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Developing an online fanbase is great, right? It lets you sell music direct to fans, all over the world, even if you’re not on a major label. However, that ‘all over the world’ bit presents something of a headache when it comes to playing live shows to these fans, for the simple reason that it’s not always easy get over to Papua New Guinea to play a live show. Even making it up to Milton Keynes from London to play to four strangers who found you on the internet is not really a financially viable – or perhaps desirable – option. 

There’s a simple enough answer to that problem: do live shows on the internet. Not so long ago online gigs would have been a technical challenge, or just a cheap story that a PR firm would have made up, but in an era of webcams and free streaming services, the technology is now readily available to allow you to do this easily – and to make money from it too.

How? We recommend checking out Ustream – it’s great for putting on online gigs. You set up a "Ustream channel" - a page which fans can visit to watch your gigs, and then download a simple, free program called Ustream Producer to create the actual broadcasts.

These shows can be as simple or as complicated as you like. The easiest way to put on an online with Ustream Producer is to just sit in front of your webcam and strum an acoustic guitar; however, if you’re after something more complicated, the software allows you to use multiple video and audio sources to create more impressive, ‘big’ sounding shows. You can plug a full band into a mixer, then the mixer into your computer…and have a stadium show of sorts being broadcast live from your bedroom or garage.

Another nice aspect of Ustream is that fans watching the gig can interact with other people tuned into the show – and with you – via a chatroom that accompanies the broadcast. It allows people watching your show to request songs, provide feedback and so on.

How do you make money from these gigs? Well, if your fanbase is sufficiently dedicated enough, you can use Ustream’s ‘pay per view’ system. Another alternative is to operate an honesty box, using Paypal.

Even if you don’t ‘monetise’ your online gigs immediately, online gigs can be a great way to engage fans, develop a better relationship with them and encourage them to promote your music.

Top tips for putting on online shows

  • Get the sound right. Even using a little mixer and a couple of cheap microphones will sound much better than using your computer’s built in microphone.
  • Encourage fans to listen with headphones - this will create a much better impression of your music for them than if they were to listen on tinny laptop speakers.
  • Think about your appearance. The camera adds ten pounds.
  • Even if you are performing from your bedroom, try to make the show as professional as possible: think about some décor you can add, what your ‘stage presence’ is going to be like and so on. Avoid being an amateur – you never know who will tune into your shows.
  • Online gigs let you talk direct to fans: use this opportunity to thank them for their support and ask them to encourage as many of their friends to support you too.
  • Check out what other artists do when they play live online - for example, check out what Nerina Pallot and Chris Singleton do on Ustream.
  • Keep your clothes on.

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