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.

Online Concert: Jason Didner Sat 12/11 at 7:30 PM Eastern-US

Join me for a live, online performance on Saturday evening December 11. I’ll play your requests and we’ll have some interactive, musical fun. Even when you can’t get out, join a happening that will make you feel like you’re having a night out!

Jason Didner on Live Streamer Cafe on Saturday December 11 at 7:30 Eastern-US

My songbook includes the music of The Beatles, Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello, Journey, Bon Jovi, Bob Marley and more.

If you’re new to Live Streamer Cafe, it’s the easiest, most user-friendly online venue to attend a concert. 5 minutes before showtime, sign up for a new account and then check your email for a confirmation link. If you like, upload your photo, and I’ll see you at the Cafe!

Never miss a show! And get exclusive tracks and videos! Sign up for my emails here.

The Beatles: Get Back – My Reaction to New Film of Studio Footage

I found many things remarkable about Peter Jackson’s new film ‘The Beatles: Get Back,’ comprised of 7 hours of footage of the Beatles’ 1969 ‘Let It Be’ sessions. The band members’ continual drive to keep moving forward to new musical and artistic frontiers caught my attention. I could have easily imagined the iconic band preparing a show where they played the hits they had recorded over the prior decade. But they chose instead to come into that massive Twickenham movie soundstage with a blank canvas. They intended to create all new work and have it ready for a live performance at the end of 3 weeks. This would follow not having played live in 3 years!

The Beatles perform one last concert on the rooftop of EMI Records in London, 1969

John and Paul had their secret language of goofy voices and faces that seemed to reaffirm their tight friendship even through creative tensions. George, more earnest in his expression, came across sensitive to the pain of being pushed aside by the two bigger dogs, his own song idea pushed to the back burner one time too many, his ornate guitar playing style restricted so John could show off his 6-string skills a bit more. Ringo appeared patient and up for anything. He was about to take on a lead acting role in a major film in the very same studio where the band found themselves.

Flexibility, learned the hard way

I was struck by the band’s willingness to change their approach when what they were doing wasn’t working. When John & Paul’s behavior alienated George to the point where he chose to leave the band, they made two attempts to reconcile with him. The first, a band meeting that included Paul’s then-girlfriend Linda and John’s wife Yoko, went poorly. From the way Linda described it, Yoko spoke for a silent John at the meeting. George remained unconvinced things would get any better and remained committed to a post-Beatles existence.

A second band meeting with George went better when George’s band mates listened to his concerns and changed the scope of the project the group was planning. Now, there would no longer be a live TV special. It would be an album recording session in a smaller studio; filming would continue, but for a documentary film rather than a TV special, thus lowering the pressure on the group.

John and Paul had a frank discussion on a lunch break that, unbeknownst to them, was being recorded for the film. In it, they acknowledged how their behavior added to George’s pain. A decision on any kind of live performance was postponed in favor of the recording work.

Good chemistry with Billy

The addition of George’s friend Billy Preston, an absolute ninja on the keyboard, who had played with Little Richard, Same Cooke and the Rolling Stones, brought a spark of genuine joy to the Beatles’ sessions. John even mused over making Billy a permanent member of a group he could once again briefly see as staying together. The British lads seemed genuinely wowed by the American’s skill and musicality; Billy appeared equally delighted with the Beatles’ craftsmanship of their songs and the emotional power of their vocals.

A surprisingly loose agenda in studio

Paul remarked on this on a few occasions, that the band seemed to lack an agenda while in the larger studio. As a musician who has been in bands and has had to pay out-of-pocket for both rehearsal studio and recording studio time, I found this particularly surprising. Studio time is expensive and precious in my experience. I have always felt an obligation to walk into the studio prepared for the songs to be rehearsed and recorded. Even now that I’m recording at home, I’m doing this around family life and a full-time career. Those few hours I get to make music are valuable. I feel the need to take a workmanlike approach and come out of those sessions with something tangible.

I can appreciate that the world’s most influential band needs to take its time and experiment toward new sounds and new messages. They’ve had to live with tropes like “How do you top Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band?” They also had the time and resources their record label was investing in them.

‘The Beatles: Get Back’ is streaming on Disney Plus.

My takeaways

  • Strive for psychological flexibility. Know when what you’re doing isn’t working, and change it.
  • When you get to collaborate with other artists, be mindful of the chemistry you have with each other, whether in the same room or across the globe. Take it in; it will show in the finished product and in your memory of working on the project.
  • Whether you have an agenda for a music session or not, make sure your agenda or lack thereof is in alignment with what you’re trying to accomplish.

