How to Make TikTok Duets of Musical Performances (2)

Part 2 – Responding to other’s Videos as a Duet (Guest)

Continued from Part 1 – Creating a Video for Duets as Host

In my brief experience with TikTok, responding to videos created by others presents a different procedure from creating the original video. First, you’ll find videos you’d like to duet with. Then you’ll tell TikTok to start creating your duet version. From here, you turn on the mic, capture the video, label it and finally post it.

Finding Videos to Duet With

A creator doesn’t have to label a video “duet this”; they simply have to allow duets for the video in the app. And you can duet with anything under that condition – the original video does not have to contain music. But, a video deliberately labeled “duet this” is probably better set up for a duet – with parts where the creator left space for a guest to jump in and maybe even provided text-based direction to follow.

I’ve begun my search for host videos intended for duets by searching on the phrase “duet this” or the hashtag #duetthis. I found those first results a bit random (and a little thrilling when I found a compatible potential duet). I got more precise results looking for a song title or artist from my repertoire and the phrase “duet this.”

Searching for “wonderwall duet this” brought me this result by singer/guitarist Henry Honkonen.

@henryhonkonen C’mon, it’s Wonderwall, you HAVE to duet #foryou #singing #duet #viral #wonderwall ♬ original sound – Henry Honkonen

I like to use the Favorite button when I find a good potential duet video and want to make my part of the duet later. It’s also possible to categorize your favorites, so a “potential duets” category is useful.

Preparing the Duet

Before starting the duet, watch the video a few times. Get a feel for whether there are directions and what you’d like to do creatively with your part. Rehearse it a time or two.

Then, tap the Share button and then tap Duet.

To start a duet in TikTok, click the Share button and select Duet.

Note: If the Duet button is not present, the creator has not allowed duets for the current video.

Tips for Duet Capture Quality

Since you and the original duet artist will appear side-by-side, try to frame yourself proportionally to your host.

Also, it is vital that you use headphones. If the original sound plays through the phone’s speaker, the sound will bleed heavily into the phone’s microphone, creating an unwanted echo and a muddy background track. I prefer to use headphones without their own mic, as I tend to overload a headset mic with my loud voice. So, I use studio headphones for this.

Since my one Lighting port (iPhone 11) is taken up with my headset (with a Lightning adapter) I use the iPhone’s built-in mic for my part of an existing duet. I’m considering a Lightning splitter adapter, but would rather not end up with a convoluted network of multiple adapters.

Recording Your Part of the Duet

Don’t forget the Mic button! 🎤🤣

Once you’ve started the duet, you’ll need to turn your mic on in the app. On my first several duets I went straight to the record button and came up with silence on my end to show for it! Once you’ve turned the mic on, you can press Record and perform your part of the duet.

Tap the Mic button before you record. When finished recording, tap Volume and lower the Original sound (your mic level).

As soon as you’re done recording, proceed immediately to the Volume button! I’ve always found my recorded part to excessively loud!

Now, here’s where things can get a little confusing.

TikTok calls the part you just added the Original Sound and the host’s original part the Added Sound. There is a consistent reason for this. When you capture videos, what comes in through your mic is always considered the original sound. Any other tracks mixed with that are considered the added sound.

Anyway, you’ll need to turn the Original Sound down to a very low setting so you can actually hear both the host’s part and your part of the duet. This is where you get to do some sound mixing. Make sure both parts are recognizable.

Once you’re satisfied with the levels, create a large text label with the title of the track and, if you like, the word Duet. Remember, you’ll want this to appear on the thumbnail image so people who find the video will know what it is and want to watch.

Here’s the duet I created with Henry.

@jasondidner #duet with @Henry Honkonen #foryou Thanks Henry for creating this cool #DuetThis version of #Wonderwall by #Oasis ♬ original sound – Henry Honkonen

A Note about Camera Mirror-Image

By default, TIkTok captures your mirror image. Never before have I seen so many lefty guitarists since the advent of video capture from smartphones! If your T-shirt or banner have backwards writing because of this, you’ll need to invert the video image to project professionalism.

