With the temporary closure of studios and fitness centres, many artists and instructors are starting to turn to the virtual space in order to connect more with their audience as well as generate income for their businesses.
This blog provides a simple guide about going virtual and is written in collaboration with Esie Mensah, who is a dancer, choreographer, and movement director based in Toronto.
There are many options when considering virtual classes, however, they can be grouped into 2 main categories, pre-recorded classes and live classes. This blog will focus on live virtual classes and covers the 3 major platforms which many artists and instructors seem to be using. These are:
All 3 have their use cases as well as advantages and disadvantages and potential monetization strategies for each platform. This blog is not an objective guide but is subjective based on experience and observation and interviews.
We will also look at different revenue models and how to receive payments from viewers
Instagram live is probably the most popular option amongst instructors who are hosting virtual classes at the moment. It’s based off the instagram platform which means you need to have an account to access it.
- It directly taps into the instructors direct users base. The more followers the instructor has have the more viewers they get. However, remember, a high number of viewers does not necessarily mean a high amount of revenue in a live streaming event.
- It’s very easy to set up (as long as you have an instagram account) and going live can happen with a simple push of a button.
- There is no real preparation necessary other than the initial marketing.
- There is no limit to the number of viewers it can support, the only limitation is the number of followers the host has.
- Since it’s open and public it’s very easy for people to stumble into the live stream and take part in it.
- It’s free.
- Only has a one way video communication model (2 counting ability to request to be part of the instagram live event), where lots of people can see the host as well as an invited party. Communication from the viewers to host is done by chat and there is minimal face to face interaction. This means it’s less intimate.
- The instructor needs to have the instagram mobile app to host a live event. The event is typically viewed only through the mobile app and not the browser. However, I have seen situations where people have connected the mobile device to an external screen.
- The viewers needs to have an Instagram account to view the Instagram Live event, this means if the audience is not on instagram, then the instructor doesn’t have a way to reach them.
- Since it’s on the app, any interruptions such as a phone call, or accidentally taping away from the app removes the viewer from the stream.
- As it’s very easy to gain an audience on the live streaming event, the turnover of viewers can be high as well and it can be hard to know who stuck with the lesson for the duration of the stream.
- Instagram Live is usually public (or limited to all of the hosts followers), so can be tough to set a Paywall other than the Pay What You Can model.
- There is no link for the live event (other than the profile username) so harder to share with people who don’t have the app.
Potential Revenue Model
- Since everything is public, the revenue model for this is the pay as you go strategy.
YouTube live shares similar advantages and disadvantages to Instagram.
- If the instructor has a high number of subscribers, then they have a potentially high number of viewers who might stumble into the live event.
- It is easy to set up and go live and have the option to be truly public i.e. any one with the link can view.
- As it’s a link based system, the viewers do not need to have a YouTube account to follow along, and can be viewed from anything with a browser e.g. mobile phones, laptops, tv etc.
- As opposed to Instagram, there is a dedicated link for the live event which is dynamically generated.
- It has an option to have a private stream. This means setting up a pay wall is relatively easy, in that an instructor can only share the link to people who have paid for it.
- No limit to number of viewers.
- It’s free
- One way communication model in that you can’t really see what your audience is doing so can be a bit impersonal as conversations happen via the chat.
- A bit harder to market than Instagram which has the stories feature making it easier to go viral.
- Any one with the link can view the class.
- A bit harder for people to stumble into the session, but also people who come on the session are more likely to stay.
Potential Revenue Model
- This can work with the Pay What You Can strategy especially if the stream is public.
- Users can set up a Paywall if the links are private, where links can be shared once payment is done.
The following wikipedia entry describes zoom quite well.
Zoom Video Communications is a remote conferencing services company headquartered in San Jose, California. It provides a remote conferencing service that combines video conferencing, online meetings, chat, and mobile collaboration.
- Supports a multi channel visual communication model. This means the host can view and chat to the viewers and the viewers can chat to the host as well.
- The fact you can see people means instant feedback with more information so there is time to correct people’s movement. Also can imply a greater sense of community thus can be closer to a class room setting.
- Links can be private and can be protected by passwords. It means setting up a Paywall can be a bit easier.
- The fact that the host can see the viewers, means they can keep track of who paid or not and have the ability to kick people out of the stream.
- They have a mobile, desktop browser and a dedicated desktop application, so your viewers have different options to join. From my experiments with an instructor it seems the dedicated desktop and mobile applications are at a significantly better quality than the browser application.
- They have a free model that has a limit of 100 participants and 40 minutes of group meetings, however the paid option increases the meeting duration to 24 hours and is only $ 20 / month.
- Lends itself better to generating consistent revenue.
- As the links can be generated before hand, it can be shared to users who are looking to join.
- A bit harder to set up than Instagram and YouTube.
- If viewer is joining from the browser it’s easy, however if they choose the desktop or mobile app, the viewer needs to download this.
- Due to the fact that viewers can see the host, and host the viewers, means a lot of data is transmitted and can imply a lower video quality
- The free version is limited but can be good for getting started and shorter learning sessions.
- Still largely untested in an instructor setting, however it’s well tested in a meeting setting.
- Significant marketing needs to be done and there is no option of users stumbling into the meeting, however, it means users that are already in the meeting want to be there.
Potential Revenue Model
- Host can set up a Paywall where links can be shared once payment is done.
- Might be harder to justify a Pay What You Can model for zoom
There a few ways of generating revenue for virtual classes some of which includes:
- The Pay What You Can model, as the name suggests, the viewer/students pays what they can after the class. This can lead to variable results but also the greater the number of your audience base, the more money you are likely to generate.
- The Paywall model, this only works if the link to the class is private. In this model the link is only released to the viewer who has paid for the private class.
The main ways of accepting payments from experience is either through an e-transfer or a payment portal such as PayPal.
When using e-transfer, the viewer needs to host e-mail address and there are several steps to get the payment transferred which includes logging to the bank account, adding the teacher and sending the payment.
An easier approach is to use the PayPal.me option where users sends the payment directly to the host’s PayPal account. From their website the steps are:
- Choose your own link. Create your own PayPal.Me link and share it instantly with anyone: friends, customers or partners. If you don’t already have a PayPal account, signing up is quick and easy. And you can start accepting money from almost anyone in an instant.
- Share your link easily. Share your PayPal.Me link however you want to. In an email, a text message, on a chat or even on your business card.
- Get paid fast. Friends, family and customers simply click the link, enter any amount, log in to PayPal and that’s it. The money usually arrives in your PayPal account in moments.
The only downside with this is that the viewer/payer needs a PayPal account which might take time to set up, but once set up, it’s very easy to make a payment.
We have explored different options for hosting a virtual session. Depending on what you are looking for, this can be done either through Instagram Live, YouTube Live or Zoom.
If you are looking to reach a wide audience quickly, Instagram might be for you, however, a high number of viewers does not necessarily mean high amount of revenue in a live streaming event such as a class session. If you are worried about reaching out to people in the public as well as setting up a Paywall, YouTube and Zoom are good options. However, of all 3, Zoom offers a more intimate setting.
To support teachers going virtual, the Mbele Feedback on Demand application allows teachers to answer student questions for feedback and helps them generate an income as well. Check out our landing page on https://mbele.io/ to find out more