My Beatles Collab with Kris Pride – Aross the Universe

Here’s my cover of a Beatles song from these sessions – “Across the Universe.” It’s a collaboration with Kris Pride. We each did our layers separately, but when mixing the music and producing the video I took in the chemistry between Kris and me as artists, as well as our mutual love and admiration for the Beatles. When Kris’ camera was producing a blurry image on her first take for the video, she recognized it wasn’t working and switched to another camera, changing her approach. This required some psychological flexibility, letting go of the notion that you can’t top what you’ve already done.

A Note of Gratitude from the Didners

Happy Thanksgiving! Today seems like the right day to share our gratitudes. This a powerful tool for mindfulness and well being. And you deserve our thanks! So read on…

Autumn leaves on Thanksgiving Day 2021

“I’m thankful for my family – immediate and extended – and friends.” – Amy

“I’m thankful for the help I’ve had in growing my mindfulness, leading me to better appreciate family, friends, music, exercise, work and community.” – Jason

“I’m grateful for the help I’ve gotten with my physical and emotional well-being.” – Amy

“I’m grateful that my family has remained safe during the pandemic thus far. I do not take it lightly that so many other families have been deeply affected by loss arising from this dangerous time.” – Jason

Singing My Gratitude

Here’s the official video for my song “Because I’m Grateful.” Play this track and let these gratitudes soak into your mind. You’ll be doing gratitudes every time you listen or remember the chorus.

I’m especially thankful for you, my audience. I love making music and listening back to what I’ve created – but I really love sharing my expression with you.

What are you grateful for? Please comment below.

Songwriting for Mental Health – A Quest for Helpfulness and Truth

Singer/songwriter Jason Didner writing lyrics about mental health
I frequently replace words in my lyric writing as I zero in on the truth

When I write songs about mental health, I seek ways of sharing a situation of crisis early in the song. Then I share a path to resolution that will unfold as the song plays out – a path my audience can map out for their own lives. Originals like “Run With My Troubles” and “Because I’m Grateful” follow this pattern where I present a difficult mental health situation at the start and propose an action (exercise, gratitude) that makes a difference.

In writing and editing the lyric I’m constantly pursuing the truth – the exact words that most precisely reflect the experience.

Finding the Words

 My newest love song, “Back to Our Bliss,” represents this drive toward helpfulness and honesty in the lyric. My first draft contained the line “And we won’t be going back to the harm we’ve gone through.”

But I came to realize I’m not a fortuneteller. I can’t truly predict that all the harm is over. So, just writing a wish doesn’t make it true! I chose a more meditative replacement for the lyric: “May we learn to be more mindful of the harm we’ve gone through.” This line honors the challenges people still face At the same time, it provides a pathway for living with emotional difficulty while nourishing stronger, healthier interpersonal connections.

I’ve come to trust this process of mining my song ideas and lyrics for the truth I know – either my truth or that of someone close to me. By the time you hear a finished track or see the video of my original songs, you can be sure that I absolutely mean what I’ve written, because I’ve taken the time to ensure the lyrics reflect the truest meaning of what’s in my heart.

Watch this space for the upcoming songs “Back to Our Bliss” and “Distorted.” I’ve begun the process of making demo recordings.  

What’s your process for expressing yourself? Feel free to discuss in the comments below.

Jason

Stuck believing your negative self-talk? Start with a simple truth.

“I’m not good enough. I’ll never have what I want. I’m disgusting!”

Do these dark thoughts sound familiar? The inner critic spinning out of control, gaining intensity at the sound of its own thoughts?

Self-help lecturers and therapists have offered a counterbalance in the form of affirmations like “I’m beautiful. I’m powerful. I can do it!” Among my loved ones who struggle with harsh self-criticism, there is a strong resistance to even starting a habit of affirming the opposite of what’s playing in their heads on a loop.

But it may be harder to start at a place of high self-praise when part of you is chronically tearing you down. That’s why I suggest a simple, provable truth may work best here:

I’m human. I deserve compassion and grace.

By simply affirming our own humanity, we can ground our objections to the critic in something we can easily believe, something we know to be true. We can then see the negative self-talk for the distorted lie that it is.

We can add physicality to recognizing our humanity, our realness, by placing a hand on our heart while we say this, either out loud or silently in our thoughts. This connection develops the part of our brain that’s capable of self-compassion. It’s like a muscle that grows gradually if exercised regularly – one that’s atrophied in people who live under siege of chronic, out-of-control self-criticism.

Once you have a bearing on your humanity, you can advance to higher affirmations, but if you have trouble starting, I see lots of value of starting with acknowledging one’s on humanity. I find it soothes me when I fear the negativity is gaining on me.

What do you do to ease your negative self-chatter? Please join the discussion in the comments below.

