Pros and Cons of 6 live streaming sites for musicians

I have been doing a fair amount of live streaming over the last two years and have learned a huge amount. I have not had experience with all the live streaming sites that are useful for musicians (heaven knows there are simply not enough hours in the day). Notably missing are sites such as Concert Window, Stage It, KrueTV and many others that I am either not aware of or have not tried.  However, here are some pros and cons on the sites I have had experience with: Streetjelly, Periscope, YouNow, Facebook Live, Busker and FriendLife. 

1. Streetjelly.com

This is a family oriented site. It is mainly the “more mature” musicians (like me) who come on there to connect with fans, have a good time and hopefully earn a few bob doing it. Viewers buy “tokens” which they use to tip artists that they enjoy watching. I have been streaming on average once a week (Sundays at 13:00 Central) for the last two years and have accumulated over $800 dollars in tips, which has paid for some, but not all, of my MAS  (Microphone Acquisition Syndrome), GAS (Guitar Acquisition Syndrome) and SAS (Speaker Acquisition Syndrome).  

Streetjelly is a lot of fun. It is a forgiving environment in which you can get your feet wet in live streaming. The downside is that you need to broadcast from a computer. You will need at least a USB microphone and a reasonable quality webcam. If you are going to play with backtracks it becomes more complicated and you probably need a mixer and a USB interface. (See my blog post on broadcasting on Streetjelly). 
  
 On this site, it is probably a good idea to have a prepared set list that is practiced and ready to go. Viewers don’t usually stick around to watch somebody trying to get the lead right to “Stairway to Heaven”. It is also advisable to schedule your shows, advertise them and/or broadcast at a regular time. 
  
On Streetjelly, you can experience a level of saturation because the audience is quite small so you are likely to have the same fans turn up each time you are online. Personally I have found once a week for an hour is plenty for Streetjelly. 
  

2. Periscope

This is a great live streaming environment if you are looking to grow your fan base very quickly. There are thousands upon thousands of people roaming the peri-world looking for some entertainment. I think that the people that used to watch soap operas are now watching Periscope.  I heard that there are 25 million active users on this app. Right now there are approximately 2,383 people doing live talk shows and 56 musicians noodling around.  

If you are going to try Periscope you will have to take a BIG breath and put on your big girl panties. It is a tough environment because of something called “TROLLS”. These are people, probably pimply faced teenagers, who have nothing better to do than troll from scope to scope and type in rude comments just to put you off your stride. If you are at all shy, you will be put off by trolls. I was once told I looked like somebody’s father and then told that maybe I looked more like his brother! That was before I learned to block people at the slightest sign of rudeness. I have plus/minus 600 people following me on Periscope but have blocked 146 others. Do not take anything these twits say personally. They are not even watching what you are doing. They are simply trying to upset you. 
  
Another disadvantage of Periscope is that you cannot earn tips directly from viewers. I know people who put a Paypal.me link in their bios and probably do quite well out of that. 
  
The advantage of Periscope is that you can reach a huge amount of people with relatively little effort. You just need a smart phone and a tripod (nobody likes looking at a scope where all you can see is the contents of the performer's nose) and you are good to go. You can scope one song or you can noodle around for hours. Just switch it on and go (and remember to block the trolls). 
  
Personally I don’t think you can scope too much because there are just so many thousands of people online at any one time. I have seen people that scope 10 to 20 times a day. Generally the people that scope more often and for longer periods have more followers. You also don’t have to vary your performance. I have seen people doing very well, thank you, with the same set of songs every hour on the hour for weeks on end. 
  
I see a lot of people scoping their gigs. One girl even puts her phone in her handbag while she scopes her gig. My feeling is that people don’t really like this very much and probably won’t keep turning up, no matter how entertaining the gig. Viewers like to be noticed by the performer and have the performer respond directly to their comments and questions. People who do well sit directly in front of the camera and engage directly with the viewers. 
  
3. YouNow

This is a very interesting live streaming environment and I can’t work out if I like it or if I don’t. The viewer and performer demographic is mainly 18 to 25 year olds. The performers that do well are usually successful YouTubers who have turned to live streaming. You can stream from your phone (with unpredictable results) or you can stream from your desktop using your USB mic or mixer and a good quality webcam.  

