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Live Streaming For Musicians Is Not About Entertainment

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Live Streaming For Musicians Is Not About Entertainment

By Dave Marcello, Head of Artist Growth

If you break live streaming down into its core components – a performer, an audience, and a camera in between them – the fast-growing method of communication looks an awful lot like a source of entertainment. Why else would 100 million people go online every month to watch someone play a video game? But I’m here to tell musicians looking to find success through live streaming that it’s NOT all about entertainment.

We recently completed a custom study for YouNow to find out exactly what kind of impact live streaming has on both creators and consumers. You can read the full results here, which include a “playbook” that highlights eight tips for musicians to thrive on platforms like YouNow, Twitch, Periscope, and the newly launched Facebook Live. After I personally watched over 30 hours of music-related live streams and wrapped it all up in my head with everything I’ve seen happening to the artist-fan dynamic over the last ten years, I’ve come to one stark conclusion:

Live streaming is finally fulfilling the promise that social media first made but never followed through on.

Back in the good ol’ heyday of Facebook and Twitter, when the idea of telling everyone on the internet what you had for brunch was a novel one, we were all told a tale of global intimacy in 140 characters. “You’ll be so close to your fans they’ll be able to wipe the sweat off your brow!” they said. “Build your community from the comfort of your couch!” they yelled. And you know what, it was pretty damn cool there for a while, wasn’t it? But then algorithms started algorithming and advertisers started advertisering and we were left with only a minuscule number of our followers actually being able to see what we shared.

Social media was supposed to kick down walls and open up a direct line of communication between fan and performer. This was our chance to get a glimpse of the off-stage, real-life version of our favorite artists. Instead we got account managers and craptastic product placements. Fear no more, live streaming just might save the day.

Emma McGann YouNow

Emma McGann broadcasting live on YouNow

I present to you Clare Means, a Santa Monica street performer and shining example of the lengths a deeply ingrained and authentically connected fanbase will go to support their artists. Let our friend Ari at Digital Music News tell you more:

Last September, she decided to prop her phone up against her tip jar and Periscope her street performances. She included a link to her website (for CD purchases) and a PayPal.me link for tips in her Periscope bio. Initially, she only had a few people tuning in for her scopes for the first few months. But because she scoped every street performance and she street performed nearly every day, she built up some regular followers. And they started tipping and buying her CDs. And because PayPal.me enabled people to tip whatever they wanted, some tipped her $50. Some tipped $200.

She kept at it, streaming from home and other non-performance spots, slowly building up a following that interacted with her on the daily. Thanks to shout-outs from a few bigger Periscope accounts, her follower count jumped to 34,000. Some even went on to form their own fan club called “ClareBears” (clever little bastards). Point being – they are into her, and they show it in more ways than just watching her sing on their phones. More from DMN:

– One fan sent her a 17 pound bag of gummy bears.

– Another fan created a blonde voodoo doll (one of her songs is called “Voodoo Doll.”)

– Another fan sent her a sweatshirt she made with a voodoo doll attached to the zipper.

– And some nights when she has a really bad street performing experience, her ClareBears on Periscope step up. “One time I had a really shitty night on the Promenade. A loud guy set up next to me. I made $200 in tips on Periscope and I didn’t have that many people in my scope. They wanted to make up for the bad experience.”

– Someone tipped her $700 last month to help her buy a new guitar which had blown over on her stand during one of her set breaks on the street.

– And many of her regulars have bought her 3 CD for $25 package from her website (another direct link in her Periscope bio).

Are you kidding me – a $700 tip?! That’s more than most indie artists make in…well, let’s not even start doing that math. One of the musicians we recorded for the YouNow study is Brent Morgan, who is now making over $10,000 a month as a direct result of live streaming.

The formula is a clear one:

Engaged Fans + Interactive Artist = Powerful Community

As far as I can tell, no communication medium offers the opportunity to engage and interact in an authentic manner like live streaming does, setting the stage to help you develop a passionate group of fans willing to do things like bring you back from certain death.

Chris Williams, iHeartRadio’s chief product officer, said that the appeal of YouNow is that it recreates the radio tradition of having meet-and-greets with artists at scale.

“It feels like I’m getting something that non-fans are not getting. Makes me feel appreciated and special.” — an Audiokite YouNow survey participant

If you really want to give this indie thing a solid chance, you’re going to need direct support from your fans. Whether you’re on Patreon, Kickstarter, or something else altogether, consider the impact live streaming can have on your ability to not only entertain fans, but consistently connect with a group of loyalists willing to go the extra mile to contribute to your success.

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