Best Live Streaming Platforms for Musicians in 2020 (YouTube, Twitch, Facebook, Instagram)

Introduction

In the past few years, social media live streaming has become one of the most highly utilized forms of mass communication. Between 2017 and 2018 viewing hours rose 65% and its projected industry worth for 2021 is approximately $70.5 billion. News broadcasts, sporting events, and other live programs have long dominated television, but it has come time for the internet to reign as the true leader of entertainment once again. As a relatively new platform for communication there is still a lot to be learned about live streaming, especially in the music business.

As a musician, there is nothing better than getting up on stage and hearing the roar of the crowd as you perform their favorite song. Even if there are only 10 people in the crowd, stage adrenaline is a euphoric feeling. Live streaming can give you a similar feeling from the comfort of your home, a nearby park, or anywhere else you decide to set up shop. There are a variety of popular live streaming platforms that can assist you in your larger music marketing strategy and each has their own pros and cons. This article will provide you with the advantages and disadvantages of the top 4 streaming platforms for musicians in 2020 as well as provide you some tips on how to use each platform effectively.

YouTube

YouTube has become a virtual epicenter of entertainment over the past 15 years. From witty comedy to hollywood quality music videos, YouTube quickly became one of the most well known websites on earth after its launch in 2005. YouTube has maintained its relevancy over the years and has always been at the forefront of digital trends. This still rings true and with the introduction of live streaming to YouTube in 2011, they were among the first to allow their creators to broadcast their content live for free. As a musician, YouTube is a great place to start if you want a simple live streaming experience, but it is definitely not the perfect live streaming platform.

Pros

In order for YouTube to remain as one of the most popular social media platforms in the world it must continue offering top tier services for its viewers and creators. Its live streaming platform is one of the most intuitive out of the bunch making it extremely easy for you to go live directly from your channel. Similar to uploading a video, all you need is a title and description. To increase your ability to pull in more viewers it is also recommended that you add a custom thumbnail. Along with its ease, YouTube live streaming is available on all devices. Your audience can view your live stream from their cell phone, laptop, or smart TV giving you the ability to reach a wider audience. There is also potential for monetization on YouTube giving you the opportunity to make money off of your live streams. You do need a substantial following before this can happen, but it is always something to work toward.

Cons

YouTube is a bit behind the pack when it comes to live stream quality. Depending on the device you’re using and your internet speed the video and sound quality of YouTube live streams still isn’t where it should be. Especially as a musician, the sound and video quality of your live stream is extremely important in engaging an audience. In today’s digital age everyone expects the highest quality content and many may leave your stream frustrated if the quality is not what they expected. As well as the quality issues, YouTube is also one of the hardest platforms to gain a following on. In order for your live streams to attract any attention you must already have a somewhat substantial following. You can promote your stream across your other social channels, which is incredible, but if you’re looking to capture some new listeners, YouTube is not the live streaming platform for you. The amount of clutter on the YouTube Live homepage is plentiful and YouTube’s algorithm will almost always only feature streams with thousands of viewers making your chance of landing on the front page virtually impossible.

Twitch

Starting off in 2006 as Justin.tv, Twitch became one of the first live streaming and broadcasting websites ever. Twitch began as an offshoot of Justin.tv solely for video gaming content, but in 2014 the two re-merged and became a dominating live streaming force on the internet. Twitch’s high streamer to viewer engagement makes it a great platform for musicians as you can chat instantly with your viewers through the live chat room attached directly next to your video, but even as the most popular live streaming platform it has its downfalls.

Pros

Similar to YouTube, Twitch is an extremely versatile live streaming platform. It can be viewed on a variety of devices including smart TVs, video game systems, computers, and smartphones. In comparing it to YouTube’s algorithm, Twitch does great job at allowing someone new to the platform to be discovered. Newer streamers have a greater chance of being unearthed giving you, the creator, the ability to reach new audiences and gain new followers much easier. The music scene on Twitch is growing exponentially as well making this the perfect time to start. The quality of Twitch live streams is also much more stable than YouTube. Even if you are simply recording on your laptop’s built in webcam, the sound and video quality sustains relatively well across average internet speeds. You can also become a paid partner on Twitch once you have some followers and your followers can directly donate money to your stream even if you’re not a partner.