Unfortunately the criteria for doing well on YouNow seems to be the length of time you stream for. This is not good for me, as a busy mother and without time on my side. One guy, “The Cashier”, has found fame during his normal working day as a cashier in a convenience store by turning on his smart phone and trading jokes with viewers while he rings up his real life customer’s purchases. He can comfortably stream for 12 hours a day (data package withstanding). 
  
YouNow has a ranking system for streamers under categories such as “Musicians” “Singing” “Bored” and “Talk”. If you stay on long enough and people give you enough “likes” and “rewards” you can work your way up to number one in “musicians” and even to “tending” and then suddenly you have 2,000 people watching you (it has happened to me twice, more by fluke than skill, I think) and suddenly your all fingers become thumbs. 
  
The nice thing about YouNow is that all these youngsters are so polite. I have not had one rude comment while performing on YouNow. Another thing is that they love the old stuff. I keep getting requests for “Country Roads” and “Jolene”. Maybe the old music is making a come back. You can also noodle to your heart’s content. You can chat, use backtracks, use karaoke, play acoustically, sing a capella, whatever floats your boat. JUST DON’T KILL YOUR STREAM WHILE YOU GO TO THE LOO! 
  

4. Facebook Live

I love Facebook Live. The main reason I like it is because my peeps hang out on Facebook so that is the best place to connect with them. I also like that it does not take up much time. I have found streams of one song do well.  Having live streams on my fan page also compliments my other Facebook strategies quite nicely.  

I use Facebook live more like a video recording application than a live streaming application. This is because the video recording of your live stream stays active on your Facebook page forever and a day or until you decide to delete it. You can use it in exactly the same ways as you can any of your other Facebook posts. In other words, you can promote it using Facebook ads, you can share it with any groups you may be active on, you can edit the text on it and you can put links to websites or ticket purchasing sites. You can even have a call to action for viewers to do something (like purchase tickets to one of your shows) when they have finished watching the video. 
  
I believe Facebook is giving video a huge push. I think they want to dethrone YouTube. They are giving a disproportionate amount of reach to video (especially live video). 
  
A word of advice; when you start your stream you should immediately start talking, welcoming your viewers and then playing your song(s), even if nobody is watching. This is because the majority of your views will come after your stream has ended. On my latest live stream  I had exactly 1 live viewer but over 2,200 users have viewed the replay. 

5. Busker

This is a new smart phone app that has come about because Periscopers are sick of not being tipped. Viewers can purchase tips using their credit cards or Paypal and can tip their favourite artists in increments of one to five dollars.  

It is very similar to Periscope but without the number of users. Right now (at 11 am) there are exactly zero people streaming. However, IF you already have a huge following on Periscope and/or Twitter and/or Facebook you can bring them over to Busker, get them to tip you there and you can probably do very well. 
  
Since I do not have a huge following on any of these platforms, I only had a hand-full of viewers each time I streamed on Busker. This platform will have to up their game in terms of getting users interested if they are to have longevity. Another disadvantage of this app is that it is only available on IOS. 
  

6. FriendLife

I recently had an email from a “talent scout” who said that they had noticed me on social media and was wandering if I would be interested in a live streaming site where I would be paid to stream. I immediately saw dollar signs and said “Yes, can we talk?” I even had a Skype call with the “CEO” (or someone). I was setup on the site as a celebrity with the highest payout level possible. I immediately started getting people following me and sending me private messages. It may have had something to do with the fact that they thought I was a celebrity. 
 
The idea behind this site is that people who stream a lot and have a lot of viewers will get paid “per viewer hour”. I am not too sure who pays but anyway. They also have a competition every day where the winner with the most viewer hours can get a sweet $50. This is nice because you are getting paid without having to rely on getting viewers to tip you. 
  
The main problem with the site is that most of the live streamers are pretty young things that may or may not take off their clothes (which, by the way, is expressly forbidden). 
  
I have not written off FriendLife yet as the people who have watched my streams have all been extremely polite, have requested good old songs like “Country Roads” and “Jolene” and nobody has asked me to take off my clothes. 
  

So that’s my take on these 6 live streaming sites for musicians. If anybody has any comments or experiences with any other sites, I would love to hear them.