For me, this is only an issue when I’m the guest in a duet, because when I originate the video, I capture through my phone’s built-in camera app. When guesting, I must use the Inverted effect, which is a bit off the beaten path.

Note: When you find the Inverted effect, you can add it to Favorites to eliminate having to type to search for it in the future.

Before recording, tap Effects, search for Inverted and select it. Then tap the screen to counter TikTok’s mirror-image default.

Before capturing, tap the Effects button (to the left of the record button). Search for Inverted. Select the Inverted effect.

Then, tap your half of the screen, so your image is no longer mirrored. Instead, you will see what the camera actually sees. If you play guitar righty, you’ll look like a righty.

Important: The Inverted effect is only applied after you select the effect and then tap your image on the screen, which toggles the effect on/off.

Let me know how your duets are coming out!

Use the comments below to tell me about your progress with TikTok duets! You can also leave your handle and I’ll check out your videos. Have fun!

How to Legally License a Cover Song

I had a gut feeling that an album called “It’s a Jersey Thing” could benefit from a song written by none other than Bruce Springsteen. His tune, “Thunder Road,” held a special place in my live acoustic repertoire for decades. I’d get a pleasing reaction both in person and during all those online concerts necessitated by COVID-19. I had made a YouTube video in which I perform the song on vocals and acoustic guitar and then add some layers of piano and glockenspiel (bells).

Why Licensing?

In order to distribute a recording of a song someone else wrote or owns, you need to purchase a license. This ensures the rights holders get their share of the proceeds. Intellectual property law requires this whether you’re burning CDs to give away, emailing MP3s or selling an album containing the cover.

I wanted to include “Thunder Road” on my album that I intended to sell as a download and make available for streaming. Therefore, I needed to get it licensed first.

Licensing for Downloads and Discs

Jason Didner holding a CD of his new album "It's a Jersey Thing."

Originally I had not planned to get physical CDs made, as the current trend favors streaming and downloads. A fan convinced me to change my mind and get CD’s pressed (at least a very modest number of them).

I turned to Easy Song Licensing to provide me with the license to sell downloads of a cover song. The company asked me for the title, original artist and songwriter of the song I wanted to use. They asked how many downloads I predicted I’d sell/give away. I estimated a modest number. Bear in mind: if I reach my goal number, I can always purchase more licenses to cover more instances of downloads. I’d consider this a wonderful problem to have.

As I became convinced to press some CDs, I returned to Easy Song Licensing to license the number of discs.

You pay 9 cents per copy sold (or given away) whether digital download or CD – plus an administrative fee. The industry refers to this as a compulsory license. The more copies you can license, the more mileage you get out of that initial administrative fee. You may benefit from an ambitious approach if you have a plan. How will you sell all those copies? Lots of online gigs? Lots of in-person gigs?

Licensing for Streaming

You can upload your cover song for release on Apple Music, Spotify, Amazon and other streaming services and get the licensing arranged at the same time. Using DistroKid, you can simply identify your song as a cover using the form you fill out to associate information with your upload. Then, DistroKid will settle up with The song’s rights holder based on number of times the song is streamed before paying you your portion of streaming royalties. DistroKid will also divide up download/purchase royalties on those platforms it distributes to. When it comes to streaming royalties, I like to say “They’re pennies, but they’re my pennies!”

Note: Bandcamp operates entirely outside those platforms that work with services like DistroKid. So you’ll need a licensing company like Easy Song if uploading your cover to Bandcamp.

What about YouTube Videos?

