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Insta-Busking Tips

I’ve been watching (and tipping!) a bunch of my favorite artists live stream on Instagram over the past few weeks. Some are better at it than others. Here are some tips to make the experience more pleasant for your viewers, and make it easier for them to tip you.

Use the rear-facing camera.

Wait! You aren’t left handed… or you are and you’re suddenly right-handed?! Using the front-facing camera on your iPhone results in a reverse image on Instagram. It’s a little jarring to those of us who play guitar ourselves, or are used to seeing you play live in person. The camera on this side of your phone is also inferior to the camera on the other side.

@thejessedaniel did a live Instagram stream to promote his new album the other day. He took the time to frame his shot before hand with one device and monitored it with another. Spend some time framing your shot with your iPhone by paying attention to the back drop and foreground, and use them as a reference to keep yourself in frame while you perform. You can monitor your performance on a second phone—or better yet, an iPad set up next to your phone if you have one. There will be a delay, but it will be easier to read comments, and requests on the larger screen, and you will be alerted when Instagram drops your connection (yes, that will happen).

Pin your Venmo and PayPal handle as a comment.

No, we cannot read the text on the piece of paper taped to your guitar. The lighting is bad in your living room, their are too many compression artifacts from the bad connection, and the text is backwards because you are using the front-facing camera!

Saturday, @vincentneilemerson had an excellent living room performance, with a pretty decent crowd who all clearly saw his Venmo handle, as it was pinned as the top comment to the stream.

To pin a comment on your Instagram stream, simply find it in the feed, then press and hold it.

Turn on a light and/or take off your hat.

Many living rooms have an overhead light. When you wear a hat and perform below that light, it’s very difficult for viewers to see your face. Put a lamp down in front of you, or take off the hat so we can see your beautiful face.

An adjustable desk lamp works the best if you play adjacent to a wall. Tape a piece of white paper to the wall, and point the lamp at it. The defused, reflected light will more softly illuminate your face. The more light you have to work with, the better. Tiny camera phones can use all the light they can get.

You don’t need to spend a lot of time on an fussy lighting system. @charleycrockett does a weekly show from his backyard every Sunday afternoon. Back yards are outside, and during the daytime hours, the sun is up. It’s bright. And it’s FREE!

Use a condenser mic.

By design, social distancing means no backing band. That pretty much means acoustic guitar and singing. Modern smart phones do a decent job picking up sound, but some of us at home like to listen on a bluetooth speaker. @thedylanearl set up a nice condenser mic for his Facebook stream last Saturday. It made a big difference.

Admitedly, using your nice Neumann condenser mic through an audio interface on your phone can be a bit fussy to set up (and is a bit beyond the scope of this article), but you do have time on your side, and you are used to dealing with elaborate tangles of wires on stage, right?

The Shure MV88 is a quick and easy way to beef up your streaming sound on your iPhone.

Thank you!

Thank you to all the artists streaming music online, no matter how bad you think you might be at it! It is a real treat for us to see you performing in your homes. We do miss seeing you in person as much as you miss playing. Please keep playing!

UPDATED 4/9/202 with lighting tips, comment pinning instructions, and mic tips.