Author: Adam Schumaker

Artist Financial Profile: loadbang

An instrumental ensemble of 4 Caucasian men
A discussion with Executive Director Andy Kozar

In 2007, four friends at Manhattan School of Music—Andrew Kozar, Jeffery Gavett, Philip Everall*, and William Lang—were spending significant amounts of time together talking about new music at school, and also at the bar. Realizing they could be performing new music with each other instead of just talking, they began rehearsals for what would become a concert series in an abandoned library at MSM called “Will and Andy’s Power Concerts.” These concerts were only 20-minutes long and, “just like a power nap,” they were all you needed to freshen up your day. Since these friends represented trumpet, baritone voice, clarinet, and trombone, repertoire was lacking. Their first concert program included performances of an Earl Brown graphic notation score, a few barbershop quartets (yes, they sung them), and a piece Jeff wrote for the group.

Fast forward 12 years and these four friends had become loadbang, a “formidable new music force” in the new music scene. I had the pleasure of speaking with their executive director and trumpet player, Andy Kozar, over the phone. Andy was gracious enough to tell me more about how the ensemble started, the history of their finances, a bit about their individual lifestyles, and the ins and outs of how loadbang operates as an integral piece of each members’ musical and financial activity. If you are looking to start an ensemble, I hope this article will offer you a sample working model for best practices.

Non-profit financials

Before we dig into loadbang’s financials, it’s important to note that the financials of any nonprofit are accessible to the public. Every non-profit is required to annually file a Form 990 and many can be accessed through Guidestar.org. The IRS website states:

Forms 990 and 990-EZ are used by tax-exempt organizations, nonexempt charitable trusts, and section 527 political organizations to provide the IRS with the information required by section 6033.

and continues with:

Some members of the public rely on Form 990 or Form 990-EZ as their primary or sole source of information about a particular organization. How the public perceives an organization in such cases can be determined by information presented on its return.

In short, a 990 does not always provide a clear picture, but the form can give the overall details of the financial health of an organization, primary activities and how much was spent on them, the names of the board of directors, and the compensation of the highest-paid officials in the organization. For the real tax nerds wondering what section 6033 is, here you go.

Before I called Andy, I pulled loadbang’s most recent 990 filed in 2018, from the 2017/2018 concert season (their fiscal year runs July to the end of June).

Andy Kozar

Andy Kozar

Revenue

With all the success that loadbang has achieved, some may be surprised that this ensemble is only a portion of each of the members’ incomes. This is why many musicians belong to several performing groups, in addition to their own freelance and teaching or composing work. Looking at the Form 990, the 2018 revenue amounted to $66,319.94 for the season. Expenses totaled $68,958.12, resulting in an organizational deficit of ($2,638.18) for the year. The revenue alone is not enough for any one of the loadbang members to comfortably live in New York City, yet loadbang is a very well managed organization and has set a great trajectory.

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Their 990 reveals that $47,233.33 of the revenue is from “program service revenue.” Essentially this is ticket sales and artist fees, making up 71% of the gross revenue. The other 29% is from “contributions, gifts, and grants” and “gross profit (or loss) from sales of inventory”. This information reveals that loadbang is funded primarily through performance activity. Andy mentioned that loadbang had 38 performances during the 2017/2018 concert season.

The other significant part of loadbang’s revenue is in the “contributions, gifts, grants, and similar amounts received.” This amount adds up to $18,750, approximately 28% of the organization’s total revenue. This money was most likely from received grants for concert and recording projects from organizations listed in the support section of their website. For those who noticed, the missing 1%, or $337, was profit from CD sales.

Talking with Andy, over the years that loadbang has been an ensemble, revenue has grown every year through increases in activity, and the ensemble developed a simple way to put money back into the business: since there are four members, loadbang divides the revenue—after deducting travel expenses—into five parts: a piece for each member to sustain their living, with the fifth part going back into the organization. They did this from the very beginning, allowing their nonprofit to grow the money they need to develop projects and offset occasional deficits like they saw in 2018. Even nonprofits have to put money back into the business to maximize potential and fund their own growth.

Expenses

Some readers may be wondering, “If they had an overall deficit in 2018, how did they make any money?” The members of loadbang paid themselves first. This is represented in line 13 of the 990 “Professional fees and other payments to independent contractors” of $50,047.15. A couple things to unpack here: this amount was probably not just paid to the quartet, as there could be other composers, sound engineers, and artists at large who are part of the loadbang economic activity. The other thing to note is that loadbang has decided to pay themselves as independent contractors, which is a non-employee status that allows organizations to pay performers and other contractual employees without paying payroll taxes or being responsible for their contractors’ owed income taxes. This is the most common way for musicians, composers, and other creatives to be paid. It is also reflective of the way the members and collaborators of loadbang make their other incomes—through gigging.

Other expenses listed on the 990 are printing, publication, postage, shipping ($987), occupancy—rent for concert space rental for self-produced concerts ($1,683), and “other expenses” of $16,000 that ends up being “travel expenses” as outlined by Schedule O. All of these expenses result in a deficit for the year of $2,638. Because loadbang reliably allocates funds as part of its annual budget to build the organization, a net loss for the 2018 year is not a big deal.

I asked Andy about recordings, because everyone wonders: do you make any money from the CD sales?

His response:

No, not at all. It’s a huge money pit. We don’t look at the records as a money-making thing. They are kind of the business card—you show people what you can do at the highest level—and it sets loadbang apart from new music organizations because all of the rep exists only for us. We have a responsibility to record the pieces. As long as the record is good, it can raise our profile in interesting ways.

Loadbang’s discography is impressive. With 12 albums to their name, they are cementing their impact on new music into history, while simultaneously making it easy for booking agents and institutions to hear examples of their programming. So like many arts projects, the CDs aim to pay for themselves but aren’t necessarily an important part of their profit creation, though Andy did say they occasionally get small royalty checks.

Lifestyle

With any talk about income, lifestyle discussions are often omitted but are very important to understand the nature of the business and how that plays out in the day-to-day existence of a performer. Andy was very candid during our discussions about lifestyle and was willing to share a bit about his own life, his other places of work, and the general performing activity of the other loadbang members. The intention of loadbang was never to go full time, as the loadbang members enjoy the variety of activities they participate in across different groups or solo performing, teaching, composing, and general freelancing. As Andy said about his work with loadbang, “It’s a piece of the puzzle—at this point I like all of the pieces of my puzzle… they all bring different benefits”

Andy is both the executive director of loadbang and their trumpet player. Looking at page two of their Form 990, it looks like Andy makes a little bit more than his ensemble members due to his leadership position, but he is not pulling a sizeable income from that activity. Andy also teaches at Longy School of Music at Bard College, in Cambridge, Boston. There, he is the chair of the Winds and Brass Department, co-director of Ensemble Uncaged, and the co-director of the Divergent Studio at Longy. Andy also freelances regularly in New York City, and composes and records quite often. To throw another complication into the mix, Andy’s wife, Corrine, is a tenure-track professor of voice at Susquehanna University in Pennsylvania. They have a townhome in Pennsylvania, but he spends part of the week in Boston and New York City. His schedule for a “normal” week looks like this:

Sunday-Tuesday:       Longy School of Music, Boston
Tuesday-Saturday:     Go back to NYC or Pennsylvania, or back and forth

But normal weeks are actually not the norm. Andy explains, “Normal is usually getting on a plane and going somewhere. Somehow it feels that’s impossible to be normal.” For now, the thriving music careers of Andy and his wife work well. They have to spend regular time coordinating schedules so they can be in the same places at the same time, but so far, their 2.5 years of marriage has been working out great.

