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Which Comes First?

A question of evolution: the chicken or the egg - which came first? With the benefit of hindsight, it's easy to look back and figure out that the egg came first. Yet, when it comes to livestreaming and building a following, it would appear that it's less easy to engage retrovision to figure out which comes first: content or audience? So, don't look backwards - look inwards. Here's how and why.

Live streaming? It's a question of existence

This past week, three Customers have each got in touch to ask about how, in the midst of the Coronavirus outbreak, they could live stream. Live streaming is now, clearly, a thing; something that has crept into the collective awareness of web users and so now warrants exploration and proper dissection.

All three of our Customers work within the arts sector and all have seen live performances cancelled due to the lockdown measures taken to limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus. The first question all three asked was How... one goes about live streaming and so I began by briefly explaining the need for an account that exists on a platform that offers live streaming capabilities. Now, before tackling the how any further, let's firstly consider the Why?

Why live stream at all?

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson lockdown broadcastTruly live performances are riddled with technical potholes both in terms of recording and broadcast, let alone with the technicalities of the performance itself. So, firstly, ask yourself: why on earth would you ever want to do it live? Last night, in a public address to the nation, the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, announced the UK was to go on lockdown. The broadcast message (even one of this magnitude) wasn't live at all but recorded.

When you boil it down, the only conceivable reason you would want to do anything live is because of the fact that it is live; raw, dangerous, completely in the moment, warts-and-all - live because anything can and will happen and live because you want to be able to respond to things as they happen. To me, unless you absolutely must have this fizz of a performance being live, live streaming sounds little more than a recipe for disaster.

Chris Martin boringIs your message or performance really only valid when it's delivered live and on-the-edge? This is an evolutionary question, because it seems to me, doing things live is something adrenaline junkies do, when you're at the top of your game. So, we're back to the evolutionary issue of the chicken and the egg once again. As far as live streaming goes, the equivalent of the egg is the account on and an understanding of the platform that allows you to livestream, such as: Vimeo Live; Twitch; Periscope; Facebook Live; YouTube Live; Instagram TV.
The audience is comparable to the chicken.

Dig a little deeper into the where the notion of live streaming performances emanate and you soon learn, from reports in the media, that pop stars, zelebs and vloggers are said to have gone live to thousands of followers. I'm sure it's these news reports which have filtered into the sub-conscious and I think that it's here that the answer for most can be sourced. If the first question was Why? then the second question is surely Who?

Who will you be broadcasting to?

If you don't have a true social media presence with an evolving fan-base then it's safe to say that there's little commercial value in live streaming - particularly if you're only coming at it as a knee-jerk reaction to the present Coronavirus crisis. If you don't have or are unable to muster a huge following then you'll have no-one to broadcast to in-the-moment.
Don't do it live - do it right. Upload it and share it. Don't stream it.

Vloggers, celebs, agents and stars of screen and music have spent years on social media developing their message, their personal brand, their technique and their band of followers. There is, in my mind, a question as to whether live streams by these people can be regarded as a legitimate performances or simply PR. From what I've been able to fathom, none of these headline performances were behind a paywall - they were all free, promos.

Live streaming doesn't make much sense. There was nothing about Boris' message last night that meant it had to be live - surely it's better to be polished and word perfect - so what is it about your message that necessitates it to be delivered live. YouTube is stuffed full of live performances from artists and their execution is superb because behind each of these artists there's a team of sound, lighting and visual engineers painting a canvas for an editor and a producer to cut into something spectacular, memorable and likeable.

I sensed that each of the three who posed me the live streaming question were exploring ways to generate some kind of income during the crisis. Yet it seems to me that none of this is new and professionals in the performing arts will be well used to this concept of what comes first - the performance or the audience. It's hardly a surprise because it's still all about the promotion; always has been, always will be.

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