The following is a modified excerpt from RootNote’s first RootNote Blueprint, a comprehensive living document featuring information on how to build better fan relationships and make more money through things like livestreaming, fan clubs, and online merch. Get access to the whole thing for free by going here and submitting your email address.
Livestreaming is all the rage nowadays. Necessity forced a lot of musicians to turn to the Internet to keep performing for their fans in the wake of, you know, pretty much *everything* being cancelled to keep folks safe.
But the truth is, musicians you and I have never heard of have been building their fanbase and making a living from livestreaming for years now. You probably have already heard of the big competitors in the livestreaming space — platforms like Twitch, Facebook Live, and YouTube Live. But there’s a new kid in town looking to make waves as a music-first livestreaming platform.
You might have heard more about it when Pandora founder Tim Westergren mentioned that he’s throwing his weight (and his investment) as a co-founder behind the platform. Sessions is barely even out of beta and developing rapidly — and their team is frequently hitting up artists to get set up and go live.
There are technically two apps in the Sessions ecosystem, for those who first knew Sessions as NEXT Music. NEXT Music (formerly Beat Fever) is a mobile-based game with a major music component (similar to Tap Tap Revenge if you remember that). NEXT Music basically allowed artists to perform livestreams in the app while users perused other features.
Eventually, the livestream portion of NEXT Music became so popular that the developers spun off a new app called Sessions, which is exclusively meant to be a place for musicians to livestream.
When you go live, you’ll be broadcast to both NEXT Music and Sessions Live. Sessions is the most rapidly developing of the platforms. They just launched a desktop version for viewers, though the major focus is on mobile viewers. As a streamer, you can currently only go live via desktop.
Sessions also recently announced the intention of migrating all music streaming viewers from NEXT Music over to the Sessions app, so it’s just a matter of time until that confusing little caveat is cleared up.
Learning Curve: HIGH
Opportunity To Make Money: MEDIUM TO HIGH
Opportunity To Make New Fans: MEDIUM
Chances Your Current Fans Will Quickly Adopt: LOW
Time Commitment Necessary: MEDIUM TO HIGH
Analytics and Data Available: LOW
How hard is it to use Sessions
Sessions has pretty high barriers to go live on the app. For starters, you can’t currently just go to a website, sign up, and go live. As of right now, you have to apply to join via a Google form (and be sure to check the Bandzoogle box in the last field so that they know Bandzoogle sent you).
The Sessions team is fairly aggressively courting music streamers and at one point they were offering approved streamers some money to give the platform a shot (commonly $25, though offers probably vary and are certainly not guaranteed).
Once you’ve been approved to go live, you’ll receive a special token to log in to the dashboard. This is where you’ll go live, chat with fans, schedule performances, upload songs you can play, and cash out your money. Sessions has also been working to integrate email login features to make this a more intuitive process for artists.
When it comes to going live, there used to be three ways. However, Sessions has recently made a primary focus on its own OBS integration. Initially, users were asked to go live on YouTube and share a private, unlisted link. However, the OBS feature on the Sessions dashboard is officially out of beta and they are recommending all artists create an OBS feed to send to Sessions, similar to the most common way to go live on other platforms like Twitch and Mixer.
Once you’re performing, there aren’t too many additional quirks other than the fact that the audience is very global. The app is also a little finicky right now, so it’s best to set it and forget it. For instance, on Twitch you can easily add song options to your song list in the middle of a stream. On the current version of Sessions, you probably shouldn’t try to click away or you might lose your stream.
Sessions also has a slightly confusing mechanism for gamifying the platform. Once you understand it, it makes sense. But getting there takes a second. For starters, your viewers can become your followers, or they can go another level deeper and become crew members. You can earn “love” for money, but “stars” are a separate currency meant to establish your standing in the streamer leaderboard.
Users have different "missions" to complete weekly, all of which help the artist whose Crew you've joined.
How can you make money using Sessions
Sessions uses a “Love” system for its currency. These are similar to bits or stars on any of the other platforms. The conversion rate is around $.008, or just shy of one penny per Love. Fans can give you Love on the stream. There is a minimum love donation for requesting songs you put in your song list and the ways you incentivize users to give you Love are really up to you.
Here’s where it gets kind of cool, though. Sessions has a group of artists called Touring Artists. These are kind of like Affiliates in Twitch, though the method for selecting Touring Artists is a little less clear.
That said, Touring Artists can schedule their streams in the artist dashboard for guaranteed amounts of Love. Meaning Sessions will pay them a small hourly amount to stream. The schedule and amount are released week by week, but it generally boils down to around $5 to $8 per hour with a cap on the amount of paid hours (usually around 6 to 8) you can claim every week. You can always go live and get Love from fans, but if you want to get paid, you’ve got to schedule it.
