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Streaming Great Sound, Quick and Easy, at Live Venues

This past week, we had an opportunity to broadcast two live shows from different venues.  First, our own Rewind had a Friday night gig down at the SawWorks Brewing Company in Knoxville’s “Old City.”  Then, on Saturday, we broadcasted the Hundred Acres band on stage at Sound Biscuit studios.  Each broadcast was different, but with some very simple equipment set ups, the sound and streaming came out crisp and clear.

The Night Club / Pub Gig

Most musicians will eventually find themselves performing at night clubs, cafés, open mics, etc.  Rewind, a StreetJelly and local Knoxville musician, performed a Friday night show in the confines of a typical brew-pub.  The venue was an industrial warehouse converted to gentrified hipster hangout (just kidding, it’s a very nice place with super nice people).  It was a last minute decision and permission from the owner to broadcast on StreetJelly.  With ten minutes to go before the show started, we fired up the laptop, plugged in our regular webcam, and pulled out a new-in-box Blue Yeti USB microphone.

First, a brief description of the live music and venue.  Rewind and band mate, Thad Bissett, were set up with typical gear: two guitars, mics, foot pedals, mixer board, two PA speakers (one for the room and one as a monitor).  The room size fit a half-dozen large round tables, a bar that ran the length of one wall, and a counter / register area by the front door.  About 25 people were present at the time. It was probably not the best space, however, for producing live music: concrete floors, brick/cinder-block walls, and an exposed metal truss ceiling.  Anyway, Rewind and Thad had their gear set up sounding good for the room.SawWorks

For the StreetJelly broadcast, we unwrapped the Blue Yeti and connected the USB into the laptop.  (No software applications were running at the time, no browsers, and no connection to SJ.)  The installation software already exists within the mic.  So when connecting the USB cord, the Blue Yeti installs itself.  The installation took only a few seconds, and the laptop did NOT need to be rebooted.  We opened up a browser (Firefox), navigated to StreetJelly, and everything was ready to go the first try.  (I’m still amazed how easy this worked.)  We placed the mic about 10 ~ 12 ft from the stage, and set its selector position to bi-directional stereo.  Basically, that means the two internal condenser mics pick up sound at 180° apart.  On the mic, we set the gain around 1/4 from the lowest setting.  On StreetJelly, we set the sound input around 1/3.  That’s it!  Really, that was it.  Sound was very clean with no distortions, pops, or clicks.Blue Yeti

 

The Stage Gig

Next up was broadcasting a 6-piece band, called Hundred Acres.  This was a full professional stage set up in a large corrugated metal building, with half the side opened to the outside.  The space held a 100+ guests inside and out.  Sound Biscuit is a professional recording studio, so needless to say there were more mics, cables, speakers, spot lights, and cool stuff that one could count in any single glance.  Oddly enough, however, the main sound board did not have an extra stereo feed out.  It was already being used for something else.Sound Biscuit board

Our solution was to place two (cheapo) dynamic mics close to the main PA speakers from the stage.  Again, we always recommend going for the simplest set up for streaming on StreetJelly.  You can see in the pics, we placed each mic around 18″ from the center of the PA.  Note: make sure you place the distance of each mic from the PA the same for each channel.  This will make balancing the channels later much easier.Left Right Mics

We plugged in the two mics’ XLR connectors into our Alesis USB Multi-mixer.  This device then plugs into our laptop via USB and gets recognized as any common sound input device to the computer.  We have used the Alesis many times on this laptop broadcasting on SJ, so the computer already was configured for this.  We did have to tweak the gain and output levels on the mixer, but nothing out of the ordinary.  Phantom power was turned off.Alesis

Again, it was a very simple set up to broadcast: two dynamic mics shoved close to the main PA speakers, the USB mixer, and the same Logitech webcam we always use.  The sound streamed extremely well.

Verifying the Output

When you are broadcasting a live show, it’s always tricky to know exactly how well it sounds over the internet.  Listening to headphones from your computer or from the mixer’s main-out is virtually impossible to give a good indication.  The sound in the room almost always overpowers the headphones.  Yes, asking the audience “how does it sound?” is extremely important.  But sometimes the best way to check is to check yourself.  In both broadcasts, we took our mobile phones outside (way outside), plugged in good studio headphones into our phones, and watched the actual StreetJelly broadcast ourselves for a true sound check.  It’s the only way to know for sure.

A Word about WiFi
Jetpack Mifi

In both cases, we used our Verizon Mifi / Jetpack device to connect to the internet.  It’s 4g capable and almost always streams well for StreetJelly shows.  But in both cases, especially in the industrial warehouse gig, the wifi signal cut out a few times.  It was very brief, but enough to cause the stream to buffer.  Next time, we would really like to get a dedicated wired internet connection from the venues.

