Since Facebook started allowing live-streams on the platform in April 2016, musicians, alongside many other professions have used Facebook live as a chance to promote themselves to a new audience. Live Gigs on a virtual platform have grown and grown, but since the lockdown they have taken over real gigs and performances because they’ve been our only way of watching live music. These have been fantastic promotional tools for small, upcoming musicians but have also been a wonderful substitute for our usual forms of entertainment. Too much Netflix can make a person go crazy - especially when you’ve watched everything on there within 2 weeks. Amateur singers have flocked and are relishing the opportunities more than ever, but that isn’t without its flaws. All of these points made have come from issues I have seen on at least 5 occasions during a Facebook Live Performance.
Are you doing Facebook Live performances? Are you thinking about joining the hype? Here are tips and ideas to help you make the most out of your performance and not make silly mistakes, come across more professional and maybe even land some bookings for when we are able to gig again.
Treat it Like a Real, In-person Gig
Just because you are not technically on a stage, lights aren’t in your face (hopefully) and you cannot physically see your audience doesn’t mean it’s not a gig and you don’t have to have a level of professionalism. It’s very easy to slip into extreme comfort and treat it like a random jamming session, practice at home or karaoke, but you are being watched and the way you are (not just your talent) will stick in people’s minds and potentially land you some gigs in the future.
The pressure is nowhere near as high, but it’s important to remember you do have an audience that wants to see you do well. This doesn’t mean you should be a robot, nor should you stop being you and using humour or being engaging. Do what you’d do at a gig and don’t do what you wouldn’t at a gig.
I have sat and watched quite a few live virtual performances and well, barely any have stuck in my mind. I don’t remember the names of very many performers, nor would I rush to see any of them live in person. Though they may be talented, I was not “wowed” by anyone. Why? They were all the same. The setting you are in may not exactly be the most creatively engaging or exciting, but don’t just be a carbon copy, karaoke singer that we are seeing on a daily basis. You are your own musician with your own talents. You are far more likely to be remembered in a sea of karaoke singers if you stand out and put your own stamp on it.
Reverb is Your Friend; Not Your Saviour
Ah, reverb. As an engineer, I generally tend to have a dislike for the infatuation some of these singers have with reverb. It reminds me of that person we all know who puts way too much tomato sauce on a meal. Reverb is a lovely effect and enhances your performance without a doubt. It should be used for exactly that. Enhancement. However, so many of these performances have a severe overkill of reverb to the point where it becomes the driver of the performance and is very off putting. Reverb is a bit like makeup, it’s cool and makes you look a little nicer but don’t use it like a mask.
Turn reverb OFF when you talk
When your song is over and you begin to interact with the audience, leaving reverb on can be rather disorientating for the audience and takes away from the intended effect it has on your vocals when you perform. Turning reverb on and off on many small sound desks can be as easy as pushing a button or turning a pot.
A lot of performances I am seeing have large PA speakers as part of the setup. Feedback has been an issue in many performances. To find out how to avoid feedback, you can do so in my other blog ‘Feedback - What Is It? Why Does It Happen? And How Can I Stop It?’. But poor mic technique has been apparent in other ways too. Not pulling the mic back when you belt out a note, or when talking to the audience/responding to comments, moving so far away from the mic nobody can hear them. Make sure you’re aware of your mic technique and you don’t want to all of a sudden be screaming in people’s ears or turning their volumes up to the max so they can hear you talk, only for you to come back and blow them away.
Use Direct Audio if Possible
If your setup is really small or you don’t have the capacity to directly send your audio to our computer from your microphone etc. then that’s ok. But, if you have a decent PA system going that you’ve invested a bit of money into - you don’t want to do it any injustice by then leaving the last part of somebody's experience to be based on the mic on your phone or laptop. If you are streaming on your phone, you can get an ‘iRig’ converter/interface for as little as £10, which will input audio directly. If you are on your computer, link up your sound desk/interface to your computer and select the ‘microphone’ input as your sound desk.
Be Resilient and Don’t Be Easily Distracted
How often do you perform and look back at yourself at the same time? Pretty much never. Usually when up on stage, though you can see your audience, you can have that barrier between the audience and you. The audience (hopefully) don’t usually try and chat with you mid-way through a song either. If they do, you can pretty much perform through it and leave that audience participation until the end of the song. Being live on Facebook is a bit different. You spend most of your gig watching yourself on the camera, with words and conversations popping up constantly on the screen. This can be really disorientating for you as a performer and also seeing people conversing can be quite enticing. Again, it feels like there are some boundary lines that aren’t seemingly obvious with a live stream. It’s far more distracting and harder to put yourself ‘in the zone’.
Understand Your Space
You are limited to the width of your camera, which, especially when in your shed or your living room isn’t exactly a lot. You may find yourself on a small stage without exactly a lot of space sometimes. It’s difficult to command a stage that’s so small but walking in and out of view lose people’s interest and make you look unprofessional.
Plan Your Set
This is a common thing for both live streams and live gigs. Plan your set. Know how long you will be performing and plan a set with enough songs to fill that time with maybe 4-5 songs extra just in case. If you get 30 mins through a 45 minute set and need to come up with songs off the top of your head, it won’t look good. Start your set off easy and build up to the middle of the gig. The last few songs should bring the tempo down and calm people down. The last thing you want is people really getting going and all of a sudden you are gone.
Not Every Song Needs and Introduction or 'Outroduction'
When you plan your set, you should have a few minutes to spare. This allows you to talk with your audience. If your performance follows the pattern of ‘talk, song, talk, song’, you begin to distract from the talent you possess and focus on the reasoning behind what you’re doing. You want people to remember you for your talents. By all means, introduce and talk between some songs, but it isn’t necessary for every song.
Respond With Listeners When Appropriate
You will often find that many comments in the stream are pretty much the same and usually very nice. If it’s a hot/busy stream, it’s best to probably not thank everybody individually and do a general thank you for all the nice comments. But, also, if negative comments come through it’s easy to get caught up in the moment and respond back - don’t. As we all know - the best way to get at the trolls is to get on and do your thing with a smile on your face. In the middle of songs, keep going and try not to respond to comments as this can throw you off your game.
Facebook's Live streaming platform is a fantastic way to advertise your skills and talents to a massive audience but like anything you do - it's no good if you don't put the time and effort into doing it right.
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