When Matt Jorgensen’s gig was canceled in mid-March, the Seattle-based jazz drummer, along with the Jose “Juicy” Gonzales Trio, decided to hold a Facebook Live concert. Jorgensen says that during the first song of the set he felt weird, playing into the abyss. Then he checked his notifications: the comments were overflowing, and perhaps more importantly, so was the virtual tip jar.

Drummer Matt Jorgensen setting up for the Jose “Juicy” Gonzales Trio’s live stream.

“After the fact, I would look online and we’d have 60, 70, 100 people simultaneously watching,” says Jorgensen, who also co-owns Origin Records and teaches music technology at Bellevue College. “But then at the end, it had turned into 1,800 people over the course of two hours. By the next day, that number had doubled. The contributions people had made were more than we normally would have made on that gig.”

On the other side of the US in Nashville, TN, singer/songwriter Jill Andrews released her new album. When the coronavirus pandemic forced her to reschedule her concerts to celebrate the new album, she decided to do something special for her fans and livestream all of her albums from front to back each night leading up to the release.

Jill Andrews performing her new album live.

“Technology is mostly not my friend,” she says. “I’m very old school with so many things, so it took a little adjusting, but it was absolutely what needed to happen. It was really awesome to have the encouragement and support of my fans to see their comments and answer their questions. It was a very uplifting experience.”

What has become clear to Jorgensen, Andrews, and an increasing number of musicians who are jumping on the live stream concert bandwagon, is that right now, people are looking for connection, not a buttoned-up concert experience. If you’re looking to optimize your live stream concerts, here are some tips and best practices:

1. Figure out the Technology in Advance

You don’t want to be figuring it out live and risk losing your viewers. Make sure your device is charged or plugged in and that you have a good wifi connection in the room where you are streaming. Whether you choose a phone, tablet, or computer, ensure it is propped up properly (you may want to invest in a tripod) and that you can see the comments coming in. It’s important that you’re able to read and respond to some of the comments in real time. 

“Right now, the barrier of entry is so low,” says Jorgensen. “You literally need a phone and Facebook and you can do it.” 

2. Monetize Your Performance

Pick a platform that makes it easy for people to contribute, like Venmo or PayPal. Some artists set a suggested donation and some ask people to contribute to their virtual tip jar. Whichever platform you choose, it’s good to keep in mind that right now some people are in a position to give a little, some people a lot more, and some none at all. Lately artists have had success using Stageit to sell virtual concert tickets. The website has increased artist payouts from 67 percent to 80 percent

“I would just urge other musicians not to let anyone tell you that what you’re doing isn’t worth money,” says Andrews. “Because that’s what the world’s been telling us for so long.”

3. Promote

Let your fans know that you’ll be going live by posting about it on your social channels leading up to your stream. Include an image that has important details like time, which social platform/s you’ll be streaming on, and information about your virtual tip jar. If you’re not a designer, Canva.com is a free program with helpful templates. On Facebook, you can also create an event or post in fan groups that may be interested. Additionally, you can utilize your email list.

4. Consider Time Zones

The beauty of live streaming is you have potential to reach fans around the world. Take a look at your social media and Spotify analytics to see where your fans are located: That way you can determine a time that works for the most people. If your fanbase spans the globe, consider having a special live performance for your fans in one corner of the world. You can even pretend you’re doing a “world tour,” segmented by time zones. Whatever time you choose to stream, it will be available for people to watch and interact with afterward.

“If you’re an artist and you go out of your way to specifically say, ‘People in Paris, we’re doing this show for you,’” says Jorgensen. “If you’re on the receiving end of that gratitude, imagine when you go and play Paris eight months from now.” 

5. Engage with Your Viewers

Not only is it a great way to build that connection with your fans, but it’s also a great way to get immediate feedback, like if you’re loud enough. As Jorgensen says, it’s a little weird to feel like you’re talking into a void, but be sure to keep the dialogue flowing before you start your set, between songs, and when you’re done. Some artists even do a Q&A before or after the stream. 

As you’re signing off, thank everyone for tuning in, let them know when you’ll be streaming again, and remind them about your virtual tip jar. After the stream ends, go back and respond to as many comments as you can. Your fans will appreciate it and on Facebook, posting new comments helps your video pop up on people’s feeds again. 

6. Be Authentic

If you go live and your dog is barking in the background, or your child runs into your arms, or your performance space isn’t ideal, it’s okay. Again, people are looking to connect with other people right now. These instances give people a window into your life and help them get to know you better. Just embrace the real moments and know your audience will likely appreciate them. 

“The biggest thing is to just be yourself,” says Andrews. “That’s one thing that I tend to be pretty good at. I’m not perfect. Nothing about what I do is perfect. It was just fully me.”

7. Be a Good Viewer in Return

It feels great to be on the receiving end of a successful live stream concert, so be sure to extend the same streaming etiquette to others. A “like” and “thank you” go a long way. A share goes even further!

“If you can give some money, that’s great,” says Jorgensen. “If you can’t, give it a thumbs up or give it a ‘like’ or write a nice comment or share it onto your timeline to give it a little bit more exposure.”

Check out Matt Jorgensen’s Guide to Live Streaming and Best Practices. Jill Andrews’ album Thirties is available now. Thanks to Berklee Online’s Social Media and Marketing Manager Brooke Larson for contributing to this list of tips.