The Musician’s Guide To Livestream Performance
When the world shut down in 2020, many musicians (including myself) turned to live streaming as an alternative to in-person shows.
Even though we are slowly returning to ‘normal’, there are still people who much prefer connecting with their favorite musicians virtually. I have been streaming my online show every Tuesday for the past 2 years and people tune in from literally all over the world.
If you’ve been wanting to dive into live streaming but have no idea where to start, this blog post is for you. I will tell you step by step all the equipment you will need, where to stream and tips for putting together a fun and engaging show. Let’s get started!
This is a guest post by multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Katie Marie
I’m going to share with you the gear I use for streaming, but please feel free to experiment and see what
works for you.
My setup incorporates an iPhone 12 Pro as the main camera for streaming, and we use an app called Switcher Studio which is controlled using an iPad Mini. Switcher is great if you want to add custom graphics such as an intro or outro screen, images with tipping, website, or any other info. It’s also great if you want to play a video for your audience during the show or share photos. Another great feature of Switcher is that you can broadcast to multiple platforms at the same time (such as Facebook and YouTube).
Some of my friends use their iPads for streaming, others use laptops, it’s really a personal preference thing. I find a mobile phone is easy to attach to a tripod and if I’m streaming from a different location, it’s one less thing to think about as my phone goes everywhere with me anyways.
I have a ring light set up behind my iPhone. Not essential by any means, but the overall video quality is
considerably better with it on. There are tons of ring lights available at reasonable prices, many of which
also act as a tripod for your device.
You can totally use the microphone on your device for audio, but if you want a really professional sounding broadcast, I’d highly recommend getting a nice microphone and an interface to plug it into.
As far as mics go, there are so many great ones to choose from and it really depends on your situation. Personally, I get great results using a Rode NT2a condenser mic for both my acoustic guitar and vocals (if you want a less expensive version of this mic, check out the Rode NT1a).
Another alternative set up would be using a dynamic microphone for your vocal (such as a Shure SM58, or Beta58) and plugging your guitar directly into your interface.
Speaking of which, I have experimented which multiple audio interfaces. For the longest time, I used the iRig Stream, which was great but sometimes caused issues during broadcasts. For the past few months, I’ve been using the iRig Pro Duo. It’s a bit more expensive than the iRig Stream, but I have to say I’m so impressed with the overall sound quality.
This unit has 2 inputs with connections for either jack or XLR, each with a separate volume control. My setup has me coming out of a mixing desk going into the iRig, but recently we streamed in a remote location outside using only the iRig and it sounded awesome. It requires an ac adaptor but can also be powered with 2 AA batteries (a word of warning, the batteries only lasted a couple of hours before they needed changing). I’ve found this the easiest way to get audio into a mobile device, such as an iPhone. The iRig comes with multiple USB cables, including the latest lightning USB for iPhone.
If you want the option of using headphones to hear yourself playing, the iRig Pro Duo also has a headphone output with its own volume control.
Where to Stream
There are so many options for live streaming these days and it’s worth spending some time trying out different platforms to see what works for you.
I stream my show every Tuesday via my business page on Facebook and it’s worked well for me. Most of my tribe hang out there and because I’ve been consistently streaming for a couple of years my followers have gotten use to me going live at the same time every week. It’s also free to use but there is the dreaded FB algorithm to navigate (which is frustrating to say the very least). If you can encourage people to follow you, they will be notified when you go live, which is super helpful.
Before live streaming was a thing, I used to broadcast shows on Stageit all the time. The website is geared towards musicians who want to monetize their broadcasts instead of offering them for free. There’s also the option to sell merch and audience members can tip during your show through the website.
I didn’t really pay much attention to Twitch as I considered it a gaming platform, but over the years more and more musicians have been using it for live streaming. I have many musician friends who broadcast regularly on Twitch and are enjoying HUGE success, one of which has around 20,000 viewers for each of his shows.
Another great option, especially if you already have a YouTube channel with subscribers. Free to use and you can save your videos after the show for people to watch later.
Putting a Show Together
The main thing to remember is that even though you aren’t in the same room as your audience, live streaming is very much an interactive experience, and you want people to feel as if they are part of it. I have a feature during my show where I ask the audience to type into the comments an idea for
something they want me to write a song about in 60 seconds. Sometimes it goes horribly wrong, but even when it doesn’t work out it’s a lot of fun and a great way to connect with my viewers. While you don’t have to do anything quite as crazy as that, think about how you can engage the audience and
make them feel as if they are part of what’s happening.
Be sure to read comments and say hi to people when they arrive. Your main goal is to create community and make everyone feel welcome.
If you’re planning on doing a regular weekly show, be sure to give people a reason to keep coming back. Think about what they might want. What songs would they like to hear? Do you take requests? How can you make your audience feel as if they are a part of the experience?