Performing Online: A New Income Stream (or Two)

Have you done any online performances? Been thinking about it?

For those who already have some live streaming experience, I’m going to share a few bold new ideas for maximizing your income.

And if you haven’t dabbled yet, this should be a great place to start.

how to perform onlineWe’ll divide the discussion into two main types of online performing – “direct to consumer” (the way most artists think of it) and “direct to venue” (huh?).

The beauty with both models is that they scale.

Endlessly.

There is no limit to the number of people who can buy in to our online events, and the marketplace can be global rather than local or regional.

We’ll cover both scenarios in a bit more detail.

“Direct to Consumer” Live Streaming

For most musicians and performing artists, live streaming means making our shows available online for a small fee or suggested donation – and/or tips – and reaching audiences who can’t physically attend a performance.

I refer to this type of live streaming as “direct to consumer,” and it’s a model that can work quite well.

Sometimes it’s done from home; other times, it might be streamed from a venue where we are simultaneously performing for a live audience.

film crewOnline performances are often referred to as “laptop concerts” or “webcasts,” and hosted on platforms such as Stageit, or more informally using social media tools like Facebook Live.

How It Works

Typically, the performer sets the date and time, decides how much to charge people to access the show, and how they’ll structure any mechanism for receiving tips while performing.

The platform provides the interface (website, software, payment handling, reporting, message board, etc) in exchange for a percentage of the total “take,” and the performer uses their own webcam and microphone to broadcast from anyplace they choose.

(BONUSDownload my exact equipment recommendations here)

I used the Concert Window platform (now defunct) for my first ventures into online performing, and it was a great way to get my feet wet.

Here’s a quick introduction to StageIt, which is quite similar…

Start there and see how it goes.

Ideas for live streaming a concert Bold Idea #1

Ask yourself this question as you’re putting your event together – “who would love to show this performance to their audience?” – then reach out to that list of venues and offer “streaming rights” to the event for $99, or $49…whatever you think is appropriate. You’re already doing the show, so why not? It’s extra revenue for you, and a great value for the venue – a win win. I’ve had libraries and arts centers take me up on this offer in the past.

Additional resources: What Is StageIt?

“Direct to Venue” Live Streaming

BIdeas for live streaming a concert old Idea #2

This is where things really get interesting, and where I’ve been putting most of my live streaming “eggs” for the last couple years. Similar to “Bold Idea #1” above, but without the direct to consumer part, you put a small schedule of live streamed events together and sell them directly to the kinds of venues that ordinarily hire you to perform “in person.”

In my case, that means schools, but really, any type of venue that pays you a set fee to perform for a gathered audience is fair game – libraries, arts centers, museums, historical societies, retirement homes, etc.

They get the rights to show the performance to their audience at a rate that’s less than your live performance fee, several venues buy in (hopefully, although be ready to perform for one lone venue if you’re just starting out), and it works for everyone.

how to live stream a concertHere’s How I Structure My “Direct to Venue” Shows

After dabbling with Concert Window shows for fans or “consumers” a few years back, I decided to see if I could sell a live, online version of one of my school programs directly to teachers, for a fraction of my live performance fee.

So, instead of $400 or $850 or $1,495 for an in-person visit, it would be (at first) just $95 per school to participate, and I’d allow up to eight schools per event.

It went so well, and the reaction was so positive, that I now offer a full schedule of these shows throughout the year – from my basement – at $149 per school (limit six schools per event).

how to live stream a concertI also sell replay videos for five-day use ($149).

(You can take a look at how I market the programs right here.)

The beauty? Well, there are a few, like performing from home with pajama bottoms on. But one of the biggest ones is that my marketplace is now international – my live streamed and recorded shows have been seen in classrooms from Alaska to Nigeria to India to South America and all across the US and Canada.

Platform Considerations: Theirs or Yours?

I’m now webcasting all of my events through a service called Zoom, paying a set monthly fee of about $40 and keeping all revenue from the shows.

ZoomWhether you go with one of the streaming platforms mentioned above, or forge your own path as I did, is completely up to you.