Cons

Twitch is seen by many as the optimal live streaming platform. It allows you to put out quality content and interact immediately and easily with your audience. The downfall here isn’t based on the specs or the quality of the streams, this time it’s the audience that is attracted to the website that brings it down slightly for musicians. As mentioned previously, Twitch was founded as a video game streaming platform and it still predominantly features gamers much more substantially than it features musicians or lifestyle creators. As with any internet service you have to be aware of the trolls lurking, but the trolls on Twitch are especially brutal. This could be because of the video game subculture, but you definitely need to have thick skin to brush off some of the comments that might be made during your stream. Other than the keyboard warriors, the platform is a great place for musicians and can really kick start your ability to be found by a wider audience.

Facebook

As one of the first official social media platforms, Facebook has gained a massive audience since its inception in 2004. Over 3 billion people use Facebook and its subsidiaries every month making it one of the most utilized social platforms in the world. Almost every business and brand has their own Facebook page proving its worth in the world of marketing. In 2015, Facebook also rolled out their live streaming service allowing anyone on the platform to broadcast to their friends and followers. Facebook was a bit behind, but it still has its advantages for musicians looking to better market themselves.

Pros

Since Facebook is one of the first social media platforms most people sign up for, your potential audience is massive. Not only can you live stream directly to all of your friends, you can also live stream to people browsing the live section of Facebook’s “Watch” page. This feature also works across both desktop and mobile versions of the site increasing your potential reach. Facebook also, like YouTube, allows you to save your broadcasts to view later. This gives you the potential to repurpose your live stream content across a variety of different platforms plus it gives you the ability to share your stream again to your followers who may have missed it.

Cons

As mentioned before Facebook is one of the oldest social media platforms. This does not negatively impact the amount of users that visit the platform, but it does have an affect on the demographic of users on site. As more and more middle-aged adults have been joining Facebook the homepage algorithm began to shift. The major diversity in age and the amount of people on the platform makes it tough for you as a musician to break through the clutter of the Facebook Timeline. Younger audiences have also been straying away from Facebook and moving toward more modern social media platforms like Instagram, Twitter, Twitch, and TikTok giving you a lesser likelihood of maintaining a strong live viewership. Facebook is a great platform to use for the promotion of your live stream, but it may not be the best if you haven’t already built a substantial audience.

Instagram

Instagram has become one of the most widely used social media platforms in the world over the past couple of years. About 60% of users visit the app at least once daily with an average usage time of about one hour per day. It is one of the most engaging social platforms giving you the opportunity to interact with your favorite musicians, celebrities, and influencers directly. Instagram live has become one of the most utilized platforms as well during the COVID-19 crisis as it allows the streamer to have a conversation directly with their followers with little to no interruption. Of course, as with the other 3 platforms, Instagram also has its downfalls.

Pros

As mentioned, Instagram is one of the most engaging social networks in 2020. Its live streaming platform maintains that reputation as well allowing you to interact with your viewers immediately. Similar to Twitch, there is a live chat directly below your video allowing your audience to both interact with you and the other members of your community. This creates a larger feel of authenticity, giving your audience a more direct relationship to you throughout the stream. In addition to its authenticity, Instagram does a great job at promoting live streams to your followers. Once you go live, your broadcast is pushed to the front of the Instagram story queue and each of your followers is notified that you have gone live.

Cons

On the other hand, Instagram live also has some weaknesses. First, it only allows you to save the video immediately after you’ve finished your stream. If you’re in a rush and you accidentally end the stream without saving the video, you lose that content forever. Also after the stream, the comments, engagements, and number of viewers you received disappear as well. This makes it hard to analyze if your stream did well or if you need to change some things for next time. Second, Instagram live is solely available on the mobile version of the app decreasing your potential audience reach. This also makes it so you are forced to record your live stream on your phone. Luckily, most phones have better quality cameras than actual cameras, but if you are working on a budget you may not have the ability to stream on the highest quality device.

Conclusion

In conclusion, and as mentioned numerous times throughout this article, each live streaming platform has its own opportunities and obstacles. As a musician in 2020 it’s important to try each and every live streaming platform out and see which is the best live streaming platform for you. If you have a smartphone and a laptop with a webcam you could even stream on multiple platforms at once doubling your potential reach immediately. It’s also important that you learn something new from each live stream you broadcast. Treat them as their own live concerts in front of a real crowd and eventually you’ll be broadcasting to the masses.

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