Since YouTube attaches ads to videos viewed by the general public (unless they subscribe to YouTube’s premium ad-free service) and makes money off those ads, it shares that revenue with the proper copyright holder of the song you’re covering. So if you clearly identify the songwriter or original artist and title of the song, YouTube will figure out the rights holder. Bear in mind, the rights holder can object to their song being covered and request that YouTube remove your cover. Just try covering the Eagles’ “Hotel California” and you’ll see what I mean.

Do you plan on recording and releasing a cover song? Which one? Tell us how you go about licensing it.

Six Keys to Giving a Great Live Streaming Concert

The COVID-19 pandemic forced musicians to rethink how we might create a meaningful live experience for our existing fans and attract new ones. These six points have been crucial in the development of my act. In fact, I’m still learning to get better at them.

1. Get the Audience Involved – Any Way You Can!

I gave my first live, online performance 17 years ago on PalTalk, which was an audio-only format with chat. I performed in virtual open mic settings, which were a bit unruly. The most important thing I had learned in those days was to encourage audience participation in the chat window.

Online singer/songwriter Jason Didner gives a live streaming concert.

Audience members didn’t yet have the wide array of emojis they have today, so they’d use typed characters creatively, to simulate swaying back and forth and cheering. I quickly learned to call out the usernames of audience members who were using the chat to participate. At any instrumental break or song ending I’d make sure to call someone out. Whatever means an attendee had to express joy, I was going to encourage it.

After a number of these performances, I had put that particular skill away. Instead I focused on booking and performing as many live, in-person shows as I could, touring book stores and coffeehouses. Online performances had been fun, but the audio quality was poor and the lack of visual element to the performance was a pretty severe limit.

A decade later, I had formed a band that plays children’s music at schools and libraries – Jason Didner and the Jungle Gym Jam. When there was a snow day, I’d give an online concert for the families that followed us, so they’d have something to do. We used the platform Concert Window for these shows. I made the show as engaging as possible, calling for “freeze dances” and for kids to pretend they were jumping on a bed. It worked well. Until Concert Window closed its window for good.

California singer Janel Nabong is an absolute master at involving the audience, frequently presenting them with cause for interesting chat conversation.

2. Plan to Take Requests

Today’s more advanced online concert platforms have a song list feature where audience members can browse through the songs you’re prepared to perform. Fulfilling an audience member’s request strengthens your bond with the audience. Make sure you’re updating your song list periodically and rehearsing those songs. Remember, if it’s in your list, it can get requested at any time!

If your audience doesn’t know your original songs, make sure to have plenty of cover songs prepared. You can also remove songs from your song list for certain shows to preserve a certain theme – like if you’re doing ’80s night, maybe remove all your 2000’s songs for the night. If your performance platform allows the import of spreadsheets of your song lists, you might find them quicker and easier to make.

Michigan-based performer Kris Pride makes effective use of themed shows with her songbook.

3. Mix In Some Benefit Concerts

This difficult period of COVID-19 has brought the virtual benefit concert to the forefront of public consciousness. Major network TV was brimming with concert specials featuring Zoomed-in performances from famous artists in the first several months. A benefit concert can serve as a truly compelling reason for your community to come together, enjoy your music and support a worthy cause.

Benefit concerts also establish that your music has value to it. Your concert is the premium people get for their donation to the cause. So, when you play a regular online concert, that same audience that supported your cause will more likely support you via tips and merch orders.

At present time, Live Streamer Cafe is the only concert platform I’ve seen with a donate button for the cause the artist is playing for. I requested that feature and Kris, the site developer, delivered. As one of the platform’s first artists, I reviewed it in this linked blog post.

4. Consider Your Audience’s Total Experience

Imagine you’re driving to a physical venue to see a band – a friend of a friend. The street address is wrong and GPS is taking you nowhere. You finally reach the venue only to discover the band didn’t put your name on the guest list like they said they would. Then you get in and discover the layout of the venue dark, cluttered and confusing. The sound quality is garbled, the lighting is poor and the musicians don’t even look like they’re enjoying themselves. They’re just gazing down at their instruments. At the end of the night you leave, having gotten no acknowledgement from the act you came to see. You’ve had a night you hope to forget soon.