For the rest of loadbang, the guys are more or less in New York City freelancing or on faculty at the Longy School of Music. I asked how they all ended up as faculty at Longy, and Andy told a quick story of how he started there four years ago and all of a sudden there were faculty openings for voice, clarinet, and trombone. His supervisor bounced the idea of the rest of loadbang coming on board, especially for their summer contemporary music program, Divergent Studio. It seemed to just work out from there!

So you want to start an ensemble?

Imagine you have a few friends who want to start a chamber group and have visions of becoming the next Kronos Quartet, Eight Blackbird, or Imani Winds. Although it is an excellent goal, be realistic about how an ensemble fits into your financial picture. Many ensembles start with nothing and have to put money back into their ensemble just to get it off the ground. Sometimes artistic fees barely cover travel and rehearsal costs, but you do the gig anyway to start to make a name for yourself (something you may do in your own career, but which can carry extra challenges in a group context). Realize that even the most successful ensembles are often just a piece of their founders’ incomes. As Andy put it:

I don’t mean to sound like a grumpy old man (I’m only 34), but sometimes there’s an expectation that comes from naiveté, that if you finish school and start a group and you’re doing cool things then you should be getting cool gigs….No one owes you anything—you don’t deserve a gig necessarily.

The best groups put the insane hours in following other ensembles, tracking down opportunities, and cold calling for the next gig. After speaking with Andy, I combined some of his sage advice into a shortlist of tips to get your ensemble going:

1. Play the gigs!

Don’t be too proud to take a gig. Gigs come from the hard work of networking, building relationships, and mimicking the groups you want to be like. If you can be willing to work, you will be more receptive to opportunities.

2. Send proposals out like your batting average relies on it.

It’s rare that someone will hand you a great gig. The more proposals you send out, the higher your chances of getting a contract. Your batting average increases. In our conversations, Andy said that 85-90% of the work loadbang gets is from reaching out to people and sending them proposals. The longer you do something in new music, the larger your network becomes. Only recently has loadbang seen an uptick in times they are approached to do a gig. For reference, early on, when loadbang would send out 100 proposals, they would only get seven to eight responses.

3. You may as well ask.

Even if you think a project or an idea is a long shot, it never hurts to ask—the worst someone can say is “no.” Early on loadbang thought it would be cool to get a commissioned piece from a skilled composer who they really loved, who just happened to be Charles Wuorinen. So they asked Wuorinen, thinking it would be a long shot. Apparently it wasn’t, and Wuorinen’s piece is featured on this CD.

4. Believe in your project.

Performers don’t start ensembles to become rich. They start groups out of passion and creative desire. This passion is also observed by your audience, collaborators, and funders, etc. As Andy put it:

If you’re really excited and believe in the project you’re doing, that reads. And if the product you have is good, you’re more likely to, over time, have some sort of modicum of success (however you define it)—it can be infectious.

Having passion from all members of your performing group so important. It communicates to your followers. It motivates you when keeping the ensemble going is a struggle. It keeps you honest about why you are pursuing the work.

5. Align your goals with your finances.

As an observer, I added this myself, after poring over my notes from my conversation with Andy. When anyone is seriously pursuing a project, they align their finances with their goals. Early on, loadbang put money back into the organization. This is the same for any small business. Sometimes you have to put more dollars in than you want to, but if you are serious about longevity and financial stability, it is important to organize your finances from the very beginning.

For performers and composers looking to start an ensemble, I hope this article was insightful. Do not forget that you have a plethora of amazing examples in the new music industry from which to draw knowledge. Success is not always left to the fates—you can steer your own ship in the direction of your choosing. Andrew Kozar also told me that you are welcome to reach out to him if our NewMusicBox readers have any questions, by emailing him at loadbang @ loadbangmusic.com.


*The bass clarinet position at loadbang has switched a few times, from Philip to Carlos Cordeiro, and since interviewing Andy, loadbang recently announced that Adrian Sandi is now on the roster.

Artist Financial Profile: Dr. Lisa Neher, Composer & Performer

Lisa Neher

Preface

Since my first Artist Financial Profile featuring Tony Manfredonia, I have been receiving some wonderful messages via Twitter and Facebook responding to the article. Many people seemed relieved and/or encouraged to see a case study of a specific musician’s income—a small chapter in an evolving theoretical Guide to Musician Finances. Some people also mentioned that they have been questioning their own rat-race struggle to achieve financial security in the arts and that the first article helped them start to consider next steps.

Whatever your takeaway, these articles are meant to be helpful. As an author and interviewer, I am trying to display the incomes of these fearless people without emotion or criticism, so that we may all simply look at how they have used money to live and as nothing more than the tool it is.

Let’s break down the taboo some more. Here is Dr. Lisa Neher:

Introductions

Lisa Neher is a composer and mezzo-soprano currently based out of Portland, Oregon. She received her DMA in vocal performance and pedagogy from the University of Iowa in 2016 and has been working as an adjunct professor of voice, a private voice teacher, a composer, a performer, and a composer-performer. Originally from South Seattle, Lisa moved to Iowa City for her DMA and then to Cedar Rapids to live with her partner, prior to her most recent move to Portland.

Lisa and I spoke over a slightly troubled Skype connection and probably raised more questions than we answered about the money taboo, positioning, realistically “making it,” adjunct teaching, and the ins and outs of working with your PRO. As a “continually emerging” composer myself, I think Lisa speaks for many of us when she wonders how feasible a life as a composer-performer really is.

Lisa, like my other interviewees, has agreed to share her finances with our NewMusicBox readers. We hope that this uncommon practice is informative and valuable to the new music community as we all navigate these mysterious seas together. When I asked her how she felt about sharing her finances, Lisa was honest with her reply:

It makes me feel nervous about having a conversation in an article…but also I’m mad about that nervousness…so I’m like, “Let’s talk about it. This is dumb. It’s hurting all of us.”

The Problems of Moving

For 2018, Lisa’s income as a composer/performer/teacher was affected by her move to a new city. The move was purposeful: Lisa wanted to be in a larger music scene for her own career advancement. Her partner was the first one to get a job that initiated the move. Being a freelancer, Lisa spoke about the difficulty in making connections in a new town, without prior contacts and established support systems. As a private voice teacher, it is almost impossible to build a studio of students from the ground up without being there. Some work was done in advance, like sending introductory emails to local high school and middle school conductors at the start of the school year, but it was easier to reconstruct her private student base by actually being in Portland. Lisa felt fortunate to be sharing fiscal responsibilities with her partner, which allowed her more transition time. She explains that she “would have handled the lead up to the move differently” if she had been on her own.

As a freelancer, much of Lisa’s work and income are built from personal connections and networking face-to-face. Maintaining the normal day-to-day hustle while moving home bases is ultimately problematic. Where do you find the time to network in your new city while you finish up your work in your old town? Moving in June left the summer pretty barren. Adjunct positions for the fall had been filled, and many people do not seek out private lessons until the school year starts up again. Once the fall came around, Lisa was able to start up her studio and get on the radar of professors at Lewis & Clark College to do some temporary adjuncting and subbing for music history courses.

