Notes from the recent livestreams: Successful houseplant mutiny and mad evil plans for the two final shows!
The next May 21 concert will be a last “mad experiment” where I test out a lot of new tracks and ideas, and then the final June 11 show will be the “grand epic finale”, concluding everything learned during isolation. After June 11, I will take a longer break from live streaming, explained below.
First the juicy sexy data, the running top 10 request highscore table:
3 Reason To Believe (tie)
3 Trigger 22 (tie)
4 Burning Rainbows
6 The Deepest Veil
7 Cowboy Desperado (tie)
7 It was a great year for movies with robots (tie)
7 Luftslott (tie)
Viewer greetings came in from: Bulgaria, Cambodia, Canada, Denmark, England, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, USA. (Some are missing – see below for lost Youtube comments.)
First of all, thank you so much for all the attention, donation and comments. Houseplants also says thank you in their own stoic way. I am so grateful, I read, absorb and save everything. Everyone who donates, gets their firstname + last name initials in the credits of the next shows. The donations are in so many different sizes, currencies. There are tiny amounts, there are insane amounts, there are repeat amounts, there really is no pattern, except your generosity and frequently a funny or cute comment.
Are streaming concerts and the donation model sustainable as a platform? Yes and no and maybe and well actually. It’s a much bigger issue than just the economy of it. It also has an artistic cost. I’m still gathering data and experience.
Best greatest epic win: Letting the houseplants mutiny and take over the Ugress livestream as a proper guest performer was hilarious, I love that they “stole the show”. I think the concept is appropriate to the circumstances of everyone being stuck inside and madness slowly overtakes us, we’re all anthropomorphising our surroundings. It was mostly a cute gimmick, but it was fun, I had a great time with it, there is conceptually something there, and musically I know this can be developed into something much stronger. The choice of Loungemeister as the houseplant track was not optimal, that was also a gimmick. We’re working together on a much more suitable track for next time.
Second best win: The format of the Nebular Spool release party concert, which was very different from Ugress, and that was so refreshing to me. I fundamentally changed the setup and tone. I loved doing a set with much less “extroversion”. And I really like exploring different room setups, changing the space, I’m starting to see the larger potential of this, not just recreating a stage for cameras, but exploring the fact that this is a completely different format. I’m planning an Atrophy In The Key Of Dreaming Books show, which is also quite introvert, very different in tone and style from Ugress.
Biggest fuckup: I lost all the comments on Youtube for both the Ugress and Nebular Spool shows! 🙁 Before I had taken down any notes from them! Nooooooo! The highscore data listed above is based on FB, Vipps, Paypal and emails comments.
This is extra dumb, because YT is where the pre-show warmup happens and I often get really great feedback and input from people’s comments there. Why YT comments gone? Turns out, if you trim a livestream video, i.e. remove the dead minutes at the start and end, Youtube then nukes ALL the live chat comments, for the WHOLE stream, without any warning. They just disappear. Undoing the trim does not restore the comments. They are just forever gone. Last week, I had on my work-list to trim away all the dead silence from the livestream shows, and dutifully I did, its a basic process. And then I discovered afterwards, hey all the comments are gone, from all the videos? Including the last ones where I hadn’t taken down notes yet! This is ridiculous, this does not happen on the other platforms, and the only way to be aware of this, is to do the mistake. Well now I know.
There is another issue, again with Youtube only – when I am about to start the stream, I can see there are xxx people waiting. For Nebular Spool last week I think there were maybe 38 people waiting. I connect to the planned stream. Everything looks technically correct and goes smoothly on my side. The stream is active on the given URL. But… there is nobody. The chat is empty. And nothing happens for the waiting audience on their side. They are left in some kind of limbo? Apperantly if they refresh the same page, after a few minutes, the stream will finally appear and the chat be active. But not everyone thinks of that, and it is not valid for the first few minutes, if they refresh, they get “still waiting” page. But if a new viewer visits the same URL after I started streaming, they get the live show. Its really puzzling. Neither me nor the support teams of the services I’m using can really figure out why, particularly without testing with an actual audience waiting, and I don’t have the resources or interest to deal with this. So for next show, I’m gonna be doing this differently to avoid the situation completely.
But the biggest challenge I actually worry about, is saturation and burnout. Possibly in the audience, but definitively in me, and that would then quickly extend to the audience.
I can’t keep up this format at this rate, my content does not scale to this as easily as I imagined, and it probably also makes sense to take a break soon, and figure out a different tactic for Streaming Internet Concerts. I’m sure they work, but it needs a radically different approach for me, and I need to balance them with all my other work of creating new songs and working on films and commissioned music.
There are many differences between performing live in reality and performing live on the internet, with one particular challenging difference for me: The internet has an insatiable thirst and endless demand for new content. In physical reality, we can play similar sets every night, the audience is usually different every night. So I develop a set of one hour, and this set lasts for a whole tour, maybe 20-30 shows spread over a year or 18 months, and the content improves over time. I hire my regular musicians, they learn the songs, and then perform them multiple times, with variations and improvisations that enhance them over time. This makes in the end for a tight and great set and a good live experience for both us and the audience.
Online, this develop-once, perform-multiple, slow-improve goes out the window before you can say http. There are of course new viewers every time, but there is also a huge percentage of recurring viewers. Which I’m excited about! This is not a complaint, it is observation and experience growing. I knew this, but now I’m feeling it.
