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Your Church Livestream: Answers for Small Churches

I recently did a Zoom teaching session for pastors from a major denomination who had a lot of beginner questions about live-streaming their services. Most of the questions were about music licensing, best platforms on a budget, and low-priced equipment. So I passed on those questions to three church media directors I highly respect and who are doing great live-streaming work at their churches. Here’s what they said:

From Bryan Bailey – Media Director at Prestonwood Church in Dallas:   

– Where can I license music? I don’t want YouTube or other platforms to shut my church down.
I’m going to assume that both of the above questions are actually referring to copyright compliance for streaming. If so, there are two important resources: CCLI offers a streaming license that will likely cover all of the music most churches perform. They make reporting pretty easy, and a CCLI license will make them compliant for all sorts of situations: https://us.ccli.com/streaming/

Christian Copyright Solutions offers similar licenses, but they cover ASCAP, BMI, and others. They cover a lot of Christian music, plus a lot of secular. They also have a license that covers playing music on campus for non-worship events. https://christiancopyrightsolutions.com

I always get all three of these licenses!

KEEP IN MIND – this will not always keep YouTube or Facebook from shutting down your stream. Their algorithm doesn’t care what license you may or may not have – you have to go in and claim that after they tag you. It’s frustrating, but it’s gotten a little better this year. Most importantly, these licenses put you in complete compliance with the law.

– I’m a small church. What’s the best way for me to stream my services? Is there an app I need?
So many answers to this! Facebook Live or YouTube Live are by far the easiest solutions. You can run a video input directly into a computer and stream right to the sites. Plus, the events can be kept on your page for on-demand viewing.

– What’s the best platform for my live stream? Especially if my church is really small – like 50 members?
Just like anything else in communications and marketing, you have to meet the people where they are. Middle age and older crowd? Maybe Facebook is best. Young congregation? Might need to stick with YouTube or even live Instagram feeds. Find out where your people hang out online and go there!

  Ogden Bass – Media Director at Faithful Central Church in Los Angeles:   

– Where can I license music? I don’t want YouTube or other platforms to shut my church down.
If the church has a music department or at least musicians that play for the church on Sunday, I would record them playing 5 or 6 different songs (with out vocals) that can be used for your live stream. Over time you can expand your library and you will not have any problems with music rights (but continue to pay your church music licensing.)

– What about other types of music other than Hillsong? What about African-American worship music, or other styles? Where can I license music like that?
There is an app called Whoop Triggers Plus that has a library of church music that can be used for live streaming. The app has a monthly fee, but might be worth it if you do not have a church band. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P5SMs2vDVXg

– I’m a small church. What’s the best way for me to stream my services? Is there an app I need?
I recommend live streaming on Facebook for small organizations. Depending on the video equipment you have, some sort of program (app or otherwise) is needed to enable the live stream.

– What’s the best platform for my live stream? Especially if my church is really small – like 50 members?
Both Facebook and Youtube are good free platforms to use for live streaming. If you have a Facebook page (and you should), those that are connected with your page will get notified when you “Go Live”, this can help to promote your service and grow your viewing audience. You want to present the best production quality you can.

John Ondo – Media Producer and founder of Ondo Media in Columbus, Ohio

– Where can I license music? I don’t want YouTube or other platforms to shut my church down.
Rumors are that Facebook may shut down livestreams with church worship even if licensed because they don’t want to mess with it anymore. (Also FB quality is really bad now, not even HD so I’m not planning on them being a long-term player) My understanding is you need a CCLI Christian Copyright Licensing International license to use in house worship. Some of these extend into live streaming. YouTube has been a safe place so far to stream music. But with the new pandemic world of everyone streaming, my advice is get your house in order with CCLI, don’t wait.

– What about other types of music other than Hillsong
That’s funny, like Hillsong is the Google of Christian music now. CCLI would be where I would start. They are basically the ASCAP/BMI for churches. They have a database you can look into.

– I’m a small church. What’s the best way for me to stream my services? Is there an app I need?
The quick answer is you can start with just a iPhone and Facebook or YouTube. That will get you on. But as we say you never get a second chance at a first impression. And as Phil will tell you, most people are shopping for a new church by watching their stream today. The more professional the stream the better.

Blackmagic has owned this area lately. You can purchase a $350-$500 video switcher, add your audio board send, and a video camera and be able to stream simultaneously to YouTube and Facebook. YouTube and Facebook are optimized for streaming. I personally have not had much love for Vimeo or others because they are bandwidth hogs and if your audience has poor WIFI, which most do, it won’t look good. Most smart TVs and and phones have YouTube and FB, so you want to be on those. This is my thoughts for a church who needs to get up and running tomorrow with less than a grand to spend.

-Just one more thought: If you don’t like the low production quality of a live stream, you are not mandated by law to do your services live. There are some advantages to being live, but the churches I’m working with are seeing less and less people watching live and are now watching “on demand” throughout the week. So if you want to shoot with DSLR cameras and have your audio team do a TV mix in post production of the service, and put your service online on Tuesday, I’d say there are some real advantages to a “tape delay” drop online with great production quality than a wide shot iPhone with a bad mix that is live. People don’t consume TV the same as they do live events.

– What’s the best platform for my live stream? Especially if my church is really small – like 50 members?
See my two answers above. Most people like the ability to watch on an iPad or push their phone to a smart tv and watch YouTube or FB Live. The thing I tell most churches now, is don’t limit yourself to think we are a church of 50. If you produce a good product, with great content and do your homework getting the word out that your services are online, you may find yourself with 50 in house and 500 watching online.

Far and away Resi (formally Living As One) is killing it with their live streaming platform. However, you MUST do more than just offer a live stream. Your website needs to be ready for this, you have to have online giving and funnels to get those finding your church online a way to connect and respond to the Gospel, as well as give financially. Remember theres many differences between online and in-house church members but the basic idea is exactly the same…building real relationships. Compared to broadcast air time, you won’t find a better way to expand your audience, even locally, than investing in your streaming and production quality.

________________

For more answers to these and other questions, I encourage you to order my book:
“Maximize Your Influence: How to Make Digital Media Work for Your Church, Your Ministry, and You.”
It’s available at InfluenceMatters.com

And this particular post is a compilation of much of my writing on live streaming:
https://www.philcooke.com/one-stop-for-the-best-live-streaming-resources/

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