8 Tips on How to Engage Your Audience During a Live-Streamed Concert

Now It’s Time to Live Stream! 

Since many of us are spending most of our time at home and we can’t attend any large gatherings, for the time being, live streaming has become the solution to maintain human contact. We can have video calls with family and friends, organize online meetings and webinars with colleagues and peers, and even watch live concerts in the safety of our own homes. 

Not many necessarily know this but I wrote my master’s thesis about concert live-streaming four years ago. This happened at the time when I realized that I wanted to work in live music and touring. Still in the middle of my master’s studies in business administration, I decided to write my thesis about a topic I knew nothing about to get closer to my new chosen career. And man was it hard, especially considering the lack of written information about the subject. 

I’m not really sure why I chose this topic but there was something intriguing about it. I remember talking about live streaming with my drum teacher back in 2014 and I started playing with the subject in my head. Talking to various people working in the music business, reading a big pile of both academic and industry articles, attending live-streamed events, and holding a workshop with music fans, the research process ended up being super rewarding in the end. 

I learned a ton not only about concert live streaming but about the music industry and how it has changed in the past 20 years. Live streaming is still fairly unutilized as a concert medium but I have a feeling more people will recognize its value and untapped opportunities because of the current situation and the restrictions this worldwide pandemic is placing on live music. 

I will shortly summarize what I learned during my research and you can download my thesis and read more if you’re interested in finding out more about concert live streaming. 

Co-Creating with Fans to Find Out What Engages Them in a Live-Streamed Concert

My master’s studies in business administration specialized in service innovation and design, which means (in a very simplified explanation) creating, designing, developing, or improving the overall experience of a service together with the user. Through co-creation, service design concretely involves the customer in the creation of a service – which is what co-creating ultimately means, to create together. You need to involve the customer in what you do to be able to offer your customers what they really need and want. 

Service design is a very interesting method (or a mindset, toolbox, approach, process, or whatever you want to call it). It can be used to design public services, to develop your own service offering, or to improve internal processes. I suggest reading more about it to really grasp what it means and how it can be utilized for everybody’s common good. 

As an example, even if it’s “just” a reality TV series, Undercover Boss actually uses service design to improve services and the conditions of employees in the case companies. I love watching it to see how different bosses learn about their employees (and customers at the same time) by putting themselves into their employees’ shoes. Literally. 

I partnered with a Nashvillian live streaming startup called The Nashville Loop to get more insight into concert live streaming. Furthermore, we collaborated with a singer-songwriter’s night called Whiskey Jam, which is a weekly concert held at Winner’s Bar and Grill in Midtown Nashville, to reach concrete results through a case study. 

Respecting the core of service design, I used co-creation as the main research method by holding a workshop in Nashville in the spring of 2015. The session gathered together 15 fans of Whiskey Jam to co-create an engaging live-streamed version of the weekly concert. To find out what engages the viewer in a live-streamed concert, I used different methods, such as silent storytelling, brainstorming, role play, and prototyping to gain valuable insights into the participants’ experiences and wants. 

8 Tips on How to Engage Your Audience During a Live-Streamed Concert

Based on the co-creation workshop, I created two concepts: one for a memorable live music experience and another one for an engaging live-streamed concert. Reflecting on all the information in the concepts, I suggested ways to further engage the viewer through interaction and participation during a live-streamed concert.

This is where lies the main point: interaction and participation are the keywords. According to my findings, the viewers don’t want to just sit by their computers watching a live-streamed concert. They want to be part of the experience and feel part of the concert like they would at a venue. Viewer engagement in a live-streamed concert is a two-way, interactive relationship with both the people involved in the concert (other online viewers, venue audience, artists, host/emcee, etc.) and the technological solutions used in the production. 

In my thesis, I’m offering various tips on how to engage online viewers through different elements in the concert production. There’s a lot to consider when planning the performance and production, incl. audio, lighting, visuals, and hosting/emceeing, and paying attention to both the at-venue and remote audience while doing so. 

Concept of an engaging live-streamed concert
Concept of an engaging live-streamed concert. Credit: Erika Pursiainen

There’s too much to explain about the above concept in this limited post (and if you’re interested in finding out more I suggest reading my thesis in full) but to summarize, my thesis suggests that an engaging live-streamed concert experience can be considered as an interplay between several different aspects: the people and a number of audiovisual aspects of live concert production. It is not enough to pay attention to just one or two factors, such as audio or quality of the stream (that are many times considered to be the main concerns), but the production should concentrate on the multi-level online viewer experience. 

Furthermore, co-creation doesn’t only happen when designing new or developing existing services. At its best, co-creation happens while using the service: the service provider (artist and production) and the user (audience) create the service (concert) together at the time the user actually uses the service (attends the concert). This two-way relationship and interaction during the concert is what makes a live-streamed show engaging for the viewer and is the premise of the model below that I created based on the findings above. 

