The truth about live streaming music on Facebook Live

Most musicians can keep live-streaming on Facebook

Musicians, artists, bands, please read:

There is so much misinformation and so many misleading headlines about Facebook’s change to “listening experiences” happening on October 1st, so I wanted to help clarify.

In short: If you’re doing a concert from your living room and singing your own songs, you have very little to worry about. Keep going live!

Below, I’ll provide some clarity on what to do, and what to avoid, in your live streams.

What’s the difference between a “listening experience” and a normal live-streamed concert on Facebook?

I’ve been asked many times about the Facebook Terms of Service and how it specifically calls out “listening experiences” as something Facebook will now block or remove. Lots of artists assume “listening experience” is synonymous with live streams. NO!

These policies have actually been in place since 2018, but what Facebook is trying to do is clarify what they mean by a “listening experience.” Basically, Facebook does not want users turning the platform into Spotify or YouTube Music, where you open it up and push play, and then go about your business. They want content where people are actively engaged, watching, commenting, and sharing.

Avoid copyrighted sound recordings in your Facebook Live videos

Facebook clearly states that they don’t want you taking copyrighted material like music OR podcasts and using them to create a “listening experience.” That means if you want to be a playlist curator, go to Spotify; this platform is not for you. If you want to be a podcast curator, this platform is not for you.

Again, Facebook is not a platform you have running in the background to listen to stuff while you work or clean the house. That’s a “listening experience” according to Facebook.

An artist’s livestream concert is NOT a “listening experience” (according to Facebook), it’s an interactive social event.

If you want to make content people enjoy and engage with on platform (like your livestream to your fans), Facebook is a great spot to do it! If you’re a DJ who uses sound recordings owned by other artists or labels, Facebook might NOT be the platform for you.

Here are some examples of things you can NOT do on Facebook Live:

  1. You cannot post an art-track video of your song (album art image with music playing).
  2. You cannot post a video with a static image and the music playing (like a peaceful nature image with music). It’s the same concept as an art-track, but worth clarifying. So, your video MUST have visual motion like your official music video. However…
  3. You cannot string multiple music videos together (even if they have motion) to create a playlist type experience.
  4. You cannot start a Facebook livestream and just stream your music through it like it’s Spotify.

Here are some things you SHOULD do while performing on Facebook Live:

  1. MOVE! For real. We’ve heard of (rare) instances where performers who are almost motionless during the livestream (like a DJ who is barely moving his head) have had videos muted because Facebook begins to see it as a “listening experience” rather than an interactive social experience. So if you’re strumming your guitar in the corner of a room, rock out a little more, move around, be active.
  2. Talk to your audience between songs. The longer your broadcast goes without interactive content, the more apt it is to be seen as a “listening experience.” So don’t just run through an hour of your songs without speaking to your viewers. In fact, try to include at least 30 seconds of banter after every song.
  3. Ask questions. Prompt your viewers to respond, request songs, or tell you about their lives. This is a great way to ensure your livestream is a social event, not a passive experience.

Facebook Live is not intended to be a tool for passive listening.

It’s a social platform and they want to keep it social.

This does NOT impact you going live to play music to your fans. Facebook has been launching new tools (like Facebook Stars) to make the experience of live-streaming concerts even more beneficial to artists (your fans can tip you during a live stream). They’ve also made some great improvements to the comment section during a live stream that make it more fun and interactive for your fans/viewers.

What about copyrighted content on Facebook Live?

With all that said, Facebook’s copyright system doesn’t work the same way as YouTube’s Content ID system, and that’s where more confusion has been happening when artists discuss Facebook’s rules. If you have a livestream and you use recorded music you don’t have rights to, your stream may get pulled from Facebook.

This can impact DJs who are often using samples and recordings that they don’t have clearance to use. This can happen on YouTube as well, but their systems are very different, and many artists are assuming what works on YouTube will work on Facebook — and that’s just false.

There’s no perfect solution.

Like most platforms, Facebook has to strike a balance between protecting copyrights while also making their livestream function fun, social, and accessible. And they have to strike that balance at scale.

With so much live music content being created on their platform, Facebook isn’t necessarily sending a human employee over to your livestream to determine if it’s a social or passive event. They have automated tools — including sonic-fingerprinting and melody detection — to assess whether you’re playing copyrighted material. Then they’re measuring the percentage of that material against the total duration of your broadcast, plus factoring in engagement metrics to see if viewers are interacting with you in a social manner.

Add to that mix the different ways copyright owners enforce their rights, and you could wind up with some videos being muted. Most rights owners are happy to have you cover their songs and monetize that usage via their agreement with Facebook. A few rights holders prefer that content be blocked or muted. It’s inconsistent. There’s no solution that’s going to be 100% predictable if your live streams bump up against any of the guidelines.

So just go live. Again, these aren’t new guidelines anyway; so whatever has been working for you in the past should keep working for you still.

I hope that helps. If you’re experiencing something different, I’d love to hear about it in the comments.