Here are some of the main considerations…

Their Platform (Concert Window, etc.)

PLUSES

– the platform is provided
– should be relatively “bug-free”
– thousands of others have used the platform and can offer tips and support

MINUSES

– the revenue portion taken by the platform can be significant
– not a ton of flexibility if you’d like to try something different with payments, access rules, etc

Your Platform (Zoom, etc.)

PLUSES

– you keep 100% of the revenue (minus a monthly fee for your streaming service – I use Zoom and love it)
– tons of flexibility with pricing, payments, access rules, etc
– you set the expectations (nobody’s going to say “so and so’s show was only $5…how come yours is $150?”)

MINUSES

– you handle billing, booking, payments, etc
– you’re the main troubleshooter for any tech problems

how to perform online for musicians - dave ruchAre You Ready?

I hope this has given you some new ideas for expanding your income through online performances. I’d love to hear what you’re thinking about, and how it goes for you. The Comments section is just below.

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About The Blog

The Largest Online Gathering of K-5 Classrooms for Connected Educator MonthSince leaving a white-collar marketing job in 1992, Dave Ruch has been educating and entertaining full-time in schools, historical societies and museums, folk music and concert venues, libraries, and online via distance learning programs.

Along the way, he’s learned a great deal about supporting a family of four as a musician.

The Educate and Entertain blog provides articles, tips, encouragements, and how-to’s for regional performers (in any region) interested in making a great full-time living in the arts.

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31 Responses to Performing Online: A New Income Stream (or Two)

  1. Subham Sett

    Dave, it’s been great reading your comments and all of the others out here. While I am not a musician myself, I have an artist wife who is feeling a similar pain as many of you here are. All her shows for the foreseeable future are now canceled. I am a techie and have started working with a friend to come up with a something that tries to simulate as much as possible the 1-1 interactions that happen during live shows. We don’t want to make this just for the creative arts but also for live performances. Just reading all the posts gives us validation of the need of something for musicians as well. Happy to chat with you or anyone who would like to share more information on what works, what doesn’t and what they would think of as an ideal performance platform. Stay safe and vigilant, and hope you get to keep doing what you are doing!

  2. Brad Allen

    At this particular point in time “direct to consumer” is probably the only option for most musicians. So the question is what kind of results can most musicians expect right out of the gate streaming their live shows to consumers? I suspect not much, unless you already have a large fan base who will tune in to your live streams. You can then collect tips or even charge for the stream. But I suspect for most of us, who just lost our entire income stream from all the live performances that were cancelled because of the Coronavirus, this isn’t a viable way of quickly replacing our income. But please, correct me if I’m wrong! I would certainly rather make $10-$15 an hour playing for tips online than stocking groceries at Walmart for the next few months. As it looks to me right now, that may be about the only option left.

    • Dave Ruch

      Hi Brad – for those of us who are full-time performers, I don’t think this could ever replace all of the lost wages from the current situation. But in my experience, it certainly can help. What kinds of places do you normally play, and what would you be offering on your live streams? Maybe we can come up with a good plan for you to reach a large(r) audience.

      • Brad Allen

        I was playing lots of nursing homes for one thing. Assumed that was re-session proof as I figured they wouldn’t be closing those down any time soon. Wrong!
        I also was playing lots of jazz cubs with my jazz trio. We also had various festival bookings, libraries, etc.

        As a soloist I play wineries and clubs, farmer’s markets, etc. I’ve always done well on tips.

        In addition I’ve done lots of teaching both on the guitar and drums. So there are lots of possibilities there through YouTube, etc. But I know from experience that it’s difficult to make money that way. I’ve never tried live streaming though. One of the most profitable possibilities would be webinars on drumming. I’m a member of lots of Facebook drumming groups and have always been very successful at getting drummers to watch my instructional videos and read my articles.

        • Eric John Kaiser, Portland's French Troubadour

          Brad, Sorry to hear you are having a rough time. I hope you and your family are safe during those crazy times.
          I don’t know if this helps but I also lost all my upcoming gigs. I have no income right now. But I’m healthy and trying to stay positive. Exploring new avenues…

          I stumbled upon this guy listening to a podcast. He seemed very interesting. I thought I should send you his website after reading your comment and you saying you were a drummer::
          http://drumdads.com/

          I hope this helps (a bit). Good luck with everything. Hopefully all this will pass soon. Take care.

