Expert Advice: music/tech journalist Cherie Hu shares her livestreaming best practices
As a music writer whose main beat is innovation, Cherie Hu noticed a surge of activity and interest in livestreams as tours were being put on pause. What she didn’t see, however, was a roadmap on how to navigate the sheer amount of models available for virtual events. So she made her own. With her immersion in this newly-popular digital arena, she’s been able to assess what works and what doesn’t – and lucky for us, agreed to serve up some of these best practices. (For the full convo, head to our SoundCloud page to hear the audio.)
So if you’re interested in making livestream a new long-term revenue stream or just trying to grow your audience during this downtime – read on to get Cherie’s take on the trends, tips for success, and her perspective on the future of “live.”
First, know your goals
Do you want to make money, or reach the largest possible audience? This will help you dictate where you stream. Cherie said, “A ton of artists have been using Instagram Live for years now, but there’s no way to monetize that. With Twitch and YouNow you have the option of hosting a stream for free, then fans can buy virtual currencies within the platform and gift the currencies to artists or streamer.” (Pro tip: SoundCloud also has a partnership with Twitch so if you’re a Pro Unlimited, Premier or Repost member you can get fast-tracked to affiliate status.)
She added that Stageit and Moment House are self-serve platforms that allow you to ticket your livestreams and limit your audience. If reach is your main goal, you might want to go to one of the platforms where your fans already are. Not sure where to begin? Take a peek at Cherie’s guide that breaks down every livestreaming tool and decide where you want to focus your efforts.
Then, make a plan
- Stream consistently – and not just music. If you’re building an audience anywhere (SoundCloud, Instagram, YouTube), you need to share regularly – and if you want to compete, it needs to be at an even higher-frequency and with a mix of content. Cherie said, “The ratio interestingly of what would happen in a live show, where it’s mostly music performance with some banter in between songs, that’s totally flipped.” She uses Emma McGann as an example. She streams on YouKnow nearly every day for a few hours – but she’s typically playing a song and then engaging her audience in Q&A and other informal conversation.
- Think episodically. Tours typically involve artists playing similar shows over and over in different cities. With the ability to reach a larger global audience immediately, digital models need to be thought about differently. You shouldn’t be performing the same set every time because people won’t tune back in and it could get pretty boring for you, too. Cherie compares planning your livestream calendar to putting a show together on Netflix. How do you keep the material fresh so people keep coming back?
- Remember there is no stage. Regardless of where you are in your career, there’s no hierarchy on a computer screen. Cherie was recently invited to Charli XCX’s weekly Zoom calls (a twist on the traditional press conference) she’s holding while making an album from home. By inviting a group of “panelists” that include celebrity friends like Maisie Williams and Rebecca Black, journalists and hand-selected superfans – as well as 1000 others tuning in, she’s opening up her creative process, engaging her fans in a deeper way and leveraging the equalizing power of these new mediums to benefit her craft.
- Give fans a way to keep in touch. Cherie said that with self-isolation – especially for those who are alone in their homes – people are looking for a sense of community. Artists are able to reach new fans who have never been to their shows before, but Cherie’s seeing a lot of them not taking advantage of this. She recommends creating and then promoting an email newsletter; it’s guaranteed to drop into the inbox of whoever signed up and is a direct line to you. If you have more time, make a community or group where fans can engage with each other. This will go a long way in building your audience, even as your livestreams morph back into live shows.
Consider the future
When asked about the future of “live,” Cherie said that her hopes (more than premonitions) are twofold. One, that live music doesn’t go away. She believes that people will still go to shows because we’ll be craving that energy and experience, but she thinks there might be more caution around massive events and conferences like SXSW, Midem and Coachella. And two, she sees us taking virtual experiences more seriously. We’ve seen a huge increase in knowledge-sharing and programming not typically available to the masses, so it would be a shame to close the doors on this openness now.
Do you agree? Join the conversation on Twitter to let us know your thoughts on this ever-evolving landscape. And if you use Cherie’s tips, or want to share some livestreaming advice of your own, let us know by @ing us with the hashtag #EXPERTADVICE.
Expert Advice is our new column that shines a light on the leading voices across music business, marketing, wellness and more and shares tips straight from the source on how to grow your career and find sustainable success.