Like my fellow performing musicians, I’ve felt the sting of losing in-person concerts to the COVID-19 pandemic, emotionally and financially. I work a full-time job and music supplements my family’s income. We feel the difference when the library and school gigs dry up. Musicians the world over who perform full-time are feeling it far more.
Fortunately, technology provides another option, one you’ve likely encountered in your personal and work life – virtual live concerts. These events offer the opportunity to get wildly creative in interacting with an audience and forming a community. In a streaming concert, an artist can create an alternate version of the night out her audience has been craving since spring 2020.
Making Ends Meet
The ability to perform live online is miraculous, yet it raises a new question: How do we get it to replace the lost income from cancelled in-person gigs? Platforms like StageIt address the question by allowing a performer to sell tickets to his existing fanbase. Then the platform takes a cut of those ticket sales. The now-defunct Concert Window worked similarly. What’s lacking here is the possibility that users of the platform will stumble upon an independent artist and buy a ticket to his show. This only works for artists with a large enough following in the first place.
New platforms have emerged during the pandemic offering other solutions, like making the platform free for the audience, but encouraging tips. Some of these platforms attempt to introduce new artists and audiences to one another, so an artist can grow a fanbase and, with it, a potentially sustainable living.
Introducing Live Streamer Cafe
Most recently, Live Streamer Cafe (livestreamercafe.com) caught my attention. Its founders Martyn Lucas and Kristopher Marentette envisioned a tight-knit online community of artists and audience where fans of one artist can discover other artists they’ll love. Over the past two weeks (as of this writing), Kristopher, the site’s developer, has rapidly evolved features of the site and added compelling interactivity that artists and audience alike will really enjoy.
Live Streamer Cafe presents the look and feel of the neighborhood coffeehouse. This becomes even more apparent when you engage in a performer’s show. Above the chat window a caramel-colored flag will randomly appear saying “Order Up: ” followed by an item you’d typically order at the coffeehouse. The first audience member to click on that flag and claim the item gets points. This creates fun, friendly competition among audience that plays to the platform’s theme. And I can almost smell and taste those goodies!
I will give my next performance on Live Streamer Cafe on Saturday, 27-Feb at 8PM Eastern-US (UTC-5).
A Different Experience from Sessions
Pandora founder Tim Westergren had established a platform intended for independent artists to to grow their careers as they help the platform grow. I’ve personally had good experiences on it, especially interacting with fellow artists. A few of my existing fans were willing to try it. Some learned to engage with Sessions while others found it confusing and settled for just watching without interacting. A small number of music listeners became friendly with me in other artists’ audiences and then tried out my show. Even fewer stumbled upon my show and interacted with me.
In my experience, Sessions strikes me as though it works best for young adult and teen audiences in the gamer community. The platform actually arose from Next Music, which offered musical mini-games (like Rock Band or Guitar Hero) and allowed live streaming performances as an add-in. The resulting interface expresses a video game aesthetic. If Sessions Live were a brick-and-mortar venue it would be a nightclub with a mega-arcade. Think Dave & Buster’s.
Live Streamer Cafe’s theme wraps around a different experience – a more casual environment that puts the performance and interaction with audience front-and-center, more like that neighborhood coffeehouse.
For the Audience-Getting Started
Before attending your first show at Live Streamer Cafe, you’ll want to sign up. Visit livestreamercafe.com and click the Sign Up button in the upper-right corner of the page.
After you sign up, check your inbox for a confirmation message. Follow the link in that message to confirm you’ve given the correct email address.
On the site’s home page, you’ll see a gallery of member artists. A bright green frame will surround artists who are live “on air” at the moment.
Click the artist’s icon to join the show, interact through chat, request songs and collect virtual treats. You can also become a fan of as many artists as you find interesting. While watching the show, you’ll find Tip Jar buttons for the artist’s PayPal and/or Venmo accounts.
A Different Economic Model
When Sessions caught my attention in January it struck me as a game changer for live online performers because it demonstrated a commitment to paying performers for their time and talents. Soon after I joined Sessions and saw early signs of success, Sessions changed their model, announcing they would slash the performance bonus amounts and number of bonus-eligible shows per week. The platform’s rationale is that the had taken on too many artists to support the bonuses it was paying. The artist relations team placed more emphasis on audience tips, of which the platform takes about 1/3. Also, the standard suggested lightning tip “sticker” is worth about $0.065 US paid to the artist.
Instead of supplementing tips with bonuses and taking a cut of tips, Live Streamer Cafe, as a platform in its infancy, asks artists to subscribe for $6, 10, or 15 US per month. Then the artist keeps 100% of tips, which are sent through Venmo or PayPal via the platform’s interface. The standard tip encouraged is more on the scale of dollars than pennies. I made more yesterday on Live Streamer Cafe from a single donation than I did in Sessions from a dozen donations. I’m usually hesitant to pay for any opportunity to perform, but I’m willing to give this model a genuine shot. I find it encouraging that I keep 100% of tips. I also see that the community coalescing around LSC appears to have legs.
Artists, if you join Live Streamer Cafe as a result of reading this article, please mention me, Jason Didner, as your referrer.
This Platform is a Venue!
The community-minded presence of Live Streamer Cafe shows promise that it will attract music lovers who enjoy and appreciate a live, online performance. These fans can gather virtually with like-minded people from around the globe and help artists grow their fanbases by introducing people to one another.
Calling Live Streamer Cafe a platform doesn’t tell the whole story. I consider it to also be a venue – like the neighborhood coffeehouse. As a touring artist would do, I intend to play in multiple venues to reach multiple communities. So you’ll see me on Sessions, Live Streamer Cafe, Zoom and other platforms as the situation calls for it.
I’m really enjoying Live Streamer Cafe on both sides of the camera. When you try it, let me know in the comments below what your experience with it is like.