From Facebook Live and Twitch to apps like YouNow and Live.ly, livestreaming video is a burgeoning medium for individual creators and media brands alike.
And music? A panel at Music Ally’s Sandbox Summit conference in London today explored some of the potential that live video has for music marketing.
The panel included Stef Pascual, head of digital at Crown Talent & Media; Wil Benton, co-founder and CEO at Chew; Athena Witter, production director at The Box Plus Network; and Jason Fletcher, director of marketing, EMEA at Twitch. The chair was Music Ally’s Eamonn Forde.
“It’s about community, and making all the fans feel like they belong,” said Pascual. “By default, you need to make all announcements live streams now, because of the engagement that you get… Any announcement, new album, new single, you need to make a live stream from it, because of the engagement you’re going to get. And it’s so useful to reach audiences you wouldn’t reach any other way.”
She added that this can work for the smallest labels and artists. Benton agreed from the perspective (outside Chew) of running a small dance label with 20,000 fans on Facebook: even just hosting a live stream from a bedroom can drum up a decent audience “with no sweat”.
Fletcher talked about Twitch’s perspective. “We have creators who are awesome making music. We have 8-Bit Drummer playing drums based on music from old Commodore 64 games. The content can be varied, it doesn’t have to be the biggest band. Yes we’ve done Kasabian, and some of the biggest festivals. But it doesn’t have to be the biggest band: it just needs the community supporting it.”
Witter talked about The Box Plus Network’s experience with “audiences wanting to get closer to the artists” – so live streams other than just performances, but more around their daily lives. “Facebook is one of the best places to really get connected to that artist,” she said.
Does it cost a lot to use live video for music marketing? “A lot of our DJs are broadcasting with a laptop from bedroom studios,” said Benton. “It’s giving the audience the ability to engage when they want to. As long as the content is authentic and engaging, it doesn’t matter how it’s produced.”
Witter said that this is true for emerging artists, although when working with bigger brands, quality becomes more of an issue. Fletcher agreed: “It doesn’t have to be high quality to get the viewers.”
Is there money here? “If you’re dealing with big enough audiences, there are always ways to monetise it,” said Benton. “It’ll be a combination of revenue routes: advertising, brand partnerships… It’s all and everything. It’s still a bit of a Wild West in some senses, but yes, there’s money to be made.”
Pascual talked about a project with a festival, where brands are visible on-stage rather than interrupting the broadcast. “I don’t think that just putting ads every two minutes of the live stream would work. That would be shit!” she said.
The conversation turned to Facebook: is it a friendly platform for livestreaming? “It’s kinda sad the way they seem to work with new features: they’ll push it and make sure everyone works with it, then they’ll start charging you,” said Benton. Figuring out how to make money AND share those revenues with creators seems to come later, he added.
“It’s going to give you a massive audience opportunity… but it’s down to the individual brand-owners to figure out how to commercialise that,” said Witter.
She talked about the challenges of longevity: keeping live streams archived online after the initial broadcast. For emerging artists, The Box Plus Network keeps some live performances online for up to a year, but she said that there may be more restrictions with bigger artists.
More advice; “Don’t be afraid to fuck it up!” said Benton. “Things will go wrong. Just embrace it. The audience will respond better to it if you just acknowledge that things have gone wrong, accept it and move on.”
Witter: “Always have a second stream so that you can switch!” Pascual agreed that contingency plans are vital for any live stream, whether it be backup equipment or a plan for what happens if the Wi-Fi fails.
“At one of the last live streams all of the production equipment died for about 90 minutes during the headliner’s set, including the internet,” said Benton. “We just had to wait for it to sort itself out, and turn it off and on again about four times… But it’s just a case of ‘it’s gone wrong, oops’, as long as you keep communicating with the audience.”
What is success for a live stream? “For us it’s generally audience engagement, and the way we track that is average watch times,” said Benton. A good average watch-time being more than an hour. “I’d have said 25 minutes max!” said Witter. “When you’re creating content for live video streaming, I wouldn’t necessarily make it longer than an hour anyway, unless you’re at a live gig.”
Twitch’s key metric is minutes watched, with Fletcher saying its average is also about an hour.
Will virtual reality be a big factor in future live streams? Witter said it’s an interesting technology “but is not quite where it needs to be from a consumer perspective… you have to sit there with glasses, and who’s going to do that at home?” But she said that for artists, the ability to do interesting things with multiple angles in broadcasts could be fun.
“It’s coming, but you’re two to three years away from it being A Thing,” said Benton, who recommended TheWaveVR as one startup worth watching. “That’s the closest I’ve seen to awesome livestreamed 3D AR/VR content, but it’s a way off consumer adoption yet.”
What are tips to keep people watching a live stream? Twitch brings in influencers who are interested in a music artist then creates an event around them: “If bands are interested in gaming that’s a bonus, as there’s a link to the platform. And they can interact live with the fans: take questions from the audience using the chat features. As long as the audience is engaged through that chat, you can keep them on there for about an hour or so.”
Witter talked about The Box Plus Network’s “two-week countdown” strategy to promote live streams in advance: “It’s not just ‘let’s spring something up’. You have to do a marketing campaign to get eyeballs,” she warned.