Pros and Cons of 6 Live Streaming Apps for Musicians

I have been doing a fair amount of live streaming over the last two years and have learned a huge amount. I have not had experience with all the live streaming sites that are useful for musicians (heaven knows there are simply not enough hours in the day). Notably missing are sites such as Concert Window, Stage It, KrueTV and many others that I am either not aware of or have not tried. However, here are some pros and cons on the sites I have had experience with: Streetjelly, Periscope, YouNow, Facebook Live, Busker and FriendLife.

1. Streetjelly.com

This is a family oriented site. It is mainly the “more mature” musicians (like me) who come on there to connect with fans, have a good time and hopefully earn a few bob doing it. Viewers buy “tokens” which they use to tip artists that they enjoy watching. I have been streaming on average once a week (Sundays at 13:00 Central) for the last two years and have accumulated over $800 dollars in tips, which has paid for some, but not all, of my MAS (Microphone Acquisition Syndrome), GAS (Guitar Acquisition Syndrome) and SAS (Speaker Acquisition Syndrome).

Streetjelly is a lot of fun. It is a forgiving environment in which you can get your feet wet in live streaming. The downside is that you need to broadcast from a computer. You will need at least a USB microphone and a reasonable quality webcam. If you are going to play with backtracks it becomes more complicated and you probably need a mixer and a USB interface. (See my blog post on broadcasting on Streetjelly). 
 
 On this site, it is probably a good idea to have a prepared set list that is practiced and ready to go. Viewers don’t usually stick around to watch somebody trying to get the lead right to “Stairway to Heaven”. It is also advisable to schedule your shows, advertise them and/or broadcast at a regular time. 
 
On Streetjelly, you can experience a level of saturation because the audience is quite small so you are likely to have the same fans turn up each time you are online. Personally I have found once a week for an hour is plenty for Streetjelly.

2. Periscope

This is a great live streaming environment if you are looking to grow your fan base very quickly. There are thousands upon thousands of people roaming the peri-world looking for some entertainment. I think that the people that used to watch soap operas are now watching Periscope. I heard that there are 25 million active users on this app. Right now there are approximately 2,383 people doing live talk shows and 56 musicians noodling around.

If you are going to try Periscope you will have to take a BIG breath and put on your big girl panties. It is a tough environment because of something called “TROLLS”. These are people, probably pimply faced teenagers, who have nothing better to do than troll from scope to scope and type in rude comments just to put you off your stride. If you are at all shy, you will be put off by trolls. I was once told I looked like somebody’s father and then told that maybe I looked more like his brother! That was before I learned to block people at the slightest sign of rudeness. I have plus/minus 600 people following me on Periscope but have blocked 146 others. Do not take anything these twits say personally. They are not even watching what you are doing. They are simply trying to upset you. 
 
Another disadvantage of Periscope is that you cannot earn tips directly from viewers. I know people who put a Paypal.me link in their bios and probably do quite well out of that. 
 
The advantage of Periscope is that you can reach a huge amount of people with relatively little effort. You just need a smart phone and a tripod (nobody likes looking at a scope where all you can see is the contents of the performer’s nose) and you are good to go. You can scope one song or you can noodle around for hours. Just switch it on and go (and remember to block the trolls). 
 
Personally I don’t think you can scope too much because there are just so many thousands of people online at any one time. I have seen people that scope 10 to 20 times a day. Generally the people that scope more often and for longer periods have more followers. You also don’t have to vary your performance. I have seen people doing very well, thank you, with the same set of songs every hour on the hour for weeks on end. 
 
I see a lot of people scoping their gigs. One girl even puts her phone in her handbag while she scopes her gig. My feeling is that people don’t really like this very much and probably won’t keep turning up, no matter how entertaining the gig. Viewers like to be noticed by the performer and have the performer respond directly to their comments and questions. People who do well sit directly in front of the camera and engage directly with the viewers. 
 
3. YouNow

This is a very interesting live streaming environment and I can’t work out if I like it or if I don’t. The viewer and performer demographic is mainly 18 to 25 year olds. The performers that do well are usually successful YouTubers who have turned to live streaming. You can stream from your phone (with unpredictable results) or you can stream from your desktop using your USB mic or mixer and a good quality webcam.