        • Dave Ruch

          Brad – a few quick ideas that come to mind off the top of my head are one-on-one lessons online using Skype or Zoom, drumming webinar, and performing live on Facebook with a “tip jar” (links to your PayPal and Venmo accounts). For the moment, people are very supportive and truly seem to want to help.

          • Brad Allen

            Dave,

            Thank you for your encouragement and suggestions. I think I’ll probably try several things initially and see which are the most productive and have the most interest.

            Also wanted to say thank you for sharing your knowledge through all these articles you write. I’ve always found that it’s better to take advice from someone like you who’s already done what I’m wanting to do, rather than “reinventing the wheel.”

        • Alun

          Most nursing homes have a big screen tv.. you could see if there’s a way to stream directly to their screen (Facebook Portal?), maybe rent out the unit for a weekly fee, then do a 1-hour daily sing-a-long for residents?

          • Brad Allen

            Thanks for the suggestion. I have been told that nursing home residents are currently confined to their rooms so that’s probably not viable at the moment.

  3. Alun Davies

    Hi, I’m trying to find a way for two musicians in geographical different locations to live stream together onto a combined (split screen?) video output,.. with minimal lag, possibly with both playing along to the same click or backing track.. is this possible?

    My friend and I starting writing songs together but only meet up in person twice a year, so it would initially be for us to rehearse “live” together, but then to stream our songs to friends watching live.

    • Dave Ruch

      I don’t think the technology is quite there yet Alun, though I could be wrong. You can certainly do a split screen with another person/presenter, but latency would prevent you from being able to play together in real time. (If anybody knows of a lag-free platform, would love to hear about it!)

      • Bea Alf

        I can’t remember the name of the documentary about three young classical musicians who are supposed to play together in one location but after on of them can’t get entry in the country where they are supposed to play end up playing together but in different locations: a pianist and violinist in Germany and a cellist in the States. It seemed to work beautifully but I don’t know which platform they used.

        I have the same question for musicians I know.

        • Dave Ruch

          I wonder if that was recorded separately and stitched together after the fact?

        • Alun

          I’d assume, if everyone is playing to click then post edit stitching would be quite easy.. but I’m still trying to find an effective app that could allow this..

    • Michael

      If you live stream cover songs via Zoom or similar platform and the venue playing/receiving the stream has a PRO license, is any other licensing required?

  4. Bob

    What kind of monetizing software/process do you use?

    • Dave Ruch

      For myself, I am live streaming programs for schools who typically issue purchase orders and then pay by check through the mail. If you’re talking about live streaming direct to consumer, some of the platforms have their own built in payment processing, or you can always create a virtual tip jar using Paypal or a number of other services.

  5. Eric John Kaiser, French Troubadour

    Happy New Year Dave. All the best for 2020 to you and your loved ones. Thanks for much for all that info. Super useful (as always). Take care.

  6. Randall Mauger

    Wow Dave! This is a mother lode of great useful information! I’ve been thinking along these lines for a while but didn’t really know where to start. Thanks! I’m working on two recordings simultaneously and trying to think of ways, other than my YouTube channel, to get my music out there.

  7. Lauri Hämäläinen

    This is a real ”door-opener” for me.
    Thank you for sharing.! We are definitely going to try to share some concerts in the future.
    Yours, Lauri

  8. Lynne S. Childress

    Amazing. Have you seen this work for non-musical theater shows?

    • Dave Ruch

      I haven’t seen too many artists of any kind harnessing the full scope of what’s presented here Lynne, but I don’t see why it couldn’t work for theater shows. Storyteller Priscilla Howe is doing some of this with non-musical content.

  9. Susan Rozler

    Thanks for sharing Dave! SR

  10. Legendary Frank

    Actually OPM performed at the O2 Islington London in their pajamas. 🙂

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