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Livestreaming for Musicians: The Ultimate Guide

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At our last Encore Drinks Online event we invited virtuoso Encore guitarist Joncan Kavlakoglu to explain the setup he uses for livestreaming musical performances (you can watch his brilliant funk-flamenco playing below). Joncan’s workshop was so useful he’s kindly agreed to share it with all our members! If you’re interested in earning money from streaming live music in lockdown or want to improve your existing setup then this guide is definitely for you!

 

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By Joncan Kavlakoglu (www.joncan-kavlakoglu.co.uk, @joncan_kavlakoglu)

Here are some tips and information that worked for me when streaming live performances. They might not work for you, and if you’re a Windows user some of this won’t apply. Please also see the screenshots in the folder/zip file which detail settings I used.

Is livestreaming worth it?

Before lockdown I had never streamed and hated the idea of it; streams I had seen on Facebook and Instagram Live etc looked pathetic in audio and video quality and with frequent dips in both, it looked extremely amateur, and I was biased against this performing medium.

As I’ve streamed more now and importantly become confident in the technical side, just like any performing medium (busking, traditional live shows, intimate Sofar acoustic gig, TV broadcast) it has its own USP and benefits – specifically to me, breaking down a barrier between audience and performer and encouraging much more transparent audience interaction via the screen (a lot of the time just via chat) than a normal physical gig allows, as well as obviously being able to perform to hundreds regardless of location.

Note: the music I play is instrumental percussive acoustic guitar, I don’t sing, and everything is setup for me with the guitar as the primary focus and my vocal audio for talking to the audience as secondary.

In a nutshell –

My streaming setup is never through a phone (even for Instagram) and always run through computers to process audio + video. If you have decent mics + sound lying around why not use them?

Hardware

Computers: I stream through computers, never just on my phone. It lets me control much more in terms of audio and video. I generally use a 2 laptop setup.

For output audio and video processing, I am running on macOS 10.12 Sierra on a no-frills MacBook Pro from 2012, and to my understanding a lot of the setup I use is probably even easier on Windows and possibly Linux based computers.

While that laptop is being used for all the broadcasting stuff, I use another one setup to a big screen off-camera and Bluetooth headphones to be my comms and ‘listening’, because I don’t want to overload the main laptop and I found problems in using Bluetooth headphones on the broadcasting laptop.

Displays: 1 large TV screen, to view chat from the audience. I log in as a separate user whether it’s YouTube live streaming or Zoom etc and just pull up the chat box to cover the TV screen for me to easily see.

Sound Interface: I’m using an Apogee Duet from 2008. None of the audio you hear on my livestreams is from just a phone or a webcam mic, it’s all guitar pickups and condenser mic routed through the sound interface.

Mic: Cheap £40 Samson c01 from 2008. I just use this for talking to the audience. Don’t recommend it, quite noisy, much better options for a little more money but does the job. I also bought a microphone isolator ‘pod’ to get more of a broadcast-quality sound and block unwanted noise. Looks much more pro than it is. I have an EQ set on this and compression etc in Logic, trying to get the most out of it.

Monitoring: I don’t have any monitor speakers where I am but I do have a great pair of reference quality headphones, AKG k701, so have been using them to mix pre-show audio. And a pair of cheapie Bluetooth headphones for foldback.

Camera: OnePlus 5 phone.

When lockdown started I wasn’t around a lot of my gear, and I also found that the webcam/dedicated streaming camera prices skyrocketed and became unavailable as everyone jumped on it. My inbuilt webcam is rubbish. Didn’t want to spend. I had a spare Android phone around and found that tethering it to the laptop and using it’s back camera made a very good result, and it was as high quality as some streaming cameras that I saw, and cost me nothing. The app that lets me use the phone as a camera source is Iriun, and it’s free.

Other: Buy a tripod to hold your camera/phone. Don’t need a pricey one – I found one for £4 and one for £14. Both were fine.