14 comments

  • Jay FitzGerald

    Jay FitzGerald Vancouver, BC

    Concert Window is worth a try. I agree with you this is important emerging technology.

    Concert Window is worth a try. I agree with you this is important emerging technology.

  • Pete Bensen

    Pete Bensen SW Florida, USA

    Thanks for sharing. Very informative. Great overview of the pros and cons of these sites.

    Thanks for sharing. Very informative. Great overview of the pros and cons of these sites.

  • Andy Getch

    Andy Getch Fort Myers, FL, USA

    Interesting summary including a few sites I am not familiar with.

    Interesting summary including a few sites I am not familiar with.

  • Joanne Cooper

    Joanne Cooper South Africa

    Jay, Pete and Andy. Thanks so much for your comments

    Jay, Pete and Andy. Thanks so much for your comments

  • JohnJohnJohn

    JohnJohnJohn

    Very nice blog post Joanne! Thanks for sharing!! I'm curious if there is any money to be made in these venues. And yes I know "it depends"! smile Tons of factors...how often you play...type of music...how much promo you do...and on and on. But let's say you really work it and use several of these services and stay pretty busy with a show or two every day for 5 days a week. Are you making coffee money? Rent money? A living wage? And again, of course I know "it depends" on where you live...how much you need...etc. smile But I am really curious if anyone believes this has potential beyond a novelty/spare change sort of affair. Also, related to that, assuming you get something going, what are your thoughts on whether or not this is viable over time. A year? 5 years? More?

    Very nice blog post Joanne! Thanks for sharing!!

    I'm curious if there is any money to be made in these venues. And yes I know "it depends"! smile Tons of factors...how often you play...type of music...how much promo you do...and on and on. But let's say you really work it and use several of these services and stay pretty busy with a show or two every day for 5 days a week. Are you making coffee money? Rent money? A living wage? And again, of course I know "it depends" on where you live...how much you need...etc. smile But I am really curious if anyone believes this has potential beyond a novelty/spare change sort of affair. Also, related to that, assuming you get something going, what are your thoughts on whether or not this is viable over time. A year? 5 years? More?

  • Joanne Cooper

    Joanne Cooper South Africa

    John * 3. This is an interesting question. There are certainly folks out there that are doing extremely well (interpreted as "making a living") doing live streaming. The nice thing is that these people are not the hot shots but ordinary people. The guy I talked about in my blog "The Cashier" is making enough money from YouNow to give up his day job (of course he doesn’t want to because his day job is also the content for his stream). YouNow have a partner scheme where broadcasters can get a share of streaming income (which comes from viewers buying "rewards") IF they stream at least twice a week and have at least 500 viewers per stream. FriendLife is similar except there does not seem to be any rules on how often you stream or how many viewers you need to get a share of the money (or in fact where the money comes from). I think for FriendLife you probably have to be invited to become a partner (which is what happened to me). I think there is some potential on FriendLife. I usually only have about 30 viewers on FriendLife per stream and earn one dollar fifty. Some people have hundreds of viewers and are probably earning quite nicely per stream. There is one girl who is earning quite nicely on Busker but she has 64,000 followers on Twitter 33,000 followers on Periscope and she has successfully brought her audience over to Busker with her. So the short answer is yes, you can earn a nice living from this but you have to be consistent and I would say it is important to build your following on other social media (Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, Instagram or your own email list) to draw them to your online performances where you can earn money.

    John * 3. This is an interesting question. There are certainly folks out there that are doing extremely well (interpreted as "making a living") doing live streaming. The nice thing is that these people are not the hot shots but ordinary people. The guy I talked about in my blog "The Cashier" is making enough money from YouNow to give up his day job (of course he doesn’t want to because his day job is also the content for his stream).

    YouNow have a partner scheme where broadcasters can get a share of streaming income (which comes from viewers buying "rewards") IF they stream at least twice a week and have at least 500 viewers per stream. FriendLife is similar except there does not seem to be any rules on how often you stream or how many viewers you need to get a share of the money (or in fact where the money comes from). I think for FriendLife you probably have to be invited to become a partner (which is what happened to me). I think there is some potential on FriendLife. I usually only have about 30 viewers on FriendLife per stream and earn one dollar fifty. Some people have hundreds of viewers and are probably earning quite nicely per stream. There is one girl who is earning quite nicely on Busker but she has 64,000 followers on Twitter 33,000 followers on Periscope and she has successfully brought her audience over to Busker with her.

