Livestream Concerts Online and Coping with the Coronavirus Quarantine

Todd McCartyMusic9 Comments

livestream concerts online heat on the street music marketing

Since the panic over Covid 19 (Coronavirus) began, many are wondering how to host a concert online, or about setting up livestream concerts. Several major news sites have painted a rosy picture of this business. These articles point quarantined consumers to a handful of live concert websites that help the top 1% of artists. Virtual reality VR concerts are used as examples, but they fail to mention how underdeveloped this space is in the music world. The truth is, very few artists have actually setup paid livestreams of their concerts. I offer some tips on how to do this below.

Music Income Streams

If you’re not that interested in livestreaming concerts? You can click here to jump to the section where I discuss other things musicians can do to remain productive during the coronavirus quarantine. I give some tips on how to generate income or find royalties that are due to you. Let this be your starting point for how to weather the storm during this trying time. By no means have I thought of everything. Your comments and additions are welcomed. 

Know a musician? Please share this article with them.

Musicians are Losing Income. What Can Be Done?

Concerts and major festivals have been cancelled globally for weeks now due to coronavirus. And you would think that with the flip of a switch thousands of online concerts would be popping up. It’s not easy to broadcast a live concert or livestream concerts online. They say the show must go on, but it’s not for most working musicians. 

I’ve spoken with booking agents who have been working round the clock to postpone or cancel concerts, and reassure artists. Like the musicians and venues – no concerts, no paycheck. The live event industry is facing several months of lost wages. I’ve heard directly from independent working musicians that have no team to help pick up the pieces of their concert cancellations. 

How One Musician Uses Livestream Concerts Online to Offset His Touring Business

American singer songwriter JD Eicher’s touring business has been hit directly with 23 shows cancelled so far. This includes all of March, his European tour, and April 10th CD release show. The timing really couldn’t have been worse for him. Fortunately he has been using virtual touring and Facebook Live for some time now. In the past he used online concert platforms like StageIt, and the now defunct Concert Window.

But now he opts for Facebook Live + PayPal for tips. One thing I like about his weekly livestreams are that he has a format and organizes each event the same each week. He invites different guests and plays different songs with each livestream. This builds familiarity with his viewers, and they look forward to what he will come up with next.

I want to thank JD for his input on this article. You can check out his most recent Facebook Live below. 

List of Live Music Streams

For The Love Of Bands has posted this calendar with a list of live music streams happening today. You can add your livestream to this list too.

Get Started

Like all promotions in this business, be tenacious, hustle, and make it happen. If you have a loyal fanbase, chances are they’ll want to support you. But it’s hard times for all, and with the volatile economy people are tightening their budgets. How many times can a music fan donate or tip their favorite artists before they feel they’ve done their part?

By the time you’re reading this, many artists and others out of work have already asked and received support. So brainstorm ways to add value to your livestream experiences. Special guest and activities are the easiest and most effective ways to do that.

Tipping Culture

The tipping culture has not developed in the music industry the way it has in other industries. For example, in the video game industry’s platform has evolved on a massive scale, and is THE place where gamers livestream their video game play and receive tips from live viewers. Furthermore, gamers also syndicate this live play on YouTube to broaden their audience and income. This might be the music industry’s opportunity to get in on the growing tipping economy. 

I’ve listed some options for you to setup your livestream concerts online. 

Here they are in order of easiest to plan and execute. 

Before you go off and research livestreaming platforms, don’t forget – Below I’ve listed tips on other revenue streams near the end of this post. So bookmark this page before leaving.

Facebook Live – YouTube Live – Instagram Live

The most cost effective and simplest way you can livestream a concert is Facebook Live, Instagram Live, or YouTube Live and send people to a link to tip. Since fans are tipping your business, PayPal does charge a transaction fee. But short of people mailing you checks, it’s the most cost effective way to livestream concerts online and get paid.

One benefit of Facebook Live is that it will find other users that might be interested in your livestream. If you get a certain amount of viewers on your own, the Facebook algorithm will invite more users to join the livestream concerts online.

Challenges: The video interface has very little space to have a call to action of “Tip” or “Donate”. You have to remember to stop throughout your broadcast and remind people they can tip you by using the PayPal.Me link in the video description or comments. Tip links get lost in the comments.  If Facebook or YouTube are reading this, please do what Tencent has done in China, and create a built-in gifting option into your Live platforms. 

