The Ultimate Guide To DJ Livestreaming In 2020

Phil Morse | Tutor
July 22, 2020

Imagine playing a gig to hundreds of people. Imagine all the nerves and excitement building up to it, and then all the joy of getting lost in the mix, enjoying every second of your set.

Imagine afterwards, watching it back for fun, reliving the crowd interactions, and the transitions you particularly enjoyed. (And of course spotting what to do better next time.)

Now imagine getting to doing this again and again, building a fan base, playing the music you want to play, maybe even making a little money from it… and all without leaving your home.

Maybe you want to do this to help you promote yourself and the music you like to the people who can book you or attend your “real” gigs.

Or maybe – like me – you want to do it because your full-time gigging days are over.

Read this next: How To Livestream DJ Sets: 4 Ways To Do It

Whatever the reason, DJ livestreaming – playing DJ sets to your audience over the internet, with audio and video – can deliver all of this for you.

What’s more, as those of us who livestream professionally know, there is an excitement around livestreaming that you can’t get from gigs.

Having people from all over the world tune in week in, week out, and the chance to be uncompromising in the music you play, gives DJ livestreaming a flavour of its own.

So whether you’ve never livestreamed before, or you’re already doing it but looking for tips to improve, this article has what you need.

How we figured this out

Here at Digital DJ Tips we’ve been livestreaming weekly since 2017, and nowadays conduct much of our training in “live classrooms” from our studios to students worldwide.

But since the 2020 lockdown, we’ve additionally been livestreaming regular DJ sets to many thousands of people on Mixcloud Live, Twitch and our YouTube channel. We’ve done it all – impromptu livestreams from our phones, cobbled-together set-ups with what we had in our houses at the height of the lockdown, all the way to multi-camera, multi-scene professional studio shows.

Read this next: 5 Things I Learned Livestreaming A DJ Set From My Balcony

At times we felt like beginners all over again, making the kind of mistakes that we’d have hoped we were beyond by now! But at other times, we’ve felt triumphant, applying all our knowledge of how we’ve been doing this since 2017 to execute some memorable live shows.

In this guide, I’m going to share with you what you need to know to get started or improve as a livestreaming DJ.

We’ll cover:

  • What to stream from (phone, computer, dedicated hardware…) What cameras to use
  • What audio gear you need
  • What accessories you need
  • What software is available to you
  • What platforms you can stream on
  • How to avoid copyright issues
  • What to do to pull off great livestreams
  • How to promote your livestreams

It’s a big topic. So where relevant, we’ll also link out to other articles and features we’ve published to dive deeper into many of the topics touched on in this post.

So, let’s get you livestreaming!

What platform to livestream from?

Ideally, we’d all go live on Facebook or Instagram and be done with it, right? But – at least at the time of writing – that’s not an option. Livestreams on those platforms get taken down and, sometimes worse (think: bans). This is due to the fact that, when it comes down to it, you’re playing copyrighted music.

Of the big social media platforms, that leaves Twitch and YouTube. Of the two, YouTube is the safest to stream on if you want a “sweet spot” between a potential big audience and the reasonable chance of your stream staying live.

It has licensing agreements in place with many record labels, and will usually slap adverts on your stream recording afterwards – no big deal.

Twitch has – again, at the time of writing – been a bit of a free-for-all, but they’re being scrutinised now and appear to be moving down the no-tolerance path more akin to Instagram and Facebook.

Learn to DJ with Digital DJ Tips: The Complete DJ Course

We have to mention Mixcloud, whose Mixcloud Live is actually the only 100% legal platform. It is in many ways a difficult platform to succeed on, with poor social features, little traction outside of the DJ world, no recordings of your streams, and some infuriating quirks. But nonetheless you can broadcast on Mixcloud Live with impunity – and that is worth an awful lot.

Consider broadcasting on both YouTube and Mixcloud Live, using a multi-broadcast web app such as Restream (more on that later), and possibly throwing Twitch into the mix too.

But if you could only pick one, it’d be up to you whether YouTube or Mixcloud Live would suit you best. We’d go for YouTube.

What device to livestream from?

The most obvious device is your phone. It is a super-powerful computer that you already own, and importantly it is not your laptop (that you probably use for DJing, and you many not want to also have to use for livestreaming).

Your phone has an amazing camera, there are apps to go live direct from your phone, and you can plug in audio direct from your DJ gear so the sound is sweet. (Hint: Never use the microphone to pick up the music from the room, you’ll sound amateur.)

Another option would be a tablet, which if you have one may be better because you could make use of the extra screen real estate for controlling your livestream. It also frees up your phone to keep an eye on your platform to check comments.

Go pro, use your computer

However, all professional livestreams and most ambitious hobbyist use “real” computers. It could be a dedicated computer for livestreaming (which is what we do at Digital DJ Tips), separate from your DJ computer. Or it could be software running alongside your DJ software on the same laptop, assuming you are a software DJ of course.

