Since the pandemic hit, musicians and artists all across the world have been looking at ways to reach their audience in this gig-less time of pure isolation. With no concerts or events happening for the last 12 months, the only way to perform live for fans is either to bike around to everyone’s front yards with all your gear, or to livestream.
And the truth is, even when travel and mass gatherings are back on the cards, live-streaming isn’t going away. So getting to grips with successful live-streaming offers continued maximum audience engagement, whatever the future holds.
Here’s our advice and recommendations on how to get started.
Which platform to choose
With so many different platforms on offer, you need to identify which is best suited to you, your content and – most importantly – your audience.
The good news is that the main contenders with the biggest user bases are all free for artists and fans alike. The most obvious way of choosing your platform is to choose the one where you already have the biggest following. That might be a social media platform, or perhaps you’re already making pre-recorded videos on YouTube or equivalent site.
What to stream, and when
Now think about timing, and pick an hour where most of your audience will be free. Evenings and weekends works well for this, although you do have a lot of competition. Feel it out and match up the content you want to do with the time slot that feels most appropriate.
Livestreaming doesn’t have to be a full performance, or any performance at all. Many successful artists have used their platforms for live Q&A sessions, home studio tours, and to try out new music in a rehearsal style format. All livestreams help foster a sense of community and develop a stronger fanbase, and sometimes the best way to do that is to present work in progress or behind the scenes stuff you would never showcase onstage.
Now, let’s have a look at those platforms…
Facebook Live is a favourite for various big and obvious reasons; Facebook is huge, loads of people are on it all the time just to catch up with their friends or read the news, so you don’t have to work too hard to show up in front of people. It’s the online equivalent of busking on the high street.
Fans of your page are already primed to look out for notifications, and you can give them up to a week’s notice that you’re going to be doing a stream - which is a big advantage over other platforms.
Another benefit of Facebook Live is that your video stays on your feed or page for as long as you want - allowing views to rack up and reach a bigger audience. So don’t get disheartened at any low viewing figures whilst the stream is live, just remember it has longevity.
Youtube dominates the livestreaming market as the most widely used and popular platform. It offers high quality video, and just like Facebook it can be streamed via your computer or mobile device. Though be aware that in order to use your mobile, your channel will need at least 1000 subscribers.
The audience can interact with you realtime, they can chat to each other, and they can receive notifications before your stream.
Your videos also stay up after the stream has ended, and can be saved to your channel alongside all your other videos.
Instagram Live can only be used via your mobile, but this makes it kind of unique in a weird way. It gives a more candid and intimate feel over other platforms, with viewers feeling more like they’re in a video chat with you than a live broadcast to the whole world. This rough and ready format also lowers audience expectations for the production quality of videos, so creators can really get away with a lot more low-fi video content than they could on other platforms. That’s great if that’s your bag, but it’s less good if you want to blow people away with how polished and professional your set-up is. Using this platform means you can’t notify fans before you go live – but they can get notifications during your stream.
Twitch was specifically made for livestreaming, and can be used via your computer or mobile. It’s very popular for watching gamers, but it found its niche in lockdown as more and more DJs started to use it to play other people’s tunes (something YouTube in particular has a massive problem with). Now, more and more emerging musicians are choosing this platform too. The audience are mainly younger than other social media streaming services, but are usually more open to finding new music through the site and hopping around. As a huge bonus, it also lets your audience tip you as you play.
You’ve chosen your platform and your content, but how do you ensure that it goes live to as many people as possible?
No matter which platform you’ve chosen, make sure to shout about your upcoming live stream across all your social media platforms with a direct link to your video channel, page or profile.
Facebook will allow you to set up an event for your stream and send out invitations and reminders including all the relevant info, and there’s absolutely no reason you can’t make a Facebook event for your upcoming stream with a link out to another streaming site completely – get imaginative about how you reach people on as many platforms as possible, even if you’re directing them all to a different platform for the stream itself.
If you have a mailing list, don’t forget to email your subscribers, and build some excitement around your livestream by engaging fans during the run up. You can poll people asking what songs they’d like to hear, what kind of questions they might be dying to ask, and what sort of hat they want you to wear. Make it into a conversation and not just a one-way announcement. Be consistent with your reminders/posts so the momentum keeps going, and the audience builds.
Now your livestream has ended, it’s important to follow it up on social media, thanking your viewers and getting them looking forward to your next video straight away.
If your video has been saved, share the link across your social media and with your mailing list, giving it a better chance of higher viewing figures.
Take the video and use clips to create new social media content, to advertise your next livestream, or to promote your in general. It’s amazing how much mileage you can get out of a single livestream, so don’t be afraid to use bits of it on your social media again and again.