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 https://sessionslive.com/jasondidner

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 sessionslive.com/KrisPrideMusic.

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.