You’d plug your camera or cameras into the computer, same deal with your audio sources, and use special software to combine then and process them into a single output signal to head off to your platform/s of choice.

Finally, it is possible to buy dedicated livestreaming hardware, that avoids the need to use anything else – phone, tablet, laptop, whatever – to go live. Livestreaming is a hungry application, needing powerful computers (and yes, nowadays your phone probably is more powerful than your laptop…), so if you can buy a piece of hardware that is designed simply to livestream, that frees up your existing computer gear from having to do it.

Read this next: 8 Of The Best Apps For DJ Livestreaming On Mac, Windows, iOS & Android

Such hardware is relatively expensive, though, proprietary, and often pretty limited – but for certain use cases this can be the way to go.note

  • EverMixbox 4
  • iRig Stream
  • Roland Go:Mixer Pro

Getting the audio right

If you’re broadcasting from the same computer you happen to run DJ software on, you don’t need anything extra: You just need an audio aggregator/router app running on that computer to make your controller’s audio available to your broadcasting software. Look at Rogue Amoeba’s excellent Loopback (Mac – paid for), BlackHole (Mac – free), and Jack Audio (Mac, Windows).

Otherwise (phone, tablet, other computer), you need an audio interface. It takes an analogue audio output from your DJ system and converts it into digital audio, a bit like the Elgato Cam Link 4K does for your HDMI video output.

Read this next: 2 Ways To Get Great Sounding Audio On Your DJ Livestreams

Shop around and you can find generic audio interfaces for $20 or $30 that may do the job, and any “two-in” audio interface will do (if you’re an electronic musician you’ll already have one, maybe the very popular Focusrite Scarlett 2i2). The EvermixBox4 is a good choice (iOS/Android/Mac), the Behringer UCA222 is a good budget model, or you could look at the iRig Stream, the Roland Go:Mixer or Go:Mixer Pro – there are quite a few to choose from.

If your DJ gear only has a single audio output, look for an audio interface with a “thru” so you can plug your DJ speakers into that , so you can hear your set while you’re broadcasting – pretty important!

Cameras for livestreaming

If you’re livestreaming from your phone, it’s going to be your phone camera – and that’s fine, as most phone cameras are great nowadays, especially if you make sure to get enough light into the shot.

But if you’re using a computer, you’re not going to be able to get away with using its built-in webcam – the angles are all wrong and they tend to be pretty poor quality anyway.

The most obvious type of camera to use are simple webcams. The near-legendary Logitech C920 will do the job (you can often pick these up pretty cheaply), but our current favourite webcam is the newer Logitech model, the StreamCam. The quality is pretty amazing, but they are pricey.

Read this next: Which Camera Is Best For DJ Set Livestreaming?

If you have a camera already, be it a GoPro, a DSLR, a camcorder or whatever, chances are that it’ll work fine for livestreaming, with a couple of caveats.

Firstly, make sure that it can output “clean HDMI”. Most cameras (although not all) can’t be plugged directly into computers to give a “live video feed”, even if they have USB sockets on them. Instead, you have to take their HDMI output and convert it into a digital format that your computer can read. Clean HDMI means that signal has no extra info on it (think overlays about shutter speed, focus etc).

Conversion is done by HDMI to USB adaptors. Be aware that a small, cheap cable with an HDMI socket on one end and a USB plug on the other may look ideal, but these won’t work. They’re only intended as output cables, for adding – for instance – a second monitor to a computer system. Instead, you’ll need a more pricey converter.

The most popular is the Elgato Cam Link 4K, although there are alternatives that are similar.

A more professional route (out of the scope of most hobbyists, though) is to use the NDI protocol to convert HDMI into a signal that can be multicast over Ethernet and picked up by your broadcast computer via a simple network cable. That’s what we use at Digital DJ Tips for our five cameras – but the hardware is a four-figure investment and would be overkill for most people.

For the record, the cameras we use are in the Sony A6X00 range, and the Sony A6100 is particularly good value and perfect for video streaming.

Software for livestreaming

Livestream software takes your video and audio, and processes it into a format that can be used by the livestreaming platform you’re broadcasting from. In the case of phones, the app that you click “go live” in is your livestreaming software.

However, if you want a bit more flexibility, you need a more professional app. Larix Broadcaster (iOS/Android) has all kinds of functions to ramp up your quality and flexibility. To use third-party broadcasting apps with YouTube, Twitch and so on you need to get a server address and RTMP key from the website of your chosen platform, input it into the app, and then the app will know where to broadcast to.

(At the time of writing, Mixcloud doesn’t even have a broadcasting app, so this is the only way to go live on that platform.)

