When live streaming events such as weddings, conferences, funerals, or even dance recitals for your clients, YouTube is probably the first option that comes to mind. After all, it is the #1 website for video consumption in the world.
Let’s explore YouTube Live to see if it’s the best option for live streaming your events.
To kick things off, let’s start with the best aspects of the platform.
Event Live Streaming on Youtube: Pros
Viewers will be able to find you
Is this a good thing for your events? If so, you’re at the right place. Youtube is great for discoverability as it keeps an index of every live stream you’ve done in the past for future clients to see.
Assuming you don’t want all your projects to be found, you can hide them from the public by choosing the “Unlisted” option on the platform. This will also prevent random strangers for tuning in on your private events, and spam comments from flooding your client’s precious memories.
The caveat to the discoverability benefit is that you need to be somewhat handy at SEO in order to be found. Setting up proper titles, descriptions, and meta information is key.
Live Streams are kept online
YouTube can store all your live streams, basically forever. If having your previous work at hand is a big deal for you, then YouTube is a fantastic choice.
This benefit is very useful, as long as you use royalty-free music during the live stream. Otherwise, your videos will eventually be blocked, muted, or taken down by an automatic algorithm.
The quality is excellent if your connection can keep up with it
YouTube live allows you to live stream events up to 4k 60fps. This is pretty much NFL-like quality, with a little more compression. The one downside is that the bitrate required for 4k starts at 35.000 - 45.000 Kbps, all the way up to 53.000 - 68.000 Kbps for 60fps.
In other words, you need an excellent internet connection and knowledge of streaming encoders such as OBS to be able to enjoy the quality of streaming on YouTube Live.
That being said, l still think that YouTube’s streaming quality is much better than most alternatives out there.
It is Free
This is probably the biggest benefit of streaming events to YouTube.
There’s not much to say around this. YouTube might cost you money or your viewers’ attention if you’re using it for business purposes, but the fact that it is free compensates that for some people.
RTMP backup server
If you’re still learning about live streaming, this might not be a deciding factor for you. As a seasoned live streamer, having a backup server could help you solve problems with your primary connection.
Cons of Streaming Events on YouTube Live
You need 1.000 subscribers to go live on a smartphone
To use your phone you need a decent amount of subscribers, 1.000 to be exact. This is a show-stopper for most of us who don’t do YouTube for a living.
When you reached the milestone, you have to ask for permission -the first time- and wait 24 hours before you’re able to go live. If planning for paid work, you need to allow for some buffer time for this.
There is a workaround, which is to use OBS instead of a smartphone. In this case, you need a full live streaming setup, including a laptop, capture card, camera, HDMI cables, external microphones, and so on.
The subscriber limit is one of the biggest problems with YouTube Live, and the main reason why most people start looking for alternatives.
The second reason is probably the biggest problem with trusting your events to YouTube:
DMCA and Copyright Strikes
As a professional charging my clients for live streaming, I can’t force them to choose certain music or play copyright-free songs in the background of their event.
YouTube blocked my videos for playing copyrighted music, and I’m not the only one. Copyright strikes are a big deal and they even enforce Copyright School to people who make the same mistakes I did.
Here’s an extract of the YouTube Support page:
“(…) if your active live stream is removed for copyright, your access to live streaming will be restricted for 7 days.
If you get 3 copyright strikes:
- Your account, along with any associated channels, is subject to termination.
- All the videos uploaded to your account will be removed.
- You can't create new channels.”
Managing another complex tool
Doing something as simple as pausing a live stream and resuming it after a coffee break isn’t something you can do. Your event URL gets locked when you press “Go Live”, and then you need to send another link to your audience. Streamers have been trying to find a workaround for this problem with no luck whatsoever.
On a side note, Youtube’s dashboard can be overwhelming. I’m not talking about scheduling a live stream… but more about the whole process of going live on OBS, then going live on YouTube’s back end, and activating the “Go live automatically” switch, which resets after every live stream.
Keep in mind that if you’re keeping your live streams online, you need to create a thumbnail and optimize each video, which doesn’t sound like a big deal, right?
The problem arises when you have 2 to 3-hour-long streams, and your channel gets hurt because of low retention rates. For this reason (and privacy concerns), I’d recommend Unlisting all your YouTube streams, which kills discoverability, which is the main benefit of the platform.
What are the best YouTube Live alternatives?
Are there any Free alternatives?
If it must be free, then Zoom is the first option that comes to mind, but it isn’t really free. You need a subscription, but it’s as cheap as it gets.
For $20 per month, you get a somewhat decent solution, but it is almost mandatory to have a moderator of the live stream, so the costs involved in using it far exceed the benefits of the platform.
The one free alternative you might be thinking about is Facebook Live, which isn’t worth mentioning for anything remotely professional or serious.
For Simple, Enjoyable Streaming:
Mobile App or RTMP – $$
EventLive was built for live streaming events on location. It is simple to use, yet powerful with several business features for events, such as white labeling, pausing and resuming the live stream, multi-day events, integrated chat, guestbook, slideshows, and custom URLs.
It allows you to go live easily from an app or encoder (such as OBS) directly to any browser. Unlike other streaming platforms, EventLive doesn’t require a subscription and you can pay for a single event or as many as you need.
Pricing starts at $50 per event, but it goes down all the way to $25 each for more serious live streamers who buy credits in bulk. Credits do not expire, so they can be used in a single week or across several months.
It is simple to schedule, manage, and stream your events from any mobile device or computer.
How does it compare to YouTube Live?
- Unlike YouTube, the maximum quality is 1080p
- Replay and Download is available for 1 year, instead of forever
- You can easily pause and resume the event to the same URL
- EventLive app is a joy to use. Streaming with it is easy!
- Stream from your phone seamlessly, without growing a YouTube channel
- Any problems? Support replies almost instantly
For Extra Features:
Encoder + RTMP – $$$
Vimeo allows you to stream directly using RTMP and any capable encoder. They recommend using Livestream Studio instead of OBS, which is a comprehensive tool for streaming built mostly for agencies and bigger companies.
Their most affordable live streaming plan starts at $900 for a yearly subscription, and it’s limited to 3 concurrent streams. It is packed with great features, such as team members, simultaneous streaming to multiple platforms, and an analytics dashboard with useful data about your events.
Even though their Smartphone App doesn’t get the best reviews, it does allow you to go live with a somewhat limited experience.
How does it compare to YouTube Live?
- Their event page looks like a free platform, with Vimeo's Call to Action and their full business header to capture leads from your events
- Just like EventLive, the maximum quality is 1080p
- Keeping your events online won’t hurt your channel
- Events are limited to 12 hours
- The maximum bitrate is 5000 kbps
For Enterprise Streaming:
Mobile App or RTMP – $$$$
Dacast is a big player in the live streaming industry.
If at some point in your career you get the chance to live stream for a Fortune 500 company, you might want to consider using their platform. It is robust, stable, and reliable.
Their billing system is a bit too complex for my taste, as their smaller package requires a yearly subscription and allows you to stream no more than a handful of events with such limited bandwidth. For their more compelling offerings, you’re looking at a bill of $250+ USD per month, locked by contract.
If you’re like me and don’t want to risk being overbilled by a complex calculator system of viewers/hour, I’d recommend you stick with one of the previous alternatives.