To recap, keep your configuration as simple as possible.  In our scenarios, the show’s sound was separate from broadcasting.  Let the musicians and sound engineers do what they do best.  Then, capture that sound from your own mics for your broadcast.

Happy Streaming!

Great Sound, Simple

I had this question come in the other day, it’s always worth repeating for everyone.  ~Frankie

Blue SnowballWhat do I need to have a good broadcast quality?  -Bob

Hello Bob,
The best way to get a good broadcast is to have a quality mic input for your computer.  Most webcams these days all look great – so any decent webcam you can find at Walmart will do fine.

For sound, it depends a lot on the type of performance you put on.  If it’s a singer-and-a-guitar kind of show, then all you need is a good USB “podcast” mic.  We recommend a Blue Snowball ($50) – http://amzn.to/1u3MyaT

Alesis 4 Channel MultimixerFor a more complicated setup: multiple mics, amps, keyboards, etc – the best approach is to mix them (with a multi-mixer) before you connect it all to your computer.  A great product to do this is an Alesis 4-Channel Multi-mixer (under $60) – http://amzn.to/1vt77Nt  Like the Snowball mic, this is a USB plug-in to your computer.  Your computer will see all your sound as one simple mic input source.  They both give great sound and make it VERY easy to hookup.

-Frankie

The key here is simplicity.  I’ve seen it many times over where tech-gurus try to perfect their sound with computer software – especially those who use a computer as their mixing board, effects machine, and so on.  It just takes much more processing power (CPU cycles) for your computer to mix multiple sound inputs AND broadcast the video upstream.  And there are always a zillion more things that can go wrong.

So the advice is – process everything before it gets to the computer you are broadcasting from.

Heckling

Special guest blog on Heckling in the new Social Media World, by Clifton Printy

ShoutingHeckling

Heckling is generally defined as trying to…

”…to embarrass and annoy (someone speaking or performing in public) by questions, gibes, or objections; badger.”
http://www.thefreedictionary.com/heckling

However, it is also a more subtle problem. I would further define it as intentional and unintentional acts that cause breaks, gaps, disruption, and interruption of the performance.

Most of the performers here on StreetJelly are not technological wizards freshly instilled with a degree in sound engineering or computer programming. It is their intention to share a passion and love with you. Many of them are in fact singular musicians who have only begun to perform publicly online.

Please remember that as an audience member you have a job. You came for a great performance. Here’s how you get one.

  1. Encourage, Encourage, Encourage
    • “This song is OWNT!” (David Wesley)
    • “Super Great”
    • “That song was awesome”
    • “Holy Moly” (Frankie)
    • CNTRL Clappy Clappy Clappy
    • “You are amazing”
  2. Sell
    • Put the performer’s link in the chat.
    • Chat to and about the performer. (DCrann)
    • Favorite the artist so you can see when they are on.
    • Share their performance links on social media pages.

Now for the hard pill to swallow. If you are not going to pay for production, or transportation for tutelage, and/or are not Simon Cowell; then it is probably not helping if you critique the performer’s style, ability, prowess, set-list, or looks. These things stall the performance at the least and completely decimate an artist’s timing at most. Think about it! They are remembering the chord progression, the lyrics, the pitch, the tempo, and the punch line introduction to their next song. As they answer a question about how they are, read a side joke between Image and Clifty that makes no sense what-so-ever, and quiet their friend who has just barged in; you say, “raise the bass a little.” It is completely disarming! Worse still, when a musician has a connection problem or a sound problem that is not readily repairable, he or she is constantly attacked.

Look out folks, I am just getting wound up. Making a request from an artist usually involves having an understanding of the artist. However, you have to remember that you are trying to make the show better. If you ask Image and Family to play Pantera, you are unequivocally heckling with malicious intent. As funny as it would be, we should remember that our job as an audience is to enjoy the show. For the Image and Family show, a good request may be Drunken Sailor by Great Big Sea. Continuing on with this particular vent, there are people who understand this. Ever notice that when someone is barraging the request-o-meter with impossibles that a Don Gaynor or a Damian will come in and request a song they are sure the artist is good at. They are a practical participating audience.

Important and most obvious: not every performer is for you. If you don’t like a show or performer, just leave the show. Everyone has something to offer, but maybe not to you. Be polite, too. An explicit comment may work sometimes, but not other times. Remember that your chat is visible to not only those here but those who will join in a moment. If you know you are derailing the show, pull back and encourage. You are the audience, not the heckler.