There’s an electronic equivalent of this, and it isn’t pretty! I’ve had some unfortunate learning experiences where I’ve sent Zoom links out for the wrong “meeting” – so people I was expecting at the show haven’t arrived (because the link was wrong!).

I’ve gotten better at this with experience, but I’ve also found that the dedicated streaming platforms work with a web address that never changes, so all your marketing can easily guide all your audience to the right place.

The layout of your streaming platform deserves consideration as well. How much explanation does the web site require where you’ll be performing. Can audience easily sign up, log in, participate in chat, make song requests and support the artist? If it requires elaborate explanation, you may want to look for alternative venues. Consider their user experience when choosing a platform to perform on.

If your audience leaves your show feeling truly appreciated, you’ve done it right! No performer has impressed me more with genuine gratitude than Ontario-based rising star Ashley Sienna. She reacts to every tip like a Grammy winner!

5. Get Your Lighting and Sound Right

In my experience, good lighting matters more than a high-end camera. I use two inexpensive LED lamps to light my performances. When you’re well-lit, your image on screen will be clearly defined and more engaging than a dull, muddy image.

For sound, ensure a good balance between voice and instruments. Make sure you’re not overloading your sound interface (that would usually produce red light indicators), which will come out distorted on the audience’s end. My sound setup is the PA system I use at my in-person gigs, which supplies a bit of reverb and mixes my vocal mic, guitar and keyboards. I use the same stage mic I use in my in-person shows.

Check out Martyn Lucas’ shows for some real next-level production value.

6. Create Special Occasions

Your online concerts are opportunities to world-premiere your new video – it makes a good break in the middle of your show and also presents your audience with another side of you as an artist. I’ve world-premiered a couple of videos in my live streams and they’ve created memorable moments for the audience and me alike. Showing a collaboration video in your concert when you’re a solo act is a great way to introduce variety.

New Video Ad for Online Music Platform Live Streamer Cafe

Here’s my 2-minute ad for my shows on Live Streamer Cafe. This new live music online platform brings the feel of the neighborhood coffeehouse to the whole world!

The ad features “Salt and Sand,” the video that shows me recording all the tracks for that recently released single. You’ll see me introduce myself as a person and as a musician. I’ll also share my thoughts on what makes this online live music venue so great.

If you enjoy this video, please share!

To get started as a fan on Live Streamer Cafe, click the Sign Up button below:

See the full video of “Salt and Sand” + lyric sheet here.

Live Streamer Cafe – a Community-Minded Online Concert Platform

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.

Jason Didner, singer/songwriter and live, online performer
Jason Didner, singer-songwriter and live, online performer

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 ( 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.

A screenshot of Live Streamer Cafe
LIve Streamer Cafe artist Marah entertains her virtual audience while a cup of coffee comes up for grabs at the top of the chat window.

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 Friday, 04-Feb 2022 at 7:30 PM Eastern-US (UTC-5). This is my album launch concert for “Salt and Sand: Rock Songs to Heal the Mind.” Special Guest: Kris Pride

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 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.

A Disappointing Announcement of Change at Sessions Live

A Promising Development for Artists

I had recently sung the praises of new live music streaming platform Sessions Live. I had witnessed the dramatic differences between Sessions and every platform I had tried before. Sessions had begun forging a real online community committed to developing and sustaining the careers of previously unknown artists. Its founders saw live, online performance as a valuable service it could provide customers.

In that spirit, The platform issued a modest bonus to all first-time artists for their first show. I took this as a signal that they took seriously the commitment to establish a sense of worth in live music performance.

