Which live-streaming platform should I use?

In Tips & Tricks, Virtual Events by Kat Rembacki1 Comment

If you’re hosting an event online, there are three things you’ll need in order to “go live”:

  1. Camera: a device that can capture your video feed(s). Some events like to have multiple cameras so they can switch between different angles or give guests a more dynamic view of the event.
  2. Encoder: your encoder receives the video from your camera and sends it to your live-stream. Some encoders allow you to create highly customized, professional videos while others are simply made to transmit your video without any bells or whistles.
  3. Live-streaming platform: this is what actually turns your video into a live event online. Some live-streaming platforms have simple built-in encoders while others allow you to plug in your own encoder for a higher quality production. Your live-streaming platform also controls WHO can see your live-stream: some will secure your stream and allow you to sell paid access while others allow anyone to join for free, sometimes with ads.

There are a lot of live-streaming options out there, and it can be tough to figure out just what the difference is between platforms. You may be wondering, “which live-streaming platform is best?” or “which one is right for my event?”

Our guide below compares the top live-streaming platforms, so you can figure out which one will work best for you. 

Before we get started, here are five key things to consider when selecting a live-streaming platform:

  1. Security: How can my fans access my content securely? Will non-ticketed users be able to crash the party?
  2. Data: Will I get contact information and data about my attendees so I can keep in touch with them after the event?
  3. Customization: Can I add my own branding to my stream? 
  4. Cost: Do the benefits of this platform justify the price? Are there tools to help my event bring in more revenue?
  5. Support: If I get stuck, will there be someone who can help me? 

If you’re looking for more guidance, check out our list of questions to ask when choosing a live-streaming provider. 

Jump to: 

Facebook Live

  • Experience level: Beginner
  • Cost: Free
  • Live Support Available: No
  • Donations: Yes
  • Merchandise Sales: No
  • Chat With Guests: Yes
  • Can Limit Access to Paid/Registered Users: No
  • Can Sell Subscriptions to Guests: Yes
  • Requires 3rd Party Encoder: No
  • Allows custom branding: No

A lot of new live-streamers make the mistake of thinking it’s as simple as opening up your computer and hitting a “go live” button. But guests expect higher quality these days, and your event will get lost in the noise if you try to cut corners.

We understand the appeal of Facebook: it feels easy and there are millions of users already on the platform. But Facebook is built to be easy for users, not necessarily for content creators. The social media giant has made it increasingly difficult for businesses to reach their audience organically (meaning you’ll need to put some advertising dollars into the platform to make sure your fans hear about your event), and provide less and less data about your audience. There’s just too much noise on Facebook. 

While Facebook doesn’t require a separate encoder to go live, it also gives you zero capabilities to professionally produce your live-stream. It’s made for FaceTiming with your friends, not hosting high-quality events.

One of the biggest disadvantages to streaming on any social platform is that you can only stream to one at a time; they don’t integrate with one another. Want to stream to Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn all at the same time? You’ll need three separate cameras connected to three different platforms to do that. Be sure to factor that into your planning and get the right equipment in advance. 

YouTube Live

  • Experience level: Beginner
  • Cost: Free
  • Live Support Available: No
  • Donations: Yes
  • Merchandise Sales: Yes
  • Chat With Guests: Yes
  • Can Limit Access to Paid/Registered Users: No
  • Can Sell Subscriptions to Guests: Yes
  • Requires 3rd Party Encoder: No
  • Allows custom branding: No

One of YouTube’s biggest benefits is the easy monetization of your live-stream. There are several ways you can bring in revenue, including ads that play before or during your event, Super Chats, and memberships (though keep in mind that YouTube will take a 30% cut off the top). It’s a decent option for those who want to start generating revenue from their live-streamed events but don’t need much customization on their streams. However, if you’re looking to really customize your stream or add professional features like picture-in-picture, multi-camera streaming, or background audio playlists, you might be disappointed with YouTube Live’s capabilities. 

Additionally, YouTube is open and free to anyone who wants to join so there’s no way to secure your stream. Likewise, you won’t get as much user data on those who do join. 

