With COVID-19 having shut down the spring and summer touring seasons, artists have been quick to get online and start performing the only way they can here in the era of avoiding human contact: live streaming.
Streaming a concert has become extraordinarily easy now that technologies such as Facebook Live allow us to pretty well push a button on our mobile phones and go. However, making money from streaming concerts is a touch more complicated. Most artists who are asking for pay are essentially busking online – asking people to donate to them via PayPal if they like the show. Ticketing an online event takes some ingenuity.
Roots Music Canada has been researching ways to sell tickets to concerts. We’ve also come up with our own way. Here’s what we can tell you.
Option 1: StageIt
StageIt is a turnkey online platform that allows artists to sell tickets to streaming shows. Viewers can also leave tips for artists and interact with both the artists and each other on a live chat wall next to the screen – similar to how Facebook Live and YouTube’s real-time comments work. However, StageIt takes a cut of an artist’s revenue – nearly 40 per cent for artists who earn less than $500, according to its posted terms. StageIt, peculiarly, also uses its own online currency, so fans have to buy “notes” in order to attend shows.
Option 2: Private Facebook groups
The Philadelphia Folk Song Society has been selling tickets to online performances through an online ticketing system. It then allows ticket-holders to join a private Facebook group, where the artist streams a performance on Facebook Live – to group-members only. It’s really rather genius when you think about it.
Option 3: Unlisted YouTube streams
It is similarly possible to create an unlisted stream on YouTube and provide the URL only to those who have paid to see the show. I’ll explain unlisted streams for those who are unfamiliar with them in a moment.
Option 4: The Roots Music Canada system
Here at Roots Music Canada, we’ve set up the infrastructure to host ticketed concerts on our web site, and we are pleased to offer this service free of charge – within the limitations of our staff and volunteer resources – to members of our Canadian folk/roots/world music community whose income has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. (Should an artist choose to give a cut of their proceeds to Roots Music Canada, the money will be used to pay honoraria to our regular writers and will not go toward operating expenses or to our editor’s fee.)
Our system – for those who might like to copy it – can be replicated on any WordPress website running WooCommerce, a standard piece of free e-commerce software that connects to a payment gateway such as PayPal. All you have to do is install a free plugin called Pay for Post, which works with WooCommerce to sell access to any page of your choosing. You simply embed an unlisted YouTube stream on the protected page and sell “tickets” to access it.
You can place an interactive chat room on the performance page using a free service called Chatango. That way, artists can read and respond to comments from fans while performing – provided they have a laptop or tablet to read them on.
How to create an unlisted YouTube stream
An unlisted YouTube stream is a stream that can only be seen by someone who has the precise URL for it. These streams do not show up on your YouTube channel and cannot be found by someone searching for you. They are essentially private.
Unlisted YouTube streams can still be embedded on websites just like regular YouTube videos can.
Creating an unlisted stream gives you complete control over who sees it. You can place the video behind a paywall on a website, or you can simply give the direct URL only to people who send you money for it.
Creating an unlisted stream from your computer / camera set-up
You can create an unlisted stream from a laptop or desktop computer connected to a camera using encoding software such as OBS. There are tutorials online that will teach you how to set it up. It’s not hard. When YouTube prompts you to set the “visibility” for your video, you select “unlisted.”
Creating an unlisted stream from your mobile phone
This is a touch more complicated because YouTube restricts mobile streaming to accounts with more than 1,000 subscribers. However, thanks to some help from our friends in the roots music community and the wider artists community, Roots Music Canada has a YouTube channel that has live streaming enabled. Any artist streaming on our site is welcome to use it, and we will happily loan it to anyone who needs it when we’re not using it, provided they are trustworthy and committed to obeying YouTube’s terms of service. Priority goes to folk/roots/world artists impacted by COVID-19 or doing fundraisers for people and organizations impacted.
Creating an unlisted stream from your mobile phone without access to YouTube mobile streaming
One solution we here at Roots Music Canada discovered was a third-party mobile phone app called StreamLabs. We have successfully tested it on Apple devices. Here’s how to use it.
Download and install the Streamlabs app on your iPhone or iPad
Select “Log in with YouTube.”
Sign in using your Google/YouTube account.
Click to allow the app to access your camera and microphone.
Click “OK” each time it asks you to allow access.
No need to make any changes here. Just click “next.”
Woo hoo! Set up is complete. Click “get started.”
Click on the centre record button (the white button with the red centre). It will give you this pop-up menu. Select “Create Event.”
Give your stream a name and a description (we’ve just written “test” and “test.”) Now, THIS NEXT PART IS VERY IMPORTANT. See where it says “public?” Click that word.
You will now see a rotating menu on the lower half of your screen. Select “unlisted.” The word “unlisted” should now appear next to “Access:” Click “Done.” Then click the “create” button (which will reappear after you’ve clicked “Done.”)
Click the centre record button again, and you’re streaming! You will see an fps (frames per second) measurement in the top left-hand corner, and you will see a time counter counting up on the top right in red. That’s how you know you’re live. (I’m shooting my laptop screen in this image). Please note that the ideal fps is 60. The lower the number, the lower the image quality.
You can see your live stream on your computer. Just log into the Google/Youtube account you’re streaming to. Next go to YouTube and click on your account icon in the top right corner. Then click “YouTube Studio” on the drop-down menu.
On the left-hand menu, click “videos.”
Click the “Live” tab.
Hey! There I am streaming a view of my fridge!
If I click on the video thumbnail it will take me to a screen where I can copy the secret URL. This is what you need to embed your video on Roots Music Canada’s web site. If you’re streaming through our channel, we’ll take care of this part. If not, you’ll need to email this to us. You can also use this URL to embed the stream on your own website, or you can give it out to paying customers so they can watch your show right on YouTube.
That’s it! You’re streaming!