Sessions encourages audience to tip artists and makes the experience fun on both sides of the camera. Also, the platform offers the artists bonuses as incentive to schedule shows ahead of time and then keep those appointments. Over the platform’s first 10 months, those bonuses increased for artists who elicited audience engagement and tipping,

A Tone-Deaf Announcement

Over the weekend I received an announcement that Sessions decided to dramatically scale back those bonuses. That decision included making far fewer shows per week bonus-eligible. Sessions had chosen to backpedal on their commitment to getting artists paid. This especially constitutes a blow to full-time online performers. Many of these entertainers invested in upgrades to their computers, audio equipment and video gear. These artists were raising their game to deliver world-class entertainment through Sessions.

Jason Didner, a Sessions Live streaming artist disappointed with the platform’s recent announcement to drastically reduce bonus rates and bonus eligible shows per week

The communications team mostly disappointed me with an announcement disguised as good news for artists. The email from Sessions framed the change as “an exciting makeover to the Rising Artist Leveling program.”

I felt as though the platform’s leaders could have shown more respect for our intelligence. They could have told us prior to announcing a decision that the existing bonus model was no longer working. A larger pool of artists meant that they’d have to make difficult choices. The leaders at Sessions simply argued that artists will make more from tips and need less from bonuses. They could have presented us with their concrete strategy for attracting more tips. They could have even told us what we as artists could do beyond what we’re already doing to help the situation.

Many artists presented a strong backlash. Some modified their streamed images to appear in black-and-white. Some changed their profile picture to a protest message. Sessions responded with a 2nd email essentially doubling down on the initial message. “Bonuses are bonuses,” they wrote, framing the compensation as discretionary pay that should not be counted on as if it were a salary.

What Sessions Could Have Said

The artist relations team at Sessions missed an opportunity to communicate that they get the gravity of the impact artists are feeling. They could have acknowledged the hardship for full-time streamers. These folks had already lost their in-person gigs during the pandemic. Then, they found new hope (and proof) they could earn a living performing in a new way. The bonus system in addition to the tips conveyed a strong assurance that live music performance has value.

A better message would have been “We’re facing some difficult choices and need your understanding. We need to rethink our levels and bonuses. Otherwise, we’d have to go out of business. We’d lose our ability to serve our audience and this special partnership we have with you, the artist. You’ve worked hard to achieve your current level as an artist. We understand the disappointment and frustration you may feel about the reduction in bonuses. However, our success still connects to yours; we still want to see you earn a living at this. So, we’re enhancing our marketing efforts to bring audiences into your shows. We’re using data to drive fans of the songs in your request list to your shows. We expect this to at least double the love you earn in each of your shows.”

How Artists Are Responding

I see this announcement having an effect on artists’ scheduling strategy. Artists who played a dozen bonus-eligible concerts per week plan to scale back in response. They tell me they will only play the few bonus-eligible shows per week on Sessions. They will use those other hours to diversify into performing on other platforms as well.

My performance schedule is essentially 3 shows a week. I am not as profoundly affected as my artist friends who do this full-time. However, I certainly feel their pain. Similarly, feel the sting of having the perceived value of my work decreased. My act faces the increased pressure to elicit tips. I must justify the investments of time and resources I make to supplement my family’s income. I hope the executive team at Sessions can inject some empathy into their current handling of the situation.

I’ve Been Giving Live, Online Performances for 16 Years. This is the Best Platform I’ve Seen (2).

(continued from previous post about the audience experience)

Part 2: The Artist Experience

Every other platform I’ve ever used, whether designed specifically for concerts or not, relied 100% on me to supply my own audience. I’ve given shows where absolutely nobody had shown up. Sessions Live has concentrated on bringing an audience to the online venue. This audience appears large and diverse enough that if you put on a show, even unannounced, over the course of an hour, people will check out your show. If you keep showing up, you will grow an audience.

My Sessions Live artist profile is at

Getting Started

The artist’s Sessions Live journey begins by applying and arranging a brief audition. As an experienced artist, I really appreciate the quality control here. Sessions Live ensures that every artist shows musical proficiency and enough Internet bandwidth to entertain an online audience. I appreciate how this cultivates an audience expecting to have confidence in checking out any performer without having cringeworthy experiences.

