Amazon’s livestreaming video platform Twitch was already looking to do more with music before Covid-19 struck, but the pandemic has fuelled a moment where lots of musicians are also suddenly keen to do more with Twitch – and livestreaming more generally.
At Music Ally’s Sandbox Summit Global online conference this week, Twitch’s VP of music Tracy Patrick Chan and music partnerships manager Allyson Toy joined Music Ally’s Joe Sparrow to talk through what the platform can offer artists and rightsholders.
Chan outlined Twitch’s two key strengths: first, for building communities where creators (artists now included) can “interact on a regular basis with your fans”, and second, for that community to “financially support you: we have lots of singers, songwriters, producers who are making five or six figures a year on Twitch”.
There are some big names involved: Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda, Logic and T-Pain for example, but also young emerging artists like mxmtoon; dance music figures like RAC; composer and games developer Laura Shigihara; and producers like Kenny beats and Illmind.
Chan and Toy said that musicians coming to Twitch can learn from what works for the service’s biggest community: game streamers.
“One thing they can definitely take from the gaming book is reframing the idea of Twitch as a social media profile. Artists have a tendency to approach Twitch maybe at first more similarly to how they approach Twitter: ‘Here are my thoughts….’ Whereas for Twitch, the chat and the community and the audience participation is as much of the story as what the artist is doing,” said Toy.
She added that musicians can benefit from seeing Twitch not as a place for performance – “I’m posturing, I’m performing, with perfect hair!” – and more as something with an “authentic, behind-the-scenes feeling… A good way to integrate streaming into your life is to bring your fans along for the the things you’re already doing”.
Chan agreed. “Oftentimes, they think going on Twitch is just like being on stage… it’s that, but plus the green-room experience, where you’re hanging with fans. But on a repeated basis… when they understand that, that’s when we see the lightbulb go off, and we see them really start to lean in to interacting with fans.”
Live performances can still be good on Twitch, but there’s more to it. Q&As can work well, as can gaming – “yesterday, Logic was gaming with Kane Brown, a country singer,” noted Chan – and also music creation and production.
“That’s such a strong use case: ‘I’m going to write lyrics or open Ableton and show people how I’m making beats’,” he said. But anything goes, if it’s an artist’s passion. “We even have artists who are just: ‘I’m going to show you me cooking, and you can suggest me recipes!'”
Ways to make money on Twitch include channel subscriptions, as well as its ‘bits and cheers’ virtual economy, where fans pay to help their messages stand out in the chat window for a broadcast. It’s something the keenest fans relish.
“Generally it is a small portion of your overall audience that generates the most revenue and ticket sales and merch,” said Toy. “Twitch is a way of giving specifically those fans, your superfans, more opportunities to interact with you and to help you monetise.”
Encouraging fans to spend money doesn’t have to feel grubby or like turning into a shopping-channel presenter. Chan explained that often, it’s simply a case of showing appreciation for people who subscribe or use bits and cheers: giving them shout-outs and thank yous while broadcasting.
“Because we came from a world in gaming where it’s an expectation really that you’re going to support the creator, that’s a differentiation for Twitch,” he said. “It’s carried over to the music community as well.”
Toy said that artists can also use Twitch to shine a light on their projects elsewhere – mxmtoon talks about her Spotify podcast on her Twitch channel for example – but added that they should be committed to regular broadcasts rather than a sketchy schedule.
“Community and consistency,” were her watchwords. “To the extent that you can stick to as regular a schedule as possible… the easier you’ll find it is to drive retention and to help your audience anticipate hanging out with you at certain times of the week.”
Chan came back to to the ‘how Twitch is different’ point. “It forces you to unlearn everything you know about the music industry,” he said.
“Artists are told you need millions of everything to be successful: streams, video views, followers… But what we’re seeing on Twitch is that is not true. What you need is your true fans to actually support you, and if you engage with those true fans, you can make a significant amount of money.”
The last piece of advice in the session for musicians thinking about Twitch is to join as a viewer first.
“Go into some communities for artists that are similar to your style. Once you participate, the lightbulbs go off… It’s actually quite easy once you see it for yourself.”