Musicians have been striking gold on YouTube since it went online in 2005. The likes of Soulja Boy and Justin Bieber found fame by sharing videos of them performing on the platform.
Back then, amateurs uploaded pre-recorded performances of covers. Some even posted original works. And they used what was available to them at the time.
It was when creators of old shot videos with basic camcorders, or worse, laptop cameras. The video quality was a veritable festival of pixels, grains, and low framerates. Audio sounded like it was recorded inside a water tank from a quarter-mile away. And post-editing was optional at best.
Without expensive, production-grade equipment and tutorials, YouTube musicians were getting the short end of the stick. Surely, it was dark times. But many performers persisted and prevailed.
Fortunately, technology caught up. Now, you have YouTube musical artists posting their first videos in cinema-quality, shot on a $50 phone!
Content creators no longer confine themselves to pre-recorded videos. With YouTube launching a free live streaming service, you can broadcast your musical performances online for fans to enjoy.
It’s your time to shine in front of a live audience. In this guide, we’ll walk you through how to stream music on Youtube.
How To Set Up a YouTube Music Live Stream
Here’s how you can use YouTube to live stream music without using streaming software.
- Create a YouTube account.
- On the homepage, click the Create button near the upper right corner. Then click “Go live” from the drop-down menu.
- YouTube will ask you to create a channel. Set your channel name and proceed. You’ll go back to the home page.
- Repeat Step 2, and this time you will end up in the YouTube Studio dashboard. You will see a notice saying, “Live streaming isn’t available right now.” Click the “Enable” button below it.
- YouTube will ask you to verify your account. Perform the required steps. Then you’ll have to wait 24 hours until you can start streaming.
- Once the waiting period ends, do Step 2 again. Now you have access to the studio’s streaming features.
- Connect your webcam and microphone to your computer.
- In YouTube Studio, click “Webcam” from the left sidebar. Edit your stream settings. Add the title, description, tags, and so on. Set the category to Music, and the restrictions according to your preference.
- YouTube Studio will take a photo using your webcam for your thumbnail so be camera-ready before clicking “Next”.
- Get your instrument ready, and when you’re all set, click “Go live.” And you’re streaming!
You can have a decent live performance stream if you have a good enough microphone and a quiet enough room. Also, the steps above apply to performances using acoustic instruments that your mic can pick up.
In general, it’s not advisable to play instruments with an amplifier or speakers directly into your microphone. This might create major audio issues, like feedback loops. The same applies to pre-recorded backing tracks—the music you’re singing with instead of live instruments.
So, how do you stream your performance with electric instruments? Read on and we’ll teach you how to do it, and a few other tips for streaming music on YouTube.
YouTube Music Live Tips for Beginners
Use an Audio Interface
An audio interface is a piece of hardware that functions as a hub for your audio input devices, like microphones and instruments. It’s also known as an external sound card.
A basic audio interface allows input for one microphone, one instrument, and an earphone jack for monitoring. You can adjust the gain for each input and the volume for your monitoring device.
A huge advantage of using an audio interface is that you avoid feedback since you’re funneling the audio directly to your computer. Another thing is you get better audio quality overall. With an audio interface, you control the gain—the loudness—of your input devices before it even goes to your computer.
You can test and monitor your mic or instrument’s gain levels through the headphones. Listen for audio clipping, otherwise known as “peaking”. It’s when the gain is too high, the audio will break up and distort. It’s that annoying crackling sound you hear when someone screams too loudly into a microphone.
An audio interface also works as your real-time audio monitor during your live stream through the headphone jack. You’ll hear your performance together with your audience.
Most audio interfaces have a built-in preamp and connect to a computer through USB. They’re mostly plug-and-play. But as with any new hardware, we recommend getting the updated drivers from the manufacturer’s website.
Your computer will recognize the audio interface as an input device. Select it as your microphone using the steps above. Now, you can sing with any electric instrument, like a keyboard, with more control over your audio.
Broadcast Your Performance Using Streaming Software
An audio interface is best paired with streaming software. Streaming software offers more aesthetic and technical customization options than the direct webcam method on YouTube Studio.
With streaming software, you can use multiple audio and video capturing devices, and control all of them in one place.
There are several good, free-to-use streaming software out right now. For this tutorial, we’ll use OBS Studio.
