The Cost of Using Facebook and Youtube for Livestreaming

Paul Alan Clifford

I have a friend who says, “If it’s free, it’s for me.”

That’s the feeling around most churches when it comes to doing ministry. “Why pay for something when you can get it for free?” Sometimes, that’s a great way to think.  After all, your resources are limited and there are so many things vying for your attention. If you can save the money from one ministry, it can go into another, right? Sometimes.

The problem with the free-seeking mentality is that it sometimes comes at a cost that’s higher than is immediately apparent.


That’s the way livestreaming is.  Why pay for a livestreaming host when you can encode your video and send it to Facebook or YouTube for free?


It’s always a good question to ask why others are paying to do so, especially if they don’t have to. Are they ignorant of the fact that YouTube and Facebook are free?  Maybe they don’t want to take the time to research other free alternatives. Maybe they’re a part of a company or church that has more money than time. Whatever the reason, it’s easy to pat yourself on the back for finding a free solution.


I get it. But there are reasons why people who can choose another solutions do so.

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Customer Service

Because YouTube and Facebook are free, they don’t set aside money to hire and maintain staff to handle problems you’re likely to run into. Sure, you can read articles they’ve written, but those articles, by design, have to be geared toward as many people as necessary.


Churches aren’t always going to have problems that fit neatly into the categories that their tutorials are meant for.


If you’ve got a problem that you really need someone to walk you through, you’re out of luck.


Assuming you’ve added the streaming component to your CCLI license or you have the streaming license from Church Copyright Association, you should be legally allowed to stream copyrighted music.


Neither YouTube nor Facebook know this. For the majority of people livestreaming through these platforms, copyrighted music is used ignorantly or with a “why-shouldn’t-I” mentality. Since so few use it with permission, there’s no good way to say: “Hey, I have a license to do this.”


In practice, churches that stream to YouTube often get by with it or (depending on the song), may not be able to monetize their videos (which most churches probably don’t want to do anyway), but that’s not always the case.


A few songs can’t be used at all on YouTube, especially songs from Hillsong.  For a full list, look at the copyright policies for individual songs on YouTube here.


Other songs can’t be used in all countries, so if you have a contingent of people who watch in Germany (perhaps soldiers deployed to the bases there), they won’t be able to watch either.


All of this is done automatically.

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Facebook has a similar problem, but doesn’t have (as far as I can tell) a list of permitted and acceptable songs, so it’s a guessing game to see whether you’ll have problems or not.


But this isn’t really a copyright issue at all. It comes back to customer service.  If you could talk to someone about it, you could get it all straightened out, but there’s no one to talk to.


What’s worse, is that it’s possible (and it has happened to churches all over) that your account could be terminated or you could lose the ability to livestream altogether. Usually this happens either right before you are set to livestream (after you’ve done a test) or during church, leaving the people who need your livestream with no option of watching, and with you having no options to tell them what happened.

Time costs

While they’re getting better, neither platform was really designed for regular, scheduled streaming. Your church might stream on Wednesday at 7, Saturday at 6, Sunday at 9 and 11, but you’ll have to add each stream one at a time.


For YouTube, it’s now possible to embed a single time on your website and each live stream will show up as it happens.


For Facebook, each service will need to be embedded separately. So that takes more time too.

Free Isn’t Free

If you have a problem with your set up, instead of talking to someone, you’ll have to spend time searching the internet and trying to find answers. That’s going to cost you time.


If you have a copyright problem, where you’re accused of livestreaming music without permission, that’s going to cost you the time and frustration to fight it or maybe it will cost your online congregation when they can’t interact with you any longer.


If you have to schedule each stream individually and embed it individually, that’s going to cost you time, even if it is a pretty easy thing to do.


When it comes down to it it’s possible that each of these things could cost you more money than if you paid for a livestreaming service which has solved these problems.

Imagine the cost of paying a staff member to troubleshoot and figure out problems when a 5-minute call to an expert technician could solve them immediately.


Imagine the cost of losing your online congregation, which you worked months or years to build up, when you could have just changed an embed code and they would have continued to see the same content without interruption.


Imagine the time lost (and the opportunity cost) to the person who schedules and embeds your stream.


Maybe a paid service is worth it. For me, it is. Whether it’s like insurance that you may never need or a very real savings in time, sometimes people use paid services for a reason. Sometimes it’s worth a little money to save time and frustration. Often with YouTube and Facebook livestreaming, it is.

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About Paul Alan Clifford

Author / Tech Volunteer
Quest Community Church | Lexington, KY

Author of Podcasting Church, Tweeting Church, & The Serving Church, Paul is a church tech consultant, helping churches take steps in tech, new & social media. He works with church staff and volunteers, who want to use technology to impact people far from God, by navigating through the maze of possibilities and jargon. He has been a tech volunteer with Quest Community Church in Lexington, KY since 2000 and is the founder of, llc. He has written books on podcasting in churches, twitter in churches, & servant-hearted volunteering, following a radical calling, creativity in church, videography for churches, and live-streaming for churches, as well as writing various articles for publications like “Church Production” and “Technologies for Worship” magazines.

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