For those looking to take their music to the world of live streaming, there are a lot of questions to be answered regarding your set-up. We recently sat down with Vintage King Audio Consultant Jeff Ehrenberg to talk about the tools and software that will help ensure that your performance is high quality and meets the standards viewers have come to expect.
Obviously there are a lot of tools to use to stream and connect with others (Facebook Live, IGTV, Zoom, and more). In your opinion, what is the best overall and why?
What I see a lot of my customers doing is setting themselves up with application managers that can help them stream to multiple platforms at once, tools like OBS Studio or Wirecast, where you can have one stream feeding Youtube, Instagram Live, Twitch, and the other platforms. You can cover a lot of bases that way since you never know what platform someone is using when you go to launch your streams.
Streams make for a harder challenge to capture the feel and emotion of live music. What can artists do to make their performances more immersive?
This is where Vintage King’s expertise really comes into play. Having the front end of the audio production being its best is key. It really starts with the instruments, everything needs to be tuned. Next comes the signal chain, you need to use the best microphones and mic pres for the specific application and your budget. The way our customers have benefited most from working with the Vintage King staff is really by us helping them get the most out of their recording chain; the right instruments, the right mics, the right mic pres. Getting the best sounding performance is what will really give you an advantage.
With that being said, a lot of the practices an artist would be doing to capture a great live stream performance are the same as the things we’d advise for great recordings or a live show. Being well-rehearsed and do a soundcheck beforehand. These are the fundamentals of good musicianship and are key for a great live performance. That goes for live streaming just like it would in a concert situation.
A lot of people have noticed the lack of quality in live streams, making it harder to capture a great performance. What advice do you have for artists wanting to capture their music at its best?
The artists have the benefit of monitoring locally in the studio or location they’re filming from. So whether they’re using headphones or in-ear monitors, it’s going to sound just as good to them as if they were getting a quality monitor mix at a live show or a nice headphone mix in the studio. The goal is to give them the best experience using good headphones or monitors, and taking the time to ensure that the artist has a confident, inspired performance.
The artist shouldn’t worry at the time about their stream and its resolution. They should just know that what they’re doing sounds great in the headphones and that they have the masters of the performance, so it can always be remixed and repurposed down the road, but what’s happening at the location is sounding as good as it can.
There are a lot of brands that create specific gear for high-quality live streams. Digigram has several tools to stream high-quality web radio like the IQOYA Talk and IQOYA X/LINK-ST. They stream at a higher quality resolution, similar to that of Spotify. There are other options like the Tascam VS-R264 and VS-R265 that combine video and audio, and have professional options for streaming audio over the internet. So, it always starts with the front end and the quality of the performance.
So realistically, what kind of gear does an artist need to make their live stream worth listening to?
Again, it starts with the instruments. You want quality instruments that are in tune, drums dampened, and set up the way you want, and then comes the performance. With the front end quality that Vintage King is known for, we're able to get you the most bang for your buck with our many low latency options like the Universal Audio Apollo X, Avid Pro Tools HDX, or a live sound digital console that will process in real-time. That part hasn’t changed too much for this particular application. If it's audio-only, the Digigram boxes are excellent, if you're thinking audio and video, the Tascam VS-R264 and VS-R265 boxes are great. Even the IK iRig Stream is pretty good, IK’s stuff is always a good value proposition.
Do you find that using pro audio equipment to enhance live stream quality can be cost-effective for artists?
Something I learned when I first got into audio production and that I tell my clients now is that when you make a good gear investment, it’s timeless. It’ll last forever. You can hand it down to your kids. Most of what musicians need to live stream, they also need to record or to play a live gig with. So you don’t need much more than what you’d already get for a home studio.
I often remind people of this, you’re better off buying one nice quality piece of gear than several that you’ll outgrow. The investment you make in quality gear can end up covering a lot of bases. Maybe a mic that you’re buying for your live streams will end up being part of your recording vocal chain for years to come. That’s where working with a Vintage King Audio Consultant can really help people get the most out of this investment. We can help you get equipment that covers a lot of bases and that will last your entire career. That’s what we try to do, we try to help people spend their money like it’s our own.
Okay, so other than gear, what basic steps can musicians take to improve the quality of their live streams?
Well, paying attention to the visual aspects of it is helpful too. Treating it like a performance or video production, where you’re thinking about the set, lighting, and color. Spend some time on those aspects. Sometimes in the audio world, we tend to go heavy on the audio focus since it’s what we know best. That said, getting good lighting for the camera and having good visuals is also going to grab people as they see your streams on social media, so paying attention to the visuals is important.
Do you have any other insight for artists in this current climate?
There certainly could be a benefit here for artists trying to build their fanbase and post reach to create business accounts for their social media. Under a business account, there are very affordable ways to advertise on social media and reach your audience. For just $10 or $20, artists can cost-effectively reach bigger audiences that way. Since we can’t play concerts right now, take the gas money you’d use to drive the band van to a gig, and repurpose that money into boosting your posts and advertising your music.