    So the short answer is yes, you can earn a nice living from this but you have to be consistent and I would say it is important to build your following on other social media (Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, Instagram or your own email list) to draw them to your online performances where you can earn money.

  • Spencer

    Spencer

    Ms. Josie, First of all, I want to say that I greatly enjoy your music, and friendship as well. :) As I have performed at most of these "cyberstages", I have found so many pros and cons with each one. Most of the time there's more pros than cons, but sometimes, it will turn into more cons than pros. As I don't feel embarrassed to say it, StreetJelly was my first exposure to playing online for money (and originally I didn't go on there for tips, and my original place was Camfrog). SJ was a great learning experience and honed my craft for running an audience, battling "stage fright", and other such things. Concert Window was the second place I went to and "branched out". CW has an extremely professional atmosphere about how it's run, friends are made, services are requested. Yet, it's con is that it is a BYOA (Bring Your Own Audience) website. Around (ballpark figures) 60-75% of my fanbase attend from SJ - yet it never was always like that. I've played on CW for three people before, it's a very isolating situation. Stageit has this same problem, THEY PROVIDE NO AUDIENCE, but at least they will help you promote your performance. After Concert Window was Twitch.tv. Twitch is known for streaming video games, but it is a very high-end "cyberstage" for us musicians. Twitch is what will be the demise of StreetJelly and Concert Window. Stageit has a celebrity clientele that will keep it afloat. On Twitch, you keep 100 PERCENT of your tips, when set up through donation services like TwitchAlerts, which in turn makes it the ultimate place to perform. It currently has somewhat lower viewer traffic than YouNow or Periscope, and in some times less than StreetJelly - but it's a very worthy effort as I believe it is in it's infancy and will eventually take over the chances of online start-ups being the leader. A tip for streaming musicians everywhere - PLAY LONG AND PLAY OFTEN! StreetJelly and CW are the opposite of this equation, where you should schedule a week in advance, make advertisements, support other musicians (in all honesty, investing in other acts). I believe the "musicians supporting musicians" scheme is doomed for failure on these places, and I already see it occurring on one of these places. Another thing to look out for is places that have Favoritism. No matter where you go, there will be a bias, but depending on the size of the site, it is less controlling and suffering for the little guy getting started. On one such place, I have seen the owner of the establishment give hundreds of dollars to one broadcaster, but the one next to it receive NOTHING, maybe sometimes less than one dollar to them. Now, for the Big Daddy. The Whopper. The one of them all - The venue-chomping, boundary crushing, exposure-laden King of Cyberstages: YouNow. YouNow is in my eyes, the best oppourtunity on the Internet. It is still in it's formative years, very much like YouTube around 2008 or so (was a part of that). It's the Wild, Wild West, and you can catch anything, anytime, from anywhere. The same goes for the audience. I have played for crowds of almost 600 viewers, reached over 16.000 views in one broadcast. That's 3+ times over my total exposure on StreetJelly over 2 YEARS. YouNow does not have tipping right away, and I am working towards receiving a partnership to finally make tips on there. It's exciting, invigorating, and most of all, as a musician, accomplishing. Several music industry guys have expressed interest in me through my performing on YouNow. I have trended as high as the THIRD PERSON ON THE ENTIRE WEBSITE. Catch YouNow while it's hot, it even has it's off days, but when you gain a following - they stay. They also have great music taste! Just avoid requests for "Seven Years", "Stitches" and most importantly, "Lost Boy". This is a wonderfully informative, intuitive blog my friend. We should all consider what we are doing "ahead of our time". If we maintain our determination, our goals set, our talent on the line, and most of all, our hearts set - I feel that we will become much bigger than we are. Life holds many surprises! Many of them blessings in disguise. My most cordial luck to anyone else in this field, and hope for you to grow and expand beyond your wildest expectations. Much love to all- Spencer P.S: I had to laugh about your feelings when you reach a ton of people on Younow "Your fingers turn into thumbs!" LOL Very true.

