Running an online student concert

I wanted to come up with the most straightforward possible setup, so that students would be able to copy it and run their own events with minimal fuss.

This plan uses Twitch, which has two tremendous advantages. It has a performance rights society license, so everyone is free to do covers with no copyright consequences. (Just don’t save the stream to twitch.) The other is that the platform is designed around liveness, so if there are gaps in the stream, it’s not a problem. This means that no stream switching is required.

Student skills required

The students need to be able to get their audio into a computer. This might entail using a DAW, such as Reaper, or some sort of performance tool. They need to be able to use their DAW or tool in a real-time way, so that performing with it makes sense. If they can create a piece of music or a performance with software that they are capable of recording, then they have adequate skills.

This checklist covers all the skills and tools that a Mac or Linux user will need to play their piece. It will work for many, but not all, Windows users. This is because Windows setups can vary enormously.

Once everyone is able to stream to their own Twitch channel, they have the skills required to do the concert.

Setup and Organisation

You will need a twitch account dedicated to your class or organisation. You will also need a chatroom or other text-based chat application to use as a “backstage”. Many students are familiar with Discord, which makes it an obvious choice. Matrix chat is another good possibility. If you go with discord, students will need to temporarily disable the audio features of that platform.

As the students are already able to stream to Twitch, the only thing that will change for them is the stream key. Schedule tech rehearsals the day of the concert. Arrange that the students should “show up” in your backstage chat. At those rehearsals, give out the stream key for your channel’s stream. Give the students a few minutes to do a test stream and test that their setup is working.

The students should be instructed to wait until instructed to start their streams and to announce in the chat when they stop. If they get disconnected due to any kind of crash, they should check in in the chat before restarting. Once they finish their performance, they should quit OBS so they do not accidentally restart their stream.

When it’s call time for the concert, they also need to show up in the backstage chat. They should be aware of the concert order, but this may also change as students encounter technical challenges. You or a colleague should broadcast a brief welcome, introductory message which should mention that there will be gaps between performances as the stream switches.

As you stop broadcasting, tell the first student to start and the next student to be ready (but not go yet). The first student will hopefully remember to tell you when done and stop their stream. As their stream ends, you can tell the next student to go. You should be logged into the Twitch web interface so you can post in the chat who is playing or about to play.

After the concert ends, reset the stream key. This will make sure their next twitch stream doesn’t accidentally come out of your organisation’s channel.

Conclusion

The downsides of this steup is that there will be gaps in the stream. If a student goes wildly over time, it’s hard to cut them off. However, the tech requirements do not need any investment from your institution and, again, they should be able to organise their own events in a similar way using the skills they learned from participating in this event.

Published by

Charles Céleste Hutchins

Supercolliding since 2003

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