Live streaming your band can be a great way to gain new fans, sell more content, and promote your next tour, but getting started can be a little daunting. Whether you’re an established band with a devoted following or an emerging artist looking for exposure for your first gig, live streaming is perhaps the best way to share your talent and music with a limitless audience.
PreSonus has put together this guide to help provide some tips and tricks to get you started.
If you’re like most musicians, the quality of your performance improves when you’re in front of an audience that is participating in your performance, applauding and cheering you on. This is perhaps the biggest challenge when beginning live streaming: you must find a way to bring that same energy to a camera in an otherwise empty room.
One way to get started is to create brief excerpts of a rehearsal to use as a story in your band’s Facebook or Instagram feed. This takes off some of the pressure because the video can’t be very long. Another method is to bring the audience to you. Live stream from a house party or a backyard barbecue. This lets you merge your physical and virtual audiences, giving you some comfort with the medium before the camera becomes the only member of the crowd.
Choosing a Streaming Medium
When you’re first beginning to create live streams for your band, controlling the cost to your band’s budget is critical. And while there are paid services that will allow you to create a private live stream that is ad-free and customizable, until you have an established audience, the cost for these services may not be justifiable. Services like YouTube Live, Facebook Live, and You Now will let you broadcast your performances for free and are designed to help you create a relatively stress-free live stream. Some free services will even let you preview your live stream before it goes live so you can make sure the quality is exactly what you want to broadcast. The trade-off is that these free services will interrupt your broadcast with ads, but this is a relatively small price to pay. Additionally, these free services already have millions of users who may stumble on your live stream, providing greater access for more impressions.
Choosing your Camera and Connection
Making your live stream look and sound as professional as possible is the best way to attract attention. Afterall, nobody likes to watch a video that looks bad and sounds worse. To live stream your band's performances, you’ll need some basic video production equipment to represent yourself well. There are several options based on your budget, but here are the essentials:
- Camera. Webcams are often the first thought when considering live streaming, but inexpensive doesn’t usually mean quality. We recommend using an HD camcorder, DSLR, or Mirrorless Camera with excellent video quality. 1080p is the current standard in resolution, however many 4K cameras are becoming more affordable. (It's important to note that consider some streaming platforms will not output in 4K.) Be sure to investigate how a camera performs in low light; some cameras, like those designed for action, may not perform in low light situations that are more suitable for creating the right vibe for a live performance. And remember, just like an audio interface or a mixer, a good camera can be an investment into photography or video recording other than your live stream, so buy something that will fit all your needs. The good news is than an excellent camera that will suit all your needs can be purchased for less than $500.
- Lens. Camcorders can have great quality and you don’t need to purchase any lenses. That being said, they aren’t as versatile and won’t have the same video quality of a DSLR or Mirrorless camera. Many cameras will come with a kit lens that has a variable focal length and a low F-Stop that will most likely work for you.
- Light. Don’t forget about lighting before you record your live stream. Even if you just use a well lit room or have a large window, it can make a huge difference. There are many options for lighting such as LED, fluorescent, and tungsten. It is important to match the white balance of your camera to your lights as well as diffuse the light so it isn’t just bright, but also soft and photogenic.
- Tripod or Mount. You are going to need something to setup, frame, and stabilize yours shots. Every tripod has a suggested weight limit, so get one based on your needs.
- Power. When you're live streaming your band's performance, you don’t want to run anything on batteries. Make sure every piece of equipment has a power system to ensure your camera doesn’t die out during a long broadcast.
- Video encoder. A video encoder is a piece of hardware or software that takes your video content and converts it to a digital format so that you can stream it on the Internet. There are many different types of encoders on the market and with just a little research, you can find one to suit your needs and your budget.
- Video Switcher (optional). A single camera shot will work well for many live streams, but if you want to take yours to the next level, a multi-camera shot will add another dimension to the final product. Investing in a video switcher will allow you to switch between multiple cameras or video sources and will cost around $1000. Be sure to look for a device with XLR audio inputs to bring in your audio.
- Internet Connection. A strong internet connection is required if you want to live stream. HD streaming requires 3 to 5Mbps, and 4K will require 25Mbps.
Choosing your Audio Interface
The way you record the audio for your live stream is the difference between standing out and turning off your audience. If the sound quality on your live stream is professional, your band will be presented at its best. After all, your music is what will attract your audience!
The easiest way to record your band for a live stream is to use a mixer with stereo recording capability. This will allow you to create a live mix (much in the same way you create a mix for a live performance). If your band is already gigging and rehearsing, chances are you’re already looking for a good mixer. The great news is that many modern mixers offer some level of audio recording ability. Whether analog or digital, a mixer with onboard recording can provide a cost-effective solution to create an amazing live stream sound. Let’s take a look at both approaches:
At their core, most analog mixers share many of the same features and functions. The biggest advantage of analog mixers is that they’re generally less complicated and less expensive than digital mixers of the same frame size. The disadvantage is that analog mixers usually have fewer onboard features than digital mixers, and their sound quality depends entirely on the quality of the analog circuitry.
