The live — online — concert experience: creating the right vibe

Gigee-livingroom

[This article was written by guest contributor James Wasem from Gigee.me]

Have you ever played a gig in a great venue, but the lighting was just bad (too bright, too dim, bad color, etc…)? What about playing on that “sorry excuse for a stage” in the far corner of a room and your audience had a hard time getting close or hearing well?

I think we’ve all had more than our fair share of depressing show experiences, as performers and fans.

But there are the awesome ones too!

Remember that show at the amphitheater where the sunset rested on the horizon just right, and that golden hour glow seemed to enhance every note? And how great did it feel to play that cozy room with the dim lighting and just the right accents to make the audience feel like you were right there in the middle of them?

Setting your stage, lighting, sound, and backdrop are critical elements for delivering that unique experience of your live performance for your audience.  And it shouldn’t be a one-size-fits-all approach.  You have your own style and way of relating to your fans.  The visual ambiance of your show should reflect that, just like your music and performance does.

The viewing vibe

Doing your own live online concert can truly provide a unique experience for you and your fans.  And your fans can watch from wherever they are.

But lets face it, just like the gigs we considered above, you can deliver a bad viewing experience, or you can deliver a truly remarkable online concert experience.

The quality and vibe of a live-streamed gig can range from really spectacular to downright terrible. As the technical director at Gigee.ME I’ve seen plenty of both, and lots of in-between.

We had one event last December that was a benefit show for a homeless shelter.  This event happened to be a “simulcast” of a concert in a small theatre. The lighting was really great, the stage was set up nicely, and the room felt warm and cozy – and that was the experience for the local audience as well as the live online audience. Several people tuned in from different states and countries. And there was great interaction between the performers on stage and the audience online.

But, we also had a really poor event that someone did a while back.  The artist quickly set up a webcam and microphone on his coffee table for an intimate “living room session” of new material he’d been working on. The sound was great. And the songs were great. But wow, the backdrop was not even a consideration here. The audience was able to see into part of the kitchen, there were papers and clothing lying around the living room, and the lighting wasn’t exactly doing the room or the performer any justice. There was even a moment when the musician left to get a drink of water and was still on camera when he put his head under the kitchen faucet. Classy!

As they say in real estate, it’s all about “location, location, location.” Include the live performance element at that location, and you need to add “backdrop, lighting, sound” to that list. For a live online event, these factors are just as important to consider as the quality of the music you’ve practiced so diligently. You’re audience will thank you for it.

So lets talk about how to be creative with your location and backdrop

Hosting a live online concert opens up a whole world of possibilities where you can “set the stage” and provide a unique viewing experience for your fans. All you need is a good internet connection, and the rest is up to your creativity.

Picture doing a concert around your backyard campfire.

Or maybe you want to take your viewers to that place on the beach where you found the inspiration for your last album.

Perhaps you’re feeling nostalgic and want to re-live those “first practice pad” days and show your old and new fans where it all started.

Again, as long as you have a good internet connection, you can be wherever you want! I’ve even been part of events broadcast from a street corner with a laptop and a 4G cellular internet connection. Though I always recommend a hardwired network connection, we have had great success with fast cellular connections, and that technology has become more available and reliable. This opens up a great opportunity for you to take your audience on a truly unique journey.

Set it up

So, now that you’ve picked your special location and set your unique stage, it’s time to address lighting, sound, and your camera positioning – this one is important.

Lighting and sound – you’ve probably done this a hundred times (or more). It really isn’t much different than a normal gig.

The one important consideration with your sound is to make sure the microphone or mixing console feed is connected to your computer and that there isn’t any distortion or clipping as the signal passes through your computer. You may need monitors if you’re performing with more than one or two people or if there is a local audience. Just make sure to do a thorough soundcheck for both the local and the online systems.

Your camera placement and lighting considerations really go hand-in-hand.  You want to make sure that the camera provides a great view for your online audience. If you are working with just one camera, make sure it is at a height allowing a level view with the performers on stage. A viewing angle “looking” up or down on someone can make a big difference in perception and how the viewer feels about the event ambiance.  You generally want to create that close-up, intimate experience. Make sure your lighting is set for the mood you want to create. You may want to experiment with different light placement, colors, backdrops, and stage props to bring out the visual aesthetic you’re looking to achieve.

Again, all of this really isn’t much different than what you’d do for a normal live, local event; you’re just adding a camera to the mix. Make sure it looks good on camera, as that is the only view your online audience has.

If there is one thing I can say about creating a great experience for the viewers of your online concert it is: take your time to get the visual scene right and do a soundcheck!

Pick that unique location, make the event special, interact with your fans, and you will provide a unique and impacting online concert experience.

Oh, and check out how live online ticketed concerts may fit in with the other 14 new ways to make money from your music in 2014 featured this month on the DIY Musician blog!

Gigee-Band

James Wasem is an audio/video engineer and drummer, as well as a co-founder and technical director at Gigee.me.  Gigee provides an easy-to-use online platform where artists can broadcast their own live ticketed events, and make 80% of all ticket sales.  Learn more at www.Gigee.ME.

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