Updated: Mar 26
Everyone is quarantined inside their homes with little but their screens and internet.
Entertainers have the power to make their day better (and get paid for it)!
There are LOTS of ways and methods to do this well, and lots more ways to do it poorly. My goal with this guide is to get you up and running as quickly as possible and to be in the top 1% of the live music streamers out there. I will add to this guide frequently as there is a ton to cover and I know that you need to get started now.
If this feels daunting, click here for a free, custom livestream setup recommendation.
Here is what we are going to cover in this guide:
1. Gear you need (and don't)
2. Techniques of Live Streaming Video
3. How to stand out with excellence
4. How to make money!
5. Examples of Live Streamers and what they use
1. Gear You Need (and Don't)
Don't let your lack of gear paralyze you. Sure, you can easily spend several thousand dollars getting a killer setup, but you may be able to get started with what you already have or supplement that list to make a big difference for only a couple hundred dollars. I'll use this color coding for what you need and don't:
Blue: Increases quality but not necessary
You can't skimp on good sound, but it doesn't have to break the bank. For the love of music don't record your livestream from your iPhone with the built in microphone. If you are live streaming a concert then you must start here. One good mic is enough in many instances (such as for a singer/songwriter with a guitar or ukulele). If you're capable of mixing your own sound then I highly recommend using a larger audio interface for all of your inputs. This will allow you to use multiple instruments, microphones, and effects such as reverb and compression.
*NOTE*If you already have a sound system with effects that you use for live shows, you can simply export that mixed audio directly to your filming device (camera or phone) or computer. For cameras, you will need to send a STEREO 3.5mm (normal headphone sized) cable to the camera with the mixed audio feed. A stereo cable has two black rings, versus a mono cable that has only one black ring. See below. A mono cable into your camera will only give you audio in one ear and if you have any panning or stereo effects you may lose them completely.
If you want to send your mixed audio straight into your phone then you will need a mobile interface like the iRig Stream 2 or Comica. If you want to send your audio into your computer then you will need an audio interface like the Scarlett mentioned previously.
1 Camera (Mirrorless or DSLR) such as the Sony A5100, Sony A7iii, Sony a7rii, Canon EOS 90D, Panasonic G9, or you can go with an all in one solution like the Mevo or Logitech C920 but you will lose the ability to use OBS streaming software and instead stream straight to facebook, YouTube, or livestream, which means you will not be able to customize your stream with screen overlays and other powerful tools or easily use other platforms made specially for concerts. Be aware that you will need additional lenses with the cameras, such as a 28mm or 50mm, but with the 50mm you can get that more high end look with depth of field (blurry background). This Sony 50mm 1.8 lens will get you started, and you can always upgrade from there. Using a Mirrorless Camera like the Sony will also require you to get a Camera Link like the Mirabox. Honestly, if you light the scene well, your Macbook Pro built in webcam or back Phone Camera may work just fine.
Laptop or Desktop Computer (I love my Macbook Pro)
OBS software (free download here)
Lighting is essential. This may just be as simple as picking a great looking spot in your house with lots of natural light (and always turning off overhead lights above you unless you want to look creepy), but most likely you will need to supplement with other lighting sources around the house or pick up some video lights. I go into this in more detail below in Lighting Techniques, but DON'T ignore lighting. Lighting has more impact on perceived video quality than your camera.
Your typical setup will hooked up like this:
Microphone(s) -> Interface -> DAW (Logic, Mainstage, Ableton Live, etc) and/or OBS -> Livestream
Setup Explained: Your microphones or 1/4 cables (from instruments) will plug into an audio interface, which is connected to your computer. On your computer you will mix the audio and add effects such as reverb and compression in software like Logic, Mainstage, Ableton Live, etc and then it will continue directly into OBS (Open Broadcaster Software) where you manage your actual livestream. OBS will actually allow you to use your own plugins and mix the audio directly there is you want to skip the step of extra software like Logic.
Choosing your microphone: For most scenarios you will want a large diaphragm condenser microphone. This picks up everything in the room and is the primary microphone type for professional recordings. There are 3 main types of mic patterns you may encounter - Omni, Figure 8, and Cardioid. Most microphones are one pattern, but some can be switched between multiple like the AT2050. Omni patterns pick up everything around it from all sides equally. This is an excellent choice if you wanted to mic a string quartet but had only one mic to use. Figure 8 picks up sound from the front and back (reduced on the sides). Figure 8 is a great choice when you have two singers facing each other in a duet scenario when they want to feed off of each other and be picked up by the same mic. Cardioid is the most common. It picks up a wide pattern in front of it, but not from the sides or back. This is helpful if you don't have great sound isolation and would rather not hear the toaster going off in the kitchen during your livestream.
If noise is an issue in your space then you may want to look into a dynamic microphone. The most commonly known is the Shure SM 58 or Sennheiser E835. Dynamic mics only pick up what is right in front of them. That's why we use them in loud venues. These will also pick up no room reverb, so you will definitely want to add reverb in the mix to give a more finished and pleasing sound.