Coming Soon: Super Clean Escape Machine

A rock song and video about the many benefits of cycling

Super Clean Escape Machine single by Jason Didner, lyrics by Bob Didner

My father Bob, a fellow cyclist, told me he wrote a poem about cycling and would like me to set it to music, and that he had a concept for a video.

The anthemic rock track features multiple layers of harmony vocals, guitars, and keyboards. There’s a slide guitar solo that give s a nod to George Harrison’s immediately recognizable style.

Be the first to hear the single before its release! Enter your email address below to get a secret link to this upcoming track — it’s one of my best productions!

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When you sign up to receive email from me, you’ll get first looks and listens at my latest projects before they’re released – and you’ll know when my live events are happening – you’ll get convenient links to my streaming concerts right to your inbox.

Sat Nov 27-Online Concert at 8PM Eastern-US

To Benefit Mental Health Association of Essex & Morris Counties

on LiveStreamerCafe.com

Season 2 of my live streaming concerts is underway! Be a part of this interactive experience as we counter the stress of the continuing pandemic, the arrival of cold weather and the approaching holidays.

I’ll play as many of your requests as I can fit into the one-hour show. Concert is free to attend; donations are optional and gratefully welcomed!

Jason Didner online concert to benefit Mental Health Association of Essex & Morris Counties on Live Streamer Cafe

Mental Health Association of Essex & Morris Counties provides numerous services in the community, including support groups, therapy and intervention for children, teens and adults in crisis.

Live Streamer Cafe is a highly interactive platform that helps artists and audiences connect over the music they love. Artists have a songbook from which audience members can select songs. There’s also a chat window with animated compliments and friendly games built into this virtual coffeehouse scene.

New Video: A Moment of Loving Kindness

Featuring Leslie Masuzzo

This new song is inspired by the loving kindness meditation practice.

(c) 2021, Lyrics and music by Jason Didner (https://jasondidner.com)

Jason Didner – vocals, ukulele, acoustic guitar, bass, bongos, shaker, mixing, video production

Mastered with CloudBounce

Drone video clips by Bob Didner, available at https://iStockPhoto.com

Video clip from Great Falls National Park by Jason Didner

Song inspired by the practice of loving kindness meditation as taught on the Ten Percent Happier app (https://tenpercent.com).

Chords and Lyrics: 

Intro
F           C      Bb
F           C      Bb

Verse 1
F                  C       Bb
If the best way to learn a thing 
       F                  C       Bb 
is to teach it 

F                  C       Bb
Then I'll try to guide you, 
           F                  C       Bb
and I may reach it 


Gm                C
I may not get to enlightenment 
Gm                  C
But I can learn to lighten up yeah 
F                  C      Bb
And if it gets me practicing, 
        F                C          Bb
I will preach it 

Am                                     Bb          C
      So let's place a hand on our own hearts and sing... 

Chorus: 
                F
May I live with ease 
                    C
May I be free from suffering 
           Gm            Bb     C
May I be a blessing for someone today 

         F
May I be safe 
          C
May I be peaceful deep within 
                Gm         Bb            C
May I walk with comfort along the middle way 
Bb                             C
May this be a moment of loving kindness I give to myself 

F           C      Bb
F           C      Bb

Verse 2: 
If the best way to know a thing is to live it 
Then I'll try to take it in and to give it 
I may not get to the mountain top 
But I'll start again every time I stop 
And when I stumble, may I forgive it 
So let's place a hand on our own hearts And sing... 

Chorus: 
May you live with ease 
May you be free from suffering 
May you be a blessing for someone today 
May you be safe 
May you be peaceful deep within 
May you walk with comfort along the middle way 
May this be a moment of loving kindness you can give yourself 

Solo 

So let's place a hand on our own hearts And sing... 

Chorus: 
May we live with ease 
May we be free from suffering 
May we be a blessing for someone today 

May we be safe 
May we be peaceful deep within 
May we walk with comfort along the middle way 
May this be a moment of loving kindness we can give ourselves

Online Concert Sat Nov. 13 at 8PM Eastern-to benefit Hillside School

My daughter’s elementary school took on flooding in the basement from Tropical Storm Ida. The basement houses the schools aesthetics classes like gymnastics and dance. The gymnastics mats were ruined in the storm. I’m determined to help replace those mats so my daughter and her classmates can get back to tumbling!

Join me on Saturday night, November 13 at 8PM Eastern-US from wherever you are for a virtual concert on Live Streamer Cafe. I’ll take your requests for our favorite classic rock songs by Bruce Springsteen, The Beatles, Billy Joel, Bon Jovi, Otis Redding and more. I’ll also offer you my latest original songs to enjoy.

All proceeds will go to Hillside Elementary School PTA in Montclair, NJ to help replace resources lost in the flood.

Hillside Elementary School Montclair NJ benefit concert flyer - Jason Didner