Music live streams – 10 tips for musicians playing online in 2022

Learn about setting up a live stream, get more viewers tuning into your live stream music concert, and take the stress out of performing with these live streaming tips and tricks.

Wondering how to set up a music live stream? From the beginning of the pandemic in 2020 and throughout restrictions in live music in 2021, home concerts were one of the only options for musicians to play shows. For many artists, they’re here to stay. So how does a musician live stream setup work?

Playing to an audience of your own face on a phone will never not be weird. Just like playing a live gig, there’s some daunting uncertainties involved in a live stream gig – will anyone show up? What if the mic’s not turned up?

Livestreaming was a thing before the pandemic but it saw a huge rise in popularity in spring 2020. Everyone was adjusting to being at home and out-of-work musicians, including superstars, panicked about being forgotten and rushed to go live. That hype died down as the weeks of quarantine and lockdown went by.

However, playing music live online remains a very useful tool for musicians even as in-person gigs have returned. You can connect to audiences too far away to come to your shows, keep your profile up between appearances and stop your performance skills getting rusty. After all, the audience may be little bubbles on a screen, but they’re still an audience.

Here are some ideas to help you get more viewers for your livestream gig and make it a smoother, more exciting event.


What is the point of live streaming?

Think about the purpose of your livestream beforehand. Deciding why you’d like to go live will help you to get in the right headspace, give you some direction to promote the stream properly and plan your set. The recorded clips also give you content for your social media.

Is it an album launch? A Q&A to connect with your fans? It might be a jam session, to share the new jazz licks you just perfected or simply to show your followers you’re still making music; perhaps you’d like to do a play-along tutorial to teach everyone how to cover your latest single.


Where to set up a live stream

To set up a music livestream, at the very basic level all you need is a device to stream from like a smartphone or a computer. Find a place to set up free from outside distractions, where you’ll get the clearest sound and video quality possible.

Even though you might feel like you’re just playing to your own reflection, it’s still a public gig. Think about how your surroundings will appear to viewers onscreen – things like lighting and backdrop are more important than you’d think.

A little effort into the backdrop of your livestream will go a long way. Whether that’s a cool area with fairy-lights and throws or a minimalist home studio, organise your space however you think fits you best as an artist. At the bare minimum have a quick tidy up so viewers aren’t distracted by the detritus of your household.

Whether you’re playing a live producer set to a ticketed audience or just going live on Instagram at home for some on-the-fly publicity, aim for as professional a performance as possible.


How to set up a music live stream

Once you’ve decided whether to go live on Instagram or another social account, or on a platform like Zoom, all you need is a phone, a decently lit space, and some peace and quiet. Just make sure you prop your phone up somewhere so you’re not holding it yourself and giving everyone motion sickness.

Be aware though that streaming with a phone has potential sound problems, as phones often process softer sounds as background noise and cut them. Singer-songwriters for example may find that quiet singing or fingerstyle guitar will be lost in the mix.

Playing to a livestream audience as a substitute for a live gig? If you plan on playing a lot more live streams professionally in the future, it’s worth investing in some decent kit – a microphone and audio interface, and a good webcam.

Look into using some free broadcast software, like OBS Studio, which will help you get organised and set up easily and let you stream on social media in high quality using your audio interface. That’ll help you beat the inevitable lag in streaming, because even if you have the speediest connection going, there’s inevitably going to be some technical hiccups – try and embrace them as part of the intimate experience for your watching audience.


When to go live

Even if you’ve got loads of followers, randomly deciding to hit the Live button is a scattergun approach that probably won’t pay off as well as careful planning.

Formulate a promotional strategy beforehand, across all social media, to keep reminding your followers that you’ll be going live. You’ll get the attention of more people and get more views if it’s marketed as an organised event.

Don’t forget to promote your music live stream before the event, just as you would an in-person gig, so you have a guaranteed audience. Post across your social media platforms in the run up to the stream, but try not to stress too much about how many people will tune in.

It does depend on your fans, however. On the flip side, if you thrive off spontaneity, going live lots to jam or just to chat might suit you perfectly as an artist. If your followers see you popping up again and again, they’ll be curious.


Don’t worry about the numbers

It’s not easy, but try and forget about the number of people watching. Find that same resilience needed when you’re playing a show to one half-drunk barfly in an empty club.

Sometimes you might only get a couple of viewers. There will be a million reasons for why people aren’t tuning in, and it’s highly unlikely that it’s because they hate you. People have other commitments; the algorithm might be against you.

Get your mates and family to tune in for moral support, just like if you were playing in your local bar, and treat it as a trial run. Don’t forget that thousands of musicians are doing the very same thing, and no one starts out with hundreds of views.


Use the fear

There’s always an adrenaline rush performing and live streaming is no different. It’s just another show.

If you’re worried about technical and internet problems, try and remember that’s nearly always beyond your control. Viewers are quite used by now to the technical glitches and initial awkwardness of going live. The more streams you do, the smoother your reactions to things going wrong will be and the more relaxed you’ll feel.


Silence isn’t golden

When you’re live, don’t leave any dead air whilst you decide on the next song to play, find some lyrics, or hunt for where the comments lurk on the app.

Playing a livestreamed gig isn’t just about your established fans. You need to also instantly capture the attention of those bored social media users who are just flicking from live to live, and if they happen upon you silently squinting into your phone they’re unlikely to be enthralled.

However awkward you might find talking into the silence of your own phone screen, try and keep some communication going.


Collab with someone else

On many platforms, such as Instagram, you can go live with another streamer to encourage each other and boost both your profiles. This works best for a chat rather than a performance – even with the fastest internet in the cosmos there’s always going to be a lag.


Don’t jump right in

Start streaming before the advertised start time to get used to the tech and warm yourself up. You’ve got to give your audience the chance to show up. No one wants to be the first at a party.

If no one turns up, its okay – you’re just jamming at home like normal!


Communicate with viewers

It’s not like a normal gig where you can sometimes get away with focussing solely on the music; social media users expect more interaction. Ask for questions and put some time aside at the end or in-between songs to scroll the comments and answer them.

Have a backup script in your head. If there’s no questions thrown at you, tell them a little bit about yourself and your music, even what you did that day, then roll into the next song.


Livestreaming is a useful tool but isn’t expected of all musicians, so don’t worry if you think it’s not for you. Even if you give it a go and nobody’s watching, it’s all good experience, reminding you of the rush of performing.

Try not to see it as a numbers game, especially while you’re first getting used to livestreaming your music. It’s just you doing what you love, with the added bonus of allowing hundreds of potential fans join in the fun.


Want your music on Spotify and all the big streaming platforms? Release your music with RouteNote for free and keep all the rights to your tracks. Find out more here!

I write about music for RouteNote, sharing fun stuff, news, and tips and tricks for musicians and producers. Also a saxophonist and hater of marmalade.

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