Thursday, July 12, 2012

Live Streaming Your DJ Sets? Getting Started!

One of the fastest ways to get really good at DJing is to put yourself in situations where you’re expected to perform, and while playing gigs is the best way to get this type of practice in, streaming your sets is a great alternative. You can stream whenever you want,  invite your friends and fans to listen in, and you’re more likely to take your session seriously. In this article, we take a look at some of the best services on the web for quickly getting your sets live streaming for the world to hear.

BEFORE YOU STREAM: SETTING UP AUDIO

Being a digital DJ, you’ll have to make a few extra considerations when you’re setting up the audio routing for your stream. You want to send your master output to the streaming site – but for latency reasons, you shouldn’t use your stream as the “booth” monitor.

Our recommendation is that you set up your DJ workflow as normal, but find a way to send a master or record output back into your computer that you can select on your streaming site. If you’re using a controller like the Kontrol S4/S2 or the VCI-400 SE, use the second output on your controller for this. If you’re mixing externally, check the back of your DJ mixer to figure out what secondary options exist.
For a more advanced solution, you could use an internal audio routing program like Jack OSX to split the master output and cue outputs from your DJ application to send them to the streaming service and your cue channels, respectively.
Helpful Tip: Remember that outputs are controlled by their respective knobs, so if you get your levels set at the beginning of a stream and then find yourself turning up your master, you could very quickly start clipping in your stream. Keep an eye on your stream levels, and try turning up your speakers independently of your master. If you’re lucky enough to have a record out or booth out, use that instead, as those levels are independent from Master outputs.

MIXLR: OUR FAVORITE AUDIO STREAMING SITE

 Site: Mixlr (http://mixlr.com)

Cost: Free / Premium
Best Feature: Simple no-frills setup – the kind of site where your grandmother could easily figure out how to listen.
What’s Missing: We’d like to see a clever integration with Twitter.DJ, especially as there’s no tracklisting feature on the site.
Mixlr was launched back in 2010, but received a complete overhaul in design earlier this year. At first glance, the site already makes us rethink how we view web radio, with the above pictured dial showing the current livestreams on the site (the size of each section is relative to how many stations each genre has). Mixlr has just enough of a feature set to satisfy nearly every requirement we might want from an audio-only streaming service for free, without becoming overloaded with unnecessary clutter that plagues so many similar sites.

 Once you’ve signed up for a free account, starting a stream from your DJ software is as simple as downloading a small application that lets you select an input source for your stream, checking your levels, and hitting start. Mixlr can automatically send out links to Twitter and Facebook, and when you’ve finished your live stream, saving the entire set is as simple as a click of a button.
Mixlr also gives you the option of streaming a set exclusively made up of Soundcloud tracks – and while this isn’t as useful from a DJ perspective, it could be a simple way to do a quick radio show of tracks that you’re digging right now or perhaps a roundup of tracks that you’ve released.
Mixlr’s core features are free, with unlimited streaming time and listeners, as well as  no ads, but if you decide to upgrade to the Premium account (£4.99/$7.75), you get higher quality audio streaming, and you can also download your saved sets or publish them directly to Soundcloud or Mixcloud.

SHOUTCAST AND ICECAST – BE AN INTERNET RADIO STAR

If you DJ on Virtual DJ Pro 8 or Traktor Pro 2, you’ll most likely have noticed that both of these programs have built in broadcasting abilities. These features are designed to hook into a larger internet radio station, usually run by a community of similar music tastes – and getting involved in an internet radio station is a great way to network and build a fanbase while regularly playing for strangers.

In Traktor and Virtual DJ, setting up your program for streaming is simple – just get the details from the station and plug them into the broadcasting settings! For Serato and Ableton, you’ll need to use an application like “Broadcast Using This Tool” to send your audio.
Obviously you won’t be starting off broadcasting straight to internet radio giant DI.FM, so instead check out some smaller but still significant stations like Purple Radio (DJTT Forum mod Photojojo is a regular contributor) or SSRadio.
You can also start your own internet radio station using a service like Listen To My Radio – but it doesn’t have the advantages of having a pre-existing audience who you can play to.

USTREAM – YOUR DJ SKILLS ON LIVE VIDEO

 Site: Ustream (http://www.ustream.tv/)

Cost: Free, Multiple Premium Levels
Best Feature: Quality video streaming – with free recording. Advanced desktop producer application with Screencast abilities.
What’s Missing:  Not ideal for audio-only streaming, ads are somewhat annoying.
We’d be remiss without mentioning the heavyweight giant in the streaming world, which is designed to allow users to stream audio and video. Ustream is well-known for being the leader of the pack in the video streaming world, having emerged over five years ago when online video was starting its heyday. While capable of doing audio-only streams, Ustream really shines if you’re feeling adventurous: this could be a great chance to take Ean’s tips for great DJ videos and try to apply some of them in a live situation.
As a DJ, video streaming makes a lot of sense when you’re doing something visually compelling. One of the great features that Ustream has is the ability to add a live screen capture as a video input. The only issue is that at some point, managing a video stream easily become too much to do while DJing at the same time. The best streams would ideally have someone else producing the video, making sure that at the moments where your hands are manipulating effects and playback, the audience gets to see both the video and screencapture.
Ustream also inserts fairly regular advertisements into broadcasts from free accounts – making it automatically inferior to Mixlr for any audio-only streamers. With the starter ad-free account coming in at $99/month, it’s not a very realistic purchase for most casual streaming DJs. There are tons of additional features that Ustream Pro offers – like multiple camera angles – but unless you’re hosting a regular livestreaming DJ show for more than a hundred users, it’s not quite worth it.
Ustream AlternativeLivestream offers a very similar feature set and broadcast style – if you’re looking to do complex video streaming, see a full comparison here.  

WHO DOES VIDEO STREAMING BEST? 

In the world of DJ video streams, there are a number of sites who do regular quality broadcasts of impressive DJs. We’re big fans of the BoilerRoom.tv streams, weekly sessions with some of the biggest DJs in the world, broadcasted live from clubs in Berlin, London, Los Angeles, and New York. Check out Richie Hawtin’s mix from the end of 2011 on Boiler Room below.

 
other folks who do great regular video streams include MixMag’s DJ Lab and Beatport’s Ustream channel.

WE DREAM OF INCREDIBLE TOOLS

While the tools listed here are great ways to get started streaming DJ sets, let’s imagine a tool built specifically for DJs who want to stream their sets – what would it do? What would the key features be? Would you pay money for it? Some of the most powerful and exciting ideas come out of discussions of current tools and how they could be improved, so let us know your thoughts down in the comment section.