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TWITCH TO SCRATCH

Amazon’s acquisition of Twitch for a reported $970 million in 2014 was initially met with a lot of head-scratching. But today, Jeff Bezos once again looks to have been ahead of the curve. A site best known as a place where viewers watch gamers play has begun to demonstrate its potential for music—and with tours and shows of all sizes being postponed or otherwise kiboshed in the Coronavirus era, that potential seems more compelling than ever.

For the gaming community, Twitch is Mecca. Top gaming leagues have matured to the point where the price of admission to field a team can be $3-5 million per team.

Interactivity on the livestreaming site has become highly advanced; for example, fans can buy their favorite gamer a meal and have it delivered while the gamer is still playing the game the fan is watching. Where gamers go, music is sure to follow. The rise of music’s importance on Twitch is evidenced by the fact that as recently as one year ago, the company did not have a dedicated music department. Today Twitch has a music strategy in place and currently hosts 2.3 million active music fans—embracing all genres. 

According to Karen Allen, Twitch evangelist and author of Twitch for Musicians Second Edition, artists and labels are uniquely positioned to grow massive audiences on Twitch in part because the connection that fans crave with artists is so entrenched in the culture of the platform. 

“Community is everything on Twitch,” Allen says. “This is not a place that is looking to enter into a marketing initiative with the biggest star in the world to feature on their platform and grow their audience. Twitch’s motto is ‘You’re Already One of Us;’ the emphasis here is on community and experiential types of interaction between the fan and artists.”  She further notes that “Another word you hear a lot in this world is ‘support,’ as in fans supporting gamers and creators.”

Unlike YouTube, Instagram and Facebook, Twitch is not oversaturated, creating an opportunity for savvy, forward-thinking creators and executives. Additionally, the Discovery tool on Twitch as well as the collaborative spirit of the platform makes artists' livestreams easy to find. A dedicated artist or label, even one starting from scratch, can expect to grow an audience at a rate where the juice is most definitely worth the squeeze. While Twitch isn’t the only livestreaming platform available to artists and labels, one of its other differentiators is that there are a myriad ways to gamify interaction as well as connect an Amazon wish list, affiliate account, merchandise, tickets, Patreon page and just about anything else a music creator can think of to monetize a fan base. If the desired service doesn’t already exist, there’s also a community of developers that can create custom interfacing apps for an artist’s or label’s twitch page

How difficult is it to get started and set up your company or artist on Twitch?  “There is definitely a learning curve,” advises Allen. “Why do you think I wrote a book?” With the ubiquity of livestreaming—and the necessity of creative navigation in the age of COVID-19 self-quarantining—it seems inevitable that this channel will surge to the front of the line for many artists and their reps. Allen’s own estimate is that this could happen within a year’s time, which makes the early adopters look positively prescient.   

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