There are all-in-one services that house your concert and a way to monetize, but they have tech hurdles, and fees that these services collect. One such company StageIt has increased their artist’s payouts to 80% due to the Coronavirus.

StageIt is awesome and can be executed right from your laptop. But it has a cost and requires a little more tech and education compared to social media or Youtube live streams. It’s more akin to putting on an actual concert than a livestream. You announce tickets on sale and try to sell as many tickets before the event as possible. StageIt takes a fee from each ticket sold. Also, there are no rebroadcasts of the concerts.

Their platform is fairly evolved and incorporates some of the best practices of livestream concerts online. They do a nice job of explaining what they do on their website:

StageIt also offers these helpful resources to artists looking to book online concerts.

Show Ideas

  • Interactive backstage show
  • Fundraiser
  • Live Q&A
  • Album release / listening party
  • Directly from a venue
  • Backstage + venue stream
  • Tour rehearsal
  • Soundcheck

You can download my Free PDF – GIG Checklist HERE

Marketing Tips & Strategies

How To Get Paid

Before choosing this option make sure to read the technical setup requirements. 

Suggested Broadcasting Tips / Options

  • Built-in webcam & Microphone
  • External webcam & External Microphone
  • High Def Video Camera with External Audio Mixer
  • Multi Camera Shoot

Challenges: It can be more complicated to setup than Facebook or YouTube Live

This one wasn’t designed for online concerts. But there are possibilities here. For the uninitiated, Twitch is a platform where gamers broadcast their play on live channels and receive tips from viewers who like watching them play. Recently, League of Legends, Just Chatting, and Fortnite are the most popular games being played on the platform.

You could collaborate with a “Twitcher” (gamer) and have your audience tune into watch you play video games. Or, you could try to encorporate a livestream into the platform.

Twitch viewers are very accustomed to tipping because the platfom is structured to encourage tipping with large tip buttons and on screen call to actions. There are also rewards for tippers hitting milestones, and you have the ability to give your biggest tippers better access to you.

Challenges: Twitch is a PC based platform, and your PC needs to be optimized for gaming. If you are not tech savvy and are not willing to invest in some gear upgrades, it might not be the platform for you. 

Other Online Concert Platforms



VR Concerts & Cloud Clubbing

Pre-recorded VR shows like Melody VR use a pay-per-view model starting with $2.00 for a song or $8 to $15 for a virtual reality concert –

Oculus Venues does a similar thing, though the reviews are not favorable. 

In my research for this post I learned about new terms “Cloud Clubbing” and “Cloud Raves” which have been popping up in China since February

Marshmellow did a VR concert in the online game Fortnite

The NextVR platform has every vertical for VR, and has a music channel called Central Station that hosts VR concerts

You can work with these platforms to producer your own VR concerts. But I don’t view this as a short term solution. The barrier for entry seems high, and the timeline for execution long.

Challenges: This route requires a lot of planning, budget, connections, and patience.

Other Ideas and Tips for Online Concerts


Comedians, athletes, dancers and performers are in the same position. So how about everybody in the arts team up for some multi format variety shows on live streaming platforms? Gamers could play against athletes, comedians bring their show online instead of the comedy club, artists can perform, and the channel personality or comedian can interview everybody involved. I really hope to see this type of collaboration. 


How about Youtubers team up with musicians and others in the arts and take a page out of the variety show TV playbook? Reach out to YouTube Talent Managers and ask if they are interested in partnering on a livestream concert. YouTube is the most helpful resource I have found for Setting Up Livestreaming. They also provide a list of resources in their Creator Services Directory that might help as well as a section on LiveStream concerts online. 

360 Live Music Videos

Australian artist Northlane recorded this brilliant 360 live music video in a studio. The tech requirements and cost would be high, and broadcasting live would add another challenge. But the payoff would be stunning.

Move your cursor over the video to see each musician playing live. (note, it may not work on mobile, try your desktop)

Variety Show Idea

Going back to the variety show idea, use Facebook – Instagram – Youtube Live to put on your own scheduled program featuring a variety of special guests. Think of it like an organized conference with different events or talks going on. Schedule it out so people know the times that various things are happening and they know when to tune in. You can have activities, games, trivia, or funny interviews. And if you have the technical resources you could have multiple cameras from multiple locations. 