    Ms. Josie,
    First of all, I want to say that I greatly enjoy your music, and friendship as well. smile

    As I have performed at most of these "cyberstages", I have found so many pros and cons with each one. Most of the time there's more pros than cons, but sometimes, it will turn into more cons than pros. As I don't feel embarrassed to say it, StreetJelly was my first exposure to playing online for money (and originally I didn't go on there for tips, and my original place was Camfrog). SJ was a great learning experience and honed my craft for running an audience, battling "stage fright", and other such things.

    Concert Window was the second place I went to and "branched out". CW has an extremely professional atmosphere about how it's run, friends are made, services are requested. Yet, it's con is that it is a BYOA (Bring Your Own Audience) website. Around (ballpark figures) 60-75% of my fanbase attend from SJ - yet it never was always like that. I've played on CW for three people before, it's a very isolating situation. Stageit has this same problem, THEY PROVIDE NO AUDIENCE, but at least they will help you promote your performance.

    After Concert Window was Twitch.tv. Twitch is known for streaming video games, but it is a very high-end "cyberstage" for us musicians. Twitch is what will be the demise of StreetJelly and Concert Window. Stageit has a celebrity clientele that will keep it afloat. On Twitch, you keep 100 PERCENT of your tips, when set up through donation services like TwitchAlerts, which in turn makes it the ultimate place to perform. It currently has somewhat lower viewer traffic than YouNow or Periscope, and in some times less than StreetJelly - but it's a very worthy effort as I believe it is in it's infancy and will eventually take over the chances of online start-ups being the leader.

    A tip for streaming musicians everywhere - PLAY LONG AND PLAY OFTEN! StreetJelly and CW are the opposite of this equation, where you should schedule a week in advance, make advertisements, support other musicians (in all honesty, investing in other acts). I believe the "musicians supporting musicians" scheme is doomed for failure on these places, and I already see it occurring on one of these places. Another thing to look out for is places that have Favoritism. No matter where you go, there will be a bias, but depending on the size of the site, it is less controlling and suffering for the little guy getting started. On one such place, I have seen the owner of the establishment give hundreds of dollars to one broadcaster, but the one next to it receive NOTHING, maybe sometimes less than one dollar to them.

    Now, for the Big Daddy. The Whopper. The one of them all - The venue-chomping, boundary crushing, exposure-laden King of Cyberstages: YouNow.

    YouNow is in my eyes, the best oppourtunity on the Internet. It is still in it's formative years, very much like YouTube around 2008 or so (was a part of that). It's the Wild, Wild West, and you can catch anything, anytime, from anywhere. The same goes for the audience. I have played for crowds of almost 600 viewers, reached over 16.000 views in one broadcast. That's 3+ times over my total exposure on StreetJelly over 2 YEARS. YouNow does not have tipping right away, and I am working towards receiving a partnership to finally make tips on there. It's exciting, invigorating, and most of all, as a musician, accomplishing. Several music industry guys have expressed interest in me through my performing on YouNow. I have trended as high as the THIRD PERSON ON THE ENTIRE WEBSITE. Catch YouNow while it's hot, it even has it's off days, but when you gain a following - they stay. They also have great music taste! Just avoid requests for "Seven Years", "Stitches" and most importantly, "Lost Boy".

    This is a wonderfully informative, intuitive blog my friend. We should all consider what we are doing "ahead of our time". If we maintain our determination, our goals set, our talent on the line, and most of all, our hearts set - I feel that we will become much bigger than we are. Life holds many surprises! Many of them blessings in disguise.

    My most cordial luck to anyone else in this field, and hope for you to grow and expand beyond your wildest expectations.

    Much love to all-
    Spencer

    P.S: I had to laugh about your feelings when you reach a ton of people on Younow "Your fingers turn into thumbs!" LOL Very true.

  • Joanne Cooper

    Joanne Cooper

    Hi Spencer. Thank you so much for taking the time to type in this detailed response. I do really like YouNow but something put me off the other day. I was enjoying a good run on the "singing" category when I suddenly dropped to 4th and then everyone left. I think the other performers ganged up on me and once your audience knows you are fighting a losing battle they also kind of give up on you. Then I saw a young guy saying how he was not going to end his stream until so and so was number 2 (they were currently number 3). He wasn't performing or anything he was just sitting there telling all his viewers to go over to so and so and how he was not going to end his stream until his buddies were number 2 (so that they would be number 1 when he ended his stream). It all seemed so petty to me and I just really don't want to play that game. But glad you are having a good time there and I hope you get your partnership. I just struggle to find the time that YouNow seems to need. I am REALLY looking forward to Youtube live streaming which I believe has been rolled out to a few celebrities. All the very best Spencer and much love back to you.