Software

Video Processing and Broadcast: OBS. It’s free and multiplatform and lets you tweak your camera’s video, have multiple video sources, add logos, and configure audio sources – it’s fantastic, takes a while to learn.

Audio Processing: Logic X 10.5. I EQ everything and set levels in here – literally as if recording – and set the monitoring to active, and set it’s output to be Soundflower.

Routing Video from Android phone to OBS (or Zoom): Iriun, it’s free. Can be via USB tether or Wifi. Both work great, I use USB to save bandwidth.

Routing Audio from Logic into OBS (or Zoom): Soundflower (Blackhole as an alternative)

Broadcasting to Instagram Live: I use free software called YellowDuck that allows OBS to broadcast to your Instagram Live feed.

Other tips

Creating a scene: I’ve seen lots of terrible livestreamers streaming from messy bedrooms, paying no attention to background scenery. If your audience likes the candid ‘this is my living place’ look then, that’s fair. However, I try to be as professional as possible just like in any other performances, especially as I get well paying corporate clients wanting streams. I took a lot of time to try and make a scene that was quite neutral, had strong light, focused on me, and looked professional. I moved everything around in the living room and I constantly check the scene looks broadcast-quality as much as possible. It’s now set up that way as default. I want to look professional so that my clients pay me professionally. See photos below. 

Testing – I spent a lot of time livestreaming to YouTube as an ‘Unlisted’ or ‘Private’ video to test the streaming settings, quality, audio levels etc. These streams are saved on your YouTube channel for you to watch back and are totally private, no public will see them, but they are an exact representation of what the audience would see if you made them live.

Internet Connection Speed – It’s all about your Upload Speed. My one was previously 5mb a sec which is low – I asked my ISP to let me trial 1 week on 150mb upload speed and that MASSIVELY changed the game for my streaming. I stuck with that. I’m with Hyperoptic.

Streaming Platforms – For YouTube, Twitch, FB, Instagram Live I use OBS to broadcast. You just get your Stream Key and put in the details in the Stream section – it’s pretty easy. For Zoom, see below.

Streaming Technical Details: I found it much more important to have a smooth video stream with brilliant audio rather than a great quality image that is jittery. My video is set to 4k but I stream downsampled to 720p, 30fps when using OBS. Screenshots in folder.

Zoom Meeting Performances – Zoom is the worst for performing through because it has the worst quality for everything to me. But, it’s very popular especially with the corporates. As mentioned, I use Soundflower as my Microphone and either Iriun Camera or OBS Virtual Cam as my video – this isn’t an option by default but is possible.

showing where to select Soundflower as the microphone

How to massively increase Zoom quality

  1. Go into Zoom>Preferences>Audio and uncheck ‘Automatically adjust microphone input volume. Switch off Zoom auto volume adjustment
  2. Go into Zoom>Preferences>Audio>Advanced and disable ‘Suppress Persistent Background Noise’ and ‘Suppress Intermittent Background Noise’. Make sure you Enable ‘Show in-meeting option to enable original sound’. blank
  3. Go out of that, and start a meeting with yourself. On screen you will see the option to either ‘Turn On Original Sound’ or ‘Turn Off Original Sound’. You want the Original Sound (literally audio that is coming into Zoom without being processed by Zoom’s compression) to be currently ON, and so you want the option on screen to be displaying ‘Turn Off Original Sound’. blank

I found these tweaks, alongside all the EQ and compression and tailoring the sound through Logic before going into Zoom, made performances on Zoom doable.

That’s it for now. Good luck out there.

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If you found this helpful please follow and reach out on Instagram or email me at [email protected] for more info or questions.

Hope it can be useful and hope you are all doing OK, it’s a hard time for music and people.

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Jonny Venvell

Jonny is Encore's Head of Artist Relations.

He's responsible for supporting and helping musicians on the platform and writes most of the musician-facing articles on the blog. He can usually be found singing in choirs, drumming in bands, or nodding meaningfully to particularly good chords in London's jazz bars.

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