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.


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.)


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


– 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.)


– 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?”)


– 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.

Get My Equipment Cheat Sheet Here

Here’s Your Toolkit!

Grab the free downloadable guide showing the exact equipment I’m using to live stream from my basement.

(None of it will break the bank!)

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.

Please Post Your Comments

Your email address will not be published.


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

Get Dave's News, Discounts, and More
Join Dave's Mailing List
Quick Contact

Have questions or looking for booking information? Call Dave at 716-884-6855, or send him a message below.