A Few Tips for First-time Streamers
Aside from the Detroit Symphony [see How the Detroit Symphony Live-streamed Its Way to Success], video-streaming live classical music performances is still a relatively new practice in the U.S. (It’s far more common in Europe, largely due to minimum union demands.) So if you’re thinking about giving it a try, here are a few things to consider.
Find a provider
You’ll need to engage a service provider to make your webcast available on the Internet. There are several easy-to-use, “out of the box” services, such as LiveStream, UStream, BrightCove, DaCast, and YouTube Live Events. Most offer your audience seamless viewing on any device from desktop to tablet to phone to smart TV.
HD capability and links
Since most cameras nowadays capture images at HD resolution, check that HD streaming is supported and does not require extra fees. The service should provide easy ways to embed links to your stream into your own web site, as well as to partner sites and any social-media channels; for example, some of these services provide “embed codes” for easy copy-and-paste into Wordpress web sites.
Pricing and analytics
Although there are different tiers of pricing for different services, most provide unlimited, monthly, or annual service packages. Watch out for “free” offers as they nearly always come with obligatory ads that appear on the site during your events. In addition to the streaming package, ask for a sample of the analytics data that the service provides. Typically you can find out how many people tuned in, how long they stayed, where they were when they tuned in (at least at the country level), and what kind of device they used for viewing.
Secure rights and permissions
In addition to making sure the webcast is cleared with the artists and orchestra (double-check your AGMA and AFM agreements), make sure your blanket ASCAP and/or BMI licenses include streaming rights and check in with the publishers of works in copyright.
Line up the technical needs and personnel
To make your webcast visually interesting enough for viewers, a minimum of three cameras is recommended. Many presenting organizations collaborate and co-present with a local TV station or well-equipped university that can also provide a producer and director. Camera operators are usually hired by the producer/director team.
You may also need to provide a musical assistant to the director; make sure to have your production team on hand for the dress rehearsal so that they have the opportunity to practice assigning cameras and framing shots. A typical video producer is less accustomed to focusing on the audio mix, so it’s helpful to have an audio producer on hand to assist with sound. (Some organizations, such as the Detroit Symphony and Berlin’s Digital Concert Hall, record the audio feed separately.)
Open all marketing channels
This is a time to use your creativity! Use your social media channels to promote your webcast, as well as your program book and any mailings to subscribers. Instead of spending money on traditional advertising, ask your media partners and local businesses to send out or embed the webcast URL and be a part of generating excitement and building the online audience. Think about how you can reach viewers who may be out of driving distance from your venue, including at community centers, retirement homes, and schools.
Send a reminder the day before the webcast with the date/time and URL and reward people who sign up for your e-newsletter through social media with a drawing for tickets or another enticement. Encourage and reward viewing parties by inviting them to post “selfies” on your Instagram or Twitter feeds, and invite enthusiastic groups to come and see a concert in person. An active Twitter feed during the webcast can be a great source of information and commentary.
The online viewing audience has to be marketed to and built. There is no secret to attracting people to your webcast beyond spreading the word through social media, marketing partnerships, PR, word of mouth, and, most importantly, presenting a topquality, exciting, and rewarding musical experience.
Use the intermission
You lose viewers when you have dead air time, so take advantage of intermission to air pre-produced pieces that feature news, introduce your artistic or management team to viewers, or take them “behind the scenes.” Consider hiring a host to interview patrons or musicians, or answer questions posed through social media. And remember to plug your next major event at the venue or online.
Measure your success
When measuring results think about three things:
- Did you reach a larger audience than the one that generally attends your events?
- Did you reach new people who have never come to your venue?
- Did you benefit from media visibility by trying something new and making what you do more accessible to more people?
If any of these answers is “yes” then you have something to celebrate.
Remember that webcasting today is a constant learning experience that everyone is refining as they go along. Make a plan and get started, knowing in advance that your second webcast will be better than your first.
Jessica Lustig is a founding partner and the managing director of 21C Media Group, Inc. Among her notable achievements are conceiving and developing the YouTube Symphony Orchestra, advising the World Economic Forum on cultural leaders, and assisting the State Department in bringing the Afghanistan National Institute of Music to Carnegie Hall.