As the days go on, more and more musicians are turning to live streaming as an easy and affordable way to reach their fans. Just grab your phone, log into Facebook and press the button to go live.
The reality is that this is exactly what many artists are doing right now, resulting in a plethora of online ‘noise.’ At the same time, people are at home, online, and frankly, looking for something to do to lift their spirits and escape the cabin fever.
Think of live streaming as an opportunity to connect with your fans, as well as a great chance to get your music out there. In my experience, live streaming has been a valuable tool for my husband, Tyler Kealey, to connect with and strengthen the relationship with his fans. It’s also been a way to keep playing and performing, adding a slight bit or normalcy to the weeks.
Since this is new territory for most musicians (and fans!) I thought I’d share a few tips that have worked for us.
Why Live stream?
There are a few reasons to try out a live stream video. It’s a great way to reach out to your fans and lift their spirits. Seeing you perform, off the cuff, will strengthen your relationship with them. It creates an up close and personal feel to your show.
It also gives people something to look forward to when they’re thrown out of their normal routine, and unable to leave home. Catch the livestream of a performer you know and love? From the comfort of your own home? Sold!
Where to put on a show
There are many options to go with; Facebook live, YouTube live, Instagram Live, and Twitch are all popular options.
Instead of trying to work on all platforms, we picked the one where his fans are and tried that first. As a singer-songwriter and piano player, Tyler is a full-time working musician who writes, records and tours, and fills the gaps with residency cover gigs that have built up a loyal following over the years.
Facebook is a natural fit for him because he plays a lot of older music (think Elton John, SuperTramp era). Facebook is a platform we’ve used for years to interact and post regularly, so it feels more familiar. The demographic fits. Building on that support first made sense.
Once he’s got the hang of performing in front of a camera instead of a crowd, he may branch out to other platforms, like Instagram and YouTube, and see if the interest is there.
How to put on a live stream
The simplest way to live stream is to use a mobile device, log into Facebook, and hit the ‘go live’ button at your scheduled time. Don’t worry too much about sounding perfect. These kinds of streams come across as genuine, and if you are used to performing live, the sound will be good enough to your listeners.
However, like many musicians, you will likely have some gear at your disposal, and maybe some technical know-how as well. Making things sound as good as you can is definitely something to experiment with, and it’s something we are improving on each time (I think?)
Right now, Tyler runs a few microphones and instruments through a soundboard, then takes the output of the soundboard and puts it into an iRig (his interface). The iRig plugs directly into the iPad. It allows the sound that people are hearing to be a bit better mixed, for example, hearing the voice over the piano without the sound being distorted.
Before going live, he does a test by logging into Facebook, choosing the Live status option, and restricting it to ‘only me.’ Then we can listen to it, see how it sounds, and try to adjust and improve.
To make the room look clean visually, we tidied up all of the toys and clutter (momentarily). Then, to make it feel cosy, we added some extra lamps and lights for a warm glow. We left a few personal touches like paintings and plants to add to the intimate vibe.
Promoting a live stream show
Just like promoting a live gig, timing and consistency is key to promotion. We decided to use video posts as a means to reach people, creating a short clip and putting it on his Facebook fan page and Instagram account with the details a day before the show.
We also added a post or two over on his Facebook profile page, which tends to have a higher reach. In that promotion we used an image or a video, and clearly spelled out where the stream would take place, encouraging people to follow the fan page.
These posts give people a heads-up so they’ll be able to login and see you at the scheduled time. Don’t advertise too early, or too often - a day or two ahead is a good bet so it stays top of mind.
When it’s time to begin, we make sure to start a minute before the scheduled time. This notifies all of your fans that you are ‘live’ and starts drawing people in to watch. Rather than sit and wait, Tyler often launches into a piano medley, improvising away, and then introduces himself a few minutes in once viewers have started to gather.
Filming the live stream
To make sure the visual stays consistent throughout the show, we set up the camera horizontally rather than vertically for a stream that will better fill a newsfeed, computer screen, or television. We simply chose our newest device for the best image quality, which happens to be an iPad.
We have been looking into OBS and the ability to pipe in different scenes, and videos from other musician friends - that may be on the horizon once we have time to experiment with it.
During the live stream, Tyler will ask questions to the camera (your fans are out there!) This will compel your viewers to comment. Comments are gold in a livestream; they help rally a sense of community, and encourage people to interact with each other.
Lots of comments will also ensure that your live stream video will turn into one of the most popular posts on your page, giving your fan page a bump.
From a performers standpoint, it’s gratifying to see so many names and faces tuning in and leaving kind remarks.
Many of our musician friends have a partner reading off the comments and requests out loud to the performer in real-time. This is ideal, but in our case, we set up the camera, go live, and I try to keep our two young children in check behind the scenes. In this case, asking for requests beforehand, and reading through the comments after is usually the best we can do.
A real challenge for those venturing into live stream territory is playing and talking naturally to, essentially, no one. My advice is to just do it, over and over, and it will come.
Another way to keep things light is to involve your children, if they’re into it. Our 7-year-old has been taking drum lessons and jamming with his dad, and is thrilled to bang away on his drum kit for a song or two during the show. We see his teachers and friends parents tuning in, saying hello, and it’s a real lift for everyone.
It’s hard to put on a polished, mistake-free performance without a crowd to play to, and with the added stress of your toddler trying to take over the piano. But we’re embracing that, and the loveable chaos comes across as genuine (I like to think). This is how we are all living right now. This is real life.
Will they listen?
If you have a solid fanbase, and promote your live stream, they will listen. To maximize the number of people who would tune in, we decided Tyler would put on a show at the same time every week. The time we chose mirrored a regularly recurring gig he had before the pandemic, Thursday at 7:30pm.
Luckily, he put out a mailing list signup form at those gigs for years. Now to get those same fans to watch, he sends out emails directed to them, letting them know when and how they can tune in to the live stream.
Playing to those people, asking for requests, and addressing birthdays and special milestones has helped people not only tune in, but stay for the duration of the stream. We’ve been lucky with the support and shares everyone has shown us.
Maybe you’re playing for 30 really interested fans, or 300 casually curious ones. If some are enjoying it, you might as well play on. It can’t hurt, and it may increase your exposure as people share your live stream with their friends, enjoy themselves, and tune in week after week.
Should you ask for tips or monetary donations? It’s a difficult time financially for many people, however, others are willing and able to support local businesses, including local musicians.
One way to address this is to leave a polite comment on your stream letting people know how they can donate, but make it optional. Don’t add pressure, but let people know how to support you. Pinning the comment makes it visible throughout the show.
Be sure to add a couple of options so people find one they are comfortable with. We created a dedicated live stream page on Tyler’s website with a commission-free, pay-what-you-want store option, plus e-transfer info.
If people aren’t able to tip that is ok too. Asking people to share your video and like your page is a valuable means of support as well, which I hope we’ll be able to draw upon in the future.
Add the stream to your website
We are making sure to keep Tyler’s website up to date throughout the crisis. This will be beneficial for two reasons: promotion and posterity.
To promote the stream, we added meaningful text right to his Homepage, letting people know how they can watch the stream, where it’ll be broadcast, and at what time.
We also added a page containing text about the live stream in more detail, including the Facebook link, and embedded the previous live streams. That way, the videos may get more views over time. People can also tune in and see what they missed, and attend next time.
Check out: How to make a music website
Live streaming into the future
Will we continue to do these shows week in and week out while the COVID-19 crisis lasts? As long as we continue to get such a positive response from friends, family, and fans, I think we might as well. And once things change again, we will adapt again.
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