Want to cut your learning curve in half? Take VIDEO of your sets – not just recorded audio.
Set up your phone or an old camera and take video of your sets. The huge benefit here is that you can watch and notice subtleties of the crowd you could never see while your focus is split. You can see EXACTLY how people react to your transitions and song choices. You can think about the context of what’s going on – what time of night it was, what groups left to the bar to what songs, what groups left the VENUE to what songs, what songs got the OHHH, what songs built up the energy, what songs had build-ups that maybe were too long for the crowd, what songs had the crowd singing.
SO much context is missed by just recording internally, and if you’re not already recording every single set, you’re just not that interested. Data is CHEAP. Make it a habit to record every set, despite the fact you’ll never listen to half of them. Because there will be times where you got rolling and busted out a RIDICULOUS set, only to regret not hitting the record button. If you do it EVERY. SINGLE. TIME, you’ll never have missed out.
Yes it can be uncomfortable to watch you slog through a rough night… BUT THOSE ARE THE ONES YOU NEED TO WATCH THE MOST. Analyze your struggles so you know exactly where to course correct.
Getting better is HARD. Hold up the mirror, record your sets, and get better at twice the speed as your competition.
Over the past few weeks I’ve been experimenting with streaming my sets live through Facebook and Twitch. Twitch is much more lenient on their music policies but it’s much easier to build an instant audience on Facebook.
What You’ll Need
You’ll need webcams of some kind, either built into your laptop, monitor or plug-in USB webcams.
You’ll also need a USB audio interface. These can be picked up for $10-20, you should also be able to use a mixer you have lying around if it has a USB hookup. Ultimately you’re going to run your master output into the USB audio interface so your computer can see it as a type of microphone input. This is what I used. I have an article here that goes further in-depth on leveraging the most from standalone mixers.
Then you’re going to need software to manage the stream. I used Wirecast in this example on its free trial, but its expensive ($250). OBS is a great free alternative, though it has been known to have issues running on Macs (womp). If anyone finds a cheaper alternative for Mac I’m all ears.
I’m personally pushing my feed to a service called Restream which allows me to forward it to multiple sites (Twitch, Chew.TV, Facebook, etc). When I’m streaming directly to Facebook Live through Wirecast, it does not allow me to also stream to Twitch for some reason, so I use Restream to get around that.
Facebook is also picky about the format it will take. Follow these guidelines in your software settings to ensure Facebook doesn’t reject your feed.
Don’t Get Booted
Once you get your rig setup and streaming, stick to edits and remixes found in record pools – not on iTunes or Spotify!! You want to throw off the algorithm that automatically finds matches based on the waveform. Sometimes it will pick up the lyrics, but I’ve found that parts of the video will simply be muted after the fact, once I’m done live streaming.
Last week I had a corporate holiday party at the aquarium in town. I’ve been there before so I was familiar with the load in/load out and setup space. There’s a long hallway to trek gear back and forth but there are no stairs so hand trucks and rollers make it bearable.
In any event, the client wanted an extra setup for cocktail hour in a separate room, three wireless mics, and uplighting. To make matters more difficult the venue no longer allowed subs in the main room on account of the nearby seals. I had to bring my massive three-way JBLs instead of the more portable eVox 8’s. It would be a more involved setup but I figured 90 minutes would be fine.
The night before the party however I remembered how miserable I was during a holiday party two years prior. I was about 5 minutes late in setting up and loadout took almost 90 minutes… the venue was not happy. Granted it was on the 50th floor of the Ritz so the elevator didn’t help things, but I was alone and did have two setups to break down. Remembering this, I immediately shot a text to a friend of mine to see if he was free to help with setup for the event. He DJ’s fulltime so it happened that he was free. Perfect.
We got there early, around 4:15, but the venue would not let us so much as roll in our gear until 5 pm. To the minute. The best we could negotiate was to unload my gear into the alcove right inside the door at the end of the loooong hallway. Then, we sat. At 4:59 we begin rolling down the hall. They were so strict and overbearing that my friend noticed a staff member look at their watch as I walked by with a load of speakers. If it were not 5:01 by the time I did so, I wouldn’t put it past them to send me back to the end of the hall. Seriously.
If I had not hired my assistant that night there’s no way I would have been able to set everything up in 75 minutes. And it’s a good thing I did. Because at the end of the night I got an amazing 50% tip with exultations that they would certainly be using me again. With that tip? Please do!
If I was behind in my setup, I doubt I get that tip. They would not have become repeat clients. That $50 investment for an hour of help turned into $500 and a long-term relationship.