Every set then, needs to be kinda fresh, or contain an amount of “new” material relative to recurring viewers. I can see in the data, when I perform repeat material, either repeat tracks or repeat visuals, engagement drops. This makes sense, of course, the internet is the internet. I’m not wanting the internet to not be the internet. But it takes insane amounts of my time to produce new content, particularly for my specific artistic vision and chosen format. Which is okay! Not complaining about that, I’m actually having the time of my life producing or updating so much new content and trying it out with a live audience – but, it is clearly not sustainable.
When livestreaming on a schedule with the aim of building and sustaining an audience, it is not possible to do anything ELSE. Most pressingly for me, I am completely unable to work properly on new material, and work on the long term future of multiple parts of my career. I can test out sketches then and now in the live streams, but I cannot focus deeply, and I can’t take good care of the other parts. Granted, during the pandemic, not much else was happening, so I was able to concentrate deeply on only the livestreams. Possibly in a world with only livestreams, I would be able to focus on only livestreams.
But I really would like to work on new material to meet the scheduled release in November. New releases is most important to me, I need to create, not just present. If it shall be a onetime release of album or a series or singles, not sure yet, either way I need the content for that. To develop this content I just need to focus alone for a few months, and very much need to not be performing or promoting. The mindsets of these different jobs are too different for me, I cannot switch between them on a daily or even weekly basis. So, I will keep to the current plan of two more shows, I manage very happily right now, but the June 11 show will be the last Ugress livestream show for a long while.
That also fits neatly with practical daylight issues. I have to push the starting time back until it is completely dark outside. I’ve delayed the two next shows with 30 minutes for that reason. This is partly because its just cooler to perform in the dark, my cheap livingroom projector and the basic USB lights look much nicer in a darkened room. But practically: I’m using regular webcams for everything, and they don’t handle shifting ambient light very well. They’re not easy to control during performance, they can’t be scripted or sequenced. They need to be tuned and set to specific, locked lights and I’m only one person available, so I can only do this once before starting. Light then, has to be static from then on. Since I’m performing from my living room, I cannot control the light from the outside, and during day the light can always change depending on clouds our time of day. After sunset, ambient light finally stops changing. So I simply have to wait until darkness is stable so I can lock the cameras to the correct ambient lighting.
From light technician to record label accountant: One surprise observation, is that these concerts generate almost zero change in Spotify activity and therefore generate nothing in streaming income. Physical concerts generates a lot of Spotify traffic, and this is really important, the tours usually make a tiny loss but they support albums and generate streaming activity to compensate. (For ME. I’m aware other artists have other models.) This does not happen for online shows. But of course, livestreams don’t have any obvious “loss”, they just cost my own time, and they have their own income in donations. I’m aware of the current conversation in the music industry regarding this explosion of donation based concerts. There is a movement to “stop all the free internet concerts they are destroying ticket sales”, which I understand, but am not sure about myself. Until after the June 11 show, I’m not changing anything on my side. But i’m thinking a lot about it, more on this below.
Track requests observations: I notice the same wonderful trend as last time, people generally request one of the hits, and / or a completely obscure track. There were requests for Propaganda and Snøballtrim, tracks I haven’t even THOUGHT about for maybe 15 year! This is soooo cool. I still don’t have a solution for how to perform the tracks featuring guest vocals, but I have applied for project funding to create bigger streaming productions where I can afford to hire external services, and then include more artists. Vocal artists would be one of the first things I’d like to implement.
Other minor geeky notes: Using Zoom as an audience platform to include viewers into the set is a neat idea but have some technical issues. The app is not easy to integrate into a live performance setup (of course), but the technical issues costs a bit much time and attention. Like the plants above, artistically I would like it to be something more than a gimmick, that it has a real reason for being there, if I should defend spending my time figuring this out. I’m also aware it costs a bit attention in the audience, and I think there too, it should have a reason more than a gimmick to have value also for viewers. I will do some more basic tests and see if I can get it under control and properly integrated.
Talking on a live mic instead of chatting by text was obviously a much better choice for the Ugress show. For Nebular Spool I liked not talking so much, would possibly prefer not to talk at all, but I’m too polite. I think generally I talk too much tough, will aim to reduce the chatter between the songs in the main set. Camera edits and image sequencing also frequently needs changes from their original live stage format to a small screen format, particularly since they’re also sometimes overlaid with the “reality” cameras, I think it can be a bit too hectic sometimes, and too slow other times. This balance takes a while to learn. Mysteriously, sound sync tends to drift in and out on some platforms, and this I cannot do anything about. But the general sound level and quality is steadily learning and improving I think.
So! The plan now is for next show (in just a week, eeeeks) to try out a bunch of new tracks, test out ideas and implement changes that I’d like to see. Then analyze the results of that, and make a final plan for a final grand epic final live stream, on June 11th, which will summarise and exploit everything i’ve learned and develop over these months. After June 11th, I will disappear for a few months to finish the album. The lost tour is now 100% rescheduled for late autumn, supporting the album release, and I’m very eager to do that, but I am also super enthusiastic about this new livestream format. I will also think a lot about that, and find a sensible way to continue experimenting after the summer.