Configuring OBS Studio for YouTube Music Live Streaming
There are several good, free-to-use streaming software out right now for YouTube broadcast music. For this tutorial, we’ll use OBS Studio on Windows.
- Download and install OBS Studio.
- Right-click on OBS’s shortcut on your desktop. Go to the Compatibility tab. Tick “Run this program as an administrator.” Click “Apply” then “OK”.
- Run OBS but cancel the setup wizard. Go to “Settings”.
- Go to “Output” and select “Advanced” under “Output Mode”.
- On the “Streaming” tab, select either your dedicated GPU (Nvidia, AMD) or your CPU (X264) for the encoder.
Streaming with a single camera and using minor visual flair, like borders, don’t use up much computing resources. So, you should be fine with your CPU as your encoder if you don’t have a dedicated graphics card.
If you’re going for a multi-cam stream, use your dedicated GPU. Generally, we recommend encoding with your GPU in any case.
- Set the bitrate anywhere from 4500 to 6000 Kbps. This is the recommended bitrate for a 1080p at 60fps video quality stream. Your internet upload has to maintain a speed of at least 6 Mbps.
If your upload speed is high enough, you can boost your bitrate to around 9000 Kbps. Click “Apply.”
- Go to “Audio”. Your OBS sample rate must match your computer’s. To check your computer’s sample rate, right-click on the speaker icon on your taskbar. Open sound settings, then click on “Sound Control Settings” from the related settings on the left side of the window.
On the “Playback” tab, right-click on your active output device, then “Properties”. On the “Advanced” tab, you’ll see your PC’s sample rate in the “Default Format” section. We suggest setting it to “24 bit, 44100 Hz (Studio Quality)”. “Apply” then “OK”.
Then go to the “Recording” tab, and do the same for your active microphone. Select your audio interface as your active audio input device if you have it.
Go back to OBS and set the sample rate as the same as what you set on your PC. Click “Apply”.
If your sample rates don’t match, you may get popping, crackling, and buzzing sounds on your audio.
OBS will require you to quit and restart the app if you change the sample rate. Do it and go back to “Audio”.
Once back, select your microphone from the “Mic/Auxiliary Audio” dropdown menu. If you have an audio interface, select that. Click “Apply”.
- Now go to “Video” and set both Base and Output resolutions to 1080p. You can set it higher, depending on your monitor. Click “Apply” then “OK”.
- You’re now ready to layout your video. On the “Scenes” panel, rename your scene as something like, “Main Cam”.
- Then on the “Sources” panel, add your camera as a video source by clicking the plus (+) sign and selecting “Video Capture Device”. The device properties window will pop up. From the “Device” dropdown, select your webcam. Click “OK”.
You can use more than one video camera source on OBS. This is good if you want a facecam and a separate camera for your instrument. It adds more value to your live stream.
To add another camera feed, just repeat Step 8. Just rename each source as you see fit.
- When your camera feeds have loaded up on the preview section, resize and crop accordingly.
Resize your videos by clicking and dragging the red border. Crop it by doing the same thing, but this time, hold down the alt key while dragging.
If you have multiple cameras, you can overlay one feed over the other or lay them out into a split-screen format. The choice is yours.
Set the video layer order by dragging them on the “Sources” box.
You can also create a different scene for different cameras and use an auto-scene switcher plugin for OBS. But that’s for another time.
- Add your mic or audio interface by adding another source and selecting “Audio Input Capture”. Choose your hardware under “Device”, then click “OK”. Your input device should now appear in the “Audio Mixer” box.
Your microphone and instruments should come through via your audio interface.
- On OBS’s main menu bar, click “Edit”, then “Advanced Audio Settings”. Set all your audio input devices to “Mono” and untick tracks 3 to 6. Close the settings box.
- If you’re using a backing track instead of performing your own music, just play it through any media player you have on your computer. It should come through as part of your desktop audio.
- Mute all other apps that may make sounds during your performance. Do this by right-clicking the Speakers icon on the taskbar, then “Open volume mixer.” Mute everything not relevant to your live stream.
- From this point on, all your audio should come through your default output device on Windows. So, this is the time to check if everything works and your sound levels are all set properly.
We highly recommend using headphones connected to your PC (not to the external audio interface device) for checking because this is what OBS will send to YouTube and then to the audience.
If you’re happy with the video and audio quality and settings, let’s link OBS to YouTube.
