Video Streaming Is The Future Of Live Music
I’ve been watching the development of live streaming since the introduction of Periscope a couple of years ago. The natural progression of using a live video stream went from personal “hey look at my cat” content to promoting goods and services. Live performance definitely has the goods and is the perfect platform for video streaming. YouTube was in the game early but I think their licensing fiasco has muddied the waters for them. Twitter comes along and absorbs Periscope into their platform and Facebook recently got into the game. So there you have the nucleus of this new frontier with the two biggest social media platforms pushing live video streaming to the top of their to do list. And independent music creators should be the ones taking full advantage of it. You might remember a little experiment called MTV that launched a few careers in the early 80’s. This is even bigger.
I try and catch as many performances as I can when I get notifications from either Periscope or Facebook. Some are reasonably watchable, like Mothers Finest (live) or Verona Grove (studio), who have seemed to grasped the concept of live video. Others, not so much. In fact some are downright painful to watch and I think that is dangerous for any band or solo artist trying to rise above the noise. If I take the time to bring up the stream on my phone or desktop and am greeted by bad lighting, bad sound and 15 minutes of watching somebody tune their guitar, chances are after two strikes I’m not gonna bother to do it again. And I believe that represents a majority of the public. It is therefore incumbent upon the artist to develop a strategy and a process before launching their streaming promotion.
A few things to consider;
- Location – Should you shoot live or from a studio/rehearsal space? While live is the red meat of video there are a whole lot of variables to contend with. Some you have no control over. Like the audio being subjected to a proximity effect if the person holding the phone is moving around. Stand in front of the bass player and you’ll get tons of mud and no presence, Stand in front of the guitar player and get the opposite. So the first thing in your live strategy is an understanding with whom ever is going to be holding the camera as to where the video will be shot from, preferably a audio neutral location with a decent sightline. After that you are at the mercy of the sound engineer and the quality of the FOH system. Lighting can be an issue as well. Most of the time it is inadequate or the auto controller is set on full crackhead and your camera is subjected to four minutes of solid strobe light every single song. Also, there seems to a section of the human population that believes it is their job to try and talk over the music while the band runs thru their setlist. And those priceless conversations will always drown out the band and end up the focal point of your stream. I prefer, from a technical stand point, a studio or rehearsal environment. While it may lack some energy of a live performance, the quality of the video makes up for in spades. From here you have total control over everything and most of the viewers will return for future broadcasts. Plus you can develop a schedule that works with your promotional strategy. The most important thing to remember is that you want to give people a reason to come back for every broadcast, hopefully with a few more friends each time.
- Lighting – Some things to take care of if you are shooting from a rehearsal space. Lighting is critical to the camera. Too much (or improperly focused) and you get whiteout, too little and you
get a scene from a bad movie. A simple fix is to invest in some clamp on fixtures with LED bulbs. I know they’re cheesy but for under 10 bucks each, they’ll do the job. Get four and back light the performance area with two and light the front with the other two. Why? Because it gives the camera a depth of field and the eye some dimension. The reason for the LED bulbs is the next on your shopping list. A diffusion gel works great with video lighting because
it spreads the light evenly, getting rid of hot spots by softening them out. The reason for an LED bulb is that when you cut out a piece of gel for the front of the light fixture, you may need to use tape. The bulb will not create a lot of heat like an incandescent would, so the tape will not eventually melt, lose it’s adhesive and drop your gel in the middle of a shoot. Or you could try some small clamps around the outer rim. Either way, the bulbs won’t add any additional heat. Get the LED equivalent of 100 watts for the most firepower. You could get creative with colored lamps but with white you’re always sure to bring out the best in the camera. Get the lightest diffusion gel, too heavy and you’ll have light spilling all over the place. Keep the fixtures pointed down, not out and hide them from the performance space if you can. And always experiment before deciding the optimal set up.
- Audio – Unless you got some creative ways to rout the audio from the board to your phone, you’ll just have to find that sweet spot in the room that captures a decent mix. Too many times I have heard a phone get over loaded with some high spl’s and the result is similar to throwing the phone into a concrete mixer on it’s way to destination fucked (thanks Ozzy). And get a good mount. Having somebody hold the phone will induce vertigo at some point. There are many live camera options coming online with sophisticated production apps for a phone or tablet giving you the ability for a multi camera shoot. This stuff is cool but way pricey. They also come with dedicated video hosting servers but as long as Facebook and Periscope are offering the service for free, this will be in most artists wheelhouse for the time being. Wanna check the high end stuff. Go ahead and dream on Livestream. Zoom has a camera (Q2n) that will plug n play with your laptop for around $160.
- Performance – Make sure the performance space is clean visually. Busy, sloppy backgrounds will distract the viewers attention. For the more ambitious, enclose the space with a black backdrop. Ceiling to floor with 45 degree angles on the side. 90 degrees will look like you’re playing in a box. You can get a bolt of black cloth for under $50 and later if you want, have the name of your stenciled or silkscreened onto it. When your ready to shoot, title the name of the broadcast (artist -song) so viewers know what to expect when you go live. Nothing worse than getting a notification that just says “So and So is live” and it turns out to be Johnny bass player sucking on a frappachino trying to be hip. Be ready to play when you do go live.The short attention spans of most viewers will tune you out if you’re dicking around for 5-10 minutes before actually playing. Same goes for venue performances.
- Schedule – Find a time that is beneficial to you and your fans. You can experiment with different times and then use the analytics provided by Facebook or Twitter to find the optimum time. Once you start, be consistent. This takes a ton of dedication and I know that it can get stale after a while. When you start to feel claustrophobic, take a break by doing a Q and A or talk about upcoming shows, releases or merchandising.
With all that being said, I believe it’s worth the effort. Live video streaming will be the most effective channel for promoting your music/band for the foreseeable future. If you’re not developing a strategy and a process right now, then you will quickly fall behind. And rising up from the noise will be a thousand times more difficult.
After mulling over how to configure some space in the studio, this is what I have come up with. I am using two Logitech c920’s running OBS software. Audio is run thru a Mackie 24×8 and 2 track out to the broadcasting board. The cameras were fairly inexpensive, I do plan on upgrading in the near future. The cubicle dividers were free (destined for the landfill) and the lighting I already had except for the LED floods. I needed those to fill in some dark areas. The drums are mic’d with two condensers, one on the floor to pick up the kick and toms, the other is overhead for the top end.