[This post was written by guest contributor Nicholas Andrew Depew from the band Relevant Discord.]
Like many independent musicians with limited resources and big dreams, I have wondered for years – “How can I take a live show to the masses?” To better frame this question, I need to back the story up a little.
The difficulties of playing in-person performances
Relevant Discord is more or less a one-man modern rock band. I (Nick) write all the material, record most of the music pieces, handle all the marketing and publicity, and of course – pay all the bills. When live performance opportunities arose, I often struggled with several factors:
* Not being able to find reliable musicians.
* Eventually finding reliable musicians only to learn that they’re not available at the same time as the event.
* Working with a new team and having to re-teach the material almost every time.
* Budgeting to have merchandise ready (not knowing what will sell and what costs I’ll have to absorb).
* Covering most of the costs associated with travel, food, marketing, performance payment, etc.
When all was said and done, almost every live performance opportunity was seen with a degree of trepidation – specifically, the thought: “I know this is exposure for what I love doing, but how much am I going to lose on this one?”
Let’s fast forward a little bit. In the last year, I had the incredible opportunity to record two singles professionally with the studio team that introduced the world to the bands Tool and System of a Down. Being able to record at that level was more than a dream come true. It also brought attention to my work that a couple years prior seemed impossible. However, that attention also raised its share of challenges. One of those larger challenges encapsulated the initial question above – now that there are people paying attention to my work from around the world, “how do I take a live show to an international audience?” Enter Stageit!
What is Stageit?
Stageit is a video streaming platform designed with musicians like myself in mind. As Stageit puts it, they are “an online concert venue where performers can broadcast live, interactive experiences from a laptop, while offering unique fan experiences.” How that works for the musician is – you create a free artist account, watch a brief “how to” video about their platform, schedule a time that you want to webcast a show, set a number of virtual tickets you want to make available for it, set a fee for those tickets, and you’re set! When it’s about time for your show, grab the laptop (or webcam), log into your account, check your audio/visual levels, then go live to your audience.
From the performer side of things, you can read and respond to fan comments live as they come in. There is also a virtual tip jar where fans can leave gratuities during performances. You (and the fan) can see who the top five tippers are for each show. As a performer, you will receive about 60% of all ticket sale and tip revenues generated. Stageit keeps the remaining 40% for its fee. While this may sound highto some, compare that with the percentage that many artists receive from a brick and mortar venue performance. You are usually coming out much further ahead with Stageit. The other benefit is that you didn’t have all those extra overhead costs. Additionally, unlike other streaming sites, Stageit’s portion of the income goes toward performance licensing fees – meaning, you can legally cover as many songs from other artists as you like. Stageit (being the virtual venue) covers all the PRO details for you.
For the fan or viewer, Stageit gives you the opportunity to see and directly interact with the performer of your choosing in an intimate setting. The showmanship and facades of an in-person performance is typically set aside to reveal the real personality of the artist of your choosing. To watch a show, you are required to purchase a ticket. Tickets are priced in terms of notes. One note is the equivalent of 10 cents USD. Stageit does have a minimum purchase of $5.00 per transaction. This will give you an allotment of 50 notes that can be applied toward any show broadcast through their site. Many musicians (including some better known names) will often price their show’s tickets as “Pay what you can,” meaning – if you are really hurting financially, you can pay as little as one of your 50 credits to watch said show. At that rate, you can watch a total of 50 similar shows for your $5.00. Oftentimes, these same shows will carry a suggested donation price. Nevertheless, the ultimate payment choice is up to you. You also have the option to tip your credits as the show progresses, should you enjoy the performance and/or desire to support the artist.
Like any social media outlet, you need to be both professional and be yourself, while offering fans engaging content. You also need to be adaptive to the situation at hand. Being a one-man rock band, I can’t really offer viewers a full rock show. However, what I’ve done is to offer acoustic performances of many of my songs. With a style reminiscent of Nirvana’s “Unplugged” session, I set up an initial wave of five show dates that I called “The Unplugged Discord Online Tour”. Since I have friends and fans in cities around the world, I decided to dedicate each show to those specific regions (even though I was broadcasting each locally). The first five cities were: Victoria, BC, Vancouver, BC, Seattle, WA, Portland, OR, and San Francisco, CA. Each webcast simply featured me singing and playing my acoustic guitar, debuting and testing new material, responding to comments, and giving viewers the backstories for many of my songs. To keep things fun and make it personal for those cities, I decorated the room from which I played with something specific to each city. For example: for the Canadian shows, I had a large Canadian flag hanging in the background. For Seattle, I placed a small evergreen plant in the foreground and covered a couple grunge classics in addition to my own songs.
So, is there a drawback to Stageit?
While Stageit is an incredible tool, there are a few things to consider before jumping in head first:
* The $5.00 minimum transaction fee, unfortunately, does scare off a number of potential viewers. Sorry, but this is just a sad reality of the times in which we live.
* Don’t oversaturate your audience. Playing shows this way too frequently seems to lose your audience. While it was great playing five shows in a week and a half without leaving home, I noticed a drop off in audience numbers as things progressed. Too frequent can translate to less unique.
* Many people have a hard time understanding the concept of a virtual tour. No matter how many times I’ve tried to explain how brilliant this platform is, many people just gave me a puzzled look.
* The online experience will never replace that in-person, live thrill and excitement for some people. Though oftentimes more accessible, you’ve become less tangible.
* Stageit will not pay out until you have generated at least $25 worth of revenues at your 60% rate.
* As a performer, you can set up free sound-checks for five guests to watch and comment on prior to any show. Utilizing this feature prior to any major show is crucial to work out any technical glitches.
* Know from the start that unless you have a decent microphone set-up, your audio quality is likely to be mediocre. The viewer is also likely to see some lag time between audio and video.
* If you do charge a set ticket fee, don’t overprice your show. Your show is not recorded for later viewing. If a fan buys a ticket and forgets to watch or has technical issues, they do not get a refund. Ticket holders are only refunded if you (the performer) do not go live within 15 minutes of your scheduled show time. For these reasons, I suggest pricing shows as “pay what you can”. If a fan pays a lower rate and misses a show, they are less likely to feel cheated should they miss the show or something goes wrong. However, during the show (and also in your promotion efforts leading up to it) offer incentives for tips. For example: play requests for tips or give the highest tipper an autographed CD.
* Stageit shows are often the height of informal, but that is exactly what makes them great. They are real!
I would start at $5.00 and try things out – first as a fan, then as a performer. You’re welcome to join me for any of my upcoming shows at: www.stageit.com/relevantdiscord. However, I’m not the only one out there doing this. Feel free to go to www.stageit.com and pick any show that sounds like fun to you.
All the best! – Nick Depew