Moving up to laptops, and the world is ruled by OBS Studio, which should be your first choice. It’s open source, simple to use, and well supported by many of the vast majority of livestreamers who choose it to process their Windows or Mac-based broadcasts. There is a variant, beloved of gamers, called Streamlabs OBS which you may also want to consider.

There are paid-for livestreaming platforms, but most are not worth the investment over the free OBS. One possible exception is Ecamm Live, which is Mac only but very easy to use and has some nice additions, like social media comments overlaid on top of your broadcast, and the kind of support you only get with paid-for apps. It is subscription-based.

Read this next: How To DJ Livestream To Multiple Platforms With Restream

If you want to broadcast to more than one platform, the service you need is a web app: Restream.io. The idea is that you use the stream key and RTMP server address they give you to broadcast to a powerful server run by them, close to your location, and they take care of pushing your stream out to the platforms you want to use.

It is simple, works brilliantly, and saves you having to try and get your broadcast pushed out from your computer to two or more platforms at the same time – something that for both bandwidth and processing power considerations doesn’t usually work too well.

Useful accessories

You’ll need a tripod or at least something cobbled together to do that job. You can get cool little clips to hold phones that then screen onto tripods. Whether you go for a tabletop one or a full-sized floor-standing tripod depends on your circumstances.

We have every type imaginable here at Digital DJ Tips, from the little bendy Jobi tripods to tabletop modes, to lightweight/flimsy full-sizers all the way up to weight pro tripods. Just something to hold your camera/phone still, though, will do the job.

To get your voice onto your broadcasts, you’ll of course need a microphone. Most DJs will plug a standard dynamic microphone into their DJ controller and this will usually work. But if you’re not using an audio interface and are instead “hijacking” your controller’s audio inside your laptop, you may find that your controller is only feeding the music through to your broadcast software, not your microphone.

In this case, you need to get the microphone audio directly into your computer. You can either use the computer’s built-in 1/8″ mic/headphones socket (get a mic with a TRRS cable, of which there are only a few out there – we use the IK Multimedia iRig Mic), or use a USB mic, which has a built-in audio interface to provide a digital output.

For this we use another IK Multimedia mic, the iRig Mic HD 2, an over-performing mic for the price that even the BBC uses in place of more pro (and expensive) models.

Whatever mic you use, try and get one that is directional or “cardioid pattern” (ie not omnidirectional) – this will prioritise your voice over background noise.

Learn to DJ with Digital DJ Tips: The Complete DJ Course

For a professional result, consider using lighting. Study three-point lighting to work out where your (ideally three) light sources should be, and you’ll have a well lit scene that rises head and shoulder above the vast majority of livestreams. It needn’t be expensive to do this – a bit of knowledge can go a long way, and you can often improvise with what you have or can get cheaply.

And don’t forget lighting for effect, too: If you own party lights, may as well push them into operation to make your broadcasts a bit more dynamic and fun.

Finally, you will find yourself needing various cables and adaptors. You’ll probably end up investing in a few USB-A to USB-C adaptors to get everything plugged in, and it’s good to have an 1/8″ minijack to 2x RCA cable knocking around – just trust me on that one…

Preparing to go live

There are two things you need to take into account when setting up: Bandwidth and computing power.

Bandwidth is your internet up speed, and computing power is the capability of your hardware to do the job. a problem with either will ruin your livestream, and the key is: Keep it simple.

There’s plenty of time for multi-camera, full HD broadcasting when you’re improving. For your first go, stick to one camera and, say, 720 video resolution, which ought to be within the capabilities of the average internet connection and laptop/phone, even if using cellular data (ie 4G).

Use ethernet if possible, not WiFi, and have a dedicated broadcast computer – but note that we don’t do either for our “on location” shows and everything works fine over 4G/WiFi and with one very stressed, hot mid-range laptop doing the work!

Learn to DJ with Digital DJ Tips: The Complete DJ Course

The basic process is to enter your stream key and RTMP server details in your streaming app (or log in if you’re using a proprietary app or one that takes care of all that in the background for you), check your camera and audio are looking/sounding good (I like to run a test recording), run a speed test, and hit “go live”.

However, everyone’s kit and circumstances are different, and the best advice I can give you is to have a simple checklist that lists all the things you have to do in the right order before you go live. There are too many “moving parts” and once you’re live, it’s annoying to come unstuck because you forgot to do something you know you should have done before going live.

Oh, and finally – practise and plan your mix. It’s not cheating. You’ll be doing enough screen-staring dealing with your software and comments, without trying to play a DJ set on the fly too.

Dealing with copyright issues

No problem on Mixcloud. A deal-breaking pain on Instagram and Facebook. Getting more annoying on Twitch. But thankfully (and with no guarantee things will continue this way) just about do-able on Youtube – as long as you follow the procedure I’m about to share with you.