I quickly passed my audition with the first verse of an acoustic rendition of “Here Comes the Sun.” After you pass your audition, Sessions emails you the information you need to get started. They also offer (at the time of this writing) a $25 bonus to perform your first show within 72 hours of receipt of the welcome email. You must perform at least 20 minutes to earn the bonus for that first show.

The Learning Process

The welcome email presents an artist with two choices: a one-on-one coaching session or Sessions University – an online collection of documents and videos establishing best practices and guides to get started. I opted for self-service in Sessions University because of a tight schedule. I also got surprisingly good help out of a YouTube search: artist tips by Alex Greif. This video below contains technical pointers that got me off to the races with an application that was entirely new to me.

So, What’s This OBS Thingy?

Unlike Zoom or Facebook Live, Sessions Live depends on artists using Open Broadcaster Software (OBS) to compose and arrange the stream. The artist then connects it to a browser-based Artist Panel through the use of a web address and a special stream code.

I first grumbled about having to get another, unfamiliar application involved. I would soon come to appreciate all that OBS can do in creating a professional, engaging experience for the audience. I’ve gradually enhanced my stream using OBS features as I’ve developed my show over the past 2 weeks. The Sessions University videos have indeed helped me get more out of OBS.

Open Broadcaster Software (OBS), a free, open-sourced app that’s required for streaming of Sessions Live concerts.

It’s Showtime!

For my first show, I fired up OBS, started the stream and launched my first show from the Artist Panel. I played for nobody for the first song or two. Then users began to stumble in. This is the experience no other live performance platform had delivered before. I began to entertain new potential fans. These first users were not particularly chatty when I engaged them. However, I’ve seen them return to subsequent shows I’ve put on. My audience total that night was 7. It’s steadily increased each night I’ve performed. Over the course of 2 weeks, I’ve worked my way up to audience sizes of 20+.

Do You Take Requests?

The song list is quite a valuable tool for an artist. It gives you and your audience common ground for which requests you can accommodate. It’s also a reliable source of Love. And it gives you a good clue about your audience’s musical tastes. If you’re a new artist, take some time to fill your song list with the cover songs and originals that you’re ready to perform on a moment’s notice.

Full disclosure: I was a little over ambitious with my song list and ended up getting requests for songs I haven’t performed or rehearsed in years. This made me sweat, but I still managed to give an entertaining performance.

Artists United

I was also growing as a Sessions Live artist and community member by supporting fellow artists. These musicians astonished me with how quickly they identified me as a fellow “streamer.” How? They observed that my user handle represented my full name. Artists generally identify themselves this way, while audience members tend to choose more informal handles. Rarely have I joined another artist’s concert without the performer asking me “Are you a streamer? When’s your next show?”

Since I started showing up at other artists’ performances, a fellow artist has always attended my show for at least a few minutes, sometimes very late at night or early in the morning in their time zones. All this without ever feeling like I’m shamelessly plugging myself. All this simply as a polite response to thoughtful, generous questions by fellow artists.

I should point out the “friend of a friend” who made me aware of Sessions Live was none other than Kris Pride, who can be found at

Bringing My Existing Following In

I had mentioned that up until I learned of Sessions, I mostly hosted Saturday night Zoom concerts. Zoom’s basic functionality made those concerts fairly heavily heavily gated. This suited the mostly small groups of my extended family and friends in attendance. Only those whom I’ve sent long, complicated Zoom links could even get into these concerts. I experienced plenty of stress at showtime though. Handling frantic text messages, emails and Facebook messages seeking the link sidetracked me a bit from performing.

After giving a few Sessions concerts on weeknights I felt ready to take a leap of faith with my family and friends who followed my music. I sent them my artist link (Good news – that link does not change from show to show!) and instructions to set up an account.

