In the last few weeks, the music industry has scrambled to figure out livestreaming. Whether it’s major artists starving off their boredom on Instagram Live or artists trying to replace touring income, everyone is trying new things and learning as they go.
The questions I hear most artists asking is where to put their energy, what to expect from it, and how to do it. If you’re wondering the same, these nine questions will help you find answers.
1. Do you want to charge an upfront ticket or make it free and possibly get donations during the stream?
For totally free and no on-platform monetization, that’s Instagram Live. Facebook does have on-platform monetization but I have no idea how you qualify for it and I’ve never seen anyone use it. Artists using Facebook mostly just post their Paypal or Venmo addresses.
2. Do you want to do just a few livestreams or make this a regular thing?
If you want to only do a few and not charge upfront, then do them where you already have audience and engagement. You’ll get the most viewers that way. That’s probably Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, or TikTok.
If you only want to do a few and you do want to charge upfront, then bring your audience to StageIt or Immedia.
If you want to make this a regular thing and grow an audience as you stream, Twitch has the best community dynamic and monetization for artists. It’s just set up to help you get discovered and it’s fun for viewers to donate.
You could also stream regularly where you have an audience, but be aware that not all platforms are good for discoverability or monetization.
3. Which Platforms Have the Best Monetization?
Focusing only on platforms that are free-to-watch with donations, Twitch, TikTok, YouNow, and YouTube all have on-platform monetization options that are fun for viewers. They have monthly subscriptions and have a virtual currency that the viewer can buy and spend on perks in the chat (like highlighting a message) and virtual gifts for you (like animated GIFs and emojis).
Notably, you can monetize off-platform by simply posting your Venmo or Paypal or by using a streaming service like Streamlabs or StreamElements which will process donations and create on-screen and in-chat alerts when someone donates. They process donations with their credit card processor or you can connect your Paypal.
4. Which platforms will qualify you for monetization the fastest?
For StageIt and Immedia, you don’t need to qualify, you just set up an event with a ticket price.
For Twitch, you’ll need to have Affiliate status which you can get by hitting certain milestones as a streamer (50 followers, average of 3 concurrent viewers, minimum number of streams completed and hours streamed) or you could skip that if you have a BandsinTown account with at least 2000 followers.
Your TikTok and YouNow accounts have to hit certain metrics and there is no way to fast track it.
YouTube lets you qualify right away if you have at least 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 watch hours in the last year on your on-demand videos on YouTube.
You do not need to qualify to start taking donations on Streamlabs or StreamElements. Just sign up for an account.
5. Who’s watching and which genres are popular?
Twitch is 80% male, 55% 18-35 in age, and not specific to any genre, though EDM and singer/songwriters do well there. There are a lot of female musicians on Twitch despite the viewership being so heavily male.
Facebook trends towards Millennials through Boomers. Youtube trends Gen Z to Millennials. YouNow is almost all Gen Z. TikTok is heavily Gen Z but older demos are coming on to the platform. Instagram is Gen Z and Millennials.
6. Which platforms are best for discoverability?
Platforms developed for livestreaming (Twitch, YouNow) will always be better for discoverability than ones that have livestreaming as a feature within a larger social network (Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, TikTok). It’s because the directories of who is streaming now are more robust and better organized on dedicated livestream platforms.
7. Should I multicast my stream?
Multicasting is when you stream to more than one platform at a time. A good service to use is Restream. You can experiment with multicasting, but be aware that livestreaming is all about the interaction between the streamer and the viewer, and the interaction mostly takes place in the chat. Restream does enable you to unify the chats from the different platforms, but you need to keep straight who you’re talking to and it can feel a little disconnected for the people on the platforms that didn’t see the chat message you are replying to.
8. How do I get the best sound?
Streaming from a mobile app is very limiting because you are using the phone’s microphone and camera. It’s really hard to connect your mixer to a microphone jack. Instagram Live and TikTok are mobile phone streams only.
I recommend producing your stream on OBS which is free livestreaming software. You connect your mixer, DAW, and webcam to your computer via USB and OBS can read the signals. You can use OBS to stream to Twitch, YouTube, Facebook, YouNow, StageIt, and Immedia.
9. How does livestreaming fit with everything else I do?
You can promote your ReverbNation profile, website, and socials during your streams by simply talking about them, putting links to them on your channel/profile page, or posting automated messages about them to your chat using a chatbot.
You can also download your stream and edit it down into 3-5 minute outtakes and post those videos to your socials as a means of promoting your streams.
There is so much to learn about livestreaming! The best thing you can do is hang out on the platforms that are most interesting to you until you find one that seems like a good fit. More than anything, it’s fun, so go have fun with it!
Karen Allen is the author of Twitch for Musicians, a book and online course of step-by-step tutorials for artists who want to learn how to technically produce a channel and grow audience on Twitch. Though the focus is on Twitch, the software and services artists learn how to use can be applied to most livestream platforms.