Choosing your interface:
There are a lot of interfaces out there that will work just fine. Audiophiles and sound engineers drop thousands here for quality on the proven classics from the likes of Universal Audio audio and AVID, but you don't need to look any further than the focusrite scarlet line in most cases. What you need to look at are the number of inputs you need (xlr, 1/4, and MIDI), and monitor outputs. More inputs = more money. You also need something that's very low latency so that you don't hear your voice in an echo while performing. You need to hear yourself with effects in real time.
Keyboard players? You will need a MIDI interface which is often built into other interfaces like the Scarlett 2i4.
Choosing your camera(s):
Endless possibilities here. A webcam with 1080p is plenty to get started, but if you want to bring up the production value considerably then I would start looking into mirrorless cameras (we're partial to the Sony line). Plus, they are great multi-purpose cameras you can use for professional photos and music videos. The line starts with the inexpensive Sony A5100, and for our immediate purposes ends with the Sony a7riv. I love my Zeiss 55mm 1.8 lens, but the beautiful thing about Sonys is that you can use vintage manual focus lenses that look gorgeous for literally 1/10 of the price.
The Mevo is also an excellent option for plug and play usability. You don't get the same beautiful depth of field, but you do get nifty features like movement tracking (which looks fancy if your lead singer is moving around and you want to follow them with the camera without a camera man). It also has some nifty multicam features that can make it look like you have multiple cameras filming with only 1.
Learn more about interfaces and mixers - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=45pf0VoEwc4
In Ear Monitors
You're going to need to hear what you sound like to perform your best and be confident of your performance. I recommend getting some low profile in-ear headphones with an extension cable to run from your interface. In a pinch you can use a wedge monitor or speakers connected to your interface.
Software and Effects
OBS (free download here) is free streaming software that connects straight to your primary streaming platform and gives you control over everything from your sound mix (yes you can mix it right there in the software) to multi-camera switching.
Restream.io will allow you to stream on multiple platforms at once - twitch, facebook, youtube... yup! Why not give yourself more chances to be discovered?
Here is a fantastic 8 minute setup video for how to use OBS - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wAvQfjpZncY
Waves Audio Plugins - Compression, EQ, Reverb, etc.
2. Techniques of Live Streaming Video
What streaming platform should I use use? While facebook live and instagram are most people's first thought (and you should also stream to them using Restream.io or at the least point fans there to your virtual performance), in our opinion your primary platform should be a higher quality platform designed primarily for live-streaming and include ways to monetize directly.
Stageit is an established platform for virtual concerts where fans pay to see that specific show.
Mysonglist.net makes it easy to stream and take requests from a song library. Features include a virtual tip jar and song request library.
Youtube.com is a fantastic platform IF you have 1,000 subscribers currently to unlock partnership. You can receive tips, gain paid subscribers, and of course get paid per stream from YouTube. Here's a great video explaining current monetization: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RiKRzuj06Ochttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RiKRzuj06Oc
Twitch.tv initially just a platform for streaming games and Esports, Twitch has a huge platform of regular users just there to watch live video. It's got a great discovery system and not a lot of music competition. If you have a great looking live stream you are virtually guaranteed to get new followers right now and if you have great content you will keep them. Twitch allows users to subscribe to your channel for 3 different tiers with benefits starting at $4.99/month. In order to monetize though you need to reach a certain number of streaming hours and views to become an affiliate and more to become a partner where the highest rates kick in. Details here -https://help.twitch.tv/s/article/joining-the-affiliate-program
LIGHTS, camera, action. The biggest thing you can do to raise the perceived value of your stream and blow people away is lighting and atmosphere. Whether you're streaming in your bedroom or a production studio - treat your space like a stage. New fans will find you simply because your stream looks great and so they click. Start by turning off your overhead lights, then continue on here
There are 4 primary jobs for lights. These jobs can be done by many different types of lights, though having video lights like the GVM LED panel is an easy an affordable way to get great lighting.
GVM LED Panel (1-3 lights)
Key Light: This is the main light for the subject. It should be placed a little up and slightly to the side of the main subjects face lighting both eyes while leaving part of the opposite side of the subjects face in shadows.
Fill Light: The fill light is optional and placed on the opposite side of the subject to fill in shadows as desired. It's always softer than the key light.
Back Light(s): Back lights (also called rim lights or hair lights) help take your video to the next level by creating separation between the subject and the background. These are always behind the subject but often up and to the one or either side. Back lights are frequently colored using a gel to something like blue and pink.
Practical Light: These are lights that are just there to look pretty but don't typically have much effect on lighting the subject. Examples are hanging string lights, LED rope light, candles, lamps in the background, etc.
Generally speaking, softer (diffused) light makes us look better. Think about how beautiful portrait photos look on a cloudy day, versus a photo in harsh sun light. Diffusing is often done by hanging or attaching thin, white fabric a few inches in front of the light. There are diffusers you can purchase like the one below that easily attached to the GVM lights above, but if you're on a budget or short on time hanging a thin bed sheet can also be effective.
This picture from google is an excellent diagram of classic 3 point lighting:
Of course, if you have stage lighting that you typically use in a venue then go for it! Your audience will appreciate the effort you put forth.