My core group of “regulars” from those Zoom concerts joined me for 80s Night. The logistics struck me as far easier than coordinating a Zoom concert and my nearest and dearest made a pretty smooth transition into Sessions. Some fellow artists attended as well. So did a passionate Sessions fan who leads crews for some top artists, who had shown super support for my past shows. In addition I saw several new and returning audience members who were seeking some Saturday night (or Sunday morning) entertainment.

It’s A Living?

So, has Sessions Live made a real impact on my livelihood in the first two weeks? Yes and no. Yes, compared to every other attempt I’ve made to give online concerts. No, compared to what I’ve earned performing in public libraries, festivals and town bandshells. Early trends suggest my modest earnings are growing exponentially, which is encouraging for the future.

The good-faith effort by Sessions to get artists paid is undeniable, starting with the $25 bonus awarded to every new artist who gives a 20-minute performance within 72 hours of being welcomed aboard. There are also modest bonuses for scheduling your concerts a few days ahead of time in the Artist Panel and then delivering on those scheduled shows.

I’ve noticed my ability to draw a crowd steadily growing over the course of these 2 weeks. Attending other artists’ shows helps. Returning to the same artist’s show again reinforces your presence. A fan of that artist may then find you when browsing for a show to watch. With my uptick in crowd size (still modest) has come an increase in Love earned per show.

The way I see it, I’ll soon be earning per show what I used to earn when I played at the neighborhood coffeehouse. Then I should be able to earn what I did at sports bars (minus the effort of hauling my PA system somewhere). With some well-placed promotional efforts I can envision ultimately earning what that physical library gig used to pay out. And if I can do that 3 times a week, it will make a difference my family can feel.

Tag – You’re It!

Now that you’ve gotten the benefit of my experience with Sessions, try it out. If you think live, online performing is for you, click Apply and set up your audition. I’d appreciate your entering my username jasondidner in the Referral field if you found this post helpful.

Please feel free to comment below on your experience with live, online performing so we can have a conversation about this exciting development in the music industry.

I’ve Been Giving Online Concerts for 16 Years. This Platform Is the Best I’ve Seen.

Sessions Live Brings Artists and Audience Together Online Like Never Before

The potential has long existed to combine the power of live musical performance with the distance-bridging possibilities of online chat. In 2004 I tried my hand at PalTalk, an online audio/text chat platform at the time. Here, an artist could stream audio of a performance while the audience could chat their appreciation. Generally, performances were in an online “open mic” format with performers taking turns. There was little regard for audio quality or musical competence in those forums.

My actual setup in my home studio as I livestream on Sessions Live.

Along the way, I’ve done my share of Facebook Live mini-concerts and Concert Window shows (the latter no longer exists). I’ve tried StageIt, which had my audience in fits with browser plug-in issues. Then we moved to Zoom, which has become a general-purpose staple for households and workplaces everywhere during this COVID-19 pandemic.

Ultimately, I learned that a friend of a friend was using Sessions Live. This new platform’s founder Tim Westergren, formerly of Pandora, sought to forge new connections between musicians and audience. My early impression is that he and his team are succeeding wildly. Sessions Live essentially combines online music performance with game elements that serve as icebreakers and build community in the virtual performance space.

A screen capture from my 80s Night livestream performance on Sessions Live in January 2021. My Sessions Live web address is

Part 1: The Audience Experience

In Sessions Live, an audience member’s experience begins with visiting and/or downloading the mobile app. One would then set up a user account, starting with entering an email address and creating a password. The new user is randomly assigned a “moji.” This is a cartoon character that will appear in the “party” section of a streaming concert alongside all the other concertgoers’ mojis.

To take things a level further, a new user on the mobile app can then upload a photo as part of his/her profile. If you created your profile in a browser, you’ll need to log in on the mobile app to upload a photo. If you don’t upload a photo, you’ll be represented by your moji in the chat section.