Lisa’s Income

Lisa’s made about $25,560 in 2018 and it breaks down like this:

$12,200 Collegiate adjunct teaching (mostly private voice, some coursework) at three different colleges and universities

$6,500 Teaching private voice lessons (only $500 of that income total was earned in the fall)

$2,160 Composing income (which includes commissioning fees, plus about $120 in ASCAP royalties and $30 from the sale of a score)

$4,700 Performance income (as a mezzo-soprano soloist or ensemble member)

The median household income for Portland is $71,931. During our discussions, Lisa suggested that $60-70k a year is her personal income goal to live comfortably. Keep in mind that Portland, Oregon, is on the high end of the national average (the median income in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, is $54,465), and this income is household, which 50% of the time indicates two earners.

It is important to note that Lisa’s 2018 income could have looked much different if she had stayed in Cedar Rapids. Understanding that the bulk of her work was between January and June of 2018, with a bit of extrapolating, it is possible that Lisa’s yearly income could have been closer to $45k – $55k with the same sort of work. Moving to Portland mid-year drastically affected her teaching studio and her potential adjunct income. (She also notes that the adjunct teaching schedule in Iowa, though a great opportunity, was not sustainable for her well-being.)

This is a lesson for freelancers thinking of moving: consider the costs of starting over again. As Lisa expressed in her interview, if it were just her as a single person, she would have had to network in the new city (Portland) far more intensely and have secured an adjunct or arts administration job prior to the move to make moving fiscally possible.

Concerns of Sustainability

Lisa had a lot of concerns about the musician’s eternal hustle. Discussions in new music circles seem to focus on the abundance mindset, networking, creative productivity, and other entrepreneurial tactics. Thought leaders like Garrett Hope (Portfolio Composer), Jennifer Rosenfeld (iCadenza), Dale Trumbore, and Angela Myles Beeching paint an optimistic picture full of ways to advance one’s career. Sometimes this information can be overwhelming, and we start wondering how much one can do in a single day. Lisa is concerned about burn out and for good reason. Is this lifestyle sustainable? Can one meet their income goals without having to become famous, or without having to develop a high-end teaching system or coaching business? We want to believe it’s true, but the sheer amount of things one must do to succeed seems daunting, especially when stacked against actual income.

Freelancing as a composer and a vocalist also has its particular challenges. Lisa expressed a certain “fixed” cost for much of the work she does. Small to medium-sized choirs and ensembles that hire her as a performer only have so much wiggle room for negotiating her artist fee. When teaching private voice lessons, she can only flex rates so much depending on the going rate of the area. Many times, for gigs, she has to either accept the fee at the rate the organization offers it, or not take the gig. Lisa also found that her peers don’t like talking about those fees, maybe because they are lower than where they should be.

“With gig work, there seems to be a specialized kind of not talking about [money].”

ASCAP and Performance Royalties

For each of these financial profile articles, I am trying to find a small focus area within what are pretty natural conversations during the interviews. With Lisa, there was a lot of mystery surrounding performance royalties. As I have been writing this piece, Lisa started to get more sizeable royalty checks from her PRO. I felt that readers would benefit from learning about her experience with increased performances of her works and submitting performances to ASCAP.

As Lisa was discussing the mound of performance documentation she submits, and all of its tediousness, she was ultimately wondering if the work put into claiming performances was worth it. She speaks for us all when she says: “ASCAP royalties… I can’t predict what will get royalties and what won’t.” No matter which PRO organization we are personally affiliated with, I am sure many of us feel this way.

I myself recently submitted a ticket to ASCAP asking about how payouts worked, specifically for educational concerts, and what I learned was (quoting from the email I received): “Performances given under Educational licenses are credited or not credited according to a random sample by date used only in the Educational field. Only performances that take place on sample dates will be credited.“ Luckily, we were also able to get some clarification from ASCAP thanks to a phone call with Cia Toscanini, vice president of concert music. Here is a summary of our conversation about performance royalties for both education and professional concerts.

The email I received above is accurate. Concert programs from educational performances (at colleges, universities, schools, etc.) are collected from licensees and ASCAP members and compiled in a year-long survey. Then a sample survey is done of all concerts within a specific time range and performance royalties are paid out from those performances that fall within the sample. ASCAP samples October 1 through September 30; publisher royalties are paid out in the following March, and writer/composer royalties are paid out in April. In Lisa’s case, some of the publisher royalties were not paid because the performance was not claimed as a publisher. Don’t worry, she still has time to correct that. Toscanini stressed that everyone should register as both a writer and a publisher, and claim performances as both, to receive maximum benefit.

The census for professional concerts (non-educational) is different in that every performance is collected and paid, so long as they are claimed by an ASCAP member or submitted by a licensee and the licensee is up to date on their payments. ASCAP has primers for members that are basically an extremely thorough checklist for concert music performance claims. They can be found here. BMI offers similar resources.

Lisa was generous enough to share her ASCAP royalty activity, especially upon the good news that she received more this year. Here’s the breakdown, for those wondering how it might work out:

In 2018, I was paid $64.03 as a publisher and $64.03 as a composer = $128.08 for 1 performance of my large mixed chamber ensemble piece Twister by Durward Ensemble at Kirkwood Community College in August 2017.

Note that these payments came about three-quarters of a year later. Lisa also registered as a composer ($50 one time fee) and a publisher (another $50 one time fee), so that she received 100% of the royalties for her activity, instead of just 50%. For those wondering, Lisa only gave her publishing company a name for ASCAP (D.C. Al Platypus) and has not set up a truly separate business.

As I was writing this article, Lisa was excited to do even better this past year (2018) with her ASCAP royalties. She also was willing to share these figures:

I just got payment, in April of 2019, for two other 2017 performances, but this will go into tax year 2019 (which begs the question, what took them 18 months?)

October 2017, my marimba solo Icy Celestial Bodies was performed at Cedar Rock House in Quasqueton, Iowa; November 2017, Icy Celestial Bodies was performed at University of Northern Iowa in a faculty concert; November 2017, my marimba duo Thaw was performed at the Sacramento State Festival of New Music in California.

For these performances, I was paid $506 as a composer and $391.26 as a publisher. No idea why those numbers are different.

After speaking with Cia Toscanini, we figured out that a few things affected Lisa’s ASCAP income. First, some of the performances were not claimed as both a writer and a publisher. It is important to do both to receive 100% of the royalties. Delayed payment from the yearly schedule as previously described, usually comes from licensees not paying their fees on time, delaying the payout for the creators.

Lisa also claimed six other performances in 2017 with no royalty payouts. It is possible that these payments are still in the queue somewhere, waiting fee collection, or that they were not part of the sample survey. Only two of those were performed in an educational setting, unless the libraries and museums that were performance spaces were part of an educational institution.

ASCAP does have a messaging system built in to the member section of their website (as I am sure does BMI), and they will get back to you via email when you ask questions. It is worth asking, as performance royalties can be a great side income early on, and as your performances increase, have the potential to become a substantial part.

Continue the Discussion

If this article series speaks to you, I urge you to begin building your network of financial confidantes. Before you have to invoice someone, before you negotiate commissioning fees, before you set your rates, talk with your colleagues and mentors, if they are willing. Find like-minded individuals in similar situations and talk actual dollars. You may be surprised. You may find reassurance. Hopefully you will both be encouraged to protect your worth.

Financial knowledge and literacy doesn’t happen overnight. Tackle one thing at a time, when you can. I know my interview with Lisa has encouraged me to register with ASCAP as a publisher—I’m not sure why I was holding back! But I will save figuring out the royalty distribution formulas for another day.

Stay informed, and be an advocate for your artistic and financial worth. The next article in the series will feature the ensemble loadbang, to give us some financial insight into the nonprofit ensemble world. For all of those interested in freelance life with a performing ensemble, it should be a very interesting interview and a fun article!

