After a year full of tiresome adaptations, I want to stop and share what I’ve learned teaching burlesque online at Arabesque Burlesque. Despite a ton of free resources online and a partner who works in tech, it took us more than six months of trial and error to get here.
At the beginning of the pandemic, I often came home from teaching online feeling disgusting because of a tech failure during my class. It was largely out of my control and my students were very understanding, but I felt a responsibility to deliver a virtual class at the same high standard as my live lessons. I felt like a failure when I wasn’t able to do that, so if there’s anything I can do to help you avoid that situation, I’m here for it.
Here’s a setup that works for a burlesque studio’s three main revenues: pre-recorded classes, live online classes, and socially-distanced in-person participants. Don’t forget to watch the accompanying video to see the setup with your eyeballs!
Live Streaming Classes
We found that Zoom suits livestreamed burlesque classes best because a visual connection with students is so important. To maximize your video quality, buy a webcam and use a desktop or laptop computer. Also, wire an ethernet cable to your dance area (the most reliable internet connection is key).
We taught using a couple of multi-directional (or globe) mics for a while but found that the headset has really improved the music quality for students and accommodated our in-studio participants because you can look in all directions while speaking. The mixer for two audio inputs allows you to play the music through a large sound system in-studio while feeding the same music directly into Zoom (because music fed to virtual participants through a mic often ends up distorted).
The system we use allows different teachers to hook up their personal devices for music, but I’d be keen to try this cheaper option if you’re only one teacher and you can play your music from the computer.
To avoid getting shut down for music copyright violations, we used Wowza and Zoom.
Wowza can be a good option if it’s a class where you don’t need to see your students and you can embed it directly into a password-protected page on your website. I recommend embedding a chat box to go with the livestream video. Also, Wowza automatically records and stores the video of your live classes in a much higher quality than Zoom.
For sharing a pre-recorded class, we use Vimeo as they don’t seem to be enforcing their recommendations on music ownership. You can also consider paying for access to a copyright-free music library. We use ArtList and have choreographed full, one hour burlesque classes using their music, which we can now share on Facebook and YouTube, etc. without violating laws.
You should consider a separate device set up to record the class for your On-Demand platform. I don’t find the Zoom recordings are high-quality enough to resell. A phone in a ring light stand recording during your live class is perfect. For better-quality sound to compliment the phone recording, lay the audio from the Zoom recording over the video when you edit your class in a software like iMovie.
Options for selling pre-recorded classes
You can sell your pre-recorded classes as digital products straight from your website (this could be a great option if you want to sell them individually), as a subscription-based channel on Vimeo (this is the route we went with but requires you to upload new content regularly), or manually share links to videos hosted on Dropbox or similar (a lot more admin but a cost-effective option).
Here’s a tip for teaching an in-studio and online hybrid class. If you have an extra phone (that’s not being used for the on-demand recording or for playing music), use the Share Screen function in Zoom when your in-studio participants are doing something that the people at home want to see. That way you can keep social-distancing without making your Zoom participants feel left out of activities where the focus is on other students in the room.
Finally, if you can get a registration software with Zoom integration – it’s worthwhile! In this past year we switched from MindBody to Acuity, and one of the major benefits is having the registration software schedule the Zoom meetings and send paying customers the appropriate link automatically. So much admin time saved!
I would love to chat more about your technical set-up experiences in the comments!