From Facebook invites to YouTube fundraisers, this is a musician’s guide to keeping the music scene alive by taking festivals online.
With hundreds of festivals and music events across the country being cancelled this summer, you may be feeling disheartened and stuck on what to do next. Below we give you all the tips and tricks on hosting your online music festival.
Here’s how to stream your event, which platforms you can use, how to prepare a lineup, what equipment you need and how to develop your brand to promote your event. And ultimately how to make money for the performers or a charity.
How to host an online music festival
So, how can you keep your fanbase engaged when all your gigs are cancelled? How do you host a virtual event? Which platforms are best to use when running an online festival? And how to promote your event? Below we’ve gathered all the information you need to make sure your online event is successful.
Hosting a virtual music event
The music industry is all about gigs and performances, and connections and collaborations between artists, but the importance of self-isolation and social distancing puts a hold on the sociable side of things leaving us musicians in a rut.
With your festival plans most likely being moved online, and ticketing being in aid of charities as opposed to a festival experience, why not host your event from the comfort of your bedroom? Being at home doesn’t mean musicians and singers have to put their career on hold. Online events may be the new norm for a while, so now’s the time to get to grips with digital platforms and streaming sites.
The time when online events truly became mainstream was on the 18th April 2020, when Lady Gaga hosted the ‘One World: Together at Home’ livestream concert, to support the World Health Organisation and frontline workers. A star-studded lineup including Billie Eilish, Taylor Swift, and Elton John performed for 8 hours to a global audience of over 20 million people.
You don’t have to organise something that big, but hosting an online concert could help you more in the long run than a regular live gig. You won’t have travel costs, it’s less time consuming to set up and break down, and it gives you the chance to be more intimate with your audience and sets you up for what might be the future of live music.
How to run a successful virtual event
It’s important to choose the right streaming platform for you. There are several options out there, some which are solely designed for online events, and others like Instagram and YouTube which have streaming options built into them. It’s a good idea to target the site that’s easiest to access and the one you have the greatest following on to maximise listeners tuning in.
Best online concert platforms
- Gigee is a great platform if you’re looking to schedule and promote a ticketed event. It’s free to use, although the site takes 20% of revenue off the event earnings, so if you’re planning on doing a non-profit concert then this isn’t the site for you.
- StageIt is similar to Gigee, but fans can tip you and you can set different charging prices for your fans.
- Twitch is a streaming platform for gamers, so it’s not specific to musicians, but there is an entertainment category and it’s a simple, free site to use.
How to host a virtual event on Facebook
The easiest option is probably to stream through your social media account.
Facebook Live is a very popular site to use. Live streams attract a bigger audience than prerecorded posts because it’s the closest people can get to a real festival at the minute. Joining in with like-minded music fans across the world creates a shared experience which could also encourage people to donate via a virtual tip jar, like PayPal, which can go towards your next gig.
Instagram and YouTube are also great social media sites that allow streaming options. If you want to stream using your phone, you need at least 1,000 subscribers to go live on YouTube. If you want to stream using your laptop, you’ll need to verify your YouTube account (which can take up to 24 hours) and use a Google Chrome web browser.
Some artists have been using Zoom, which is normally a conference platform, to host successful online gigs (but beware, the free version is limited to 40 minutes of streaming).
That brings us onto which equipment to use. If everything isn’t perfect don’t worry, just make it as good as you can, people will give you leeway in the time of COVID.
What equipment should I use to host an online gig?
The most important requirement is a performance space. It needs to be a quiet room, with good WIFI and preferably good acoustics. Soft furnishings or cushions will reduce reflected sound and improve the quality of your stream, it’s a good idea to test the sound quality before you go live.
If you’re a solo singer, a bedroom will do, but if you’re working with other band members a lounge or garage with extra space for instruments and social distancing is important.
Alternatively, bands could use a prerecord and edit approach as backing for the lead singer.
This is the basic equipment you will need:
- Lighting – if you’re streaming during the day, then sitting by a window with ambient lighting will work, or if you need artificial illumination the best option is a professional ring light- but you could use overhead lighting and lamps from around the house.
- Microphone – you can use a built-in microphone on your mobile or computer, but a professional mic will massively improve the sound quality and professionalism of your concert.
- Amps and speakers – if you decide to use a USB mic then you should plug it directly into your streaming device and you won’t need an amp, but if you use a lollipop mic then plug it into your amp and it will be picked up by the audio on your computer. For bands, you could plug each of your instruments into a mixer then into your computer to export it directly to your DAW.
