20 things we’ve learned about Music Live Streaming

Phil Hutcheon
May 28 · 6 min read
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Tokimonsta at DIgital Mirage

In the past few weeks I’ve been asked what it’s like working with live streams (particularly paid ones). Getting your event in front of the right fans amidst the current Live Stream clutter is as important as ever.

DICE is lucky to have insights from thousands of online events since we launched DICE TV and from our years of experience in the pre-COVID world of live events. So I started a list and hope it’s helpful. Email tv@dice.fm if you need anything ;)

1. Have a strong reason / theme

There was a short time when “going live” was enough for an online show. That time has passed, fans are bored and craving a real show. The best selling events have a strong concept or support a specific release/campaign. What’s working = an acoustic or alternative live version of an album, an album launch party, an album anniversary event, a listening party with the artist, a live performance in a beautiful venue (that can help that venue pay its rent) and a proper Q&A with fans that can turn into a podcast.

2. Make it memorable

Think about something you’ve always wanted to do. This is the time for creativity, so how can you adapt the medium of video to represent yourself or your artists? That doesn’t mean spending a fortune. Genuine intimacy or a unique performance is the most impactful. Laura Marling’s show at Union Chapel is an example of this.

3. Take advantage of being intimate

10,000 people might be watching you, but it should come across as if you’re performing to one fan. And if you’re doing it well, it absolutely will.

4. Discovery is more important than ever.

There are over 20,000 music livestreams a week and some are magical, but a lot are bad. Fans need to be able to find your show amongst this noise and trust that it’s going to be worthy of their time. That means targeting fans who would enjoy your event outside your core fans. Over 50% of our live stream ticket sales come from our recommendation algorithms, which is up from 34% for IRL events pre-COVID.

5. Paid live streams are more impactful than free

Last week was the first time that paid live streams were more popular than free ones on DICE, a trend that we’d seen was building over the last few weeks. As with IRL shows, “free” often devalues the event. While audience numbers will be smaller with a paid live stream, fans are highly engaged and committed to watching the entire event. Over 90% of Lewis Capaldi’s viewers watched the stream from start to finish.

6. Building anticipation is critical

One fan waiting for Lewis Capaldi’s exclusive DICE live stream tweeted “I’m on edge — kinda nice to feel that concert ticket pressure again.”

The tradition of announcing a show, registering demand, setting an on-sale time and getting fans excited to grab tickets is still magical.

7. Interaction is important

Chatting with your friends, meeting new friends and being able to ask an artist a question is mind-blowing for fans. It replaces those few words you exchange with your friend between tracks, those “this is my favourite song” moments.

8. Connection and community is paramount

To create a sense of a night out, while being stuck in, you need to connect with your fans — and they need to connect with each other. Fans meeting other fans while watching the show happens even more frequently than at IRL shows. 38% of fans on DICE invite a friend to watch the stream with them and this is increasing every week.

9. Be in the moment to keep the “I was there” magic

It sounds counter-intuitive, but don’t keep the stream up after the show (there are rights issues on this as well). Fans are taking a lot of selfies with the stream in the background, just like they would at a real concert. It’s this magic of “I was there” that can only happen if people really are there. If a fan misses a show — that’s OK. Build up demand for the next one.

10. Remember the second screen

The most common question from fans on DICE is “Can I watch this on my computer or TV?” The answer is yes, because watching a performance on your phone isn’t that much fun after a few minutes and fans need their phone for other things. On TV, fans are much more likely to stay for the entire performance.

11. Price the show correctly — more is better

Artists tend to under price their event. If you have something compelling, you’ve rehearsed it and it’s memorable then it’s OK to charge accordingly. The most successful events on DICE are over £10/$10. Fans know the money is going directly to the artist (and potentially item 12) and that’s important to them.

12. Best price formula is paid stream + part donation

The most successful financial model on DICE is a paid stream where fans can donate. Isn’t that nice to hear? Fans want to support artists and the causes they care about.

If you are planning to support a cause, then be specific — help a venue, record store or a smaller charity you have a personal connection with, and explain that to fans.

13. Think about support acts

It’s tough for up and coming artists to get noticed in the live stream world, but an established act can help by being a curator. This creates additional value for the stream and it’s so easy to put multi-artist shows together on DICE.

14. Quality video and audio is what fans care about most

If you have a bad camera, no microphone and a poor internet connection, forget it. If a fan is paying for your stream, then invest in the equipment.

15. You will have a global impact if you put in the work

You’re no longer limited by geography, going from city to city to reach your fans — lots of streams on DICE have fans from over 100 different countries. Think about how you target both current and new fans in this new, borderless world. DICE has expanded from six countries to 131 countries literally overnight. This is an opportunity to get your show in front of all of them.

16. Timezones matter

The best fan experience are restricted by time zones. Multiple sets or reloops for multiple time zones is the equivalent of a tour for live streaming. Otherwise, you’re discounting a huge part of your potential audience. Laura Marling doing time-zone specific concerts has been a huge success.

17. Design limited edition merchandise for the event

Creating limited edition merch around the event builds on the sense of occasion and replicates part of the gig going experience that fans love. Again, fans want to support artists they love. Lewis Capaldi’s 750 t-shirts went instantly and Rough Trade’s vinyl is a huge hit.

18. Keep doing them on a regular basis

In the olden days when you went on tour, you didn’t just play one show. Keep your fans entertained and think of new concepts and ideas. If fans are complain about you not playing their favourite song during the set, then you know what you’re playing next time. DICE automatically notifies fans when you announce the next show.

19. Remember to think long term.

Live shows — in real life shows — will happen again. When they do, you’ll be able to instantly tell all of your fans in those cities who watched the live streams. You’ve given them an insight to how you prepare, why a song sounds as it does and everything else that connects people. That show in real life is going to be greater than ever before.

20. Combine data with intuition

You’re a creator, you instinctively know what works. Combining that with data will help drive those instincts even more. Just remember to be data-informed, not data-driven as unpredictability — especially in creativity — is what makes humans human.Unpredictability in creativity is an important human trait.

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