Going Digital

Transitioning Programs and Artistic Content into an Online Structure

How do I Construct a Virtual Presence for my Organization or Artistic Practice?This is the question we have been receiving or watching unfold, en-masse, over the last two weeks. We realized that as an observer…

How do I Construct a Virtual Presence for my Organization or Artistic Practice?

This is the question we have been receiving or watching unfold, en-masse, over the last two weeks. We realized that as an observer and advocate of the Arts & Culture industry, we are in a unique position to gather many of the available options in one place, offer context on these tools, and resources on how to get started with some of the more common avenues used to take programming and artistic content online.

PLEASE NOTE: None of the companies mentioned in this article are in any way connected to ARTSOPOLIS. We are not endorsing their services. This article is simply intended to inform people about some of the options that are available.

Thinking of Streaming Something? Start by checking your Uploading Speed.

To save yourself and your potential viewers some frustration, whether an artist or organization, begin by testing the 'Uploading Speed' of your internet connection. For any kind of streaming, it's recommended to have at least 2-2.5 Mbps Uploading Speed to ensure your viewers aren't experiencing 'choppy' content.

Webinars

 "How do I take programs from online planning and turn them into actual impact, in a virtual world?"

The questions on everyone's mind lately seems to be whether they should be 'livestreaming content'. Rather than jumping into things, let's build a strategy based on your needs. Let's begin with examining Webinars, and then we will investigate 'Going Live' or livestreaming, and the differences between the two.

Does your organization need to do things like:

  • Host a grant writing workshop?
  • Present information to a board for approval?
  • Host a social media best practices class for artists?
  • Host a 'townhall' type of event?

And do all your activities require that everyone be able to ask questions and interact with the presenter at the end or during the presentation? Then you need to host a webinar.

Here are some of the technology solutions for hosting webinars:

 

SoftwareFree version?Audio, Q&A or Chat Interactive?Attendee Limit on Free VersionTime Limit on Free Version
LivestormYesYes420 mins
Zoom*YesYes10040 mins
Youtube LivestreamYesNoNo limitNo limit
DemioNoYesN/AN/A
CrowdcastNoYesN/AN/A

*Zoom has been experiencing security issues. Please review this article for more information.

Each of these platforms has strengths and weaknesses, and choosing one depends on what your end goal is. Ask yourself:

  • How big is the group I need to address?
  • How long do I need to present?
  • Do I want people to register for the Webinar ahead of time?
  • Do I want to record my content and rebroadcast it at a later time?
  • Do I need a way for people to ask questions or 'chat' with the presenter?
  • Do I need to be able to perform interviews or panel discussions on my Webinar?

When examining the options included in the various platforms, look for answers to those questions to decide which one to choose.

Why would you pay for one of these platforms? Well, there's often benefits of branding integration, helpful technological support offered, and removal of time limits or attendee limit restrictions. A livestream is not private like a webinar can be, sometimes it doesn't offer recording or playback (meaning your content cannot be 'rebroadcast') and often offers less direct interactivity with the speaker. That said, live streaming is frequently the lowest cost option for a webinar-type activity. The paid versions of these platforms often help you sidestep some of these frustrations.

The Difference Between Live Streaming and Webinars

These two words are often used interchangeably. Here's the differences:

Live-Streaming for Artists & Organizations

When it comes to live streaming, whether it be for an artist representing themselves, or an organization presenting information, it should be thought of as broadcasting, and prepared for as such.

"Why would I bother with livestreaming?"

  • To promote new and existing audience engagement with you or your organization
  • To provide 'tips & tricks' on almost anything
  • To maintain a consistent 'presence' in our new virtual world
  • Livestreamed videos are more likely to be watched for longer and be interacted with more than regular videos

"What do I need to do to prepare for a livestream?"

  • Decide on your content ahead of time: Remember this is LIVE. Unprepared = people leaving your streaming audience
  • People are watching because of what you put in your title: Especially If someone is unfamiliar with you or your organization, they are watching because of the 'hook' in your title. Keep it concise and give the audience the information they clicked in for.
  • A steady camera, good sound quality, and good lighting matter: If the audience is getting seasick from you trying to hold your phone and talk, or they can't hear you or see your face, they won't be part of your audience very long.
  • Promote ahead of time: No one can 'tune in' if they don't know it is happening.
  • Find a way to archive your content: Live means live. Unless the platform tells you otherwise, once you present your information and the live feed closes, that content is 'gone', unless you work out how to capture it beforehand. 

"How do I archive my livestreaming content?"

  • Use 'Stories' in Instagram instead of 'going live': Stories can be archived under "Highlights"
  • Use a third party broadcasting software: Prepare your livestreams ahead of time and take them to the 'next level' with intro sequences and graphics options, then 'rebroadcast' them whenever you want. Options include: XSplit, OBS, ecamm, or Wirecast (from telestream), to name a few.

Please note: Recording a video and putting it up on Facebook under your page's video tab is not 'livestreaming'. It is a totally different way of delivering content. It is not possible to turn prerecorded video content into 'live' content, without the help of a broadcasting software.

"This seems like something I want to tackle, but how do I do it, exactly?"

We found this gentleman gives some excellent tips on how to make your livestream look professional in general, an in under 10 minutes, even though his tutorial is primarily focused on Facebook live.

