As a musician, my entire life revolves around playing shows. This current pandemic threw my life, and many other singer-songwriters, into a whirlwind. The idea of not being able to connect with my fans in any sort of “live” setting was not anywhere close to an option for me, so I instantly turned to live streaming. Like many of you, I was new to this whole concept at first, but it’s not as difficult as it seems. Through the triumphs and mistakes, here’s what I have found that will make your live stream the best experience for both you and your fans.
Picking a platform was so overwhelming for me at first! Twitch, Facebook Live, Youtube, Instagram, the list just went on and on. Each one of these has their own strengths and weaknesses, but I personally picked Facebook Live because for one, I already had built up a following on my Facebook page so I knew I’d have exposure to a larger virtual audience, and I also loved the fact that I could interact with my audience by reading and responding to comments as they were coming in. I also enjoyed sticking to the singular platform week to week, and the more and more I stream it feels like the community and engagement are growing.
You can either live-stream to Facebook directly from your web browser, or use a third-party app such as OBS to do the job. OBS is awesome but takes some research and practice to use. However, it will allow you to use multiple camera angles, use multiple audio sources and mics, and read comments directly in the app, so it’s not a bad idea to get to know how to get around it. It took me only about an hour of research to get a Facebook live stream up and running through OBS. Be sure to check your internet connection and strength before going live. A good connection will be needed to maintain video and audio quality
It is important to do your research on each one of these, so I’ve included a few bullet points to help make your decision a little easier.
- Time Limit: 4 Hours
- Can be started from a computer or mobile phone
- Allows for lead up engagement with fans and lets them comment/like throughout the show
- Promotion can occur natively
- Video can live permanently on your page for fans to watch again
- Fans can easily share the video to extend the reach
- Time Limit: 1 Hour
- Only compatible with smartphones. You cannot stream from your computer.
- You’re able to have a shared “Live With” screen with one other individual. This is cool to bring another artist on board to share the show with you or bring a bandmate on to talk to your fans. Unfortunately, there’s no good way yet for you and your band to stream simultaneously without latency.
- Promotion and engagement can occur natively on the platform.
- Video expires after 24 hours. You can share the live to your story, but after that time is up, the live stream is gone forever.
- Time Limit: 36 Hours
- Can be started from a computer or mobile phone
- Ability to set countdown clocks and reminders for fans
- Best to promote using other social platforms
- Video lives permanently on your page
- Can be started from a computer or mobile phone
- Interactive comment section and has more financial tools/options for fans to support artists
- Promotion needs to occur on other social pages
SOUND - Well, we are in fact musicians!
Sound quality will obviously make or break your live stream performances. The sound quality on one of my first streams was ATROCIOUS, as I didn’t set my gain levels correctly on my microphone, and it drove people away who were fans of mine. That being said, no matter if you’re using an external mic or just your phone, make sure to test the sound before you go live to the public. On Facebook, you can set the “go-live” so that only you can view it after you record it. I do this before each stream now to ensure that all my levels are set correctly.
Utilizing an external mic - AKG Lyra
The AKG Lyra works wonderfully as my primary mic for live streaming in multiple different setups. Whether it’s just my acoustic guitar and vocals, a duo setting, or even when I set up my JBL EON Compact and add drum looping to my set, Lyra gives you that pristine AKG condenser mic sound that they are known for, without breaking the bank or breaking out the textbook. It takes a lot of cues and specs from the other members of the AKG family, all the way up to the 414. And its price point of $150 is hard to beat.
Getting started with Lyra is as easy as plug-and-play without even needing an external interface. Lyra is versatile enough to pick up exactly what I need and feed it to my audience on a pro-level. There are four different pick-up patterns that I’d recommend experimenting with to capture your desired sound adequately. I recommend using this more as a “room mic” and not singing directly into it like you would in the studio and position it to pick up the perfect mix of both your instrument and your voice. Think of it as an ear in the room! Plus, having it in the front of your camera shot looks rather cool as well.
Most performers are probably just going to do a truly stripped-down unplugged performance with just guitar and vocals. If you have the opportunity, try to have someone listen to your levels from another phone to test for distortion or clipping. If you plan on doing this regularly, it’s a good idea and will take your setup time down to almost nothing, allowing you to focus on the whole reason you’re doing a live stream- performing for your fans!
If you want to get creative, adding in a separate speaker will give you the atmosphere of a live club gig, and it actually translates nicely to your audience virtually. The JBL EON Compact is a great choice here as it’s a two-channel small speaker with minimal setup, and is controlled either on the speaker or with an app. Again, make sure the gain on the Lyra is set accordingly to avoid peaking and nasty distortion. Also, you’re not playing arenas, so you don’t need to set your PA speaker super loud. You just need to give it enough power to be able to hear yourself.
