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Japanese artist Reol made $130k from a YouTube livestream


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Can you make money from livestreamed music performances on YouTube? Japanese artist Reol certainly did: to the tune of $130k.

YouTube’s director of Black music and culture Tuma Basa revealed the figure in his appearance at Music Ally’s Sandbox Summit Global online conference yesterday alongside colleague T. Jay Fowler, director of product management.

Reol’s livestream had 181k views while it was airing, with fans buying ‘super chats’ (highlighted messages that stay pinned at the top of a video’s chat window) and ‘super stickers’ (animated stickers to help their chats stand out) to show their support.

The average buyer spent $34 during the livestream. “It was a huge success,” said Basa. The key to that success, he suggested, was that Reol “educated” her fans in how the super chats and super stickers worked, with a series of more casual livestreams ahead of the main event.

Super chats and super stickers have been available on YouTube for some time, but were only recently opened up for musicians as well as non-music YouTubers. Reol is one of the first case studies to suggest that these features can pay off for artists.

During their presentation, Basa and Fowler also gave some figures for Post Malone’s recent livestream of Nirvana covers, which was using YouTube’s donation feature to raise money for the World Health Organization’s Covid-19 relief efforts.

The concert was watched 1.4m times as it aired, with a peak audience of 225,000 viewers, and raised $964k in donations – including Google’s matching funds. However, the on-demand video of the performance has been watched another 8.4m times since, raising an additional $508k.

Overall, livestreaming viewing on YouTube has grown by more than 200% since the start of 2020, said Basa, adding that nine of the ten biggest music livestreams ever have happened since 15 March on YouTube.

Fowler said that YouTube has been focusing its development efforts in four areas for livestreams. First, on helping artists with sound and video quality. Second, making sure livestreams can stay on YouTube as video-on-demand.

Third, launching and opening up the features to make money from them: super chats, super stickers, the merchandise ‘shelf’, donations and rights management tools. And fourth, enabling artists to pull out individual songs from their livestreams as standalone videos.

“If these are full versions of official songs, it becomes chart-eligible,” he said.

Basa also talked about the evolution of YouTube’s ‘premieres’ feature, which enables artists to schedule a new music video to go live, encouraging fans to show up to watch together and chat about it.

Recently, YouTube has added the ability (in beta for now) for artists to pair these premieres with livestreams: for example a virtual meet’n’greet or Q&A leading up to the premiere, carrying the audience from one to the other.

Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion used this feature for the premiere of their ‘WAP’ music video recently, chatting together before the video went live.

“They had hundreds of thousands of kids basically waiting for the video to premiere at this livestream,” said Basa. 40% of the track’s first-week streams came from the video, with 37m views on YouTube, while the livestream racked up 4m views.

“The livestream and the music video played a huge role in that song’s success,” said Basa, while admitting that ‘WAP’ has become a mega-hit on just about every digital platform possible since then.

During their session, Basa and Fowler talked up YouTube Music’s investment in analytics for music artists, with new features like its ‘total reach’ metric breaking down artists’ streams between videos on their official channels, and those created by fans and YouTubers using the tracks.

“It allows an artist to actually see how the community is reacting, responding and creatively contributing to the artist’s career, and it gives them a sense of what’s going on out there,” said Fowler.

“The top 1,000 artists on YouTube get over 20% of their music views from UGC – user generated content – and these views are largely incremental to official views,” added Basa.

YouTube is encouraging artists to “lean in” to these communities too, with Basa citing BTS’s encouragement of fans to create lip-sync videos for their recent single ‘Dynamite’, as well as the hundreds of cover, lyric and dance videos created by fans for Dua Lipa’s ‘Break My Heart’.

“A lot of the user base on YouTube is a scaled creative community that’s at the artist’s beck and call. They’re out there creating visuals, slideshows, choreography videos, and it’s an amazing opportunity where we’re creating an end-user or creator level cross-promotion network,” said Fowler.

He suggested that artists who are comfortable encouraging fans to create this kind of content can also collaborate with them: using YouTube’s analytics to see which fan or YouTuber-made videos have been popular, and including them in the campaign for their next release.

The session finished with the two execs sharing their thoughts on the future for music livestreams when physical concerts eventually return in those countries where the live industry is currently shut down due to Covid-19.

“This is going to be a blended experience. I think fans are seeing this as incremental, and not a replacement [for physical concerts] for sure,” said Fowler, adding that livestreams will be particularly useful for reaching fans who live outside the traditional touring markets.

The pitch from YouTube is also its status as a platform where studio recordings, livestreams and other content all live alongside (and feed off) one another.

“It’ll be interesting to see how the official recordings interact with the live dates, which interact with the premieres,” he said. “I see this as a new reality, and as a music fan, I think it’s a great new reality!”

Stuart Dredge

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