Also, a certain persistent problems frequently arise from a free to use site of this nature. Please be kind and courteous. Smoking weed, swearing, illicit sexual content, vulgarity are not always appropriate in the conversation and/or the performance. Many of us are here for pure music and art. We are all of different values, culture, and political opinion. Going into a family performance such as Image and Family’s show, or Lana Eve’s performance with illicit sexual rhetoric is more than a social faux pas: it is blatantly rude. Would you act like that at the White House, church, grandma’s house? I bet not. Could you drop a licidious comment at Molotov Colostomy’s show? Sure, they are a different sort of musicians all together. But you shouldn’t go there and try to pull a sermon off, either. Very honestly, you are not anonymous and it is not your chat. It is the artists’ show, and all viewers are entitled to hear and enjoy that performer without the rudeness and distractions from a few jerks. Make sure you know the performers and their sense of propriety before you try to shout out the familiar…. or you will really be a heckler.

Clifton PrintyLikewise, performers need to remember to be cognizant of the camera personally seeing boogie sleeve wipes, a crotch torn out of a pair of jeans, a funny cigarette, a nose pick, (special woman note: don’t bend down in front of a desktop cam), and pay attention to what you have in the frame around you since you are also live to the world.

Last, most performers here are willing to play for free, and we do. But your tipping shows us that we have value. Want preferential request treatment, familiarity, and kinship, then give compliments that come from the heart. You will know if it’s good if it builds friendship, and makes it more enjoyable for the listener and the performer.

P.S. Believe me, some of this is learned from personal mistakes. Our personal accountability will keep StreetJelly.com a wonderful and rare respite on the internet.

Tips when Broadcasting from Public Venue

Live Show

We love it when StreetJelly musicians broadcast their public performances.  But it takes a little extra care to produce a decent show.  Below are three main areas to consider when setting up a successful streaming event.

WiFi

Biggest thing to remember, not all wireless internet, WiFi, is created equal.  In fact, public WiFi is notoriously slow in many venues.  The local wireless router at a club or coffee house is usually dialed down to prevent any one person, or group of people, from hogging up the entire bandwidth.  Most small WiFi routers just can’t handle everyone camping out at a table, sipping coffee, and watching YouTubes all day long.  A slow internet connection will cause your StreetJelly video to be choppy or freeze, and make your sound cut out often.

What to do?

  • Test, test, test.  Go to the venue ahead of time and test their WiFi connection.  Make sure their internet is fast enough to broadcast and receive video.  Also, test during peak times when there are a lot of people in the building.  Everyone of you will be competing for the same bandwidth.  Use the StreetJelly broadcast-testing page to analyze how well you can broadcast.
  • Talk with the venue owners.  For one, you should already have permission to broadcast from their location, right?  Many times, a venue will have another password-protected WiFi network they use for themselves.  Ask if they have a second fast and reliable connection to the internet you can use.  They will probably be happy to help as you certainly can help promote the local venue in your show.  “Come on down, it’s Happy Hour at the best pizza joint in town.”
  • Another option, bring your own WiFi.  Most cellphone carriers offer 4g Hotspot or MiFi devices.  These work great and almost always guarantee a very strong internet connection (unless you are way out in the boonies).  But beware, this is expensive and data charges can add up quickly.  Most data plans ($50-80/mth) often limit 5 to 10 gigs of data transfer per month.  A typical one-hour streaming broadcast can use up to 1 gig of data transfer.  The penalty fees can be outrageous if you go over your limit.

Sound

Just as important as a good internet connection is your sound.  (I love stating the obvious.)  However, getting a public performance to stream well over the internet is much different than streaming from your living room.  We try to make StreetJelly as easy as possible to broadcast from home – a typical guitar player / singer can do well with a simple USB microphone like the Snowball or Meteor podcast-style mics.  Being in public, however, you are most likely using a lot more equipment to get a good and loud sound in the venue.  You cannot rely on your computer’s mic to pick up that sound well to broadcast upstream.  You will need a way to get the sound out of your equipment into your computer.  Most built-in computer mics, and even the better USB mics, can only pick up sound within 10 feet or less.  In a large room, even with high volume, these mics will pull in a dull and muddy sound.  Folks are tempted to turn up the input levels, but only to find they pick up more ambient noise (people talking, dishes clanging) with no improvement to their music.

What to do?

  • Do not use the built-in mic on your computer – never for a public broadcast.
  • Only use a USB podcast-style mic in a small intimate setting, like a coffee house, with very little background noise.
  • Use the output from your mixer to feed directly into your laptop.  An external device that can mix your sound and produce a single source to your computer works best.  Here’s an example of a “mini-mixer” device, the Alesis MultiMix 4-Channel USB Mixer.  It does a good job and is very easy to set up.  (Please note: we mention these products only for your convenience.  There are many similar products out there.  If you have used any to success, tell us below in the comments.)
  • Test at home.  It could be hard to test your full setup ahead of time at a nightclub, so best to get the feel of everything at home first.  Try your garage or wide open basement.  That will best simulate the horrible bouncing conditions you may encounter in a restaurant or club.  Set up your mic, amp, mixer, everything.  Jam as loud as you would in public.  Then test broadcast on StreetJelly’s test page and have a friend help confirm your sound settings.