Twitch

  • Experience level: Moderate
  • Cost: Free
  • Live Support Available: No
  • Donations: Yes
  • Merchandise Sales: No
  • Chat With Guests: Yes
  • Can Limit Access to Paid/Registered Users: No
  • Can Sell Subscriptions to Guests: No
  • Requires 3rd Party Encoder: Yes
  • Allows custom branding: No

Twitch is the most popular gaming platform online, so if your audience falls into this demographic group it may be a good place for you to start live-streaming. There are also options for monetizing your live-stream, in the form of donations and subscriber fees (each sub pays $5, but Twitch takes $2.50 of that). If you want to customize your stream, there are plugins and built-in tools available, though it requires a little more advanced knowledge to integrate everything. Twitch doesn’t have a built-in encoder, but we think that’s actually a benefit: you have much more power to create a professional live-stream than you would on Facebook or YouTube.

Still, it’s free and relatively easy to get started. So if you’re just looking to dip your toes into the live-streaming pool, Twitch isn’t a bad option. Users don’t have high expectations for the quality of content they consume on Twitch so it’s a good place to test out your skills and just get comfortable being “live.”

Vimeo 

  • Experience level: Expert
  • Cost: $75+ per month
  • Live Support Available: Yes (premium accounts only)
  • Donations: No
  • Merchandise Sales: No
  • Chat With Guests: Yes
  • Can Limit Access to Paid/Registered Users: Yes
  • Can Sell Subscriptions to Guests: Yes
  • Requires 3rd Party Encoder: Yes
  • Allows custom branding: No

Vimeo made its name as a video hosting service, but its live-streaming platform is becoming more popular. One of the biggest benefits is the ability to simulcast your event on multiple social networks at the same time, including Facebook Live, YouTube, and Twitch. There’s also a live chat feature so you can communicate with your guests during your live-stream. 

For events that need more advanced capabilities, Vimeo Studio lets you switch between multiple camera feeds, add layered graphics to your broadcast, and mix in pre-recorded video. That all comes at a cost, of course.

Speaking of costs, that’s one of Vimeo’s biggest disadvantages. Standard video hosting plans start at just $7 but if you want to use Vimeo for live-streamed events you’ll be paying at least $75 per month, and some plans cost $2,000+. That’s all before you’ve added on Vimeo Studio or a third-party encoder.

Passage

  • Experience level: Beginner to Expert
  • Cost: Free
  • Live Support Available: Yes
  • Donations: Yes
  • Merchandise Sales: Yes
  • Chat With Guests: Yes
  • Can Limit Access to Paid/Registered Users: Yes
  • Can Sell Subscriptions to Guests: Yes
  • Requires 3rd Party Encoder: Yes, but we have FREE suggestions!
  • Allows custom branding: Yes

Of course, we’re partial to our own live-streaming solution, but there are plenty of good reasons why it might be the right choice for your event, too. 

Passage is a platform-agnostic solution, meaning you can actually plug ANY encoder or live-streaming platform into your Passage event. So even if you don’t use us as your live-streaming platform, you can still secure access to your stream and use other features like Instant Donations during your event. That is so important for virtual events: we know your professionally-produced, live-streamed show is not the same thing as a YouTuber streaming their “what I ate in a day” video from home. Nothing against YouTubers; we love those videos! But the value a professionally-produced event is providing is worth more to your fans than a free, ad-supported video on social media. You need a way to secure access, sell tickets, and promote your event so that you can earn revenue and continue producing more great events.

If you do decide to work with us as your live-streaming partner, Passage is simple enough for anyone to use–even if you’re new to live-streaming. Our concierge support team will even set everything up for you, so you can focus on planning a great event. And with features like Instant Donations and Live Chat, you can plan an event that engages guests and brings in more revenue. Passage is the only live-streaming platform on this list that allows you to actually sell tickets to your live-streamed virtual event. You can choose to sell paid access or offer free access (there’s even a pay-what-you-can option), and regardless of which option you choose, you get all the same data on your attendees which helps you remarket to those guests in the future. 

One of the biggest advantages of live-streaming with Passage is our ability to manage hybrid events: those with in-person and live-stream access. As things start to open back up post-pandemic, many event producers are looking for solutions that offer all-in-one capabilities. With Passage, you can sell in-person tickets (both online and at the door), paid or free live-stream access, merchandise, and concessions for your event. Whether you need (socially distanced) assigned seating, virtual queues, timed ticketing, or front-of-the-line passes, Passage makes it simple to customize your ticketing and payments to your event’s unique needs. 

Need help setting up your live-stream event? Schedule an onboarding session with our concierge support team. We’ll set everything up for you!