Touring Artists are not allowed to simulcast their stream on scheduled and paid shows, only unscheduled shows (meaning you can’t use an public YouTube Live stream or Restream to try and send your stream to two places at once).
On top of that, Sessions incentivizes more streaming by automatically running competitions with weekly prizes for the top streamers of up to $500 in a week. Of course this is where timing comes in — if you want to get that money, you’ll need to stream more. This leaderboard is also where getting people to join your “crew” comes in handy, because if they join your crew you’ll earn stars for how active they are on the platform, regardless if they’re active in your stream or not.
Sessions has a lower threshold to cash out — you only need at least $20 to cash out as of now. However, that process can take up to two months between having your cashout request approved and having the money sent to you. It shouldn't take that long normally, but it could. Expect it to definitely take at least a month, which is fairly standard at this point.
You can also request donations from fans, but it’s not quite as streamlined as some of the other apps. You don’t currently have the ability to include any clickable links, so your best bet is to include your PayPal or Venmo on your stream overlay.
How likely are you to make new fans on Sessions
Sessions Live has a built-in following and, at this early stage, is currently working to put fans in front of new streamers. That means you can have absolutely no prior presence on the app and still get in front of a global audience. But that doesn’t mean you’ll turn them into fans.
Think of it kind of like the digital version of performing on the newcomer stage at a big open-air festival. You’re on a stage. People are there because they want to see music. But that doesn’t mean you’re going to automatically hook them right off the bat.
More than probably any other app, you’ll need to make an effort to connect with the viewers when they come across your stream. When you first start, you may have dozens of people watching you but only one or two chatting. You can get people to follow you, though, which will eventually increase the likelihood of more people popping in for your future streams. It’s kind of up to you to drive them to the rest of your music and content off the platform.
Sessions is also in the midst of trying some cool things with certain artists. Again, it’s early, but if you’ve got a solid stream quality and know how to be engaging on camera, you might find yourself getting extra support and opportunities to connect with fans. Sorry for being a bit vague there — this program, called the Promoted Artist Program, is still SUPER new and we don’t want to write anything that could be misleading.
How likely are your fans to watch you on Sessions
About as likely as Twitch, honestly. Maybe a little less right now just because it's a much newer platform. However, there isn't that much of a learning curve. You can download the app and start watching artists right away. But you will definitely need to give your fans the link to the app (and to the desktop version) to help them find it easily.
How much time do you need to spend on Sessions
It’s kind of a cool hybrid in terms of time required. If you take the right steps to get on the platform and become a Touring Artist, you *can* at least make a few extra dollars quickly by going live for an hour at a time. That’s good news compared to a platform like Twitch where two hours is kind of the minimum for an impactful stream.
But, just as with anything else, you get out what you put in. If you really want to see it work for you, you’ve got to commit some time. There is a bit of peace of mind knowing you’re making a few bucks regardless of fan interaction, though.
How much data and analytics does Sessions give you
Currently, not much. Like, not even as much as Instagram level.
That might be expected given the relative age of the platform, but you get next to no information about your followers and fans, much less summaries about your streams and viewers.
You can see your Love history, but that’s because it’s a financial transaction. We have to believe this is on the long list of desired features, but as of right now you’re not going to be able to track growth and interaction in the app very well.
So who is Sessions right for?
Brand New Artists will really appreciate the feeling that people are watching right off the bat. If they can tackle the technology hurdles that also accompany a platform like YouTube Live or Twitch, they’ll find themselves instantly streaming to people.
They might not have the following or experience necessary to get some of the sweeter perks from Sessions Live, but with a little bit of time and growth they’ll get the attention. If they can commit to at least a few hour-long streams they’ll be on the right path.
More developed but still part-time artists will likely be closer to Touring Artist status and really enjoy the fact that they’re making a little money no matter what. Other than that, all of the things that apply to new artists apply to these artists, too.
Full time artists probably won’t be as enticed by the guaranteed money to commit fully to a platform like Sessions Live unless they have to take a hiatus from going on the road for a while.
They will be ahead of the curve for artists in their profile if they adopt Sessions Live but still might not ultimately want to take part in something that is still very early stages. But with a little bit of messages, they could certainly bring over at least a few fans and easily compete for some of those sweet weekly bonuses.
This was a modified excerpt from RootNote’s first RootNote Blueprint, a comprehensive living document featuring information on how to build better fan relationships and make more money through things like livestreaming, fan clubs, and online merch. Get access to the whole thing for free by going here and submitting your email address.
RootNote is a music startup based out of Nashville, TN. Learn more about the company and their new platform CODa here.
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