Musicians are badly hit due to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic since all music gigs stand cancelled. The industry has already lost billions in advance-bookings, management, and other miscellaneous expenses. In this age of social distancing, how can an artist reach their fans across the world? Technology.
Music streaming is just one part of the story. Live performances have an unmatchable vibe and are a medium for artists to showcase their talents in front of the world. We’ve already covered why streaming services like Spotify should focus on increasing payouts to artists because they are already losing a massive amount of revenue due to no live performances.
We’ve made a comprehensive guide to help you leverage the raw power of the Internet. In a nutshell, Livestreaming is the way to go. But how do you do that? Instagram and Facebook live options are just the beginning, and there’s so much more to it. Let’s start with your confidant.
OBS (Open Broadcaster Software):
Before you think of anything else, download this open-source and free software on your laptop or computer setup. It runs on Windows, macOS, as well as Linux. We recommend you Livestream via these platforms instead of relying on a mobile device.
Third-party software like OBS let you run multiple camera angles and audio channels, control the quality of your stream and route it to whichever hosting providers you wish. Hosting providers here mean channels like YouTube or Facebook.
Adding to that, the software is backed by streaming companies like Twitch and Facebook. So, you’re assured of getting feature updates, bug fixes (if any), and most importantly, a wide range of compatibility with a plethora of platforms. If you don’t need a video option, Mixlr is another free software you can utilise.
Where can you Livestream your performances?
1. Twitch.tv: It’s the world’s largest platform dedicated to Live streaming which has been a breakout space for live musicians and DJs in the wake of the pandemic. Commonly a shelter for gamers, the Amazon-owned service is now flooded with streams from entire industries cast off from their standard route of income. Artists are going live on other platforms and urging their followers to head over to Twitch. Amazon’s Web Services infrastructure ensures top-notch quality and lower latency. On March 8, viewers watched 92,000 hours of music content. But on March 22, it had jumped to 574,000 hours.
“One of the biggest trends in live-streaming during this month of social distancing has been the massive influx of musicians and other performing artists who have been leveraging the medium to connect with their fans,” said Doron Nir, CEO of StreamElements. Don’t worry, figures show that users have no hesitance in signing up to a new platform because the process is simple and straightforward. And, they’re bored too hell.
2. Instagram: The most popular social networking app for Generation Z and millennials at the moment. It’s a reliable platform, and pretty much every artist has worked hard on building a follower base here. Engagement may be higher for many, and people end up consuming content for hours. With in-built chatting features, the viewer sticks to the app without needing to head elsewhere. Your Live Stream shall be up for 24 hours, just like a story.
There are two drawbacks, though. The viewership may not be consistent because the focus isn’t just on streaming. There are posts, stories, and an in-built messenger. What helps, can also not help. Secondly, you’ll be restricted to streaming from a mobile phone — iOS or Android.
3. Facebook: Arguably, another social media platform that can be called “most popular”. Many artists who’ve been active for more than a decade have built their audience and following on this platform. And it’s a solid one. It’ll send out a notification to your followers whenever they go live, helping in improving viewership as well as engagement.
Unfortunately, the platform is very strict on copyright infringement and this has discouraged many artists from going online here. If the algorithm detects or thinks a track is already copyrighted, your stream will be shut down immediately and you’ll have to start over again.
4. YouTube: It is the quintessential video platform for the masses. It is the most stable video platform backed by Google’s Cloud technology which can handle as much traffic anyone can. However, it is not great for DJs as it’s very stringent as it flashes copyrighted content instantaneously. If you get more than three red flags for infringement, say goodbye to your account. If you to stream via mobile, you need at least 1,000 subscribers on your channel. So, if you’re new to the live streaming game and have always relied on music services like SoundCloud or Mixcloud to show-off your work, YouTube won’t be your cup of tea.
5. Zoom: Yes, a video conferencing app that’s being used by pretty much every multinational company today. The service has actually gained a lot of traction in the music community because the artists can also see his viewers. Imagine, a remote party where everyone is having a good time in their own space while the artist gets continued live feedback and encouragement. Who’d imagine a gig like this would ever be possible a few months, if not years back?
How to stream to multiple platforms at once?
We’ve told you the ups and downs of each platform. Why not leverage them together like a bundle? It’s possible, but will directly depend on the nature of your Internet connection. Multiple platforms mean the same bits of data are being sent simultaneously to various destinations. It’ll require bandwidth as well as connection speed.
We recommend using a service like Restream.io. It has a free as well as paid plans and can send your stream to more than 30 platforms in one go with one channel per platform. It’s worth paying for the service if you want to stream to multiple Facebook pages at once. Castr is another alternative, but it doesn’t offer a free package.
Live Streaming from a mobile:
For iOS, we’d suggest Wirecast Go. It can broadcast to Twitch, YouTube and Periscope. Sadly, Facebook isn’t supported yet. However, it comes with a one-time price tag of $5.99.
Additionally, you can always directly use any of the platform’s apps to Livestream from a phone. But it’s not a recommended method because of the audio quality. A phone is a “mobile” computer and doesn’t have enough processing power to churn out high-quality streams, nor do phones have the best microphones. We’d highly recommend sticking to a laptop.
Live streaming DJ sets to Instagram:
Platforms like Instagram don’t have direct support for Live Streaming via OBS because they want the content to be authentic and not spammy. Companies and brands resort to using these features like marketing tools and the safeguards are in place to prevent that.
Though like everything else, there’s always a solution. Use Yellow Duck, a free app that can Live stream from your computer with OBS, SLOBS, Wirecast or any streaming software that supports RTMP (Real-Time Messaging Protocol).
The most critical part: excellent audio quality:
Don’t rely on your laptops in-built mic to cast audio. It’ll be crap, for sure. These mics are designed for video calling and barely have any noise cancellation technology running in the background. Use an audio interface like iRig Stream. Using this, just directly hard-wire your mixer with the laptop. It comes with a hefty price of $100, but considering the lockdown will be in place for quite some time, it’ll be worth it in the long run. Most mixers support Record Out signal via USB ports, so it shouldn’t be a big deal.
Getting the camera right:
Have at least two cameras— one which has you facing the audience, the other focused on the gear so that people can see what you are doing. It’ll drastically improve audience feedback since many would simply accuse you of playing a recorded set. Also, the point of Live Streaming right now is to show your face during a lockdown as an artist. Multiple cameras are suggested to offer more viewing angles, but that may prove to be a challenge for many. The first view can be from your laptop webcam. If you don’t have another camera, buying one during a lockdown is near to impossible.
But don’t worry. OBS has got you covered even there. Just use any Android or iOS phone and connect it via the OBS Camera app.
- Ditch WiFi, go for Ethernet. Remember those landline-like wires that were connected to desktops before laptops and WiFi got mainstream? Use them. They offer higher reliability in terms of connection quality. That’s also one reason why offices still use Ethernet and not WiFi.
- If you’re on WiFi a connection, switch off WiFi on all devices you have except for the laptop. This will ensure the router has a dedicated tunnel only to one machine and there’s no other hardware interrupting bandwidth.
- Streaming can take a lot of power. Your laptop is continuously processing data, and the processor needs energy. Even your phones are continually using the processor or the camera or in many cases, both of them simultaneously. Don’t rely on the batteries. Plug all your equipment to the wall socket. Nobody wants their Livestream to end abruptly because someone forgot to plug-in power.
- Shut down or quit apps that you’re not using on your laptop. Skype, WhatsApp, Safari or Chrome, OneNote… everything needs to go. The processor as well as you should be focused on the audio.