Jackie McLean of the indie band Roan Yellowthorn grants us an inside look at the making of an album from start to finish in her ‘Breaking The Record’ column.
Stream: ‘Rediscovered’ – Roan Yellowthorn
A big part of creative life right now is streaming. Live-streaming. With all physical venues and performance avenues currently closed because of the pandemic, we artists are left with the world wide web. The internet is the new virtual coffee shop, underground club, and arena.
I started doing weekly live-streams a few weeks ago. It’s getting easier as I get used to it, but it’s more stressful and awkward than I expected it to be. It’s also surprisingly draining. I think there’s an element of energy exchange in face-to-face contact that I’ve taken for granted; you expend, and you get it back. With virtual performing, there is the same amount of energy output but almost none of the energy return. There are comments that come in, and that can feel like an energy return once you get the hang of seeing them that way, but it’s still a fraction of the energy you absorb from real people when they’re in close proximity clapping (hopefully), talking, breathing, and moving. I didn’t expect to feel this way. It’s interesting.
Just jumping into the Breaking The Record series documenting the making of our album from start to finish? Read part 1 here!
Since a lot of us are streaming or interested in starting, here are a few things I’m learning:
- Keep you stream to a manageable amount of time.
Because of twilight-zone-quantum-energy void outlined above, it’s a good idea to keep your stream from going too long. I like to keep mine to about a half an hour. Any longer than an hour feels really tiring for me. I think somewhere between half an hour and an hour is a sweet spot. More than an hour can be kind of exhausting and less than half an hour means that people can easily miss your stream.
- Set up your equipment before you go live.
This is one that I need to follow more closely. It’s really important to set up your equipment with plenty of time before your livestream begins and to do a little check to make sure that everything is set up correctly. It’s good to make sure that your recording device(s) is/are secure and that shots are framed to include everything you want in there. It’s awkward to adjust cameras and enter captions while your stream is live. I’m guilty of doing this quite often. Trust me – do it beforehand if you can. You’ll start your stream feeling more prepared. Preparation leads to confidence and hopefully less anxiety.
- Include your Venmo/PayPal information.
Make sure that people can leave you a tip if they like what they hear. This pandemic is hitting artists hard as a whole. Give listeners the opportunity to support music they love – yours! When you share a livestream on Facebook, make sure that you include your payment info along with a little note in the first few lines of the post. On Instagram, post a comment with your payment info on your livestream and then hold down on it until the menu options pop up. Select ‘pin comment’ to make sure that your comment is at the top of the comment feed for viewers to see.
- Interact with viewers.
This one seems obvious but it’s important to interact with the people viewing your stream. If someone new joins the stream, don’t be afraid to greet them. If someone leaves a comment, do your best to address it in a timely manner. There are real people behind the comments and notifications, even if it doesn’t always feel that way. Making sure your viewers feel seen and appreciated helps energy flow to be exchanged and can help keep your audience engaged.
- Consider a multi-stream.
There are some software options that can increase your reach by allowing you to stream simultaneously to multiple platforms. The ones that I’ve tried are ReStream and Streamlabs. From what I’ve seen, Streamlabs only lets you stream to two simultaneous platforms (ie Facebook and Youtube). ReStream lets you choose several at once but, in order to stream to a public Facebook page, you have to pay for an upgraded service. Streaming to a personal page is free. If you have a public page, you can always use the free service to stream to a personal page and then share your stream to your public page at the start of the stream. Just be mindful of suggestion #2 – it sometimes takes longer than expected to do these on-air adjustments. Another thing to consider is that, if you want to do a stream to Instagram while streaming to other platforms, you need a separate device. From what I can find, Instagram always has to be streamed separately. What I usually do is set up either Facebook Live or a multi stream via ReStream with Twitch, Youtube, Twitter, and Facebook on my laptop and an Instagram Live stream on my phone.
- Consider Equipment.
You don’t need much to start streaming. Basic requirements to stream to all platforms are a computer and a smartphone. If you just want to stream to one platform, all you need is a phone or a laptop. It’s possible to jerry rig a setup without much equipment at all. For instance, I use a chair with boxes stacked on it to hold my computer to the right height. One thing I do have, and is really worth it for me, is a tripod with a cell phone attachment. I use this every time I stream to Instagram. Optional audio add-ons include microphones and an audio mixer but these aren’t necessary. Also optional but unnecessary for the video element are portable lights and a separate video camera. Again, unnecessary. A laptop and a cell phone should work just fine.
In between all of this streaming stuff, I’ve been listening to music. I’m finding myself really gravitating towards comforting things lately – I’m eating a lot of carbs and cheese and I’m listening to music that’s equally soul- nourishing. Familiar things are feeling really comforting. I’m watching my favorite movies – ‘Mighty Wind,’ ‘What About Bob,’ ‘Some Like It Hot,’ and I’m listening to my favorite music. Ever since we both played Underwater Sunshine Fest last year, I’ve been a huge fan of Maria Taylor. Her voice feels familiar. Comforting. Her music holds me. I love her recent album, ‘In The Next Life’ and I’m also really enjoying her new, self-titled record. I have it on vinyl and it’s beautiful, both visually and sonically.
A favorite song from ‘In The Next Life’, which is difficult to say because, truly, every song on the record is my favorite song, is this one called ‘Pretty Scars’
This one, ‘If Only’ is also breathtaking and has a really lovely music video to go with it:
Then there’s this one that I love called ‘Spinning Wheel’ from her new, self-titled record:
And, just because I love her music so much, here’s another favorite song called ‘Clean Getaway’ from her 2007 album, Lynn Teeter Flower:
Ok just one more! This one is ‘Song Beneath The Song’ from her 2005 album, 11:11:
It’s not that often that an artist just arrests me completely. Maria Taylor’s music does that. I can feel my heart clenching and releasing as I listen to her songs. It’s a beautiful, powerful thing and it’s helping me a lot during these times. Do yourself a favor and listen to as much of her music as you can. It will soothe your soul. It’s soothing mine. Find out more about Maria Taylor here.
Until next time, listen to music and, speaking of streaming, catch us tonight streaming a little virtual concert for y’all on Atwood Magazine socials. Music starts at 3pm EST!
Catch me on Mondays and Thursdays live-streaming from home at 9pm EST on Facebook and Instagram live!
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