From Sessions’ home page you can browse artists to check out their concerts. Just scroll through the many artist photos; they all represent live shows happening now. Give one of them a try. You might also have the web address of a specific artist so you can jump right into their show without browsing. For example, my artist URL is

Given the global nature of Sessions, you’ll find plenty of live concerts 24 hours a day, since it’s always prime time somewhere! I’ve noticed that Sessions has really taken off in the Philippines. I’ve come to appreciate the level of musical talent in that country over the past few weeks.

If you’re in the audience, you interact with the artist and fellow audience members primarily two ways: chat and “Love.” Love is the currency with which the audience supports the performer. One unit of Love in Sessions is about one cent in US dollars. On the Shop tab in the concert space you can stock up on love to contribute to the artist.

Tip: When you buy love in a mobile app, Apple or Google (depending on your device) marks up the price of the love you’re purchasing. The same amount of Love will cost you less when purchased in a web browser.

Sessions Live #1-ranked artist Martyn Lucas (at the time of this writing) performing a duet with Brad Emanuel, as viewed in a web browser. A spinning star appears on the bottom of the party section of the page among all the audience’s “mojis.” Love sticker options are arrayed across the bottom of the page. Chat appears on the right side of the page. The Songs tab in the right panel will open a list of songs audience members can request.

From the Audience with Love

There are 3 ways to send the artist Love:

  • Click the Songs tab and request a song from the artist’s song list. The current minimum for requests is 10 Love. You can increase the amount if you like. The performer will not complain about this!
  • In the Party section, tap on a sticker across the bottom. Stickers are arranged in value order. Vote stickers are special because they’re counted toward an opportunity for top vote getting artists to perform in the occasional mini festival hosted by Sessions.
  • In the Chat section, you can attach any denomination of Love to a chat comment.

Catch a Spinning Star

At random intervals you’ll notice a spinning gold star appear in the Party section. When you tap that star, you let Sessions know that you’re actively engaged in the concert performance.

This innovation solves a problem that has long plagued streaming services that attempt to reward artists for number of viewers. The system is otherwise too easy to game. If you stream a playlist or performance with every device you own (or imagine a data center operated by shady programming), you can drive up play counts for artists who haven’t truly earned them. Worse, that opens up markets for artists to pay for fake streams.

Since it takes a real live human to catch those stars, Sessions gets a better measure of which artists are really drawing a crowd. The platform then rewards the artist accordingly.

Join the Crew

Joining your favorite artist’s crew produces perks for both you and that artist. As a crew member, the more you engage with Sessions – catching stars, requesting songs and giving Love, the more choices you unlock for the appearance of your moji in the Party section. You’ll also appear in your crew’s leaderboard, catching extra attention from the artist you champion.

The stars you catch and the Love you give that artist will count double toward his/her artist level assessment and place in the artist rankings, which opens up greater opportunities to perform in higher-profile settings. Also, as a crew member, you can give love to other artists and catch stars in those other artists’ shows. You and your artist will benefit from that engagement when you’re in a crew.

You can only belong to one crew at a time, but you can switch between crews at will.

Follow Up

You can follow as many artists as you like. Following a more established artist can result in you receiving messages from that artist in your Sessions Live inbox about when their next livestream will take place.

Undeniable Quality

Since every performer has to pass an audition to become a Sessions artist, you’ll find a consistent high quality no matter whose performance you choose to watch. Auditioners are looking for musical competence and suitable Internet bandwidth for streaming, so audience members get consistently entertaining experiences. When you browse the artists in Sessions, you’ll find Broadway quality singers accompanied by backing tracks, acoustic performers and some fully instrumental performers.

Here’s a YouTube playlist offering a sampling of these artists, leading off with yours truly:

Let me know what your experience is like as an audience member in Sessions Live, using the comment section below.

Continue to Part 2 of this story: The Artist Experience.