Do people tune in to live music when it’s presented online?
Do they tune in when the show starts and will they watch the whole performance?
If a virtual tip jar is available, will the public use it to support the artist(s)?
Should livestreams be freely accessible or gated with a paywall?
These are questions that musicians and music presenters have been pondering since March 2020 as the live music industry continues to experiment with livestreaming.
One of the most challenging aspects of being an artist is that you need to continuously find ways to stay relevant. However, it's hard to be relevant when you can't leave your house or attract large audiences in-person to hear your music. Unable to tour and perform proper live shows, we’ve seen many artists adapt to the next best thing for now—online performances.
At Stagehand, we are committed to amplifying the work of local artists. When things took a turn and restrictions came into place that greatly affected the opportunities available to artists, we decided to try our hand at livestreaming. From March - May 2020, we created "The Clean Hands, Clear Heads, Open Hearts Online Festival,” which helped 38 Calgary artists put on livestreamed shows from the comfort and safety of their homes. Artists were compensated courtesy of the Calgary Arts Development Authority and we created an online tipping feature that allowed viewers to throw some money into a virtual tip jar. With this feature, more than $5,000 was contributed to artists. By all accounts, the online concert series was a success. That was early on in "The Pause". We didn't really grasp how long it would go on ...
Many months in, we’re now seeing multiple companies using online streaming to assist artists in bringing their music to an audience and we’ve become one of them. In Calgary, Stagehand continues to help musicians and venues with their livestreaming needs. It’s not something we originally set out to do, but our livestream efforts align with our core philosophy of providing opportunities for artists.
Here’s some of our observations on livestreaming thus far:
Geographic restrictions are removed.
We've seen viewers tune in from all over the world including Dubai, Australia, Poland, and Argentina. Artists with a fan base in other cities get a larger viewership to their livestreams. Audiences get a chance to see artists they may not normally get to see and we appreciate that they can also show their support with an online tip.
With today's technology, anyone can livestream.
If you have a smartphone, you're capable of performing to the world. Our first livestreams were with a phone, a tripod and an external mic. Now we're using an open-sourced OBS video platform with graphics, titles, three cameras, capture cards, micro HDMI, USB hubs, and cables galore. If you’ve seen us in person, it may look complicated, but really, livestreaming is one of those things that can be as simple or complex as you want.
Live shows, even online, can satisfy the artist's need to perform.
During our "Clean Hands, Clear Heads, Open Hearts Online Festival,” we heard from musicians that they enjoyed the online experience. It was good to have a show to work towards, and even though they couldn't see their audience, it felt like a chance to connect with their fans.
Audiences pop in and out and that’s okay.
It seems that we may be one of the few companies assisting with livestreaming live music that has yet to set up a paywall for audiences to access online shows. By not gating the livestream, people can tune in for a little while or a long while. We see it more as a kind of digital “busking” opportunity. The viewer can watch for however long they want, and they can show their support for the artist by leaving a tip if they choose. The number of viewers fluctuates throughout the performance, but whether the viewer is there for three minutes or three hours, the stream provides the artist with a chance to stay relevant and earn some extra income.
Streaming’s here to stay.
Livestreaming likely won’t be the entire future of live music, but many people agree that streaming events will go on even after coronavirus has been conquered. In the future, if the show at your favourite venue is sold out, you can always check it out online.
For us at Stagehand, accessibility is everything. We’re a small team and we’re still learning as we go, but we recognize that livestreaming is a helpful tool for artists and venues to engage new audiences, earn extra income, and grow their fan bases. We aim to keep our services accessible to artists and venues by working within your budget and allowing access to our online tipping feature.
For more information or to request assistance with livestreaming in the Calgary area, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.