Blog Post

Ten tips for live streaming an arts event

27.06.16

Paul Steele from First Art shares his ten top tips for live streaming an arts event 

First Art is a Creative People and Places project working in Bolsover, Ashfield, Mansfield and north east Derbyshire. In 2015 First Art helped the Bolsover District Festival of Brass grow its profile and audience by live streaming the event. Paul Steele tells us how they did it and gives his top tips on live streaming arts events.

1. Know why you’re doing it

Live streaming has always been at the back of my mind. I work at Junction Arts, which is one of the partnership members of First Art. One of the biggest issues we’ve got in this area is that the transport infrastructure is poor. If there was an event or something happening and there was an opportunity for people to see it without having to travel, we’ve always talked about that. We don’t have a venue, so there was this idea that the website would be the central hub that connects these different, dispersed areas.

2. Choose your event carefully

There’s a very successful local brass band festival and competition in Bolsover, which has been running for ten years. It’s very well known in the brass band world – it has 42 bands competing over ten hours in one day! It’s a big festival in our area, but it doesn’t get much attention outside the brass band world. It does have a physical audience, but that’s only about 200 people.

3. Building an audience

We talked about filming the competition and putting it online, so that people who couldn’t physically get there could watch it. And one of the things written into our business plan was about showcasing the area, as a place that can host great arts events and experience. This seemed to fit really well because it’s a nationally significant festival and we thought it was important to give it a national audience. There’s a preconception that nothing happens here, but there’s an enormous amount of festivals and galas and events. In doing something like this, it surprises people because you’re showcasing a really impressive event. Local people take a great deal of pride in that.

4. Quality is essential

First Art commissioned the live web stream, and we set it up on our website. One of the key things for us was about quality. We felt that for this to work and be successful, it absolutely had to be high-quality. It couldn’t just be someone pointing a camera with not very good sound or picture quality. We broadcast in HD, and spent a lot of time making sure that the audio was high quality.

5. Plan ahead

We wanted to make sure that we had control over the event. People had to register to watch the stream, so we were collecting information about audiences for reporting purposes. It was important for us to know who was watching. We talked to the people who run our website and embedded a video player in there. We created a new page called Broadcast, and we’re going to use this for web streaming and other events.

6. Talk to the experts

We spoke to a few companies about filming and broadcasting it before we chose one. There are two elements – the filming and the broadcasting. We went along to watch S4C, which is the Welsh Channel 4, who broadcast the Eisteddfod. They have all the equipment etc, but they also have an IT team who deal with the web side of things – ensuring there’s enough bandwidth, for example, and monitoring the streaming. So when we commissioned Micro Video Shrewsbury, we made sure we had the complete solution. They used the embedded player in our website, filmed the event and provided the bandwidth as well. They took away a lot of potential headaches!

7. Overall experience is important

We wanted to make it a very professional and enjoyable experience for those watching. We talked to 4barsrest.com, the national brass band website, and Iwan who runs it is very knowledgeable. He agreed to come and present the ten hour web stream, and he invited two colleagues – the editor of British Bandsmen magazine and another brass band expert – and they made up a panel. Each band performs for twenty minutes, and then there’s a ten minute turnaround. We streamed each performance, and then switched to backstage, and got the conductors and judges etc to come and talk to us. We got feedback that the mix of performances and interviews was very professional, and very high quality.

8. Forge new partnerships

This was always a pilot. We talked about having fringe activity linked to the broadcast – putting screens in community centres and having physical audiences at various points with activities. The tight timeframe meant that didn’t happen, but we did set up a deal with a local care home provider who said lots of their residents would like to see it. So we broadcast the stream into all of their homes, and the feedback was that people really enjoyed it, which was great! Getting the brass band website involved was really important, because they promoted the event through all of their channels. The British Bandsmen magazine also promoted it. Getting all of these partners involved was crucial to the success of the event.

9. Look at the numbers

Micro Video said that more than 100 people watching a web stream would be good, for a first event. We had a target audience of 500. It just snowballed throughout the day – we had 2,830 individual users from 32 countries! We got all of these stats through the information that Micro Video captured. We had 287 towns and villages around the UK watching, and we found out that our audience peaked around 6pm, with over 700 people watching. The most impressive thing for us was that the average time users spent watching the feed was 32 minutes and 52 seconds – which is huge, because the average is usually about four minutes! That showed us that people were watching a whole performance from one band, and the interviews afterwards. We were able to track how many people watched locally, too, which were good numbers.

10. Evaluate and learn

It achieved our aim, which was to showcase a local festival and open it up to a national audience. The whole point of First Art, and other CPP projects, is to think local, so the fact that we had initiated the partnership with local care homes was really important to us. The feedback from the care homes was really brilliant – many of the people who watched had played in a brass band previously.

It was a real feel-good news piece, too. We got a lot of coverage and exposure. For a small district like Bolsover, it was really great recognition. We want to open it out, and make an area of the website where we broadcast local talent. We’re trying to build a body of work that we can show on the website, and then choose a handful of events throughout the year to broadcast. It is expensive to film and broadcast the quality we’re aiming for, so we’re going to cherry pick four or five things to stream throughout the year, which we’ll make an event of with fringe activity alongside.

More information: www.firstart.org.uk/broadcast

The full archive of music and interviews from the 2015 Bolsover District Festival of Brass is available here

Paul Steele was talking to Eleanor Turney