The Lyra is not only compatible with your Mac or PC, but also on your iOS and Android devices (FYI: a separate “camera kit” adapter will be needed). This is great if you’re going live on Instagram, as you can only broadcast on there from your phone. Below are some specifics:
Apple iOS Notes:
• For Lyra to achieve proper operation on iOS (non-MFI) devices, it is required to use a powered USB hub to provide standard 5V USB power to the Lyra. iOS devices provide only 3.3V, which will power the microphone, but not activate all of the circuitry.
• Most iOS devices will require an Apple Lightning to USB Camera Adapter in order to connect USB to the iOS device.
Android OS Notes:
• Lyra is compatible with Android On-the-Go (OTG) compatible devices only.
• In most cases, an OTG converter cable/dongle will be required to connect Lyra to an Android device.
• In most cases, additional power will not be required to use Lyra with OTG-compatible Android devices.
• Users may experience some volume setting issues if using a Full Speed-type Android device (Lyra operates using the High Speed protocol).
We are musicians and performers, but not all of us are skilled videographers, and that’s okay! The main key is to make sure that you’re in focus and well lit, and that there aren’t too many distractions or shadows in your shooting area.
If you are using your phone, try not to have your camera set to portrait mode. Though this is a great feature to be able to read the comments, the video quality isn’t as good as the main camera on the front of your phone, and further your messages will blow up with people asking you “when did you learn how to play lefty”.
I have been using my GoPro as a webcam, and sending that right into Facebook Live in my web browser, which allows me to set my camera up at a good angle and also read and respond to comments.
INTERACT! Act like this is a show
This is super tough at first, but make sure you’re interacting with your audience as if they were in the room with you. You won’t hear them screaming back at you, however you’ll see their comments fly up on the screen. It helps a great amount to make sure you’re engaging back to them, as it provokes more people to engage as well and makes potential fans come back and watch your next show.
I always make a status the morning before the stream, asking my fans to request songs they want to hear. I pick one new tune at random to learn a week, and it makes the fan happy and it also gives me more tunes under my belt.
It helps to have someone in the room with you moderating the comments section - reading the comments to you between songs and responding on your behalf as you’re performing. I know we’re all quarantined, but having a family member or significant other taking up those duties takes a large weight off of you when you’re playing. It’s quite a talent to remember words to a song you wrote the day before while reading comments at the same time (I don’t endorse or recommend that). This also provides a great experience that differs from your usual live shows, as you get to engage with every fan individually.
Though I definitely can’t hear my audience through my phone, I still make it a point to throw the crowd participation parts into my shows. I’ve had tons of people comment on how it makes them feel like they’re out of their houses and back at a club down the shore seeing us play. It makes the awkwardness worth it.
Facebook has the marvelous feature of event pages, and I find it super important to still utilize them. This sets a reminder for your fans that click “going” to the event, and puts it in their heads beforehand. Tons of artists are going live every single day, so it’s important to make sure you’re on top of your game and let your fans know what you’re doing. Make sure you’re not promoting a show far out, people are more interested in what’s happening online day-to-day. I’ve found the best results and attendance comes from promotion a day to four days in advance.
Tip: instead of going “live” on the event page on Facebook, make sure you go “live” on your artist or band page and then share the live-stream link onto your event page. This way, your stream is more visible to even the people who didn’t RSVP to your event, and you get more eyes on your show.
If you plan on going live regularly, I recommend choosing a day or time frame that you will go live and stick to it. So many people are going live right now, so it’s important to find a time that works for both you and your fans in order for them to build your live stream into their schedule. Everyone knows Saturday at 8pm is my time, and they expect it in advance.
Make It Original
So many artists are doing live streams right now, so make sure your fans have a reason to attend yours. Think of ways to make your shows as unique as possible. Instagram live, for instance, has a great function where you can choose to go “live” with one other person.
This is cool to create more unique shows that will set you apart from everyone else. For example, you can have other artists come on, talk about their music and play a couple of their songs. I was a guest on a “virtual songwriter in the rounds” show a couple weeks back and it had the best engagement and attendance I’ve seen yet!
Think of unique promotion content that you can use as well to make your audience want to join your show. Whether it’s a giveaway of a song or merch, to a poll of which song you’ll play first, it will surely have more of an impact on your fan’s memory than just a flyer with your live-stream’s date and time.