Artist Financial Profile: Tony Manfredonia, Game Music and Orchestral Composer

A black-and-white photo of a man with a teal tie

Let’s Talk About Money, an Introduction

You can learn just about anything on the internet. For musicians, there’s a trend in talking about, teaching, and practicing entrepreneurship—an essential skill for anyone who wants to make a life in the arts. To clarify, entrepreneurship, in the artistic sense, has evolved to encompass everything from the hard and soft business skills needed to run your career to starting your own business.

People like Angela Myles Beeching, Mark Rabideau and 21CM, Garrett Hope, David Cutler, and Andrew Hitz realized that students and professionals needed tools and discussions centered around anything but practicing for the next audition. These resources are now great and many, but they all side-step one thing: the money.

  • How do we create and advocate for sustainable, liveable wages when we are confronted by the biggest taboo of the 20th century: talking about how much you make is rude.

    Adam Schumaker
  • Tony shows up to compose every day he can, regardless of the fact that composing currently holds the title of “secondary income.” However, his commitment to his long-term goal of being a full-time composer has paid out.

    Adam Schumaker

As musicians, how much are we making? How do we negotiate for more? How do we create and advocate for sustainable, liveable wages when we are confronted by the biggest taboo of the 20th century: talking about how much you make is rude.

At some point we need to know what is reasonable, what are the lows and highs in our region, and whether or not we can live off of it. If you avoid talking about the financials of being an artist, you do a disservice to anyone who wants to come up into the trade. Falling in line with the status quo leaves the younger generations of artists clueless, all the while perpetuating the position of power held by those who control the money. The taboo of money talk stems from a complicated history, but sits with corporations trying to get the best bang for their buck out of employees, so profits can soar and owners can become rich. Yes, it’s a dramatic generalization but let’s go with it so we can inspire change.

There is no one way to make a living in music. There really are too many paths to talk about. But knowledge is power, so I have recruited three amazing musicians and one ensemble who have generously agreed to openly discuss their finances and how they make it all work. This is not intended as an instruction manual but as a way for you to learn, compare, and set your own goals—and hopefully develop your own ways of finding financial success through your art with more perspective and clarity.

For this series of articles, I will interview Tony Manfredonia, game and orchestral composer; Lisa Neher, composer and mezzo-soprano performer; Loadbang, the new music ensemble; and Pamela Z, an electronic music composer and performer.

For this installment, meet Tony!

Tony Manfredonia Talks Money & Lifestyle

Tony is two years out of his bachelor’s program at Temple University, married with no kids (at the moment), living in Petoskey, Michigan, (despite hosting the Bayview Music Festival, it’s not generally a music mecca), has no plans to pursue a graduate degree, and is making a living primarily from being a church music director and a concert and game music composer. Tony and I had a wonderful talk via Skype, and it is highlights from that discussion that will be laid out here. Tony has also allowed me to share some personal financial data with you all, so let’s all take a moment to appreciate his openness and bravery.

Last year [2018] Tony made approximately $50,000 pre-tax. For Petoskey, Michigan, this is good! The median household income is $39,690. It’s also slightly above the average male wage for the Northwest Michigan region. But dear readers: although comparing numbers is helpful to know where one sits, it doesn’t define your experience. Tony’s wonderful wife, Maria, has been working through some medical problems and many of their “extra” resources have gone to appointments with specialists and a long list of medical expenses. Thankfully, with Tony’s income, and Maria’s work (when her health allows), they get by just fine and hope to start saving for a house once the medical bills lighten up.

Here’s the breakdown of Tony’s 2018 income. Again, thank you to Tony for sharing and breaking down the taboo:

$35,000 Music directing at a Catholic church, full-time (organ, choir, planning mass)
$13,600 Game, film score, and concert music commissions
$1,400+ Composition lessons, weddings, funerals (the numbers are still coming in)

It’s also helpful to have a general idea of what Tony’s workweek is like. It is interesting and inspiring to see how he maximizes his time blocks to do various things by focusing them together. However, he only has one day off a week.

Monday:          Compose 7 a.m.-3 p.m., Lessons approx. 3-5 p.m.
Tuesday:         Compose 5-7 a.m., Church music 8:30 a.m.-6 p.m.
Wednesday:    Repeat Tuesday
Thursday:        Composing all day
Friday:          DAY OFF – focused time with his wife Maria
Saturday:        Compose in the morning, Church (mass) in the evening
Sunday:          Church services all day

Tony hustles. Sometimes his days are long, and his “weekend” is only one day NOT on the weekend. In between all of this, he still finds time to work out and cook—two things that are very important to his and his family’s well being.

Tony's home studio setup

Tony’s home studio setup

What I also find to be inspiring is that Tony shows up to compose every day he can, regardless of the fact that composing currently holds the title of “secondary income.” However, his commitment to his long-term goal of being a full-time composer has paid out. From 2017 to 2018, his composing income has doubled. Also observe that Tony’s primary income is condensed into four days, leaving room for his craft and saving some commuting miles. His primary income also offers opportunities to increase his pay through extra wedding or funeral planning and performing. These types of situations are perfect for a music portfolio career.

Most all music careers require you to maintain a “gig mentality”: keeping your brain creatively thinking about and pursuing the next gig. It can be difficult to find the energy for this while working a full-time position, so for artists, it’s important to find work scenarios that allow a little freedom, flexibility, and autonomy. To keep the side income growing, it’s also important to be in a continuous state of networking.

Networking Strategies

These “composing” timeblocks that Tony adheres to are also peppered with very important tasks, including targeted networking. Since Tony lives in a more rural area, far from busy music scenes, he relies heavily on active networking and leveraging his contacts. During our conversation, he frequently spoke about keeping up with his contacts by scheduling time to respond to emails and keep discussions going with past and future collaborators. (Tony prefers to use Workflowy to keep his to-do list organized. I have found Google Keep to be another effective digital list-making tool.)

In my own interactions with Tony, I have always felt very comfortable communicating with him, whether it be via email, Twitter direct messages, or phone/Skype. One of the reasons I feel Tony is a strong communicator is his ability to take interest in others, and to have a great exchange. The conversation is never one-sided. Tony has taken the natural, positive approach to networking (vs. the infamous “schmoozing”) by being deeply interested in others first, and finding connection points second. This type of networking is easier on the psyche and can lead to easy collaborations. You also can realize quickly when your activities/styles/projects don’t align.

Through scheduling a to-do list of keeping up with contacts, Tony keeps himself in the forefront of his collaborators, and potential collaborators, minds. More importantly, Tony also constantly meets new members of various music communities which keeps his network fresh. This is why attending concerts and meeting people is high on Tony’s to-do list. He currently dispels the myth of the late-night composer by composing early in the day and leaving his evenings open for family, friends, and concerts. Tony makes sure to introduce himself to performers and conductors wherever he goes, keeping his ears open for potential collaborations, and following through to keep the conversations going.

At some magical point in the networking timeline, conversations turn into projects, and projects turn into viable income. But instead of an employer offering a salary up front, we composers and performers are asked to quote our rates. This causes anxiety for many, but the funny thing is, this practice is no different from any other service industry. However, most people don’t wonder why they are paying a plumber so much.

Self Worth & Fee Negotiation

Artist contracts, fees, and rates will likely always be something of a Wild West: a land full of no rules and shady propositions. But to be financially viable, everyone has to cross this territory. When speaking about fees, Tony said that he starts with the New Music USA rate calculator, but immediately noted that those rates are the ideal, and often the reality is lower. And this is the guiding principle: quote higher and negotiate to a reasonable fee.

