Plugging In: The One Where I Play Live on TV Through a New Amp Prototype
OK, it was web TV, but it was still live, and I was guessing it would be pretty weird playing to a virtual audience.
But in reality I had a great experience when I sat down for an interview and informal performance on the set of Lunch with Dan, a web TV show hosted every Wednesday by Dan Boul, owner of 65amps.
Dan started this Ustream show in 2010 to share new amps and gear with the masses, so he frequently unveils prototypes, tries out pedals, different guitars and microphones and hosts artists, producers and guitar lovers of all sorts when they are in town.
The week before I appeared, his guest was Peter Stroud, longtime guitarist for Sheryl Crowe, who was doing a short stint with Richie Sambora when he came to town. Peter and I had the privilege of plugging into a prototype of a yet-to-be-named tube head that was still being tweaked to perfection.
The cabinet for said head was plugged in way out in the warehouse and mic’ed. The cable from the mic ran through a hole in the wall and into a board in Dan’s office. Before we got started, Dan brought the head out into the warehouse so I could plug in a give it a run in its full wall-shaking glory. Later I could hear the cab through the wall, but couldn’t really get a feel for the sound until I put headphones on.
The crowd interacts
It was weird. It was fun. People typed in questions and Dan squinted at the chat board and commented back. We had a lengthy discussion about the merits of built-in reverb (Dan was against, others were for). We brainstormed names for the new amp with the audience. I played songs. We talked too long.
An audience of one
Initially I was worried it would just feel odd playing to people I couldn’t see. But no, it was all OK because Dan was my audience, and an enthusiastic one at that. I was also a bit sheepish about playing my simple but adequate guitar strums in front of Dan and the boys online, as Dan and most of his guests could just really wail. But instead I just did what I always do. Play a song. Pour my heart out. Hope I don’t miss a chord. Smile.
The thing that really stood out to me, however, was how unpredictable the Ustream technology could be. We started late because we had difficulty getting sound to come across. We had to reboot everything. Our mics sounded distorted to us but later on playback they seemed fine. This brings to mind a few tips you might want to think about if you decide to dive into the live Internet TV game.
Keep a schedule
Dan had a lot of regular viewers online and I have to believe that’s because he is very consistent. He’s there every Wednesday at 12 p.m. pacific. People from all over the globe tune in so they can ask questions in real time. Dan will stay on long enough to answer them all. Then he posts the recording of the show on YouTube immediately, because Ustream charges a fee based on views. More views equal more money. But once it’s on YouTube, the more the merrier.
As Dan posted the video, he put in all the tags that related to our conversation that he thought might be part of the viewers search. That goes for any video really. Make sure those key words are there and you’ll get onto more search lists.
Test before you go live
We tried to test. But we didn’t start early enough. Dan’s beef was that even though he uses the same setup every week, others at the shop seem to move things around, and for some reason it never works the same way twice. And gremlins just make things go wrong, ‘cause that’s what gremlins do. So if you can, test out your setup before it’s time to go on the virtual air.
Make sure you have all your accessories ready to go. You don’t want to be without your tuner, guitar pick, cable, cheat sheet or whatever else you need to make things run smoothly. Oh, and you wouldn’t know it from looking at the video, but we had TONS of light in that room. You can never have too much light, apparently!
I have to believe that a big part of the fun was that viewers can ask questions, post funny comments and interact as part of the show. It’s just fun. That accessibility doesn’t happen every day.
So if you want to check out my very first on-the-virtual-air experience, here it is. If you’re not in the mood for chat about amps and reverb and the like, and you just want to see a song or two, they happen at around 51:30 minutes and another one at 1:05 or so. Enjoy! And thanks for watching ;-)
If you want to tune in live to future broadcasts of Lunch with Dan, go here.
Laura B. Whitmore is a singer/songwriter based in the San Francisco bay area. A veteran music industry marketer, she has spent over two decades doing marketing, PR and artist relations for several guitar-related brands including Marshall and VOX. Her company, Mad Sun Marketing, represents 65amps, Dean Markley, Agile Partners, Guitar World and many more. Laura was instrumental in the launch of the Guitar World Lick of the Day app. She is the co-producer of the Women's Music Summit and the lead singer for the rock band, Summer Music Project. More at mad-sun.com.