Since Covid-19 has dramatically shifted the way we lead every aspect of our lives, especially those parts which involve congregating in groups with other people, musicians are revamping the way in which they perform live music.
Live streaming is gaining tremendous popularity at a time where in-person concerts aren’t possible. What once was secondary, reserved for the broadcast of live concerts and more informal pop-up events, is now essential.
Now that the live stream is the main stage, it’s prompting musicians to navigate the ins and outs of a medium previously dominated by gamers and other creators. In order to livestream a performance, you’ll need some technology, software and a bit of knowhow.
Let’s take a look at the basics.
“Go Live Now” from Mobile or Tablet
The most obvious option is to simply go live from your mobile device or tablet. This works well if you’re not terribly concerned with audio and video quality (which can still be decent depending on your device).
Most platforms feature a button to “go live”, that is accessible to users on the platform. Instagram predominantly features this option, and is geared more towards the spontaneous and informal.
Currently, Instagram does not allow you to schedule live videos ahead of time, and integrating the platform into streaming software is much more convoluted, when possible at all.
Twitch also allows users to create events in advance, but I will be discussing the live streaming giant less today, because many musicians will prefer to utilize their existing social media networks, and I am personally less familiar with Twitch.
Who Should Go Live Directly from Their Device?
For acoustic musicians, the mobile device or tablet is a relatively reliable option that won’t greatly sacrifice overall quality of performance, because playing an acoustic instrument such as a ukulele or guitar while singing is by nature intimate and live (again, quality will vary when relying on the built-in specs of your device).
That said, in order to go live from mobile on YouTube you’ll need at least 1000 subscribers. Not that popular yet? No worries, you can still go live on desktop.
If you want to incorporate additional technology, you’re most likely going to want to use live streaming software.
Live Streaming Software and A World of New Possibilities
There are many options in terms of live streaming software, most of which accomplish the same general things. Some paid options do offer greater capability, such as multicasting to more than one platform at a time, but one of the most popular options is completely free.
Open Broadcaster Software, commonly referred to as OBS, is one of the most widely used live streaming software platforms built to give you greater control of your streaming output and the technology you utilize.
If you’d like to live broadcast pre-recorded content, such as a pre-produced set, music video or other content this also can be done with OBS. Moreover, OBS gives you greater control of your stream, letting you implement things such as multiple camera views, custom overlays, a waiting screen and much more.
OBS currently allows you to broadcast to only one streaming platform at a time, but there are online options, such as the web service Castr, which will allow you to broadcast to multiple platforms.
Stream Key, Other Keywords
In order to use OBS or any other streaming software, you will need to retrieve the stream key from your destination platform. This can be found easily in the live studio interface of your desired platform.
You also may need a stream URL in conjunction with your stream key. These are typically found in the same place as the stream key.
Moreover, your stream key unlocks your live streaming capabilities on any platform you choose. For example, GoPro cameras feature their own companion software for mobile, which can take you live from your action camera using your stream key.
Audio and Video
Getting into the audio and video technical aspects, you are going to want to have at least some familiarity with home recording, live audio or both. You don’t need to be an expert in mixing and recording, but will at least need to know some basics.
If you want to use audio from a device such as a microphone running through an audio interface or USB adapter, and run video from a separate source such as a webcam or mobile device, OBS makes this process relatively simple.
It is important to note that in order to use your mobile device or DSLR camera as a webcam, you will need additional technology and software. For instance, using a DSLR or GoPro camera as a webcam requires you use something called a capture card. At the time of writing, capture cards have become incredibly in demand.
If you want to stream the audio directly from your computer, in the instance of an electronic musician and producer, for example, you will again need to take some additional steps.
The application iShowU Audio Capture is a great utility for recording audio from your computer and broadcasting to your live stream when used in conjunction with other features.
If you are new to live streaming, you’re going to want to make sure to take your time and map out your performance in advance. Some platforms, such as YouTube, require you to activate the streaming feature at least 24 hours in advance of your first stream — you wouldn’t want to plan a live streaming event and not have the capability to go live!
Overall there are a lot of variables at play here. As previously noted, using certain cameras requires additional gear and software, and certain audio demands require a bit more research and tinkering.
To comprehensively cover all of those aspects this blog post would indeed have to be much longer, but I hope this provides a solid introduction and some food for thought for musicians new to live streaming.
That said, I cannot stress enough that you should take care to plan each aspect of your live stream performance and do the additional research necessary to ensure it is seamless.
Bringing it Home, and Staying There
Being a musician has always meant adjusting to evolving trends and demands. The present situation, although novel, is no exception. With proper research and application, quality live streaming is totally achievable for musicians of all levels.
For all your eventual in-person gigs, and more tips and strategies as we navigate these circumstances, there’s BookLive.
For those of you ready to start streaming, BookLive has launched a new service that could be a great opportunity for you. Check out Virtual Serenades, a new platform helping musicians get paid to serenade people, well… virtually, and see if listing your talents on the site is a good fit!
May all your performances be spectacular.