Basically, you need to pre-check your tracks to see how YouTube will react when you play them in a livestream. The easiest way to do that is to do a dummy livestream. We do it by dragging all the audio tracks into a timeline in video software on a computer, adding any old video at all as the pictures, and outputting it. This is our “dummy livestream”.

Next you’ll upload yours as an Unlisted video to a YouTube channel (preferably not one that matters to you – we have a test account for this). A few minutes after it has processed, it’ll have “Copyright claim” written beside it, because YouTube will have spotted the copyright material in it.

That’s all fine – what you want to do is click on that wording, and drill down to where it shows you the copyright feedback for each individual track in your mix.

Most tracks will say “being monetised by copyright holder” and have an orange dot besides them. What you’re looking for is red dots, and “blocked worldwide” by tracks. Don’t use those tracks in your DJ streams, and you should be fine. No guarantees though, because deals do change, so your stream recordings may get closed down in the future should that happen. Still, it’s the best we’ve got today.

All the other “copyright” tips you see online? Playing effects over music, talking a lot, quick mixing, changing the key of the music, only playing underground tracks made by Mongolian marmots? Be our guest. Takes all the fun out of it for us. Mixcloud and pre-cleared YouTube is the way to go.

Oh, and NEVER paste your track listing into the YouTube description – they’re looking for that and it will likely get your stream blocked. Pin it as a comment instead.

Performing & promoting your livestream

With DJ livestreaming, you have to talk a bit more than at a club gig, but a bit less than at a mobile gig.

Look at the camera. Try to always have stuff moving in the shot. Thing about the interest in your scene and ways to make it more dynamic. Definitely have both you and your DJ gear on show – people are interested in both.

Also, remember you are LIVE. This is the unique thing. So play on that – interact with the live audience. Get conversations going. Do all the stuff you couldn’t do were it a set recording. It’s what makes people feel involved, feel a sense of occasion, and want to come back for more.

Remember to explain who you are, what this is, why you’re doing it, what to expect – and to do so several times, as people will come and go. Tell people where to find the recording and the track list (people always want a track list). Reduce the music volume considerably when talking on the mic.

Oh, and even if you’re nervous, try to look like you’re having fun. The nerves will pass, it’s DJing not open heart surgery and if you make a mistake all will be OK – plus it’s not like you’re charging for it. People will want you to do well. And you will make mistakes – just try and stay calm and carry on from where you left off.

Learn to DJ with Digital DJ Tips: The Complete DJ Course

Did you enjoy it? Want to do it again? Though so. However nerve-wracking it feels, it is a bit like a scary amusement park ride: First time you don’t enjoy it, but as soon as it’s over, you want to get on again!

The keys to promoting are to firstly be consistent (same time every week, same format, same title etc), secondly try and get friends and family involved first and get them to help you promote it wider, and thirdly, to make sure you have recordings you can promote. That’s why YouTube is a good idea, as it saves a video for you.

I also like to put the audio into Mixcloud (here are some of my Mixcloud livestreams, audio-only versions).

Once you have recordings, you can share them – on your socials, post embeds on your website if you have one, and so on.

Lastly, remember that building an audience for your DJing online may take months or years – and that’s fine. If you’re doing it because you love it, that shouldn’t worry you – and you’ll probably find you start to build an audience just at the point that your livestream develops into something that has worth. Show 100 will be better than show 1. The biggest mistake people make is in not giving their shows the chance to get that far.

Finally…

Livestreaming is a great way to share your music and creativity, that is coming of age right now. But it is still “new”, and if you choose to do it now (which you should) you’ll still be one of the early adopters.

That’s great because it means you’ll be ahead of the pack – but it also means you are going to spend a good deal of time scratching your head, making mistakes (“I can’t believe how stupid I was just two weeks ago…”) and, yes having awesome breakthroughs.

Read this next: 10 Livestream DJ Set Mistakes You Should Stop Making Immediately

Recently, I was chatting to a network engineer, who was tweaking our multicast camera set-up in our main studio (the one we use to broadcast our live lessons and public tips and tricks shows from).

“It’s pretty amazing what you’re doing here,” he said, to which I replied, “Honestly? I still feel like we’re in the dark, just learning as we go along. And I still don’t trust the stream to stay up from start to end, never mind go off without a hitch, every time I go live…”

You’ll feel like that too. It comes with the territory. Just make note of what works, and just as importantly what doesn’t, ask for help when you need it (we’re here…), and take the knocks and the triumphs the same way. It’ll keep you sane on your livestreaming journey.

I do hope this article and the many resources we’ve linked to from it help you to do this – and do let us know how you get on!

• If you’d like me to teach you how to livestream, whether on your phone, laptop or in a multi-camera, studio environment, check out my DJ Livestreaming Made Easy course. I’d be thrilled to have you as a student!

Last updated 22 July, 2020

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