    Hi Spencer. Thank you so much for taking the time to type in this detailed response. I do really like YouNow but something put me off the other day. I was enjoying a good run on the "singing" category when I suddenly dropped to 4th and then everyone left. I think the other performers ganged up on me and once your audience knows you are fighting a losing battle they also kind of give up on you. Then I saw a young guy saying how he was not going to end his stream until so and so was number 2 (they were currently number 3). He wasn't performing or anything he was just sitting there telling all his viewers to go over to so and so and how he was not going to end his stream until his buddies were number 2 (so that they would be number 1 when he ended his stream). It all seemed so petty to me and I just really don't want to play that game. But glad you are having a good time there and I hope you get your partnership. I just struggle to find the time that YouNow seems to need.

    I am REALLY looking forward to Youtube live streaming which I believe has been rolled out to a few celebrities. All the very best Spencer and much love back to you.

  • Spencer

    Spencer

    Ms. Josie, I wanted to drop a quick update. I just got a T-shirt and confirmation for being a partner from YouNow! Exciting times coming for me. Thank you for the well- wishes for that - they're working, everyone! I'm very inspired at this time. I hope YouTube streaming will be another great place to perform and reach an audience. My findings after broadcasting for two months, I have found that determination and persistence is a key part of YouNow being worthwhile. I guarantee if I would have not focused on YouNow only, this wouldn't have ever happened. I wish for you to get some free time, and be able to experience what YouNow has to offer. Thank you for originating this blog. It will allow all of us streamers to lay out and evaluate what our options could be, and to suit our individual needs! Thanks again. -Spencer

    Ms. Josie, I wanted to drop a quick update. I just got a T-shirt and confirmation for being a partner from YouNow! Exciting times coming for me. Thank you for the well- wishes for that - they're working, everyone! I'm very inspired at this time. I hope YouTube streaming will be another great place to perform and reach an audience. My findings after broadcasting for two months, I have found that determination and persistence is a key part of YouNow being worthwhile. I guarantee if I would have not focused on YouNow only, this wouldn't have ever happened. I wish for you to get some free time, and be able to experience what YouNow has to offer. Thank you for originating this blog. It will allow all of us streamers to lay out and evaluate what our options could be, and to suit our individual needs!
    Thanks again.
    -Spencer

  • Joanne Cooper

    Joanne Cooper

    Spencer that is awesome!!! Well done. Your perseverance has paid off. I will try to catch some of your performances there. Best of luck with it!

    Spencer that is awesome!!! Well done. Your perseverance has paid off. I will try to catch some of your performances there. Best of luck with it!

  • Brian Parsons

    Brian Parsons Edmonton, Alberta Canada

    HI Joanne... Is there any cost to the musician when they move up from the start out viewer to the the viewers with more features... I gather people cannot tip the musician with the start out viewer

    HI Joanne... Is there any cost to the musician when they move up from the start out viewer to the the viewers with more features... I gather people cannot tip the musician with the start out viewer

  • Joanne Cooper

    Joanne Cooper

    Hi Brian. I assume you are talking about streetjelly. There is no cost to the different performer levels in streetjelly but they decide when you are ready to move up to the next level. I think only a few performers have achieved pro level. I had not heard that the lowest level cannot receive tips... That doesn't sound right but maybe you can check with streetjelly support.

    Hi Brian. I assume you are talking about streetjelly. There is no cost to the different performer levels in streetjelly but they decide when you are ready to move up to the next level. I think only a few performers have achieved pro level. I had not heard that the lowest level cannot receive tips... That doesn't sound right but maybe you can check with streetjelly support.

  • Brian Parsons

    Brian Parsons Edmonton

    Yes I did mean street jelly and thank you for your quick response... Yes I will check with them now... Wanted to get an independent answer... One tends to mistrust the word free on the net.

    Yes I did mean street jelly and thank you for your quick response... Yes I will check with them now... Wanted to get an independent answer... One tends to mistrust the word free on the net.

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    Erin Cavill USA

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