Some analog mixers, like PreSonus StudioLive AR-series analog mixers, use great-sounding analog circuitry, provide EQ on every channel, offer monitor mixing options, and include an onboard effects processor for reverb and delay effects. StudioLive AR-series mixers also feature PreSonus’ unique, flexible Super Channel, which allows you to connect four stereo line-level devices, including wireless stereo Bluetooth™ input. The professional 24-bit, 96 kHz multitrack recording (every input channel, plus the main mix) over USB provides the tools you need to create your live streams and high-quality studio tracks.
Digital mixers include the basic functions provided by their analog cousins and add many tools that save you money by eliminating the need for expensive outboard equalizers, compressors, noise gates, multi-effects processors, and the like. While you don’t need these processors just to mix audio, they are essential for producing better-sounding, more polished mixes. All these tools are done courtesy of an onboard digital signal processor (DSP). This processor is responsible for routing, level control, and so on. Full-featured digital mixers provide plenty of graphic and parametric EQ, dynamics processing, and more.
Traditionally, the complexity of digital mixers made them more difficult to learn, but PreSonus StudioLive digital mixers changed that, providing a wealth of onboard signal processing without forcing you to dive into multiple layers and menus. The StudioLive digital mixers' surface-driven workflow has made them one of the most popular mixers in the world. Mixers like StudioLive 16.0.2USB combine the simplicity of an analog mixer with the processing power of a digital mixer in a compact frame that includes and 18x18 USB 2.0 audio interface. Because the parametric EQ, compression, noise gate, and limiter are available on every input and output, you save the cost of outboard gear and mountains of cables, as well as the hassle of connecting it all.
Digital mixers also provide simple ways to manage a large mix, making it even easier to manage high channel count mixes in a live recording situation. StudioLive Series III digital mixers allow you to include the same channel in multiple Filter DCA groups. Each group is given a master level control so you can control the overall level of the group while maintaining each channel’s relative balance in the mix. In this way, for example, you can create a single fader to control every mic on the drum kit, making it easier to control the overall level in the main mix.
Many digital mixers also provide an onboard audio interface. StudioLive Series III digital mixers are equipped with a 64x64 USB audio interface that allows you to record any mix you like. Digital returns make it easy to incorporate backing tracks and a click track so your live stream will sound professional and polished every time.
If you have a studio production background and are comfortable mixing in a DAW - like PreSonus Studio One - a traditional audio interface like the PreSonus Studio 1824c or Quantum may be an excellent solution for you. When using an audio interface, you must route the main output from your DAW to a set of inputs on your audio interface. These inputs will be the stereo audio source for your live stream.
At this point, you will need to create a loopback for your live stream. An easy way to do this is to used the S/PDIF input and output that many interfaces, including both the Studio 1824c and the Quantum, provide. S/PDIF is a stereo digital audio standard that is ideally suited for this workaround; this is what we will be using for the loopback in this example:
- In your DAW, patch the main output to the S/PDIF out on your audio interface.
- Patch the S/PDIF output to the S/PDIF input on your audio interface using a S/PDIF cable.
- In your live stream software, select the S/PDIF input as the audio source. Make sure that the S/PDIF input is not enabled for recording in your DAW.
When using an audio interface for live streaming, you will want to select one that also allows you to monitor your performance. Some audio interfaces, like the Studio 1824c, offer an onboard DSP that provides low-latency monitor mixes. Other audio interfaces, like the PreSonus Quantum Thunderbolt interface, provides a fast enough transport speed that you can monitor your performance through the plugins and mix engine in your DAW. Studio One helps to simplify this typically complex function by providing integrated Cue Mixes with PreSonus audio interfaces right from the Studio One console.
Choosing a Computer
Audio and video production require a powerful CPU to ensure the best performance. The computer you use can be a Mac® or Windows® PC, so you can continue to use whichever operating system with which you’re most comfortable. The first thing you’ll need to check is the system requirements for the streaming application you’d like to use. Keep in mind that the “minimum system requirements" published by any accessory hardware or software manufacturer are just that: The bare minimum computer specs that you need to get the bare minimum level of performance.
The better your computer specs are, the more smoothly your live streaming will go.
Lights, Camera, Action
After some practice runs and careful preparation, it’s time to launch your live stream. Unlike a live performance at a local venue, the audience will be as close to you as your camera. When filming the band together, being camera-conscious means that band members should select coordinating outfits that will not distract or detract from your musical performance. It’s always a good idea to simply film a few performances and critique your camera presence before launching your live stream. Great visuals to go with your polished music production will go a long way to attract new followers and grow your audience.