We also spoke about the battle of having the lowest fees. To that, Tony said, “People try to grab gigs by lowering their rates” but continued with an alternative idea: “You’re going to find more gigs by raising your value.” This value isn’t about money grubbing; it’s about being an advocate for liveable wages and quoting the client your worth.

Your Worth is a culmination of what you need to live, and the time and money you have already invested into your craft and equipment. Many musicians spend 12 years studying an instrument, 4-8 more years in schooling for a degree in their craft, and countless hours practicing their craft – all for no pay. The investment is huge so you should always quote your worth to potential clients.

Tony’s approach to fees allows him to be more selective with the projects he takes on, without joining the rat race of fee lowering to get the next gig. This allows him to position himself as a serious professional, receive fees that allow him to create a liveable, and growing wage, and decide when he wants to take on a project for a friend, or for a value that is not in dollars.

To receive appropriately sized fees, it takes some negotiation skills and finesse. There’s no magic formula, but Tony has a few tips that keeps him happy with the fees he receives. 1.) Quote higher than you think, so you can be happy with a negotiated price; 2.) understand what your peers charge for like-projects, and; 3.) have a benchmark for what you want to make per hour for the project. My favorite thing that Tony said regarding fee negotiation:

There should be a part of you that feels a little uncomfortable…maybe it should feel uncomfortable because it helps you grow.

I asked Tony if he ever wrote commissioned pieces “for free.” He said he gives himself “1-2 projects a year.” He doesn’t take these pieces lightly. They are typically for friends/colleagues, fit his overall goals (concert music or game music), and have guaranteed performances, or in the case of a game, great distribution and publicity. These pieces also help Tony build his portfolio of work.

Let’s Talk More

Tony invests a lot in his self-worth—perceived and realized—and it shows with his increase in activity between 2017 and 2018. At the time of our interview, it appears that Tony is taking charge of his career path and finances through consistent networking, strategic acceptance of projects, and an already well developed and growing financial literacy.

The confidence to hold your rates at a standard, and negotiate as necessary, takes a certain comfortability with talking about money. Setting financial goals and seeing the paths to get there takes an honest awareness of your financial situation—how money comes in and how it goes out. Income generation is always important, but budgeting can help you gain control of the money flow early on. It is hard to do both of these things in a vacuum. Although society thinks talking about money is rude, being more open about our cash flows allows us to take ownership of our financial futures, see what’s ahead of us, and find ways to leverage the tool of money for our use. This is especially important for musicians in career paths that are complicated, non-linear, and have no consistent expectations.

For your financial success, here are a few tools to start budgeting:

For those who are more DIY, here’s a budget template of my own design, using Google Sheets, for personal or for business use: Make your own copy here.

You Need a Budget. Loved by many, this is an affordable budgeting software. At $83.99 a year, it’s cheaper than Netflix and pretty sophisticated.

Mint. A free app, this connects to your bank and cards and helps you track your expenses when they happen.

Personal Capital. Like Mint, but with investing options!

Live Streaming 104: Post Stream, Graphics, Licensing, and Live Streaming Through Collaboration

Live streaming is trending, feeding the algorithms, and connecting the world in new ways. If you are already putting forth the effort to create a musical production of any kind, adding another technical layer is very much worth it to share your music, create a community, and market your product. Plus, you will end up with excellent content for blogging, your portfolio, submitting to competitions, and consistent posting to your social media channels.

In my previous three posts, we covered the why, where, and how of successful live streaming. This final article is a sort of postlude, to discuss post-stream content benefits, to clarify some concerns about licensing, copyright, ownership, and agreements, and to encourage you to think beyond the scope of what you are able to do by yourself.

Post-Stream Benefits

There is a segment in Live Streaming 101 about post-stream benefits, but I think it is worth repeating. Once your stream is over, you will have an HD video (saved to your mobile device, camera, or computer) and synced audio. If you have an engineer helping you out, you can master and remix the live audio and re-sync to the video pretty easily at this point as well.

Once the video is polished, if possible, I recommend segmenting the concert by piece and creating a separate video for each piece. I recently did this with three of my short piano pieces from a February 2018 concert at Kalamazoo College, presented with Aepex Contemporary Performance. Instead of bulking them into one video, I cut them into three shorter videos. Here’s what they look like:

Glass Study One
Glass Study Two
Glass Study Three

By having shorter content, this gives me three opportunities to repost to Facebook and Twitter, three opportunities to tag and mention my many collaborators (Kalamazoo College, Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo, Aepex Contemporary Performance, Justin Snyder), and listenable examples of my music. I could even make a YouTube playlist of all three, and add to it if I make more videos in the future.

If we quickly dissect the social media impact of three videos, with four partners we can tag, we get 24 sharing points (three videos tagging four pages three times on two social media platforms) which will only be multiplied by the algorithms of social media and the shares made by your friends. These videos can also be featured on your website, and—as mentioned before—emailed to your subscribers. Segmenting videos and delaying the release also allows you to be consistent with your social media presence—taking a singular event and spreading the content out over many months.

There are many ways to spice up your live stream in post-production and they usually include graphics. You can do anything, but the standard for concerts seems to be 1.) a title slide or sequence of title slides, 2.) a bar or graphic in the lower third of the video image that you can use to denote the name/movement of a piece and the performers playing, and 3.) closing slides for crediting performers, funding organizations, and your website. For all of these images, make graphic files the same size as your video resolution.

This brings us to creating graphics for your stream.

Graphics for streaming and post-stream production

Inserting graphic overlays and title slides into a live stream is really only possible using an external encoding program like OBS, Switcher Go, or some other non-mobile tech. It’s a really great effect for your next level professionalism; you can have the concert poster start the stream, followed by composers/performer/piece title bars that overlay the video image, like in this live stream I did for The Gilmore.

To create these graphics—specifically the overlay bar—you need a design program that can create a transparent PNG. I use Canva, a simple online graphic design program. (I do believe that the transparent PNG option is a paid feature.) Once you get past the title slides, designing a piece/composer/performer bar for the lower third of the screen is really easy. My recommendation is that you design it in a 1920 x 1080 pixel format, which is standard HD definition, so when you load the graphics into your streaming software, they automatically fit the HD video image. To create the lower third bar effect, use the same resolution, create your lower third image, then download with a transparent background in PNG format. As always, do your research and make sure you know what your video image resolution is.

If you don’t have the encoder software that allows you to import graphic overlays during the stream, take the time to edit your video post-stream and use these graphics (like I did above) or other video editing software to make your videos look awesome.

Licensing, ownership, and approval

As with all non-public domain music, there are some licensing and copyright issues that can arise with live streaming new music. Questions about this were posed to me at my presentation at the New Music Gathering in Boston this past spring, and thankfully, after an interview with Chris McCormick at BMI, I am fully aware of the concerns that can arise, and the solution to properly and legally address them.

In short, you need to get approval from all composers represented on your concert live stream, and all performers who will be part of your live stream. I recommend drafting up a simple letter of agreement for composers and performers detailing 1.) how much they will be paid 2.) how many services are expected (rehearsals and performances) and 3.) that the performance will be recorded and streamed live, with all planned future uses outlined. It’s important to note that the rights to produce a piece can be controlled by 1.) the composer and publisher or 2.) just the composer. The composers involved should know whether or not to include their publisher if you are unsure.