- On YouTube, click the “Create” icon in the upper right corner of the homepage, then “Go live”. On the “Stream” tab on the right side, configure your personal broadcast preferences. Don’t forget to set the category to “Music”. Copy the stream key.
- On OBS, go to settings, then Stream. Select “YouTube - RTMPS” from “Service”, then paste your YouTube stream key on the field. Hit “Apply”, then “OK”.
- Ready up for your YouTube Music live performance, then click “Start Streaming.” If you want a high-quality copy of your stream, hit “Start Recording” as well.
- Have a great time performing for your live audience!
OBS Studio also works as a virtual camera and is selectable as a webcam on the basic streaming steps we told you at the beginning of this guide. However, it’ll only pick up the video feed. You’ll have to manage audio separately.
Audio Interface or Mixer?
An audio interface alone is basic and usually gives you control over volume. More advanced interfaces have multiple inputs, which is appropriate for a band setup.
You can further customize your audio from an interface using a digital audio workstation or DAW. A DAW is a type of audio production software. You can add effects, splice, mix audio tracks from multiple instruments, and a lot more. It gets pretty advanced.
A mixer is DAW in hardware form. You connect a mixer to an audio interface and create a final audio mix even before it reaches the computer. Some people find using a physical mixer more user-friendly than using software. That’s because the controls on a mixing console are all laid out in the open as opposed to digging for them through the settings in software.
Most standalone mixers don’t connect directly to a computer and require a separate interface. But there are mixer models that have an integrated audio interface. We’re delving into more professional audio production equipment now. This means things are getting more expensive.
For the most part, you can put out a good show with just an audio interface without using a DAW or a physical mixer. It depends on how professional-sounding you want your stream to come out.
It’s not just the monetary investment that matters. You’ll have to learn the more complex aspects of music production. And that’s a tall order, especially for someone who’s starting at square one.
But don’t overwhelm yourself. Start small, and when you’re ready to up your game, consider upgrading your equipment and know-how. Your channel’s growth won’t solely depend on how many viewers you get. The quality of your live streams also plays a major role in expanding your brand.
Dealing with YouTube’s Content ID System
Ah, the magnificent legal ballet that is copyrighted content, creators, and YouTube.
Throw a rock at the YouTube community and you’ll likely hit a creator who has content that’s been claimed by copyright holders. Most music content creators rely on doing covers of top 100 hits to attract viewers and grow their channel. Those songs are owned by someone else and it’s within their legal rights to lay claim on what’s theirs.
The owner of the intellectual property may have the video taken down or take all earnings made from ads and views. Some generous holders merely take a cut of the money that the videos make—bless them.
Live-streamed content gets the worst of it. YouTube’s Content ID robots scrounge all content for copyrighted materials. If YouTube sniffs your live stream out, it may warn you to stop using licensed music or stop your broadcast there and then.
The robots compare lyrics and melodies against a sample that license owners submit to YouTube. A workaround is to arrange songs so that they sound different enough to avoid detection. It’s not a sure fix but it’s worth the try. Getting cut off in the middle of belting out a Beyoncé standard is upsetting for everyone.
The formal avenue is to get permission from the copyright holder. If they agree, they will put you on an “allowlist”, which, on paper, should let you live stream and keep an archive of your performance on your channel.
But this can take weeks to months. And record labels and artists hardly ever give permissions for free. Let’s not forget that, to protect yourself with dealings like this, you may want to avail a lawyer’s services. But it never hurts to ask. As we said, some license owners are kind enough to settle with profit-sharing.
So, will there ever be a solid silver lining to all of this? It depends on you. As mentioned, covers bring in the viewers. If growth comes before money, then you’re just going to have to take the punches.
Use the influence you get from performing others’ work, then gradually mix in your originals. Many viewers are on the lookout for new, potential hits that they can share with friends.
Just keep your head up, and sing your heart out. Who knows? Maybe your original song will go viral.
YouTube isn’t perfect, but it’s still the best place for musicians who want to get their careers to take off. The massive number of YouTube users worldwide means there’s a market for any musical genre.
Performing for a live audience on such a huge platform isn’t just a journey of career heightening and providing content. It’s also about self-discovery and finding your footing as a performer.
You may get as much from your audience as they get from you. Even without all that YouTube money, we say that’s still a fair trade-off.