When we started Left of the Dial Live, none of us had any experience producing video content. We did a lot of research, made a lot of mistakes, and at almost 10 sessions in we’re still learning something new every time. Here are some things we wish we knew before we started.
1. Audio Quality Is Everything
Ok, technically this is something we already knew. I am an audio engineer, after all. That said, I feel this is important enough that I wanted to put it first on the list. If you’re going to live stream music performances, you need to have good audio quality. Good doesn’t have to be expensive, but the built-in mic on your camera won’t cut it. It also doesn’t hurt to have some basic room treatment. Anything is better than nothing, in this case.
2. Lighting Is Also Everything
If I could go back and re-do one thing, it would be to invest in better lighting from the beginning. Some of our earlier sessions are pretty rough looking. The best camera in the world won’t save you if you don’t have good lighting. Again, good lighting doesn’t have to be expensive, but the overhead lights in your ceiling or the lamp in the corner just aren’t up to the task. Invest in a couple of studio lights, and make sure they’re flicker-free for video. Bonus points if you can adjust the color temperature.
3. Camera Movement Is Your Friend
You should have at least one camera being operated by an actual human, moving around the space, and getting different shots. A static camera on a tripod gets pretty boring to look at very quickly. While it’s a good idea to always have a “safe” shot of a camera on a tripod that you can fall back on if you need it, moving hand-held shots are always going to look more interesting. Just try to keep the movements slow, steady, and smooth. You don’t want to give your audience motion sickness.
4. It’s Really, REALLY Hard to Get People to Show Up for a Free Live Stream
I can’t stress this enough. I would strongly encourage you to have other avenues of getting your sessions out there. For example, we put the edited versions of our sessions up on YouTube, and sell the MP3s on Bandcamp. For us, the live stream isn’t really the point; it’s just an added bonus. The real value is having the sessions available after the fact for continued viewing.
5. Get the Artists Involved in Promoting the Session
Unless you already have an established group of followers, you won’t get anywhere promoting the sessions on your own. Use the artists’ existing audiences to your advantage. Make it very easy for the artist to share and promote the session. Make graphics for them. Write copy for them that they can copy/paste (or better yet re-write in their own voice). Most importantly, check in with them every few days leading up to the release of the session to make sure they have everything they need to promote as much as they can!