When your video is uploaded to YouTube, it becomes YouTube’s responsibility to pay the PRO (Performing Rights Organization, like BMI and ASCAP) based on streaming data that it sends quarterly. If you are streaming the music of other composers (which you should already have approval for anyway), YouTube will typically direct the streaming fees to the right places. Of course, this works best for pop acts that accrue more streams and have larger representation. After speaking with Chris at BMI, I learned that Twitter and Facebook are currently working on developing their licenses with the PROs, whereas YouTube has a pretty robust system already, so we may see some future changes in how we credit and control intellectual property in live streams.

Thinking beyond your limitations

After reading these four articles, I hope you have gained a deeper understanding of where to begin your live streaming journey, how to do the research necessary, and how to ask the right questions to start your own streaming. If you get hooked like I did, consider expanding your talents and go a little more pro.

When I started streaming with The Gilmore, I was fortunate to get video work from our upstairs neighbors in Kalamazoo, the Public Media Network. They had the equipment and know how—all we had to provide was clean audio and some direction. After years of cultivation, we have a really great partnership and, through practice, have learned how to get our tech working in the best possible ways to make some great streams. After visiting the streaming room in the basement of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra’s hall, it was apparent that a high-quality stream needed an entire team of people, and early on, the DSO partnered with Detroit Public TV to make it happen. It made me wonder how many other public media groups are out there with camera equipment and know-how, and how many would be interested in collaborating with local arts groups.

The point of my short story is to encourage you to think of ways to leverage your network to build partnerships and share resources for mutual benefit. When I started working with the Public Media Network in Kalamazoo, we benefited from their robotic controlled multi-camera set up and staff expertise, and they received artistic content for their cable channels and community exposure. It never hurts to seek out local groups and ask. You may be surprised what can come together.

Another option might be to build a sort of streaming consortium that would allow you to pool resources to buy a rig that would work for multiple groups, and you could come together to produce each others’ work.

So don’t limit yourself just because you only have a mobile phone set-up. If you are interested in expanding, seek out collaborators in your community!

End Credits

Thank you for reading this far. Special thanks to my employers, The Gilmore and Kalamazoo College; my video partners Public Media Network; and the New Music Gathering and NewMusicBox for helping me hone my thoughts. Also props to Garrett Hope of the Portfolio Composer for being my first public appearance (here on his podcast) where I spoke about live streaming.

As you can tell, I love talking about this stuff, so please reach out:

Twitter: @schumakera
Facebook
Or through my website: www.adamschumaker.com

Live Streaming 103: DIY Live Stream Tech

During the month of June, I have been writing about live streaming your new music concerts. Live Streaming 101 dealt with the “why” of live streaming. Live Streaming 102 discussed where to host your stream. This week’s installment will discuss some technical requirements for live streaming, but without diving in so deep that you get lost in the ones and zeros of the codec. By the end of this post, however, you should be armed with the basic skills and knowledge required to get a live stream up and running.

Site Preparation

The first thing any stream needs is a reliable, speedy internet connection. To simplify things, here is an internet checklist for your live streaming venue:

1. Get the WiFi/internet login information
2. While you’re at it, if applicable, get the contact info for the IT person or team
3. Get online and do a speed test (google “speed test” in a browser and use the google version)
4. Do a stream test

What matters most when it comes to internet speed for this application is the upload speed. This article has a great, in-depth description about live streaming and internet speeds. The gist is that higher quality streams carry more information (video resolution, audio bit depth) and thus need higher upload speeds.

Internet speed test

If you decide not to use mobile devices or WiFi (which inherently run more risks than a hard-wired connection), you should find an ethernet port and work with IT to make sure you have access. Some schools, companies, or public school venues have firewalls built in to their internet connections, so it’s important to learn about your venue and to make sure you can get to your streaming destination as described in the previous article.

Apart from the internet, it’s also important to test the lighting, sound, and proposed camera locations for your live stream. If you are working primarily with mobile devices, finding camera points close to the stage—but not blocking audience view—will likely be ideal. If you are working with external cameras and a separate encoder, you’ll want a room outside of the hall to run cables to, where your video team can talk freely, and where any computer keys or cooling fan noises (yes, this happened to me during this stream) will not distract from the performance.

iOS and Mobile Tech Camera Set Ups

For the beginner, starting with mobile technologies is the easiest way to go live. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube all have this option in their mobile apps. The resolution and FPS of recent smartphone cameras is high enough to make a nice looking video. You don’t even need the latest iPhone to stream in HD!

But there are two downfalls to streaming with a single mobile device. 1.) the variety of shot is nil. So make sure when you set your shot, it is up close and tightly framed, so your subjects are in clear view. 2.) research and listening suggests smartphone microphones are optimized for the human voice, not your music. So I recommend the addition of a smartphone microphone or compatible audio interface to connect your mics to.

Next, I will take you through some specific tech I have either used or researched with the help of some tech experts from Sweetwater. I have also included Amazon affiliate links where applicable, which will support New Music USA. (If you are shopping on Amazon, you might also consider using Amazon Smile to support their work.)

Mobile Tech Highlights: smartphone audio

Disclaimer: I have received no compensation in exchange for recommending any of the following products. I simply either have used the product itself or it seems well suited to the DIY Live Streaming specs I researched while planning these articles.

For mobile phone audio, I always recommend a microphone or an interface that can handle a stereo signal. Nothing sounds more natural than a stereo signal on a good microphone, I mean, we have two ears, right? There are piles of mono options, but I wouldn’t recommend any of these for live performance streaming.

Shure MV88: stereo mic with multiple patterns, gain control, etc.

Shure MV88

In my own work, I have been using this microphone and, over all, I am pleased. It plugs right into the lightning port of an iPhone, and it has piles of control options via its free app, Motiv Audio.

For zero hassle, this is a great option. It does require the phone to be set to “do not disturb” and “airplane mode” so that cell signals don’t interfere with the electronics. This is not hypothetical. Texts and calls do weird things to the recordings. WiFi can still work in this scenario.

Tascam iXR

Tascam iXR

During my research, I was looking for a two-channel interface that could work with mobile technology. Thanks to my friend and sales rep Vern at Sweetwater, we came up with two solid options. The Tascam was first on the list. The interface boasts connectivity to your iPhone or iPad directly via USB and the lightning port on your iOS device. With this option, you can use your favorite stereo mic pair and send your mobile device an excellent audio signal.

With interfaces, it is important to remember that they cannot charge your mobile devices. Make sure your devices are fully charged for live streaming!

Presonus AudioBox iTwo

Presonus AudioBox

Presonus also makes an iOS-compatible, two-channel interface. I have yet to try out this unit, but I do know that Presonus is an excellent company with great, affordable products. I once used an interface of theirs for ten years before I finally upgraded, and I was still able to resell the device! The iTwo interface is also iOS compatible and has overall better reviews than the Tascam.

Whichever way you go, make sure you talk to a sales rep about compatibility with your video device.

Switcher Go

I came across this app and subscription service during my research, and it is extremely appealing. For a relatively affordable monthly cost, you can use multiple iOS devices to create a multi-camera shoot. This is a pretty attractive option when you’re ready to take the next step and make your live stream productions look more professional by using multiple camera angles, but are not yet ready to invest piles of money into dedicated cameras, switchers, and computers or encoders.

The blog about Switcher Go explains the basic functions of their product. For $29 a month (just do a month at a time if you are not streaming every month), you have access to their software which allows you to connect as many as nine iPhone or iPads as external cameras, wirelessly. With a few friends (who have iPhones or iPads) and some mic stands and mounts, you can create a really professional looking multicam production with an external audio source and other cool abilities.

Stands and Mounts for Mobile Devices

With all of these mobile-based solutions, there are two things you cannot forget: a stand and a mount for your device. I recommend using a good tripod microphone stand with a boom arm, and a phone mount of your liking. (There are so many to choose from.)