Tips For Musicians at Home During the Coronavirus Pandemic

I have some advice not related to livestream concerts online. If you are confined to your home due to the coronavirus pandemic, perhaps you use the time to make progress on some of these or discover any unpaid royalties. The process of registering and finalizing your accounts with these organizations could take several months. So why not start now? (I list some of these below)

Stack up the Playlists

Submit to targeted playlists on Spotify. Don’t submit to playlists that your music won’t fit with. That will only get you skips. Quality over quantity. But put the time into finding new playlists and reaching out to the curators.

Ask your social media followers, email list subscribers, and network to follow your artist playlist.  I have more Tips on Playlisting in THIS post.

Find Some Money

While you’re at home, take time to get your financial house in order, collect any unpaid royalties, or discover a new revenue stream.

Here is a list: (maybe not a total complete list, but thorough)   

I’ve divided the revenue sources into publishing, master recordings, background music, government grants, and philanthropic organizations.

Publishing Revenue Streams

Performance Rights Organization

Register with a PRO in your territory.
TIP: If you end up using SongTrust, they will make this process easier for a $100 extra fee. Otherwise it’s many hours, possibly days of navigating the various help forms.

Publishing Company

By default you are your own publisher. You are also a writer. But those are two different things. You can either create your own publishing company or sign a deal with an existing publishing company. But not all publishing companies are created equal. Here are 3 types.

  • You’re own publishing company. You don’t share your publishing income with anybody except your collection agency (publishing administrator). 
  • Bigger publishing companies do all of their collection on their own. Examples are (UMPG, Sony/ATV, Kobalt, BMG, Concord)
  • Smaller publishing companies may offer more boutique service, but they use 3rd parties or major publishers to do their collections. Which can mean a higher fee to you.

Publishing Administrators

Basically a collection agency. Examples are: SongTrust, Audiam, or many smaller boutique companies.

  • For example Songtrust can collect publishing royalties on your behalf (or on your publishing company’s behalf) globally across thousands of sources.
  • If you don’t have a publishing deal with a major or smaller publishing company, you should use one of these (Songtrust, Audiam, etc.)
  • These companies also collect your micro-sync royalties from Youtube.

Mechanical Royalties

  • If you have a record label releasing your masters, you need to ensure you collect your mechanical royalties from them.
  • Mechanical royalties are derived from master royalties, in the form of set percentages. (Each government determines those rates in their country).
  • If you use a digital distributor or separate physical distributor you should already be getting your mechanical royalties from them (i.e. Distrokid, CD Baby, TuneCore)
  • Note: you are NOT entitled to any mechanical royalties or publishing on cover songs – as you didn’t write them. Those mechanical royalties get paid to the publishers of those songs (who then account to the writers).

Master (recordings) Revenue Streams

Digital and Physical distributors

Your distributor accounts for the lion’s share of master royalties. Most of the time the master royalty is paid to you inclusive of the mechanical royalty. So don’t stress if you look for mechanical royalties on your distribution statement and can’t’ find them. In most cases they are rolled into the master royalty. Mechanical royalties are derived from the master royalties.

Neighboring Rights Collection Companies and Societies

If you are in the United States, you may not have heard of this – because USA does not recognize so-called “neighboring rights”. SoundExchance (below) is the closest thing the US has to neighboring rights. Neighboring rights collection societies such as PPL (UK) or PPCA (Australia) collect neighboring rights royalties for the performance of MASTERS. They collect on performances of your masters in places like nightclubs, restaurants, and coffee shops, in addition to broadcasts on TV, Radio and streaming radio.

Question: Doesn’t my PPO handle that? NO, your PPO handles performance royalties for the COMPOSITIONS, not master recordings. You should register your master recordings with collection societies, by using the society in your country. Additionally, if you are in the USA, and want to collect your neighboring rights outside of the US, you need to register with a neighboring rights collection agency (such as RoyaltyExchange, Royaltyclaim) SoundExchange will only collect specific types of royalties in the USA.


The US Government regulates SoundExchange. Specifically, they collect digital performance royalties on non-interactive streaming services on the internet like Pandora, SiriusXM, and Music Choice. Learn more about SoundExchange here. There may be money waiting for you at SoundExchange. They hold unpaid royalties in a suspense account until the proper owner claims it.

In-Store Media Play Companies  / Background Music

Musicians often overlook this revenue stream. Background music and in-store media play is not automatic. If your record label is not submitting your music to these, chances are nobody has. You must enter into blanket licensing deals with these companies individually. They are not covered under your digital distribution deal. 

Examples: Mood Media (largest in the world by far), Xenox, PlayNetwork, Storever

Each network has their own blanket license deal (you get the same terms as the majors).

