The dream stream

A good-sounding livestream is possible, with Stream Tune-up on the case.

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As live music has shifted from clubs to desktops, so too has our experience of it. Sound and video quality vary wildly from platform to platform and connection to connection, leaving musicians used to having engineers taking care of them to troubleshoot their tech and gear issues.

Enter Guillermo Subauste. The Toronto-based hyphenate—he’s a musician-producer-engineer-tour manager-sound technician—saw the stream revolution coming years before COVID-19 shut the world down.

“I started making live shows and streams from my studio,” he says. “I was lucky I bought a lot of the gear that is now sold out everywhere. I did all the forum searching you do, watching tutorials, things like that—I had it started awhile ago.”

Originally from Peru, where his family has been in a full-on pandemic lockdown since mid-March, Subauste says he knew it was a matter of time before Canada would follow. In the early days, he had lined up a slate of shows to be recorded in empty Toronto venues, with a team. 

“But I have a pregnant partner, and once it was announced only essential services should happen, I cancelled them,” he says. “I felt guilty leaving these artists out in the cold. So I offered Sarah Slean the possibility of guiding her through the phone. There are free solutions, like Google Remote for example, that allow me to control [the artist’s] computer, because troubleshooting over the phone—telling them click here, now click this—is frustrating, that defeats the purpose.”

As artists moved online, he began offering them consults “how to get the best sound and the best image with the gear they have,” he says. “Then I realized telling them how to do it is one thing, but some of them don’t know how to EQ a vocal to make it sound good, or how much reverb is good.”

Thus Stream Tune-up was born. Subauste offers remote gear setup, as well as sound and video engineering for livestreams for $40 an hour. Most artists, he says, already have the basics. “You need a computer, and an interface—even if it’s a USB microphone—and strong wifi. 

“A lot of people, in their rehearsal rooms, have a small PA and you can make it sound good with your phone,” he adds.

He works with artists via Open Broadcast Software, a system for video and audio streaming, and recommends at least an hour soundcheck before going live to make sure all the proper settings are in place and working how you want. “iIt depends on the artist,” he says. “There’s maybe one or two seconds between what I hear and what I can do.”

Subauste, who’s mixed tours for Sarah HarmerJoel Plaskett, and Gord Downie and The Sadies, expects that once the pandemic is under control and bands can get back out on the road, streaming demands will drop. But they might not disappear completely. 

“As opposed to the U.S., in Canada there’s not a lot of cities that are not close to each other,” he says, so livestreaming may replace touring as a cost-effective revenue generator. 

Until then, he’s here to help you put on the best show possible.


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Written by Tara Thorne

Tara Thorne is a writer, editor, and pop culture critic in Halifax.