Leadoff: Livestreaming Explodes While Fans Wait For Shows To Return

Home Spun:
Greg Schatz
– Home Spun:
Walter Wolfman Washington, a New Orleans legend who played in Lee Dorsey and Johnny Adams’ bands, livestreaming on his porch as part of the city’s “From The Porch Festival.”

If most of us have to be quarantined during these times, there are far worse ways to assuage cabin fever than watching the wealth of livestreamed performance riches currently available. Scaled-down, intimate, diverse by genre, geography and approaches and often communal, many are a welcomed distraction from the news of the day and far more.  
At home with the downhome, this past weekend saw the sublime New Orleans’ Live From The Porch Festival with artists like local legend Walter “Wolfman” Washington howling funky jazz and blues from the front of his house to benefit local gig and cultural economy workers via Facebook Live. The same day brought the awesome sight of Jon Langford, of The Mekons and The Waco Brothers, performing on the back of a moving pickup truck in Chicago for Fitzgerald’s Stay at Home Concert to “support the club, our staff and Jon Langford via Venmo.” A raucous “Quarantine Clash,” i.e. a Jamaican soundclash, between New York’s DJ Bobby Konders and Jamaican selector Jazzy T hosted by Major Lazer’s Walshy Fire via Mad Decent’s Twitch page was filled with friendly braggadocio and respect and something to behold. 
It’s not a huge surprise, then, that the live- stream market is surging far beyond the social media goliaths Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter. The amount of livestreamed content on Twitch, the gaming platform owned by Amazon well positioned to compete in the live music streaming space (see page 12), reaching at least five concurrent viewers jumped nearly 70%, from around 470,000 as of the last week of February to more than 800,000 as of the last week of March, according to analytics agency Esports Charts. While Stageit, a paid-concert-streaming company, earned $884k in the last two weeks alone – more than it made all of last year, according to a report in Variety.
These early days of the livestreaming explosion are a bit Wild West-like, with hugely varying ranges of performances with vastly different audio quality, production value, lighting (see the shadowed Sam Smith during Elton John’s iHeartRadio Living Room Concert), overall entertainment value and interactivity between artist and fans. Performances literally in an artist’s bathroom exist while others emanate from high-end studios and everything in between. 
“Background matters,” says Karen Allen, a livestreaming expert and author of “Twitch For Musicians: A Step-by-Step Guide to Producing a Livestream, Growing Audience, and Making Money as a Musician on Twitch.” 
“It especially matters when you’re still at the level of being discovered and you’re looking for people to discover you. All people have to go on is what they see and what they hear, so having a background needs to be about you. It’s important to make people feel like they’re connecting with you that they understand what you’re all about.”  

– Soundclashing:
DJs Jazzy T and Bobby Konders do battle via Twitch last weekend as part of Diplo’s Mad Decent platform channel.
On Twitch there’s a directory of the current livestreams in the music category which viewers can scroll through to decide which one to watch. While it’s free, Allen says, “Users are prone to experiment, and if they see something that’s cool, they’ll click on it and check it out.”  
And getting checked out on Twitch, ultimately, can mean Benjamins – i.e. monetization. Though there’s no price for entry, viewers can donate to artists and/or use Twitch Bits which can be used to buy “cheermotes,” animated emoticons that pop up on the screen when you give artists tips, or to even buy virtual merchandise (“verch”) as well as subscription packages for artists. 
Allen, who manages an artist named Megan Lenius, says Twitch has changed her client’s career. “She does this full time,” Allen says. “She quit her job a while ago and this is what she does three to five days a week with a couple of hours a session she livestreams. Her audience loves her. There’s at least a few dozen artists I know that do this full time and there’s even more for who it’s a really nice side hustle.” 
In addition to having musical talent, Allen stresses the importance of being an entertainer for livestreams and having an authentic and relatable voice. “If you’re a misanthrope then stick to YouTube and on-demand videos or your mysterious Instagram posts,” she says laughing. “You really can’t hide your personality on livestreaming. You’re hanging out with people for a couple hours at a time. You have to be engaging and be as good as an entertainer as you are a musician. 
“Sometimes people are better entertainers than they are musicians on Twitch and they do great because people go there to be entertained. It’s not a pure play content platform like Spotify where all you have to go on is the music. You’re packaging the music and your personality for people. There’s a lean-in experience and fans like to have conversations with the artist and other fans.” 
In the long run, however, Allen doesn’t believe livestreaming can ever fully edge out the live experience. 
“I really don’t think this replaces live,” she says. “The live show is a completely different experience. When Megan plays live shows, people show up for what she does on stage: she has a set list, a band, lights, a big PA – it’s very different from her playing a song and chatting with people. It’s an elevated version of the streamer you like and that’s worth going out to see.”