  • Mood Media is the big one for the globe.
  • PlayNetwork covers outlets in North American that Mood doesn’t .
  • Xenox (20 countries in Europe based in Netherlands)
  • Storever (covers Europe & Asia, based in France & Belgium)
  • Moojic (India & SE Asia)

Government Sponsored Programs

Take the time to educate yourself on what your government has available to musicians. I have listed programs offered in a few countries.

Philanthropic Organizations

Also, there are philanthropic organizations like those found on this list at Inside Philanthropy.

Finally The Grammy’s organization has a nice list too.

What’s Missing? 

I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments below. I will try to answer questions, but please seek out technical advice on each platform’s help section. Sorry I don’t give tech support 😊

Todd McCarty

9 Comments on “Livestream Concerts Online and Coping with the Coronavirus Quarantine”

  1. Todd,

    These are some great ideas and very timely. But I have a question regarding the live streaming…how are artists handling the performance license fees (ASCAP/BMI/SECAC) when performing other artists’ music?

    Typically, a venue handles the licensing, but in this situation, I would assume the responsibility falls on the band. What type of license is needed and what is the typical cost?

    1. Hi Jonathan, That is a really good question. If you perform a cover song only on YouTube Live or Facebook Live, both Facebook & YouTube have agreements in place with rights owners for this. The publishers and writers will be paid a performance royalty royalty when that happens. But as for other platforms like Vimeo Live, Twitch, or others… I really don’t know the answer to that. I haven’t experienced it with any of my clients or heard any stories. If you plan to livestream a cover song on a different platform than Facebook or YouTube, I advise NOT doing a cover. Or if you really want to, you would need a mechanical license for this type of use. It would be appropriate to reach out to the publishers of the song and license it in advance of your performance. They can explain how they would like to be paid, or they may say they don’t have a way to account for it, and give you their permission to do it without a fee.

    1. Hey Marc! I think Instagram Live is great. Go with the platform you are comfortable with, or you have the biggest following on. Also, you can replay those on your YouTube Channel. When I spoke with Instagram directly, they mentioned John Mayer as a great example of using Instagram Live – IGTV. He’s a talker, so it comes off more like a comedy dialogue. here is an example of a rebroadcast on YouTube
      Good luck with your Livestream… I’ll try to tune in.

  2. Do you have any advice for band members in different locations observing Social Distancing? We’re having a problem with lag/delay on Zoom for example. Trying to figure out if there’s a way around it… Thanks!

    1. Great question. Here are a few tips. The best quality, but most expensive method is using the Vimeo Premium ($75 p/month). It has some great features, but I hear it’s complicated and there is a lot of troubleshooting if you’re not really tech savvy.

      Next there is a free program called OBS, Open Broadcasting Software. I think it will work for Zoom, but not 100% sure. You use OBS to record the video, then use a Stream Key (which is found on your livestream platform settings) to link OBS to the desired site (FB, YouTube, Zoom, etc.). OBS becomes the encoder and tells Zoom the quality that it will stream at… And even just using this step alone to bypass the Zoom encoder (or FB, YT) improves both video and audio quality.

      It’s going to require some tech knowledge and research (on YouTube and Google searches). Sorry, not my area of expertise.

  3. Hi Todd

    Regarding copyright issues, what about in a live stream where a person plays and records his own version of a cover song while taking tips, and then later the video is posted for playback later? Wouldn’t that require a sync license?

    Some say “it’s fine nobody will bother you,” others say “don’t do it.” The remainder say “I don’t know.”

    Who will step up and give the definitive answer?

    After spending weeks researching this, the conclusion I’ve come to is “Don’t do it. Play your own stuff.”

    Mark Wesley Curran

    1. Hey Mark, The definitive answer is it requires a sync license and a mechanical license. When you perform somebody else’s copyrighted material publicly and commercially and sync it with motion picture, you must license it.
      This part is my opinion. There isn’t a lot of awareness of this livestreaming cover issue because it’s a relatively new issue publishers are faced with. There haven’t been any high profile cases that I have heard of. Also, I’m not sure how accurate the YouTube content ID system is on picking up on these types of uses. So it could be a trouble spot between publishers and YouTube. And I think the publisher’s may be more focused on other collection challenges and “choosing their battles” on this livestream licensing issue.

      But the copyright law is clear, and these would be public performances on a commercial platform and rights owners are entitled to compensation, and anybody using their copyrights must license the material.



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