Michael Olson, SVP, Head Of Music, Twitch

Michael Olson
– Michael Olson

The Disruptors

Executives behind the ideas that disrupt the industry in positive ways.

Michael Olson
SVP, Head Of Music, Twitch  

Even before coronavirus struck, livestreaming platform Twitch, once dominated by gamers, was expanding its music offering.

But the pandemic forced Michael Olson, who assumed leadership of the company’s two-year-old music division last year, to adapt as streaming performances took center stage in the absence of physical shows.

“Over the last few months, with artists and fans both stuck at home, we’ve seen an explosive amount of creativity in our music category,” Olson says. “Artists and producers who may have been skeptical of livestreaming performances now see the long-term value of performing on Twitch.”

Individual artists such as Dropkick Murphys and Code Orange have notched big streaming numbers on Twitch, as have festivals like Luck Reunion and Twitch’s own Twitch Stream Aid, a 12-hour charity stream that raised $2.77 million for the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 Response Fund and featured Garth Brooks, Diplo, Barry Gibb and more.

Meanwhile, performers including Childish Gambino and Dua Lipa have staged album release events via the service, which was launched in 2011 and acquired by Amazon in 2014.

Key to the platform’s offering has been its incorporation of monetization, far from industry-standard before coronavirus and consistently tricky to integrate. Twitch’s three-pronged monetization approach mixes subscriptions, bits (Twitch parlance for tips) and advertising revenue so creators can cash in, and initiatives like “Creator Camp” help musicians hone the art of streaming. Says Olson: “We want to help get as many new artists streaming and monetizing as possible.”

But it’s not all about the Benjamins. Like other social media platforms, Twitch has helped demolish barriers between artist and fan, in turn spurring creativity. Earlier this month, Linkin Park frontman Mike Shinoda released his new album Dropped Frames, created with the help of his Twitch followers, who offered musical suggestions and even submitted vocal tracks and lyrics.

“Twitch isn’t a short-term replacement for live performances,” says Olson, explaining that the “deep and tight-knit community” the platform fosters will keep bolstering discovery, engagement and revenue even when physical touring returns. Twitch Music has accelerated several projects and products, growing its team in the process.

Twitch is “an ongoing and integral part of how artists will interact with fans and other artists in the years to come.”

Hot Takes

The Show That Changed Your Life?

The Beach Boys as a kid – I was hooked.

Best Advice You’ve Ever Received? 

Best: Always be learning.

Best Live Show You Saw This Year?

Stream Aid on Twitch. It was amazing to see the music industry come together on Twitch for a good cause.

Your Favorite Venue To See A Show At And Why?

The Greek Theatre in Berkeley. A summer show with the sunset in the background can’t be beat.

The Role Of Livestreaming Moving Forward?

Connecting artists with a worldwide audience, providing new ways to interact with fans and make money.