Live-Stream with good Audio – how one singer does it

Sarah King gives us an inside look into her journey with live streaming and the audio tricks she's learned along the way.

We recently came across singer/songwriter Sarah King @sarahkingsings on Instagram, and she immediately caught our attention. Though many artists stopped gigging completely when quarantine kicked into gear, Sarah didn’t miss a beat and has been hosting virtual concerts every week since March.

We asked her to give us the inside scoop on her equipment and software – and how her set-up varies depending on what platform she is live-streaming to.

What inspired you to start doing virtual gigs?

My transition to live streaming has definitely been a journey. In a typical summer I usually perform 2-4 live gigs per week, and quarantine hit right before my busy season got going. At first I hoped it would be temporary, so I viewed live streaming as a cute, quick way to interact with listeners while we were all stuck at home wondering what was coming next. I didn’t really know what I was doing, but I knew that the sooner I started, the better off I would be. I made a lot of mistakes at first – for example, using my built-in laptop mic (yikes!) and having pretty bad lighting/visually distracting setups. 

When did you make the decision to up your live stream game?

After a couple weeks and watching some other artists’ live streams, I knew I needed to improve my setup if I wanted to keep an audience engaged. I looked at getting an audio interface to plug my mic and guitars into, but by the time I started looking they were all backordered (and prices had gone up due to demand). Then, I remembered my amp had a USB out, so I decided to see if it would connect to my computer, and it did – thank goodness!

So I’ve been able to use my amp – which I use as a PA for live shows already – as an interface, and that was a huge improvement. 

Minutes before a livestream to Facebook and Instagram, Sarah King is pictured siting on a couch with her guitar, while positioned in front of her laptop, amp, and iPhone (2020).

So was that pretty much all you needed to get your great sound?

Not exactly– my internet is awful where I live, so I spent a few weeks streaming from a friend’s workshop to borrow his fiber internet. Then I learned about using streaming software to help control the compression and bandwidth necessary, and that was a game changer for me.

I now use a free live-streaming software called Open Broadcaster Software along with my amp for my Facebook and YouTube streams. Due to my slow internet I still have to dial down the image quality to 360kbps for video, in order to put more bandwidth on the sound. However, the audio quality is much, much better since utilizing OBS, and people stick around to listen!

Sarah King performing with her acoustic guitar on a live stream with a backdrop of string lighting for ambience (2020).

How is your set-up different for Instagram?

For Instagram live streams, I have a Shure MV88 that I plug into my iPhone. It’s not perfect, but it’s still much better than the built-in phone microphone. 

For both IG and desktop streams I’ve had to spend a lot of time dialing in the settings – it’s important to get the sound quality as good as possible, and that meant a lot of test streams on my end, because even if it sounds okay to me, once it’s gone through the internet and come back out, it might not be great.

I’m finally in a place where I feel my streams are consistent – and the quality is good enough to keep people listening.

The biggest takeaway was to just hit “go live” and start learning. Each time I streamed in those early weeks I learned something new, and that helped me feel more confident to keep going. 

More about Sarah King:

Sarah King
Singer |Songwriter

Sarah King sings blues, folk, and rock music, all delivered with a side of Southern soul. Taking the stage with only an acoustic guitar, she captivates audiences with her haunting melodies, confident stage presence, and thought-provoking lyrics. Sarah is currently working on new material with producers Simone Felice (The Lumineers, Jade Bird) and David Baron (Shawn Mendes, Meghan Trainor). Find out more about Sarah on Instagram | Facebook

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