- Phone or laptop/desktop – make sure your device is fully charged and has good internet connection or mobile data.
- Instruments – whether you decide to use backing tracks or play instruments live as you sing, tune and test them beforehand to get the levels right and of course, warm up your voice.
- Cables – to connect your instrument or mic to your amp and/or mixer, the most common cable is the jack instrument cable, if you’re using your phone, make sure you have an aux to aux cable on hand.
Online concert tips
Timing is crucial. It’s a good idea to carefully choose a date and time for your concert. Even though people may not be out and about as much, they’re still busy. Hosting a concert during the day isn’t a good idea, as people may be on conference calls or homeschool zooms.
Different platforms suggest different optimal times for posting and live streams, check with the platform you’re using to maximise viewers (but in my view, 9 pm on a Thursday, Friday or Saturday is when most people are seeking online entertainment). However, a global audience in different time zones may affect this, so you need to locate your prime audience especially if you have an international line up.
You also need to think about the duration of your concert. This will partly depend on how many acts you have, but two hours should be the maximum and half an hour should be the minimum.
Will your concert be a one-off or a regular event? You need to think about this in advance, especially if you’re going to be purchasing equipment. But things may change depending on audience response.
You need to decide well in advance whether you want to plan a solo gig or a festival style line up with other artists which will require more planning.
If you decide to do a solo concert, it’s easier to go live on the night. But, if you’re curating other artists performances to showcase, then it may be a good idea to prerecord some of the elements to ensure smooth user experience.
It’s essential to rehearse and test the line-up and tech works properly, ensuring everyone is on the same page. You should decide how many tracks each artist is going to play before the concert, to make it run smoothly.
Opting for a festival style line up with other acts may encourage you to target similar artists of the same genre or you could mix it up. For instance, are you hosting a rock concert? Or is it going to be a mix of local bands and styles?
It can be a good idea to get someone to act as an MC or host for the festival. This could be a family member, a local DJ or even a celebrity. They can manage and coordinate the lineup (taking the pressure off you as an artist), deal with any questions, introduce the acts and open and close the show making it feel much more professional.
Perform live online
You might want to raise money for a charity or use your concert as a way to earn cash for the artists to keep the music scene alive. Money can be raised through virtual ticket sales, pledges or corporate sponsorship.
If you’re going to sell tickets, you can do this through Eventbrite or other platforms (i.e. StubHub), which also provide ticketing for free events which may be a good idea so you can keep track of how many viewers you’re expecting on the night, even if they’re not paying.
If you are raising money, you need to plan who’s earning what, and how the money will be moved around. Allocating someone ultimately responsible for finance and bookkeeping is a good idea.
Reaching out to local sponsors who want to support artists in their area is a good idea, but you need to make contact with them well in advance with the line-up and details ready to share. You could also approach venues whose audiences might like to see your concert, they may pay for the streaming rights to keep their mailing list engaged.
Marketing live events
You may think marketing is less important for an online event as you don’t need to get people to turn up to a venue. But actually, it’s harder and more important than ever.
You should treat the event as though it’s a real festival. With a catchy name, a logo and a vibe to create a brand image which people will buy into. Remember, a festival is a much about the experience as it is the music. So, you want people to feel engaged and as though they’re part of the event.
Use friends, family, fans and local businesses to create a buzz. Contact everyone you know and ensure that all performers spread the word across their networks. This needs to be done at least a week before the event to maximise ticket sales and/or views.
Social media for promoting your event
Social media is fantastic for promoting virtual events. Facebook has an invite section which creates a virtual event invitation that you can send to all your friends, who can then register their interest. If you want to spend a little bit of cash on the promo side of things, Instagram is a good place as you can promote your story or post to a wider audience and get traction for the concert.
Snippets of artists on TikTok using the name and logo of the event is another useful platform. Even the more formal socials like LinkedIn and Twitter can be a great vehicle, especially if you get a hashtag trending.
You should use all social media platforms and word of mouth to create a buzz around your event. Remember your audience is global if you want it to be.
Even after the lockdown, social distancing might mean festivals are going to change. No matter what happens, online events or hybrid real/virtual festivals will become the norm moving forward.
Have you hosted an online music event? Leave a link in the comments and we’ll check it out.