or basement, imagine you are performing in front of a live audience, not an empty room with a camera. Some artists even put a picture of an audience in front of them so they can visualize it better. Also, most online performances are very personal and have a little more banter in between songs to answer people who are talking on the chat or asking questions. Since there’s no audience in the room, that’s the best way to create the feeling that people watching are having a shared experience with many other people.
3. Create a theme for the show
When you play live, you have the advantage of getting an audience from the live music venue’s natural draw as well as from other performers sharing the bill. When you’re online, you have to attract your own viewership and are competing against many other options. To lure viewers, beyond using all your normal promotional techniques and promoting within the streaming platform you’re using, make the event special in some way. To do this, get in the head of your audience and think about what they would like. For example, a “Meditation and Music” show, “Weekend Chill,” or “Happy Hour” could be the perfect theme for an evening’s entertainment. Beyond these themed events, you can also use covers to attract audiences. For example, artist George Hrab recently launched a series of cover shows based on doing “13 Songs” per performance and did a Police and Sting night which he advertised ahead of time. Use all your tried-and-true promotional techniques to get your event re-shared online and likely to appear in searches on the web.
4. Choose the right platforms
When you put on a live stream show, you have the opportunity to choose the platform. There are many options, such as Twitch, YouTube Live, Periscope, Facebook Live, Mixer, and YouNow. Although you can choose to go with just one, you can also simulcast to multiple platforms so you can catch a bigger audience by using tools like Restream.io. Note that some platforms don’t play well with others; for example, Facebook doesn’t allow you to multicast to it if you’re playing the stream anywhere else. If you do choose a single platform, select one that you can monetize the best or has the features you’re most comfortable with.
5. Play regularly
While there’s nothing wrong with doing a one-off show, to build an audience, you should play regularly. The Internet rewards consistency and fans will get in the habit of watching you when you have a scheduled performance — though you need to produce shows with variety to keep them coming back.
6. Monetize your platform
As we discussed in detail in “Maximizing Your Revenue When Streaming Live Shows” and “Maximizing Your Revenue When Streaming Part II,” add links in the stream and chat to promote your website, merch, tip jars, Patreon account, and other revenue streams. You can also build your income sources into your show, which means talking about (and possibly wearing) your merchandise, promoting your patronage, and growing your subscriber base. Beyond talking to your audience about it, you can also use the various surfaces that are in the camera’s view to display promotional signs with links or add a digital overlay by using video software tools like OBS.
7. Make sure all of your shows have great hashtags
Be sure to add hashtags within the descriptions of your shows. These can lure viewers because your stream will come up in searches within the platform and also appears on pages dedicated to that hashtag. You can always use the #music and #livemusic hashtags. Also, add hashtags related to the type of show you’re performing, such as the theme of the show, like #meditation or #boozymusic. You can also use trending hashtags, current events, and recent news. And if you are doing a cover show, use the hashtags from the bands that you cover so you piggyback on them by having fans of those bands find you.
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Make sure to take this list of suggestions one at a time so you don’t overwhelm yourself. You can start by recording yourself and seeing how it looks before just getting in front of the camera. Keep adjusting things until you are comfortable with it. Then once you have your show, the next step is to promote it. By employing these tips, you create a better performance, get more viewers, and make more money from your streaming show.
Authors of the critically-acclaimed modern classic, The Indie Band Survival Guide, Billboard Magazine called Randy Chertkow and Jason Feehan “the ideal mentors for aspiring indie musicians who want to navigate an ever-changing music industry.” Their latest book, Making Money With Music (Macmillan) and free Making Money With Music Newsletter, help all musicians — from startups to pros — build a sustainable music business so you can make money in today’s tech-driven music environment.