Unfortunately the criteria for doing well on YouNow seems to be the length of time you stream for. This is not good for me, as a busy mother and without time on my side. One guy, “The Cashier”, has found fame during his normal working day as a cashier in a convenience store by turning on his smart phone and trading jokes with viewers while he rings up his real life customer’s purchases. He can comfortably stream for 12 hours a day (data package withstanding). 
 
YouNow has a ranking system for streamers under categories such as “Musicians” “Singing” “Bored” and “Talk”. If you stay on long enough and people give you enough “likes” and “rewards” you can work your way up to number one in “musicians” and even to “tending” and then suddenly you have 2,000 people watching you (it has happened to me twice, more by fluke than skill, I think) and suddenly your all fingers become thumbs. 
 
The nice thing about YouNow is that all these youngsters are so polite. I have not had one rude comment while performing on YouNow. Another thing is that they love the old stuff. I keep getting requests for “Country Roads” and “Jolene”. Maybe the old music is making a come back. You can also noodle to your heart’s content. You can chat, use backtracks, use karaoke, play acoustically, sing a capella, whatever floats your boat. JUST DON’T KILL YOUR STREAM WHILE YOU GO TO THE LOO!

4. Facebook Live

I love Facebook Live. The main reason I like it is because my peeps hang out on Facebook so that is the best place to connect with them. I also like that it does not take up much time. I have found streams of one song do well. Having live streams on my fan page also compliments my other Facebook strategies quite nicely.

I use Facebook live more like a video recording application than a live streaming application. This is because the video recording of your live stream stays active on your Facebook page forever and a day or until you decide to delete it. You can use it in exactly the same ways as you can any of your other Facebook posts. In other words, you can promote it using Facebook ads, you can share it with any groups you may be active on, you can edit the text on it and you can put links to websites or ticket purchasing sites. You can even have a call to action for viewers to do something (like purchase tickets to one of your shows) when they have finished watching the video. 
 
I believe Facebook is giving video a huge push. I think they want to dethrone YouTube. They are giving a disproportionate amount of reach to video (especially live video). 
 
A word of advice; when you start your stream you should immediately start talking, welcoming your viewers and then playing your song(s), even if nobody is watching. This is because the majority of your views will come after your stream has ended. On my latest live stream I had exactly 1 live viewer but over 2,200 users have viewed the replay.

5. Busker

This is a new smart phone app that has come about because Periscopers are sick of not being tipped. Viewers can purchase tips using their credit cards or Paypal and can tip their favourite artists in increments of one to five dollars.

It is very similar to Periscope but without the number of users. Right now (at 11 am) there are exactly zero people streaming. However, IF you already have a huge following on Periscope and/or Twitter and/or Facebook you can bring them over to Busker, get them to tip you there and you can probably do very well. 
 
Since I do not have a huge following on any of these platforms, I only had a hand-full of viewers each time I streamed on Busker. This platform will have to up their game in terms of getting users interested if they are to have longevity. Another disadvantage of this app is that it is only available on IOS.

6. FriendLife

I recently had an email from a “talent scout” who said that they had noticed me on social media and was wandering if I would be interested in a live streaming site where I would be paid to stream. I immediately saw dollar signs and said “Yes, can we talk?” I even had a Skype call with the “CEO” (or someone). I was setup on the site as a celebrity with the highest payout level possible. I immediately started getting people following me and sending me private messages. It may have had something to do with the fact that they thought I was a celebrity. 
 
The idea behind this site is that people who stream a lot and have a lot of viewers will get paid “per viewer hour”. I am not too sure who pays but anyway. They also have a competition every day where the winner with the most viewer hours can get a sweet $50. This is nice because you are getting paid without having to rely on getting viewers to tip you. 
 
The main problem with the site is that most of the live streamers are pretty young things that may or may not take off their clothes (which, by the way, is expressly forbidden). 
 
I have not written off FriendLife yet as the people who have watched my streams have all been extremely polite, have requested good old songs like “Country Roads” and “Jolene” and nobody has asked me to take off my clothes.

So that’s my take on these 6 live streaming sites for musicians. If anybody has any comments or experiences with any other sites, I would love to hear them.