Looking for the nuts and bolts of how to livestream? Here it is from the horse's mouth, on the major platforms:

You may have also heard about Twitch as a major platform. It caters to gamers, so unless you happen to be looking for that specific audience, there's not need to place content there.

Summits, Conferences and Networking

The good news is there's more than one way you can get many of your programs back on track.

6CONNEX: This is a virtual tradeshow software could easily be used for virtual art shows. It offers:

  • Virtual Booths that can be customized
  • Product demonstration = artist demonstrations
  • Real-time chatting and messaging
  • Interaction tracking data that could offer artists the chance to accrue new newsletter contacts or potential collectors interested in their work
  • Potential income for the organizer through sponsorship
  • Other similar software: vfairs, hopin,

Brella: That Summit you thought you had to cancel? Think again.

  • Multi track agendas that attendees can follow and receive reminders/notifications about
  • 'Main live stream' = Keynote Speaker
  • 'Multi-track live stream' = Each workshop or track can have their own specific speaker livestream happening, independent of the others
  • AI-Powered Matchmaking = Networking virtual-style! The software can suggest attendees with similar interests meet and attendees can request to schedule video chats with other attendees.
  • Other similar software: heysummit 

Stories

Instagram stories are a useful tools for organizations to make things like tutorials, informational videos and interviews more 'fun' with filters and stickers. It also allows you to place 'poll stickers' on your stories, which are 'either/or' type questions that encourage audience interaction.

Usually stories only exist for 24 hours, but you can archive this content by creating 'Highlights'. Think of Highlights like categories related to your organization, that can store as many stories as you want. This article from Hootsuite teaches you how to navigate Instagram Stories. This article from Instagram tells you how to add a Story to a Highlight.

Facebook Stories have a unique component that allows organizations to create 'Group Stories', which collects multiple 'Stories' from an event in one place. This is useful in times when multiple vantage points of a a location-based event can be shown, but the feature is less useful in times of social isolation. At the moment, Facebook's stories function is under-utilized compared to Instagram, so we would suggest focusing your energy on that platform in regards to stories, for now.

Where to begin...

As an individual, trying to keep your creative dreams alive during this major shift in society seems impossible. It's not. What you have available to you right now is social media. By either starting new, or improving upon what you already have, you can keep yourself 'present' in the now virtual world. Let's be honest, most of us are shoved into the deep end of the responsibility pool when it comes to representing ourselves on social media, and we are mostly undereducated and overwhelmed, so let's break down what you should be considering, with our 'creative person' filter on.

If you do one favor for yourself today, follow this link and give them your email in exchange for this extremely comprehensive guide to social media for visual artists and READ IT, even if you aren't a visual artist. Most of the information can be extrapolated to include other types of creative pursuits.

Analytics are your friend. But you don't have to tell anyone.

Both Facebook and Instagram have powerful dashboards that show you whether what you're doing is having any lasting effect (ex. people 'engaging' with your posts, like feeling inspired enough to comment vs. just liking it and moving on)

  1. Instagram Business Account: Did you know you can hide your 'business category type' and 'contact information'? This allows your content to look like a personal page, but provide analytics like only a business page can.
  2. A great way to generate content with positive analytic results and very little effort is reposting. The Repost app helps make this pretty effortless.
  3. Hashtags help your content reach new people, but using any more than 1-3 on any platform actually drives followers away. Relevancy is of the utmost importance. If the content doesn't match the hashtag, the post will be ultimately ineffective. Here's a handy guide.
  4. Facebook has insights too, and here's an article on how to understand them. Unfortunately, with Facebook, you have to have a business account for analytics and you can't hide that you're using a business account.

For the Musicians...

Social media often turns into a constant call to 'Come to my show!', but you've probably figured out that's ineffective, if you aren't also providing content people want to interact with. So how do you motivate them to actually be your fan? Here's where to do some of that:

Thinking about teaching performing or art online?

The same options for webinars we listed above apply here for the teaching artist or performer. 

Do you already have your own teaching practice and a website that accepts payments? Great. Record your lessons, and upload them to a cloud service, like dropbox or Google Drive. Once someone purchases your lesson(s) you can send them a link to download the files.

Here's some teaching Wordpress plugins you might find useful, even though they're not designed specifically for teaching art:

This platform is specifically for teaching creative pursuits:

These are essentially 'drag and drop' site builders, specifically for teaching things online. The idea being that once you're done deciding the initial site structure, you can focus on creating content for your course(s) instead of worrying about maintaining the software side of your site :

Worried about copyright infringement by going digital?

This is a legitimate concern, but you do have the power to protect your work if you register it. You cannot file an infringement if the work is not registered with the US Copyright Office.

Last but not least, 'How do I sell my art online?'

The enigmatic question of 'how' is not going to be conquered by us, but we can offer up some suggestions and opinions from those that specialize more in this topic than we do:

You can do this.

We know that this adjustment is not a slight shift for the arts & culture industry, it is nothing short of moving a mountain. Our work and our worlds revolve around gathering people together and creating connections. While nothing will replace that, the online work you are investing your time in now should not be an act of submission, but an act of defiance. Once these digital tools are put in place, they will only promote inclusivity and extend the reach of opportunity. Lay the foundation.