How to Start Live Streaming as Musician With Minimum Cost – The Complete Guide

How to Start Live Streaming as Musician With Minimum Cost - The Complete Guide

Here’s an ultimate guide to starting a career as a live streaming musician or singer for virtually free. It is meant to guide on how to create your first online gig that look and sound professional unlike those using your phone or PC built-in microphone.

Getting started

Being a musician or singer, it’s safe to assume that you already have a professional microphone (condenser or dynamic mic). You might perform karaoke-style or with an instrument such as a guitar, piano, keyboard or mixer (if you’re a DJ). So, you should have the following items ready to create your first professional virtual gig.

  • PC (desktop or laptop) or smartphone that could connect with your external microphone.
  • An Internet connection (mobile or Wifi) that has at least 1 Mbps upload speed (above 3 Mbps is recommended). To test, go to nPerf.
  • Webcam for PC or smartphone camera.

Should you do live streaming with a PC or mobile phone?

Streaming via PC obviously offers more flexibility and options to create a more compelling live stream. Most importantly, you get to use professional broadcasting software such as OBS Studio which is free to download and offers unlimited bells and whistles to showcase your music and singing talent. There’re loads of text and video tutorials online on how to use this amazing open-source software. It enables you to add multiple audio and video inputs (for multi mics and cameras setting) and include external plugins.  You could even throw in a gorgeous animated backdrop (superimposing it on a green screen) to woo your viewers, such as below.

However, some people only have a mobile phone at their disposal or got too comfortable using the phone. If you do prefer using a mobile phone, do check if you meet the following criteria.

  • Do you have an external microphone that you could connect to your phone? Preferably a condenser or dynamic mic with 3.5 mm jack (standard headphone jack on your phone).
  • If you prefer to stream via YouTube from the phone, do you have more than 1,000 subscribers to your channel? Otherwise, you can’t go live using the app. But there are no minimum follower requirements for Facebook or Twitch.
  • Will you be streaming alone with one instrument or with someone else? If more than one, you might need an audio mixer that takes the audio from your multiple sources and combine them into an output signal which you connect to your PC. Thus, a PC is highly recommended for this scenario.
  • Could your phone battery last the entire length of your live stream session? Good to test it first.

How to choose a live streaming platform

Thanks to COVID-19, major live-streaming platforms have improved by leaps and bounds. Your choice of platform depends on a few criteria. Mainly, the number of subscribers or followers you have on each platform, your technical skills and your geographic location. Some platforms lack the content delivery network (CDN) infrastructure to live stream without buffering.

Below are the top recommended platforms for online broadcasting.

YouTube

Jon Bon Jovi live on YouTube

The obvious and preferred choice for online singers, musicians and artists. There’s nothing that this platform lacks except maybe your number of subscribers – if you are dedicating your live stream to them.

YouTube strikes a balance in offering an easy-to-use streaming platform that could also accommodate a professional setting. It offers a simple “plug and play” configuration where you could quickly go live by using your webcam with your mic directly connected to your PC or mobile phone. You could also set your virtual gig to be publicly visible or hidden (unlisted) and to go live immediately or schedule it to a future date and time.

For a more advanced approach, it could support professional live streaming software such as OBS Studio which allows you to stream with multiple cameras and microphones, audio filters and even an animated backdrop via a green screen draped behind you.

Running your virtual concert on YouTube also makes it more searchable on YouTube and Google.

But a few caveats in using YouTube is that it only allows you to stream via their app if you have 1,000 subscribers or more to your channel. And there’s a 24-hour activation period that you must wait before going live for the first time.

Facebook

Gemma Harborne live on Facebook Live

During the pre-COVID era, Facebook is only meant for casual streamers who want to stream to their fans and friends. Now, it empowers most live streamers to perform without many hurdles such as,

  • Viewers no longer need to have a Facebook account to view your live stream event.
  • Now, it’s easier to share your live stream URL to people who are not following your Facebook Page. Prior to this, sharing the link is a long 3-minute ordeal.

You could use Facebook website or app to stream without requiring a minimum number of followers.

Here’re some catches.

  • You can only use a basic set up to live stream using Facebook app. To use the advanced setup (with OBS Studio), you need the website.
  • You can’t share your live stream URL to others outside your friends’ list if you stream from your profile. You need a Facebook Page for this.
  • Generating and sharing the URL of your live stream on your Facebook Page is still a bit tricky. For instance, you can only view the URL after you go live.
  • You can’t stream to a Facebook Page from the app.
  • The Facebook app only allows you to go live instantly so you can’t schedule your online gig to a future date. You can only do scheduling on the website.
  • You cannot choose to make your live stream public, unlisted or private. The stream must be publicly visible on your Facebook Page. Your client who booked you may not like this. Instead, it’s better to live stream from their Facebook Page.