Overall Package

Performing live to a public crowd, large or small, is not the same as broadcasting and chit-chatting on StreetJelly from your couch.  To think you can “throw up a webcam” at your next open-mic and hope everything is good enough; will be very disappointing.  At best, you will get the “webcam in the corner” affect on StreetJelly.  You’ve all seen this a hundred times.  A band is “streaming live” at some club – but the show is terribly boring as you only see the one tiny cam image from somewhere in the club’s rafters, and the musicians never looking into the camera.  StreetJelly viewers will get bored and not stay long …and not tip much, either.

What to do?

  • Frame yourself in the camera as best as you can, and as close as you can.
  • Remember you are performing for two audiences; the one in front of you and the one on StreetJelly.  Talk to both parties.  Even a simple acknowledgement can make all the difference.  Part of your skill as an entertainer is “working the crowd.”  Do it.
  • Get a friend to man your StreetJelly chat.  If you can not have your laptop close to you on stage, get a friend to chat for you.  The StreetJelly viewers will understand if you can’t read, type, and perform all at the same time.  But having a friend by your side to answer questions, tell everyone the name of the venue, the songs you are playing, etc., will translate into a nice experience for all those online  …and hopefully more tips!

Final thoughts.  As much as you practice your vocal range, picking skills, and songwriting ability; performing in front of an audience is also part of your craft.  Work it, practice it, and perfect it.

Any musicians with experience streaming from a public location? Please add your insights below in the comments.

Fix Crackle Bubble Noise with Older Version of Flash

Support Topic:  Sound Issues, Install older version of Adobe Flash

Scenario:  Viewers are saying there is a cracking or bubbling distortion in your sound, and you have Adobe Flash 11.7 installed.

Discovery: We’ve found that some musicians produce a crackling or bubbling digital distortion when using a dynamic type mic. These are usually the traditional music store microphones.  Musicians may not be aware of the distortion unless they are told by the viewers or listen closely from the StreetJelly test_broadcast page. The problem seems to have started with the latest version of Flash 11.7. It doesn’t work well with older sound/microphone drivers. The distortion was fixed by a number of our musicians by installing an older version of Flash.  Version 10.3 is a good version to use.

Note: DO NOT USE Flash versions prior 10.3.  They are incompatible with StreetJelly.

Before you get started: Check your version of flash.
http://helpx.adobe.com/flash-player/kb/find-version-flash-player.html

Uninstall Flash 11.7:
http://helpx.adobe.com/flash-player/kb/uninstall-flash-player-windows.html

Download and Install Archived version of Flash:  Choose Flash 10.3
http://helpx.adobe.com/flash-player/kb/archived-flash-player-versions.html

Direct link to Flash 10.3:
http://download.macromedia.com/pub/flashplayer/installers/archive/fp_10.3.183.90_archive.zip
This zip file contains all the different versions of Flash 10.3. You will run the .exe file for your specific computer (Win, Mac, Linux, etc). Instructions are included in the README.TXT file.

Final Thoughts: With an older version of Flash, remember not to automatically choose to upgrade to the latest version of Flash. Adobe will most likely popup notifications for a later version. Just ignore those.

Still have questions? Ask them below, or contact us at support@streetjelly.com.

Tips for Performing by Webcam

Webcam ManPerforming online in front of a webcam is something probably new to most musicians.  It’s certainly new for us, too.  We noticed some things that will help your performance be visually more appealing.

  1. Sit or Step Back away from your webcam. This is probably the best advice.  Most performers are sitting too close to their webcam and basically it’s just their head filling up the screen.  Being at least 6 to 10 feet away from the cam frames a nice image of the artist, especially when playing an instrument.  Which leads to tip #2.
  2. Show us that you are playing an instrument.  Don’t worry about your fancy finger work, when we can visually see you playing the guitar or whatever – it adds to the experience.  So if you are in tight quarters and can not sit too far back, point your cam down at your instrument.
  3. Don’t over power your computer’s microphone.  If you are performing through your pc’s or laptop’s built in mic, chances are your voice and music will over power the mic at some point causing distortion.  Again, sitting further back will help even out the sound.  Just remember to speak loudly in between songs so the mic can pick up your normal voice.  For a better sound, you can make huge improvements with a just a simple sound-leveling, noise-cancelling pc mic.  These are basically called USB “conference call” mics you find in computer stores (not music stores).  For around $60-$75, these mics make a big difference.
  4. Last, don’t forget the room around you.  You don’t need to be performing on a stage, but make sure the background is not distracting to the performance, i.e. messy, cluttered, dirty laundry, etc.  Remember, you are performing for tips, make every bit count.

Do you have any more ideas?  We’d love to hear them.