In the two months since Covid-19 dropped the curtain on live performances, the business of livestreaming music has morphed and matured.
Sure, the majority of music livestreams are still little more than a camera and microphone pointed at the performer, with the signal sent out over Facebook, Instagram or another social media platform.
St. Petersburg’s Katie Talbert is among the streamers who’ve taken the technology to the next level. She began DTSP (Downtown St. Pete) Live: Saved By Streaming in March, using the equipment she had on hand to give her musician friends a venue – and a way, via a virtual tip jar, to make some money.
“I just wanted to help my friends pay April rent,” says Talbert, who’d been a full-time booking agent for a decade before everything changed. “We had two weeks until rent was due, and there were no jobs. ‘They’re not going to be able to feed their kids.’”
Talbert “broadcast” her 56th show Wednesday, with singer/songwriter Ella Jet performing from the operation’s Northeast St. Pete studio (it’s actually the back room in Talbert’s unassuming three-bedroom home).
DTSP Saved By Streaming headquarters resembles a tiny TV studio; there are lights and reflectors, video screens on every side of the room, and cables snaking in and out, into the living room where Talbert can control both video and audio in a separate “control” space.
The camera is a Mevo Plus – especially made for livestreaming video, with the ability to change angles, direct and crop the action remotely. The sound is sent through a 12-channel audio mixing board. It all goes out in HD via an ethernet connection.
The Saved By Streaming Facebook page has more than 8,000 followers. The performances are fed to more than 30 different sites, including local venues and musician networks. Her numbers are phenomenal; she can monitor how many people are watching at any given time, even which shots – closeups, wide shots or medium – they react best to.
The equipment, Talbert says, has changed the very nature of what she’s doing.
“It’s so fun. These are my friends – nobody else is going to do it for them.
“But I do think that this is a huge part of the future of what’s going to happen here.”
In other words, even when the gigs come back – and Talbert is herself a performing singer and guitarist -livestreaming isn’t going to go away.
Talbert doesn’t charge for her services; the musicians, she says, average between $300 and $600 in tips per night; sometimes they kick a percentage back to her for her trouble.
“Some of them can’t,” she explains, “because they’re not in a position to. And that’s OK. It’s essentially a no-risk situation for the artists, which is what I really wanted. I didn’t want them to come in with an overhead that they couldn’t meet.”
She’s done a handful of remote streams, but frankly, she’d rather work from home.
“It takes about 45 minutes to break the gear down, and 45 minutes to set the gear up. And I have to do that twice. I just don’t think people actually understand how much work goes into it.
“At least I can control every element here.”
Altrusim, of course, can only go so far.
“My job is gone for the foreseeable future, so I have to get creative,” Talbert says. “And I am! I’m trying to do this because it helps them, and it’s a comfortable atmosphere. I mean, they come back, so they don’t hate it too much.
“But I can’t do it forever. I’ve put together sponsorship proposals, so I can start monetizing it through sponsors. I just don’t want to charge the artists. They don’t have anything. I’ve invested all of my savings. And I’m a musician with no income and no unemployment.
“I’m just trying to help. And if I can figure out a way to make money and help at the same time, that’d be pretty great.”
Watch Wednesday’s livestream here.