Editor's note: this article is adapted from a section of our RootNote Blueprint No. 1, a living document that helps artists better understand things like livestreaming, fan clubs, and selling merch online. Use your email to unlock it for free.
Music livestreaming is enjoying a serious boost in public perception thanks to a lot of high profile artists, record labels, and publishing companies turning to it during the global coronavirus pandemic. But music livestreaming has been steadily growing for years. Famous and award-winning artists like Esperanza Spalding and Dragonforce basically made records on livestreaming platforms. Superstars like Marshmello and Travis Scott have performed to literally *tens of millions of people* inside livestreamed videogames.
But how does any of this apply to you? Because Travis Scott selling millions of dollars worth of virtual Fortnite swag is a cool story and all, but that doesn’t help you, dear reader, pay the Internet bill.
You have quite a few options when it comes to where you choose to livestream. And not all are created equal. Twitch, YouTube Live, Facebook Live, Instagram Live, Sessions Live, Periscope Live (are you noticing a theme here?). They all have strengths and weaknesses, depending on what your goal for livestreaming is. And how much time you have to commit to it.
But the most popular livestream platforms have a lot of things in common, too.
The most popular livestreaming platforms can be as simple or as complex as you make them.
Some livestreamers have 5-camera setups with studio quality audio and stage-style lighting rigs set up in their rooms. Some people flip over the front facing camera and go live in their pajamas. It’s up to you. But just remember: you get out what you put in.
In general terms, Twitch usually takes the most time and usually reaps the most rewards. Instagram is usually the easiest (and hardest to make money from — at least for now). But like we said, they can be easy or hard. You can choose to only go live from your phone on Twitch. And you can choose to send an OBS feed to Instagram Live (with third party software). Make of it what you will.
The most popular livestreaming platforms allow you to see how many people are watching (and who is chatting).
That means unlike stage shows you can shout out specific fans *by username* and build an instant bond. You can also better test and track your show attendance based on when you choose to go live and how you choose to talk about it. It's a great asset, and the first step to creating better relationships with your fans.
Livestreaming performances are NOT LIKE NORMAL PERFORMANCES
Please people. For the love of all that is good, stop treating livestreams like a regular show. You do not need to play constantly. In fact sometimes you don’t even need to play at all (if that’s the expectation you set prior to the stream). You do not need to act super aloof or cool. You DO need to have a plan on what you’re going to stream and interact with people when they pop in to say hi. Talk about yourself and your day. Ask people questions.
Artists who treat livestreaming differently from their live shows tend to enjoy it more and grow quicker. In some ways, it’s a bit of a democratizer — people with relatively small social profiles or label support command engaged audiences of hundreds of people from their bedrooms while some more established acts struggle to keep a few dozen people engaged. The big difference? Understanding that viewers are looking for something different from a livestream than a live show. They want a sense of connection and personality more than they want rock star theatrics.
Keep this in mind before you go live and you'll already be ahead of the curve.