Updated · May 31, 2023
Updated · Feb 27, 2023
Calling all future YouTube stars – are you ready to create must-see content and grow your subscriber count?
YouTube live streams are an excellent opportunity to engage your audience in real-time. Whether you’re gaming, producing a podcast, or conducting a presentation, there’s something special about going live on YouTube. Especially in the era of lockdowns and social distancing, it’s becoming an increasingly popular alternative to in-person events and meetings.
Let’s explore exactly how to stream on YouTube, starting with getting verified and enabling the feature from within your account.
Because YouTube live streaming poses extra risks for the company, there are a few additional steps for those wanting to take their channel to the next level. Your account will need to be in good standing without excessive copyright or community strikes, and you must verify it by phone.
Verifying your account is a straightforward task that gives YouTube a bit more information about you and solidifies the partnership. To verify your YouTube account, just hit the camera icon on the top right of your YouTube homepage and click ‘Go Live.’ It will prompt you to verify your account.
Next, you must select your country from the drop-down menu and choose your preferred verification method. Your options are an automated voice message or a text message containing the code. Either way, it is all automated, and you don’t have to deal with an actual person.
Once you’ve done this, you should receive a robot call or message. Simply enter the six-digit code into the box on-screen and press submit. You now have a verified YouTube account.
You’ll immediately find some extra unlocked features, but it takes approximately 24 hours for the system to recognize your verification and permit live streaming on YouTube.
If live-streaming hasn’t been automatically enabled after a day, you’ll need to enable it from within your account. Go to your channel and find the ‘status and features’ page.
Live streaming is one of the options on the list. If it’s not got the green light yet, all you have to do is click enable, and you can set up your stream.
YouTube streaming is easy once you’ve got everything set up, but there’s some prep involved if you want everything to run smoothly.
Because it is essentially live broadcasting over the internet, you will need a microphone or headset and a webcam. Alternatively, you can use a mobile device with a camera. It’s just as easy as video calling with someone, but you’ll be talking to everybody who joined your stream instead.
You also need a fast and stable internet connection. Streaming can take a lot of bandwidth, especially if you want the quality to be high definition. Opt for a wired connection instead of Wi-Fi or 4G, as it is more stable and ensures top speeds.
Try to schedule a time when you’re the only one online if you share the connection. If someone else is watching Netflix or gaming, they might use too much bandwidth and take resources away from your stream. Likewise, make sure you’re not downloading or uploading anything in the background.
If you have a good webcam and microphone, most people will get the best results using a desktop computer and setting everything up via their web browser.
Start by clicking the camera icon at the top of your YouTube page and then ‘Go Live.’
It will take you to the streaming studio, where you have three options: stream, camera, and manage. ‘Stream’ will let you set up an advanced stream with the YouTube live streaming software. Choose the stream’s title, description, category, and whether you want it open to the public or only those with whom you share the link. Upload a thumbnail, and you’re ready to configure your encoder.
‘Camera’ is the second option and is more straightforward. Instead of using an encoder, your stream will begin directly from the web browser. It will automatically recognize the camera and microphone you have set to default and present you with some fields to fill out.
‘Manage’ lets you schedule a stream for a future date and manage streams you’ve already scheduled. This feature is essential for serious streamers. Scheduling lets your subscribers know that an event is on the horizon and gives you time to prepare and promote it properly.
To live stream on YouTube while on the go, you’ll need to download the Android or iOS YouTube app. Your channel must have at least 1,000 subscribers. This way, YouTube ensures that you are a serious content creator.
If you meet the requirements, the process is much like doing it via a web browser. Open the app, tap ‘Go Live,’ enter your stream’s title and basic information, and choose whether to stream right now or schedule it.
An advanced stream can accommodate multiple participants, cameras, and microphones. However, you still need an encoder to transform your video into streamable content. Let’s take a look at the difference between software encoders and hardware encoders.
A software encoder manages all the advanced settings. Once you’re happy with the output, you can connect to your YouTube account using a stream key. This unique code/address provided by YouTube tells the software where to send the data. Once connected, you can Go Live on YouTube, and it will broadcast whatever your encoder is streaming.
There is no official streaming software for YouTube, but there are compatible encoders you can use instead. Some of the best free options include Open Broadcaster Software (OBS), XSplit Broadcaster, Wirecast, and Gamecaster.
Setting up streaming video is slightly different for each program, but the key features remain the same. There will be a tab where you can change the quality and resolution of your video stream. The higher the quality, the more upload speed you’ll require. Audio isn’t quite as taxing, but you can change the quality for this as well.
Before starting a live broadcast, you need to make sure you choose the right video and audio input sources. Using the drop-down menus, you can select one or more connected microphones and webcams. These are all then available during live video streaming.
Most software encoders allow you to set a still image if you want to do an audio podcast without video. Furthermore, YouTube lets you forgo real-time streaming altogether by broadcasting a pre-recorded video as if it was live. Known as a premiere, these are regular videos, but you schedule a date and time for it to first air. There is no skipping ahead and the live chat room feature is available during the first broadcast.
After the stream ends, it will be available via regular video on demand.
If you want to know how to stream on YouTube with OBS or other specific software, you can search for individual guides.
A hardware encoder provides a similar solution to the software but with the added benefit of having dedicated processing power. It can also use studio-grade cameras that you can’t usually connect directly to your computer.
Because the encoder box converts video data into streamable content quickly, it reduces the potential for lag and other errors on your computer.