My favorite microphone stand is the K&M Tripod microphone stand. I have personally used these for all sorts of applications, and they have never let me down. One of them is almost 15-years old.

There are so many accessories for mobile devices it’s almost obscene. My personal favorite device mount is the Accessory Basics, but I’ll trust that you can do your own homework. When choosing, consider the compatibility with the device, and also make sure the rear camera and the lightning port are accessible while mounted so you can plug in your external mic and still get a good shot. If you are using an iPad, the same considerations apply.

External Camera and Encoder Set Ups

If you are not inclined to use mobile technology, there are other ways to connect external cameras to encoder hardware or software, and then send that signal to a streaming platform. For the beginner, I find this more problematic as it typically requires a computer, more computing power, and—if you want a multi-camera shoot—more hardware.

This is not to say that you shouldn’t do it! As you do your research, just be aware of the cost concerns to get a signal similar to what you could get with a mobile device. External cameras sending video to a computer will also typically need external audio.

External Cameras and Encoder Highlights

Zoom Q2n (audio & video solution)

Zoom has been a long-time player in the mobile A/V world. The Zoom Q2n is a microphone stand-mountable camera and X/Y stereo microphone all-in-one. For a relatively low cost, you can have video and audio going to a computer for streaming via the HDMI out. As always, be wary of adapters if your computer is not already designed to accept an HDMI connection (which carries both video and audio).

Open Broadcaster Software (encoding software)

Some external cameras are able to connect to Facebook Live via the “create” link (as discussed in Livestreaming 102), but if they can’t, there is a simple and free solution. Open Broadcaster Software (OBS) is a great program for Mac and PC that allows you to take incoming video signals and broadcast them to a streaming platform such as YouTube or Facebook. Although it has a simple interface, OBS has many options for intake and output that make it a versatile and useful program. With OBS you can have multiple video sources, separate audio sources (if needed), graphics, and other media inserted into your stream. Please note that the higher the quality video you are working with, the greater processing power you will need from your computer.

Side note: as mentioned above when discussing the Zoom Q2n, some cameras will not simply send an HDMI signal directly into your computer. I encountered this when trying to send a GoPro HDMI signal to my 2012 MacBook. Without something like a Game Capture HDMI to USB 3.0, there is no way my MacBook would accept an HDMI signal. Not all camera/computer setups are like this, so it’s important to do your research.

Look for Future Tech

Since preparing my presentation on live streaming for the New Music Gathering, my Facebook has been bombarded with ads from companies trying to sell me live streaming hardware and software. We are definitely in the middle of a boom of new live streaming technologies, which is exciting. So before you commit to a specific system, see what is out there that might best fit your needs, budget, and existing equipment.

Test Everything, Then Test Again

I cannot stress enough the need to test all components of your stream before the day of the event. Make sure audio, video, internet connection, and the output to your specified platforms all works, because usually something will go wrong and you will need the reassurance that you had it working before! Here’s a simple checklist:

1. Test your internet connection and speed
2. Test audio and video sync, shots, and levels
3. Test the connection to your streaming host/platform
4. Test with an actual stream; make sure your audio sounds like your audio before it hits the internet, and your video is clear and not choppy!
5. Check all connections and settings again before the event

In my final article next week, I will discuss live streaming with collaborators (and how to think about building those relationships), best practices for use of your video post-stream, easy ways to achieve graphic overlays and title slides, licensing and copyright issues, and ways to build your live streaming audience.

Live Streaming 102: Hosting, Preparing, and Advertising Your Live Stream

For those who are ready to add live streaming to their concert presentations, there are a pile of technical preparations and considerations to think through. Before we delve into the technology behind live streaming, let’s look at where it will be hosted.

Hosting your live video

Make it easy for your existing audience and your potential fans to find your live video by hosting it where they gather, and linking the video to as many other locations as possible.

The goal of live streaming is to reach people. To reach people, go where the people are. More specifically, go where your people are. Make it easy for your existing audience and your potential fans to find your live video by hosting it where they gather, and linking the video to as many other locations as possible. Personally, I have streamed to Facebook Live, YouTube, UStream, and Livestream.com. The DIY composer in me suggests you go with the free services like Facebook and YouTube. The tech-geek administrator in me likes how Livestream.com works. So let’s start with the free services. But before we do that, it’s important to know a bit of technical lingo.

Streaming Connections

In the next installment, we will look at how to stream with iOS and other mobile devices and beyond. Many simple stream connections can be created using just the phone in your pocket, but it’s helpful to be familiar with a different type of connection: RTMP.

Real Time Messaging Protocol (RTMP) is simply the way audio and video are streamed over the internet. All streaming to Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter can be done via RTMP. Regardless of what you are using as an encoder, all you need for RTMP streaming is the “server URL” and the “Stream name/key.”

The YouTube menu [YouTube → Creator Studio → Live Streaming] looks like this:

YouTube stream screen

The Facebook menu looks like this:

Facebook create screen

Facebook, YouTube, and paid providers all have RTMP connections. This means that you can stream to the platform without a mobile device. Instead, you can use external cameras that send video to external encoders for fancier multi-camera systems. For the novice, try using a mobile device for your first live streaming projects. For those seeking multi-camera and alternative connections, understand which platforms are able to connect to your encoder via RTMP.

Facebook Live

Facebook Live is a go-to streaming platform because just about everyone is on it. With close to 2 billion users, chances are, most of your friends are on it. Despite recent changes in the algorithm, the delivery system is effective. Plus, people know how to find you and your page, and you, or a social media assistant, can feverishly share the link with other pages once it goes live.

In my experience, although Facebook live is great at reaching people, the watch times are usually less than those captured via other platforms. Maybe it’s because we are all trained to scroll through our Facebook feeds for the next thing, or maybe the compression Facebook applies to the live videos is less appealing. The average Facebook view times have been clocking in around 1 minute per view. I like to think of Facebook Live as pure marketing rather than a true audience connection.

For best practices, including tech specs (which will be covered next week), read this Facebook article.

YouTube

We typically don’t think of YouTube as a social network, but it is. If you have taken time to recruit subscribers to your channel, they will typically receive notifications when you are live, depending on their personal settings.

YouTube has many perks over Facebook:

1.) When you drive people to your YouTube live link via your other social media accounts and email, they statistically stay longer.

2.) Unlike Facebook, you can embed your YouTube video link into your website, found in the “advanced settings” of the live page.

3.) YouTube can stream at higher resolutions than Facebook’s 720p. Live streams also populate to your YouTube channel for future views, embedding, and sharing.

Twitter & Instagram

These social media platforms are less known for streaming, and honestly less known to me. Perhaps these platforms are ripe with opportunity! For Twitter, read How to create live videos on Twitter. For RTMP streaming to Twitter, read this article. Twitter can also connect directly with Periscope, a streaming network. For Instagram, the live video feature is part of the “stories” section of the app.

All of these networks are less known for music, but as expressed previously, if your audience is there, then by all means stream there!

Paid Hosting Services

When I started streaming with The Gilmore Keyboard Festival, we chose Livestream.com as our video streaming host. This was partially because the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and several other classical music organizations used Livestream.com as their streaming host. At the time, Facebook Live and other young streaming platforms were difficult to access when using a more traditional camera setup, instead of mobile technology.

There are a few good reasons businesses use Livestream.com as a hosting service.

1.) These platforms offer excellent analytics, including time viewed; regions down to country, state, city; ways the stream was accessed; and on what kind of device the stream was viewed.