When framing the camera use the rule of thirds. The main subject's eyes should be approximately 1/3 from the top of the frame.
Never shoot livestream footage looking up to the subject. The camera should be slightly above or level to the main subjects eyes.
Set your shutter speed to 1/50, frame rate to 30 fps, and iso no higher than 800 (the lower the better without being too bright. Lower the aperture of the lens will give you more light and a more shallow depth of field (less in focus). A standard 50 mm lens will usually go as wide as 1.8 or even 1.2, which lets the most light in and the narrowest depth of field. With a wider angle lens like a 28 mm where more is in frame you have less depth of field (more will always be in focus). An 85mm or 105mm lens will be more cropped in with more of a blurred background. For most live streams (being in tight spaces), a 50mm or 28mm will be ideal.
Don't shoot vertical. 16:9 horizontal is the way to go for these. Vertical comes across as being shot with a cell phone and is perceived as more casual and lower value.
Atmosphere and Placement
A little thought goes a long way! Perform in a clean space that people would want to come visit. Throw away your trash, stack your books neatly, and use a practical light (or 3) to make your frame more interesting. Spend some time on Pinterest looking at music video sets or film sets. Have your socials displayed elegantly along with information for tips. Feel free to visit our Brave Enough Productions Pinterest page for inspiration or create your own.
Get your subject away from that wall! One of the biggest mistakes we often see is people with their back 6 inches from the wall. Put at least a few feet between the singer and the wall whenever possible and use that backlight to create more separation.
Dress the part. Wear something and set up your scene in such a way that people who cannot hear you would want to stop and watch you perform.
Mixing your Audio
Most audio software comes with plugins, but you can purchase additional plugins like the Waves Platinum bundle that we use. Regardless of which plugins, certain concepts are universal.
Compression: Compression kicks in when the levels get to a certain "threshold." When that level is reached it activates and reduces the volume of that channel by the determined ratio. Safe levels for vocals and acoustic instruments are generally around 2.5:1 or 3:1 with a threshold that kicks in only when you're singing louder.
Reverbs and Delay: I recommend mimicking your recordings with your effects. Don't leave your vocals or plugged in acoustic guitars dry (with no reverb) unless you are picking up the right amount of natural reverb from the room you are in. Depending on the space and mics you are using you may not need any additional reverb. I also recommend switching your reverb off in between songs while you are speaking or introducing songs.
EQ: This one gets dangerous. I wouldn't play with this too much until you get really comfortable with it. In general you can roll off the low end (everything below 100hz) for everything but kick drums and bass, and that act alone can clean everything else up. A small 2-3 db boost between 2.5k-3k hz can help with vocal clarity. If something sounds "muddy" then a small cut around 200-300 hz may be just what you need. Subtle changes go a long way and it's extremely easy to over EQ quickly. For most people with EQ, less is more.
3. How to stand out with excellence
Treat each show like it matters. Rehearse for it. Make your set list and perhaps a request list (if that's something you do). Prepare your talking points, stories, or questions to ask your audience.
Set the tone for your livestream. Have your album playing with a custom background in the 15-30 minutes before you "take the stage." This is easy to accomplish with OBS software.
Promote your show! Post about it on your socials, create a facebook event, get creative with how to get people to your show and how to make them feel special when they arrive. Bandsintown just announced a new feature too where they will notify your followers when you go live.
4. How to make money!
For most musicians starting up live streaming your income will be directly proportionate to the size of your current fanbase. That said, here are some of the ways to earn from your live streams:
1. Tips. Fans can and do tip. Many streaming platforms have it built in, but you can also share your Venmo live. Tips can be used as incentives where they get to pick a request from your list, have you answer their question, dedicate a song to someone, etc. Make it fun to tip and acknowledge tippers live on your stream.
2. Sell Merch. You can also "give" merch away for certain tip amounts. You can even autograph CDs live or sign a photo after your set during your virtual meet and greet. Find creative ways to talk about your merch and be prompt in shipping it out.
3. Drive traffic to your Spotify, YouTube, and Socials. Encourage people to follow you on Spotify and your socials. Mention top fans by name during your stream and say how much their comment meant to you or how you appreciate them. Thank them when you reach certain milestones like 100,000 streams on a single.
4. Subscribers. Once you've reached a minimum threshold of followers on certain platforms you become eligible for partnership (the number is 1,000 subscribers currently on YouTube). This opens up a whole new world of monetization. Fans can pay monthly to you for certain perks AND you get paid by the streaming service for each stream.
5. Sponsorships. Once you've established value to brands through quality streams and a large listenership, you can start accepting sponsorships in the hundreds and thousands of dollars.
6. Sell tickets. If you have the demand for it you can sell tickets via platforms like stageit for anywhere from 2.99-9.99/ticket.
5. Examples of successful streamers (and what they use).
VenusWorld - UK Singer/Songwriter on Twitch
Reverb and backing tracks - Logic Pro and Mainstage
Livi in the Middle
Computer: iMac Retina 5k, 27-inch
Article Cover Photo: @baileyjehlmusic
What's your live stream setup or favorite tips? What do you think should be included in this article? Email us at email@example.com to submit your tips!