How to Live Stream a Music Performance
Live Streaming has quickly become one of the primary ways we consume live music. While it's not entirely different from performing in a traditional venue setting, it does require some extra equipment, and there's no venue crew to help you set everything up.
Don't worry—in this blog, we'll show you how to set up a professional live stream. Read on to learn about all of the equipment you'll need, including lights, cameras, microphones, mixers and more!
What is live streaming?
Before we get too far along, let's talk about what livestreaming actually is. Livestreaming is the act of streaming audio and video online in real-time, typically to platforms like Twitch, YouTube Live, Facebook Live and Instagram Live.
Setting up a livestream can be as simple as using your smartphone to record a quick clip, or as complex as a full concert with a multi-camera setup. On the most fundamental level, you only need three things to livestream a performance:
Access to your favorite streaming platform
However, to create a professional, high-quality livestream, you'll need some additional equipment. Let's take a look at some of the most common ways to livestream a music performance.
What equipment do you need to live stream?
For your first livestream, you should start small with a simple system that's easy to manage. The best option for those who are just starting out is typically a smartphone or laptop since they include both a camera and a microphone, and many musicians already have one or both devices. To start broadcasting, simply download the app for whatever platform you want to stream on and create an account.
These types of streams can be great for sharing quick and casual performances, but for a professional-quality stream, you'll need to upgrade your equipment.
Arguably, the audio quality is the most important aspect of a livestream. Don't believe me? Try watching one with the sound turned off. It doesn't matter if you're using an 8K super-HD DSLR camera if no one can hear your music. That's why it's so important to invest in the audio quality of your stream.
If you're a solo singer-songwriter, you may be able to get away with using a single USB microphone. However, if you perform with multiple people (or just want more control over your sound), you'll need to upgrade to a multi-mic setup, which will also require a USB recording interface or mixer.
Start by setting up a mic for every instrument (including vocals) that you want to capture in your live stream. Don't forget, you'll also need mic stands, clips and cables for each mic as well. Route all of the mics into your recording interface or mixer and adjust the sound levels so that you can hear everything clearly.
In order to perform well, you need to be able to hear yourself. Using studio monitors or dedicated stage monitors is generally a bad idea when live streaming, as the microphones can easily capture the sound of the speakers, causing feedback.
To prevent this, set up a monitor mix using your favorite pair of over-the-ear studio headphones to help reduce noise bleed. Unfortunately, these types of headphones are often big and bulky, making it difficult to perform. Another option is to use a pair of professional in-ear-monitors, which provide plenty of isolation and comfort for any performance.
You may be wondering, "Can I use my built-in laptop camera for live streaming?" The built-in camera on your laptop or smartphone is rather limited. Not only does the quality leave something to be desired, but these cameras are also sorely lacking in features and customizability.
For a professional-looking livestream, it's worth it to invest in upgrading your camera. The easiest and most affordable way is to pick up a USB webcam. Most modern webcams offer high-res HD video quality and versatile features. Best of all, they plug directly into your computer and work seamlessly with your favorite live streaming software.
If you're aiming to improve the production value of your performance (and not just the video resolution), consider buying multiple USB webcams to create a professional multi-camera setup. Most computers and streaming software enable you to connect up to four devices and switch between camera sources for a more dynamic experience.
However, to pull this off, you'll also need a dedicated video switcher—kind of like a mixer for video signals. Video switchers enable you to preview and switch between multiple cameras while livestreaming.
Finally, if you really want to level-up your livestream, consider upgrading to one or more DSLR cameras. Short for digital single-lens reflex camera, these devices offer versatile features and swappable lenses, making it easy to capture the right look in any setting. Plus, you can use them to shoot proper music videos, too!
However, in order to capture footage from a DSLR camera to your computer, you'll need a capture card. Essentially, capture cards act as HDMI input sources for your computer, and typically connect via USB.
Whether you decide to go with a traditional webcam or a pro DSLR camera, you should also invest in a camera tripod to help frame your shots and keep things stable. After all, you wouldn't record using a microphone without a stand, right?
Quality lighting is another essential element of any professional live stream. Traditional overhead lights are harsh and unnatural, causing videos to look washed out. Thankfully, with a few simple accessories (and a well-placed lamp or two), you can create impressive-looking videos on any budget.
LED ring lights are simple, affordable fixtures that you can pick up almost anywhere to improve the look of your stream. For a softer, more natural look, try picking up a "softbox" lighting kit instead. These are essentially spotlights with canvas to diffuse the light, creating a soft, even glow with minimal shadows.
Start by placing a single light directly behind the camera. This will act as your primary light and highlight the face of the performer.
Next, place a second light off to one side (still behind the camera) to provide additional lighting. If you don't have another pro lighting fixture, you can use a lamp or a window in a pinch—just be aware of how the light changes in the room over time.
Finally, for the full "three point lighting" effect, you can add a third light behind the performer as a backlight, creating contrast and depth.
If you're working with limited space or budget, just remember to keep the foreground brighter than the background and you should see a significant improvement.
Last but not least, you'll need to use live streaming software to broadcast your performance to the desired destination. Sure, some sites like Facebook, Instagram and YouTube allow you to stream live directly from the app, but these platforms don't offer the flexibility of full-fledged streaming software.
With streaming software like OBS Studio, Streamlabs OBS and XSplit Gamecaster, you can create custom themes and overlays to help keep viewers entertained. You can also integrate useful tools like a digital tip jar, automated alerts, and a built-in chat window for communicating with your fans.
Best of all, some live streaming software like Streamlabs OBS allows you to multi stream to several destinations at once, so you can perform to crowds on all of your favorite sites to maximize your reach.
With these tools at your disposal, you can create a professional livestream that captivates your audience. And don't forget to plug your merch!