2.) They can store videos, published or unpublished, and allow the embedding of these videos onto websites.

3.) Simulcasting, which deserves its own header.

Simulcasting

Simulcasting is simply the simultaneous broadcasting of the video signal to multiple destinations. Social media platforms do not simulcast. Paid hosting services can. Using Livestream.com as an example, it is possible to send multiple video streams to multiple destinations at the same time. This multiplies the reach of a live stream by however many simulcasts you have access to.

For my work with The Gilmore, we try to gain distribution through the Facebook page of the artist, the venue, presenting partners, as well as our own, resulting in a minimum of four simultaneous live streams. The increase in viewership is impressive.

Interestingly, Livestream.com does not allow simulcasting to YouTube and Facebook, but it does allow YouTube and Twitter, or multiple Facebook pages. It’s also important to note that Livestream.com doesn’t allow RTMP connections without subscribing at one of the highest levels.

In the next article, we will briefly touch upon hard-wiring a simulcast, if you want to step up your live stream reach without purchasing a broadcaster subscription service to do the simulcasting for you.

Reaching Your Audience

With marketing, usually the more you can do, the better. Assuming you are a one-person show or a small team, I recommend marketing your live stream alongside your live performance, in as many digital places as you can.

Facebook Events are a great way to connect with your friends on Facebook, and remind them that they can join the event from afar because it will notify them of the live stream. The live stream link and info can also be posted inside the event. Facebook also keeps great stats. More importantly, if you can get a few people to co-host your event on Facebook, you will greatly expand your reach, your ability to invite audiences in your hosts’ networks, and you will also have multiple destinations for your stream (on the co-hosts’ pages).

Twitter is more immediate, so a little pre-tweeting and then live tweeting during your event, with links to the stream, can help move online traffic to your live stream.

Email is still a powerful source of reaching people. If you haven’t already started a virtual mailing list, now is a great time to do so! Emailing your audience about the concert, including the live stream link prior to and near the time of the event, will help bolster your stream audience.

Blog about your concert and live stream. If you cannot get an interview on a friend’s blog, a local media interview (radio/tv/podcast), or an article in a reputable publication, then you must do it yourself! Create an interesting discussion about your upcoming concert and make sure to including streaming links, and how and where to launch the live stream.

Recap

There are many places to host your live stream. It can be overwhelming. I recommend you find the platform where your audience is, and host your streams there so they are accessible to the most people who support you. Then make sure you review the ins and outs of creating a live stream on your desired platform. Next week, we will cover the technology behind DIY live streaming, including some tech suggestions that I have personally used or researched.

Live Streaming 101: Why Live Stream?

When I jumped into live streaming in 2013, I had no idea what I was doing—and my first stream featured a world-renowned pianist performing in a packed hall. The Gilmore Keyboard Festival, where I am on staff, was presenting a concert to the community featuring Kirill Gerstein. Because the concert was being offered free to the public, someone at a staff meeting asked, “Can we live stream this concert?” And from the silence, I blurted out, “Yes!”

You can watch segments of the 4:3 / 480p video here:

At the time, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra had been live streaming concerts for two years. Today, they are a leader in classical music live streaming, presenting around 30 concerts a year online. At The Gilmore, however, live streaming repeatedly brought up one major concern. This concern resonated throughout the office, though I didn’t believe it to be true:

If we offer the concert for free online, won’t it negatively impact ticket sales?

Despite this resistance, streaming a concert live to the internet became a small obsession of mine. With some help from the local Public Media Network, great audio engineers, and the world-class performances at The Gilmore, I managed to get our concerts online, with high-quality audio and multi-camera shoots.

As I gained experience managing small teams of videographers and audio engineers, I learned the ins and outs of the technology, the philosophy, and the social media impact. I even found ways to live stream my own new music concerts—without breaking the bank.

Building off my presentation at the New Music Gathering in Boston this year, during the month of June, I will explore why to live stream, preparing and advertising a live stream, the technology behind various live streaming set-ups, and how to begin collaborating with individuals or organizations to maximize reach and impact.

Why live stream?

If you somehow missed the memo, video consumption is, and has been, on the rise. In 2017, Facebook Live broadcasts quadrupled and 3.25 billion hours of video are watched on YouTube each month. From a marketing perspective, having video content is a no-brainer. But live streaming is a little different.

Live streaming—the act of broadcasting an event in real-time—gives us the unique opportunity to capitalize on the energy of a live performance, while enabling others outside of our community to participate. With advances in technology, it has also become increasingly easy to broadcast live video to the internet.

By live streaming our music, we gain the following:

  1. Expansion of reach and visibility (marketing, social media, locations, networks)
  2. Accessibly for both our current audience and potential future audience
  3. Increasing trust and loyalty from our fans
  4. Excellent content for later use (YouTube channel, website, grant proposals, sharing)

But what about the impact on ticket sales? This is where you need to trust your audience. I would argue that most people are cognizant of the uniqueness of a live concert experience. Given a choice and with no outside barriers, most people would choose a live event over a video version of it. By offering live streams of your events at no charge, you are trusting that the audience members you have will continue to buy tickets if they can. The benefit of the stream then becomes the ability to engage the dedicated fans who just couldn’t be there (thus allowing them to continue to participate in the experience), while also potentially reaching future audience members who are not fans—yet.

FOMO and concert attendance

Although research is limited, current case studies and surveys point to the same conclusion: after watching a live-streamed concert, viewers are more likely purchase tickets to future concerts. It’s like giving a sample of something delicious at Costco.

It’s important to note that many reports come from service providers like Livestream.com, who are trying to sell their services. Still, according to their 2017 survey, “67% of viewers are more likely to buy a ticket to a similar event after watching a live video.” The idea is simple: viewing a great live stream allows current fans to engage with a concert they would probably not have been able to attend otherwise, and allows potential fans to get a sample of a live event they may want to attend in the future. You are building community.

You’re also working off two sides of FOMO. If you’ve managed to avoid current slang and abbreviations, FOMO is the “fear of missing out.” Regardless of what one thinks about FOMO’s powers of motivation, it is a factor at work that everyone on social media experiences at some level. By live streaming your concerts, you can increase FOMO for those who are on the fence about attending your upcoming programming. On the other hand, you may also be able to dissipate some of those FOMO feelings via the live stream by giving your dedicated fans a way to participate, despite not being there.

Post-Stream Benefits

After the live-stream event (and the real-life concert), the video lives on, and some algorithms, like those on Facebook, perpetuate the views for a short while, reminding people of what they missed the night before. If you captured audience emails at your concert, you could send attendees a thank you email with a link to the video. You can also send the video to friends and colleagues who couldn’t be there.

The most important post-stream benefit is the content you’ve created. If you get the chance to clean and mix the audio and re-sync to the video, you have an entire concert to segment into individual pieces for your YouTube channel, your website, portfolio submissions, etc.

Recommendations:

  1. Make sure all content stakeholders are aware and in agreement about how the captured media will be used and distributed well in advance.
  2. Don’t repost the entire concert in full. Only keep the entire performance video up as a result of the live stream.
  3. Segment out individual pieces and create a lead in and a closer for each video, with proper credits to performers, composers, and technicians as text overlays.
  4. Develop a channel/page where all of your media lives.
  5. Use the reposting of video content to strategically activate your social media or blog/newsletter presence.

Upcoming articles

Next week, we will discuss technical preparation, advertising, basic artist agreements, and a complete guide to hosting your stream on different platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter/Periscope, and other streaming hosting services.