The downside to a hardware encoder is that they are expensive. It’s also worth keeping in mind that the quality, video coding format used, and other settings are relatively fixed. You risk that the encoder could become outdated in the future, whereas software is easily updated when standards change.
If you are an individual with a decent computer, a software encoder is currently the best option. If you are a professional, have the budget, or already operate within a studio, a hardware encoder becomes a more viable choice.
Setting up a live stream is one, but gaining subscribers is another. The YouTube live streaming platform gives you all the tools needed to improve your content and grow your audience, including:
One of the most powerful live stream features is the chat room. It allows you to interact directly with your viewers. The tool is automatically opened for every stream unless you manually disable it. Even viewers who watch the archived video can see a replay of the chat.
As the streamer, you automatically are a moderator. This role lets you boot people, create a list of blocked words, and pin a message if there’s something you want everyone to know.
While it’s not always practical for the streamer to fully engage in the chat, you should consider doing a Q&A segment or reading some comments to grow the relationship with your audience.
If you aren’t great at multitasking, you can assign someone else to be a moderator. They can then police the chat and interact with the audience on your behalf.
Note that streams aimed directly at kids cannot launch a chat room because of safeguarding.
So, you’ve started a YouTube broadcast, but how do you know how many people are watching? This is where analytics comes in.
A real-time analytics page within the live stream studio tells you how many people are watching and responding in the chat. You can take this data and alter your behavior to maximize results.
For example, if turnout seems relatively low, maybe it’s early in the stream, and people are still joining. You may choose to hold off on your best content until viewing numbers rise so you can reach more people.
If it has been several minutes since anyone posted in the chat room, it might be a good idea to pose a couple of questions to reignite discussion.
It’s only after a stream has finished that you can dig down into the data. Post-live analytics are available within 48-72 hours after the content is archived. You can view the total watch time, how many people watched from beginning till the end, the highest number of viewers at one time, and whether subscriptions grew. You can also access data about gender, age, and location.
These insights show you who was watching, what worked, and what didn’t. Over time, you will better understand what your audience wants when you live stream on YouTube.
Now you know how to live stream on Youtube and grow your channel, let’s look at what type of content you can create.
YouTubers have a lot of freedom, and there are limited restrictions. Every day, thousands of people upload everything from podcasting and vlogging to conferences, presentations, and events. Streams can be as basic as someone on their sofa sharing an opinion or as advanced as a studio-level television show.
However, just like regular videos, you must still adhere to the copyright laws and community guidelines when you stream.
The general copyright law states that you can’t stream any footage or audio that you didn’t create or don’t have permission to use.
A common exception to this is gaming, as most game developers and publishers recognize the benefit of fans or commentators sharing their footage and discussing gameplay. Live video streaming services like Twitch are built around this premise. While that doesn’t make you immune to copyright strikes on YouTube, it happens less often.
Likewise, there is a legally recognized ‘fair use’ exception in some jurisdictions. It comes into play when you stream a small amount of credited copyrighted footage for news, reviews, criticism, or education. Again, that doesn’t mean you won’t get a strike, but a short clip from a movie trailer within a 30-minute film review is less likely to be targeted than the illegal streaming of an entire movie.
YouTube uses complex algorithms to detect copyrighted material automatically. It does this by matching video or audio with copyrighted content already stored in its databases. But even if YouTube doesn’t find it during your stream, it can still detect copyrighted material later via the archived video.
Staff sometimes browse streams and can be prompted to look closer if the system detects potential copyright infringement. Likewise, other users can flag a video or stream they suspect is breaking the rules. Staff will check themselves and determine the next course of action.
YouTube will take back your streaming privileges if your live stream or an archived stream receives a copyright takedown. This does not apply if you only have a couple of regular videos that are blocked and you haven’t live-streamed copyrighted material.
The best way to avoid a strike is only to use original content when streaming on YouTube.
YouTube’s community guidelines continue to apply when you broadcast live streaming video. These are part of YouTube’s broader terms of service and outline the content and actions that the company feels negatively affect the YouTube community, other users, and advertisers.
You can't stream content intended to spam, scam, mislead, or defraud viewers.
Sensitive content, including self-harm, nudity, sexual content, or anything that puts children at risk, is also banned. Content that might not be appropriate for children but does not fall into these categories may be permitted with an age restriction.
Violent, graphic, and dangerous content is also against the rules. This includes hate speech, targeted bullying, footage of attacks, injuries and gore, and anything that encourages harmful and dangerous behavior.
Certain sounds or phrases can automatically trigger a community guideline strike, as can the words in the title and description of a stream. Other users are also permitted to flag a video they feel goes against the community guidelines, at which point a member of staff will assess the claim and decide on whether to issue a strike.
If any video, live stream, or archive triggers a community strike, your account will lose the ability to stream and upload videos. Initially, this will be for one week, and the strike will remain on file for 90 days. If a second strike occurs within that same timeframe, your privileges will be removed for two weeks.
A third strike within 90 days will see your channel terminated. Occasionally, a severe case will result in an automatic ban right away.
Although the community guidelines are somewhat open to interpretation and YouTube often comes under fire for so-called censorship. If you apply some common sense and are mindful of how your content might affect others, you’re unlikely to have your streaming revoked.
Now that you’ve learned how to live stream on YouTube and the type of content permitted, it’s time to take the plunge and give it a shot. Who knows, if you have a unique idea and can perform in front of the camera, you could be the next big YouTube star.
A qualified journalist and longtime web content writer, Keelan has a passion for exploring information and learning new things. If he's not writing or pushing his own brands, you'll find him watching pro wrestling or trying not to rant about politics online.
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