We’re living in uncertain times, and no one knows for sure when “traditional” music venues will open back up again, let alone spaces that allow more than 5 people at a time.
So now more than ever, live streaming your performance on social media is the one of the best ways to get your music out there, share your story, and make new fans.
It’s easy to impulsively press “live” on Instagram and play a few songs from your bedroom in your sweatpants without much planning—but you may not get the results you want from that.
So why not plan out and intentionally strategize around your upcoming Instagram Live show, and use it to your advantage as an audience-building tool?
Here are five simple tips to help you perfect your next Instagram Live show.
1. Get the right sound equipment
The good news is we get to control our space and perform from the comfort of our home. The tricky part is finding the right equipment to make it sound as good as an intimate, in-person show.
Streaming live usually sounds a bit weird and compressed because, obviously, the mics in our phones aren’t as good as a real mic and sound system, so you might want to look into your options.
Finding the right equipment to work around this is key. iRig makes several products that connect directly to your phone for a cleaner sound. You can connect a mic, a guitar, or an interface with these products.
Alternatively, if you wanted to broadcast through your phone but record your set into an audio interface plugged right into your DAW of choice, you can stream first and upload a nicely produced version later!
2. Promote to your Instagram stories
“If you’re doing Instagram Live, promoting to your stories is crucial,” says Aubryn, Nashville-based blues and folk singer-songwriter with a large, loyal online following for her Facebook Live shows.
“Make it fun, maybe give a hint to something you’ll be doing or post a question you’ll answer during the show—something that’s intriguing and makes people go ‘OOH!’ and want and tune in live.”
With Instagram, it’s easy to get lost in the content and pass through people’s stories mindlessly, so make it memorable and think outside the box. And don’t forget to repeat yourself, people may not have the sound on the first time you mention your live performance.
3. Lighting is everything
You might not believe it, but lighting is a huge factor in getting people to watch your shows online. I asked Aubryn about this as well, and she recommends not to “set up with your back to a window at midday as you’ll be silhouetted and washed out.”
Alternatively, make sure you avoid standing or sitting against a dark wall, since it soaks up the light and will make you harder to see. Ideally, you want a light-colored wall (like white, light grey, light yellow) that will reflect the light back and fill the space.
Make sure you’re lit up from the front, or from above at a 45 degree angle (you know, like in a rock club!). Play around with what works in your space. It’s good to soften the light as well; if your lights are too harsh you can always cover lamps with scarves or light blankets.
The more your fans feel like they’re actually in the room with you, the better received your show will be!
4. Share, share, share
With aggressive social algorithms and the surplus of online shows and content going on right now, it’s entirely possible that even your closest friends might miss out on your performance if you leave it to chance. So share about it enthusiastically, and often!
Give plenty of notice to your audience (at least one week if not two), and be sure to constantly remind them of the time and date. Don’t forget to note the time zone. Share on all your social media handles, your email list, close friends, family, and colleagues.
Use a high quality photo and make a digital flier with a clear date and time. Canva is a great tool for this. The better your ad artwork looks, the more you’ll tickle the intrigue of your fans.
And speaking of fans, leverage those close contacts and networks of yours, especially your non-music related networks, and ask others to share or post about your event. Get involved with your online community, by joining various Facebook Groups or (online) meetup groups that interest you—anything from yoga, to knitting, to book clubs, to social justice, to painting, to chess… You get the idea.
This can open so many doors for you and get different people to discover your music—and you’ll hopefully discover other artists’ work as well!
5. Engage, engage, engage
Live streaming has been around for a while, but it’s a new frontier for some of us. It’s certainly awkward at first to feel like you’re on one side of the stage and can’t see your audience other than their screen names and the occasional heart that floats up your phone.
But once you get more comfortable with it, try to engage with everyone who enters the show, writes a comment, or has a question. The more you make your audience feel like they’re part of the experience in an active way, the more enjoyment they’ll get out of it.
It’s easy to simply press record, play your songs as if you’re alone, and then press stop when you’re finished. (As someone who identifies as a half-introvert, I totally get it!) But people these days are just as bored as you are in their apartments, so why not make it entertaining?
Plus, people watch you because they want to, and they want to get to know you! Encourage questions or song requests (if that’s your thing), and say hello to new fans or people who tune in late. We’re all in this together; your show should help remind people of that fact!
Ellisa Sun cuts out her heart and leaves it on the stage, which is why she never wears white. Her music is a unique blend of genres spanning R&B, jazz, and pop that creates a soulful, textured sound. Ellisa is originally from Los Angeles and now resides in Nashville, TN.
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