Performing virtually on Facebook is most recommended if many of your audience are heavy Facebook users. Some countries do suffer from slow Facebook connectivity.

Twitch

Matt the DJ

Twitch is probably the most popular platform dedicated to live streaming due to its sheer volume of live streaming hours by online gamers. Recently, it’s making headways into areas beyond gaming such as music where amateur online musicians and singers live stream there because they are gamers themselves.

It boasts medium to advanced configuration complexity that could be a turn-off for professional musicians. The most basic settings might take hours for less tech-savvy individuals to comprehend let alone the pro configurations.

Twitch insists that you use live streaming software such as their own Twitch Studio or OBS Studio. Without that there’s no way for you to live stream.

It does offer lots of interactive streaming tools and perks that are targeted for gamers. Thus, you should think out-of-the-box to repackage those tools for your virtual concert. Or just view other fellow music streamers and see how they do it.

Platforms that are not recommended for professional live streaming

Instagram

Instagram is a photo social sharing platform first and video second while live streaming comes a distant third. You can’t live stream from the website using your PC which means you’re restricted to what your smartphone could do. You either should get an external condenser mic with a 3.5 mm jack or use your built-in mic on your phone. Take note that your phone’s mic is mainly used to receive vocal audio signal, not music.

However, you might argue that you’ve seen many top performing artists using Instagram to stream such as John Legend and Keith Urban. Well, unless you are as established as them and have garnered hundreds of thousands to millions of Instagram followers, you might get complaints of poor audio and video quality from potential fans.

Zoom

Whoever told you that you should use Zoom to live stream your music does not have an idea of what music live streaming is about. Zoom is meant for face-to-face meetings with little need for high-resolution video or high-fidelity audio. Period.

Although it is certainly possible to stream and sing using Zoom, the poor quality of the audio and video would be so appalling that it might undermine your professional career as a singer or musician.

Vimeo

One roadblock in using Vimeo is its limited CDN infrastructure in some regions in the world. Unless you’re based in popular and developed countries like the US, UK or EU, your viewers may experience constant buffering while watching you.

Furthermore, you need to subscribe to their Premium plan to enjoy their live streaming feature. This costs a whopping $75 per month with their annual plan (you must pay upfront for the entire year).

Unless you’re already a premium user of Vimeo, there’s no other reason why you should choose this platform to live stream your music.

Periscope

Probably the least popular live streaming alternative of all because,

  • You can only stream from the app.
  • Lack of users.
  • You either make your online broadcast to be publicly live with a link to share or make it private to a certain group of Periscope users, thus account registration is required. There’s no in-between.

How to set up your virtual stage aka backdrop

This should be a common sense to most musicians and singers but I’ve seen those that did not get this yet thus it’s best to explain it here.

Remember that you’re performing to a live audience who could hear and see you. Most seem to remember the audio aspect but forgotten the visual side. Thus, do ensure that you have a nice and tidy background while showcasing your live stream.

Examples of backgrounds while live streaming

We’ve talked to clients and viewers who were very turned-off by live streams with ugly or messy looking backdrops. Some of them have poor lighting which makes it hard to view the entertainer’s face.

In a nutshell, here’s how you should and should not set up your background.

Also, ensure that you are well dressed for the streaming occasion.

Common mistakes when live streaming

Ugly or untidy backdrop

This has just been mentioned above and it’s good to remember them.

Running out of battery when streaming via mobile phone

A very common issue that online performers have while using their smartphone to stream. You could connect directly to your charger or external battery but ensure you still have enough space to connect your external mic.

Receiving incoming calls or notifications while live streaming via the phone

Again, a phone issue, which is why we strongly recommend using a PC to live stream. There was an incident where our virtual gig ended disruptively because the musician was using Facebook app to broadcast and he received an incoming call.

You don’t want your online broadcast effort to be ruined by the noise of your phone ringing or from notifications.

Streaming using portrait mode instead of landscape (widescreen) mode on the phone

A very common mistake for beginners especially streaming with Facebook app. For those insisting on using your mobile phone, you must only press the Go Live or record button after you rotate your phone to the landscape layout (widescreen mode).

There was a well-known DJ who seemed to only stream with a portrait layout. He told me that when he rotated his phone to the horizontal mode, the recording window rotated too! This is a common error. Watch the video below for this very useful tutorial.

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