D.I.Y.

Maximizing Revenue From Streaming Live Shows

As more musicians continue to transition from live shows to live streams, an increasing number of artists are finding ways to generate income from these performances, often via channels that wouldn’t be available through conventional in-person concerts.

Guest post by Randi Chertkow and Jason Feehan of Disc Makers

As musicians transition from live shows to live streams, they are finding ways to monetize their performances, even if they aren’t “in person.” Some of these revenue options aren’t even available when playing live!

Before everyone began sheltering in place due to the Coronavirus, the first question on the minds of musicians was, “How do I make money with music?” That question is even more critical at this difficult time when many of the live and in-person revenue streams musicians rely on can’t happen.

Thanks to the Internet and technology services that help connect people remotely (many of which are free), musicians can still perform, connect with fans, and make money with music. So, to help, we’ve compiled ten techniques you can use to make money with music during this period of physical distancing. (The first five are included here.)

People sheltering at home are looking for online entertainment, and with free streaming options like YouTube Live, Periscope, Twitch, and Facebook Live, you can provide it with live performances. And, while many people are facing difficult financial situations, there are many folks who want to redirect the money they had set aside for travel, eating out, and other activities they can’t participate in towards your online shows, merch, music, and patronage. Many are eager to support artists, and if you provide satisfying options, they’ll open their wallets for you.

To collect money during your online shows:

1. Collect tips during your broadcast

Because you control the content of the live stream, you can ask for tips during your show and collect them online. If you handle these tips yourself, you can use payment services such as Paypal.ME, Venmo, or Stripe which allow you to provide links or your user handle so fans can pay you.

To get as many tips as possible, explain to your viewers how to tip throughout the show — either in between songs or by displaying links or your handle in view of the camera. And, if you use video software like the free Open Broadcaster Software, you can create an overlay on top of your video image that displays words, images, animation, or scrolling messages. This can include your tipping link or handle so it’s on-screen during the performance.

In addition to that, many streaming platforms now have built-in tipping systems. For example, some platforms provide a way to applaud or cheer for what everyone is watching with an animation that appears on top of the feed which all of the viewers can see. Each of these built-in tipping systems has its own rules about what you can earn, so check out each one for more information.

  • Twitch. Bits provide a way for partner channels to collect money when fans use Bits to “cheer” for something you did.
  • Facebook. Stars, which are only available to members of Level Up and partners.
  • YouNow. Bars can be awarded to any channels that are partners.

2. Set up a Patreon account and collect patronage income

Patreon allows fans to support you monthly or by project, so once you set up a Patreon account, everything you do — including online streamed performances — should steer fans towards becoming patrons and supporting you monthly to provide a steady income for yourself. You’d rather have a new patron rather than a one-time tipper any day since they generate recurring monthly revenue for you. And, given the way Patreon works, you can also message them regularly, keeping them informed about what you’re doing, which keeps them engaged.

One way to encourage patronage sign-ups is to create enticing rewards, which we cover in “Choosing the right rewards for patronage and crowdfunding campaigns,” on the Disc Makers Blog and in-depth in our book, Making Money With Music. It’s a big chapter in our book for a reason, and too long to cover here, but at a minimum, make sure you reserve some of the content from your online streaming shows as premium content for your Patreon supporters so they have a reason to keep paying for their rewards.

3. Collect adshare revenue from the platforms

Nearly all of the free streaming platforms make their money off advertising and many of them allow you to get a cut of the ad revenue you generate for them. Normally, this is done by becoming a partner or requiring you to pay to become a higher-status channel within their platform. Each of these platforms has different rules for what qualifies as a partner; for example, take a look at Twitch’s partner channel rules and YouTube’s partner program for more information.

4. Create pay-per-view live streaming shows

Although many musicians just provide free shows, you can also charge fans for access and only do pay-per-view. To do this, check out platforms like Stageit.com and Vimeo OT. Keep in mind, each of the pay-per-view services has different features and take different cuts from the ticket price you set. Because of this, take some time to view their terms and conditions to compare which one works best for you.

5. Charge channel memberships

You can offer channel memberships that give your fans premium benefits when they watch your channel. You can offer a series of member-only shows, like a pay-per-view series, or add desirable extras to your free shows such as premium icons and emoticons for the chat (which is how Twitch does it), access to post-show goodies like Q&As or live chats with you, and pre-and-post stream special sessions. These benefits allow you to charge a subscription fee rather than a single fee.

Much like Twitch’s membership system, which is available to Twitch Partners, YouTube has a channel membership program that is available if you have 50,000 subscribers or more. You can also make your own channel membership by using Patreon and provide the premium streams and extra material using Patreon’s delivery system, which allows you to send directed messages to patrons based on their contribution level.

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These are just five ideas for what you can do to make money with live streams. Since you control the content, there are many more you can weave into your performances and we’ll cover five additional options in our next post. But bear in mind, it takes time to set up and implement each of these ideas, so we recommend you choose one method, implement it, test it, and see how it goes. As you do more shows and discover which ones work best for you, you can add more revenue sources to these streams as you go. While these are tough times for everyone, it’s an opportunity to turn your live performances into something all of your online fans can enjoy while also growing your fanbase.


Authors of the critically-acclaimed modern classic, The Indie Band Survival Guide, Billboard Magazine called Randy Chertkow and Jason Feehan “the ideal mentors for aspiring indie musicians who want to navigate an ever-changing music industry.” Their latest book, Making Money With Music (Macmillan) and free Making Money With Music Newsletter, help all musicians — from startups to pros — build a sustainable music business so you can make money in today’s tech-driven music environment.

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