Model of co-creational aspects of an engaging live-streamed concert
Model of co-creational aspects of an engaging live-streamed concert. Credit: Erika Pursiainen

The model suggests that the live stream viewer can co-create the concert experience in interaction with both the people involved and technology used in the concert production. It demonstrates that interaction and user participation are the key factors in engaging the online viewer.

To make it more understandable, I’ll explain the model by turning it into 8 tips on how to engage your audience during a live-streamed concert. Some of the tips are more technical than others but regardless of your technical abilities and software, many are easy to adjust to any live-streamed concert experience.

  1. Offer similar views the audience would have at the venue. Have enough camera angles and let the viewer see all the performers individually, as well. In addition to stationary cameras, have one camera operator move around in the concert space if it makes sense. Capture the crowd too if you have an audience. Stationary and shot from one angle far away is boring. 
  2. Offer something special to the viewer. Something that cannot be experienced through any other channel. Give them access to exclusive places and views during the live stream. Show them your tour bus or give a tour around your rehearsal studio (in case you’ll be live streaming from your studio). Take the viewer with you from the green room to the stage. Tell stories and details no one else gets to hear. Tell them about how the songs were created. Let the viewer closer to you and ask them what they want to hear. Or bring in a surprise guest that you’ll reveal during the live stream to build suspense!
  3. Let the viewer interact with other audience members, online and at the venue, and the performers. A very simple and accessible tool for this is a chat that most live streaming channels offer. But don’t settle with just offering a chat but acknowledge the messages from your viewers. To make it more interactive, have a real person act as an intermediate, commenting during the show and relaying questions and wishes to the artist (unless the artist can do it themselves during the live stream). Also, verbally acknowledge the online audience! Say hi and engage them into conversation in the chat. 
  4. Have somebody host/emcee the show and interact with the online viewers. Like you see at live sports events but in a more interactive way. This takes the pressure away from the performers. The host/emcee can take the viewers to different places with a movable camera and offer entertainment before the show starts, in between songs, in between acts if multiple, and after the show. They can also bring the viewer to meet the artist before and after the show and interview the performers during set changes so as not to have any quiet moments during which the online viewer might get distracted and leave the live stream. If you’re hosting the show yourself as an artist, don’t concentrate only on music but have fun, joke around, tell stories.
  5. Let the viewer participate in different activities during the live stream. Create polls, games, and contests (that you can pull contact information from and also use for marketing purposes later). Bring the viewer into the live stream to interview the artist on the screen, if your technology allows. Have a live Twitter feed on the screen so that the viewers can tweet and be seen. Acknowledge viewers by name, answer their questions, play the most requested songs. Provide links to your music, merchandise, concert tickets, and your website. Provide a way to tip if the concert is free (as an optional measure). 
  6. If you’re tech-savvy and you have enough budget, create a live feel and an experience as close to the venue experience as possible. Live stream at a real venue (with or without a live audience). Give the viewer the possibility to choose camera angles (through interactive and 360 cameras), change their viewing position in the room (through camera positioning – bring the viewer to the venue audience level), and hear the concert as if they were physically there (include sounds from the venue audience in the audio stream). With appropriate solutions, the viewer could also be offered the possibility to control lighting, audio, and props such as confetti with a virtual switchboard. Virtual reality has the potential in bringing the viewer even closer to the venue.
  7. Make the concert live stream a shared experience for the viewer. Have street teams in different cities to organize live streams at bars or other communal places in cooperation with the management. Suggest fans to gather at somebody’s home to watch the concert together. Obviously, this tip is not very valid right now but families and roommates can still enjoy concerts together at home like this.
  8. And finally, do some proper testing before your first live stream. Check that everything looks like it should, everything sounds like it should, technical aspects and interactive functionalities work, and so on.

Even if some of the tips above require multi-camera solutions and fancy software you don’t necessarily need expensive production or gear to create an engaging live-streamed concert, especially now that there are many simple and free live streaming solutions out there.

Obviously, this list is not exhaustive since it’s based on my research with one case study. However, I hope that you can utilize some of these tips and come up with creative ideas to engage your viewers. Including the viewer can be done in simple ways – just use your imagination and please share with me what you came up with!

You can download my master’s thesis here: Co-Creating an Engaging Live-Streamed Concert with Potential Viewers.

Now you know how to engage your audience during a live-streamed concert. Now, engage me too and share a link to your live stream! 

Also, feel free to share links to any other cool concert live streams that are happening right now. Let’s support each other!

Here’s my suggestion: 

Levitt En Vivo is a weekly live-streamed concert series for our community by our community on Levitt Pavilion Los Angeles Instagram Live. Next shows:

April 2nd – Quinto Sol

April 8th – Blanco y Negro

April 15th – Cutty Flam

April 22nd – The Expanders

Levitt En Vivo
Levitt En Vivo concert series. Credit: Levitt Pavilion Los Angeles


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