We have Fans at Home: Artists x Twitch Streaming

On: September 28, 2020
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screenshot of Twitch categories

Thanks to the pandemic, Artists on Twitch is an emerging subculture that utilises the platforms affordances to provide a candid intimated experience for fans, while being able to receive support simultaneously. As always, while individuals are creating content for Twitch, Amazon is also growing its cultural capital and data infrastructure. Technology does provide seemingly useful solutions, but at what cost?

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Alongside the Google-owned video hosting platform YouTube, Amazon-owned Twitch is an increasingly disruptive participatory online media within the same league, that continues to seemingly afford individuals agency within the current media landscape (Sjöblom and Hamari 2017). Twitch is the most prominent live streaming platform that allows broadcasters to produce content for, while interacting with, their audiences in realtime. These interactions include the live chat, donation messages, paid channel subscription functions and on occasion auxiliaries provided by the streamers. Audiences’ motivations to actively participate on Twitch is heavily social and related to the sense of belonging and community cultivated by the high-level of interaction with the streamer’s personality (Hilvert-Bruce et al. 2018). Since their launch in 2011 and as of March 2020, Twitch has amassed 56,000 current unique broadcasters on average at any given time that entertains an average of 1.44 million concurrent viewers (Iqbal 2020). Moreover, similarly to how the cultural significance of YouTube’s top content creators challenge traditional media corporations (Grundberg and Hansegard 2014), Twitch’s top live-streamers demand respect and be valued accordingly as they remain influential to millions of viewers (Gilbert 2020). As a platform, Twitch has afforded a curious environment for two-way communication that showcases the interplay between satisfying the social demands of fandoms and the financial ambitions of their streamers in realtime.

Twitch affords intimacy and comfort…

While Twitch is primarily built on and dominated by video gaming streams and esports broadcasts, this article will discuss an another quickly emerging sub-culture of creators flocking to the platform amidst the COVID-19 pandemic; musical artists (Ingham 2020, Millman 2020, Shaw 2020). Although previously Twitch has been promoting artists on their platform through their ‘Music & Performing Arts’ categorisation, the cancellation of major festivals, concerts, tours and events has brought a lot new traffic attempting to compensate their losses. Serendipitously, Twitch’s infrastructure was already in place for artists, as in the years prior to the pandemic Twitch was hiring former talent from music streaming platforms, Spotify and Pandora (Ingham 2020). Twitch already provided the affordances that artist would need in order to share and the affordances fandoms would need in order to support. In addition to donations, channels have a three-tier monthly subscription system: $4.99 a month, $9.99 a month, or $24.99. Each tier providing their own subscriber privileges. In return for showing support for their favourite artists, fans are able to participate in a more community-driven and interactive entertainment experience that goes beyond performance. Playing to their strengths, Twitch hopes that artists see the platform as a place for candid interaction with their audiences (Shaw 2020). Twitch is attempting to adopt the tested gaming monetisation model which saw gamers ‘hanging out and just having fun with their chat’ to the new subculture of musicians (Ingham 2020). As established artists, such as Kenny Beats, Disclosure, Logic and T-Pain to name a few, begin to use the platform more prominently, it helps Twitch diversify their brand as not only for gamers but for artists as well. Twitch’s appeal to artists will surely outlive the pandemic as more and more artists begin to get aquatinted with the social and revenue functions that platform affords (Sjöblom et al. 2019).

And Amazon will grow a little bigger…

While Twitch has been able to extend the use of their affordances to a sub-culture in need, one should consider the larger media landscape before adopting techno-utopian praise for the platform. Platform capitalism should be questioned as Amazon-owned Twitch is becoming increasingly prominent as a cultural platform and useful to Amazon’s undisputed market power.

Twitch has continuously shown dominance over their competitors such as YouTube live and Facebook live (Perez 2019). As a result of its already relatively large user-base, the platform only gets bigger as new users join the leading platform. This is an example of ‘network effects’ and can help explain why digital platforms have a tendency toward monopolisation (Srnicek 2017). Twitch has already become synonymous with live e-sports tournaments and has established itself within video game culture (Popper 2013). The pandemic has only accelerated Twitch’s newest venture into the mainstream cultural sectors and has seemingly already started a ‘network effect’ amongst established artists and their followers hoping to make the most out of quarantine (Shaw 2020). 

As this article suggest this is an emerging sub-culture within the platform, one must consider the cultural influence that this sub-culture would provide. The space created on their platform for artist is for all intents and purposes an expansion of Twitch’s infrastructure and ultimately Amazon’s digital infrastructure. As the leading online e-commerce site and the company that owns nearly half of the world’s public-cloud infrastructure (Su 2019), Amazon could afford itself more cultural capital via Twitch’s venture into musical artists. As one of the leading live streaming services, datafication on Twitch provides immense behavioural insights into only to approach content on the platform (Poell, 2019). However Twitch’s data infrastructure does not only inform itself and Amazon, but Amazon’s informs Twitch. This creates an unbelievably powerful relationship of data infrastructures that Amazon can further leverage to further venture into. Furthermore, the introduction of musical artist into Amazon’s resources may provide solutions to Twitch’s recent dispute with music right holders (Barker 2020). While Twitch has received scrutiny for allowing their streamers to use copyrighted music in unauthorised ways, known artists on Twitch are pushing back and encouraging streamers to use their music made on Twitch (Asarch 2020, Salaun 2020)

All in all…

Artists on Twitch is an emerging subculture that utilises the platforms affordances to provide a candid intimated experience for fans, while being able to receive support simultaneously. While the pandemic may have drawn many artists initially, the familiarity with the platform will surely convince some to make it a part of their income. Nevertheless, while individuals are creating content for Twitch, Amazon is also growing its cultural capital and data infrastructure. While technology does provide seemingly useful solutions, how much of our data are we sacrificing for these opportunities. 

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Work Cited.

Asarch, Steven. 2020. “T-Pain Encourages Twitch Streamers to Use His New Beats With His ‘Blessing.’” Newsweek. June 16, 2020. https://www.newsweek.com/t-pain-encourages-twitch-streamers-use-his-new-beats-his-blessing-1511219.

Asarch, Steven. 2020. “T-Pain Encourages Twitch Streamers to Use His New Beats With His ‘Blessing.’” Newsweek. June 16, 2020. https://www.newsweek.com/t-pain-encourages-twitch-streamers-use-his-new-beats-his-blessing-1511219.

Barker, Alex. 2020. “Music Labels and Artists Confront Jeff Bezos over Twitch Royalties.” Financial Times. August 10, 2020. https://www.ft.com/content/7fe6f909-7a9f-4ca6-8c04-288065d1af8f.

Gilbert, Ben. 2020. “Ninja Just Signed a Multi-Year Exclusivity Contract with Twitch – Business Insider.” Business Insider. October 9, 2020. https://www.businessinsider.com/ninja-signs-multi-year-exclusivity-contract-with-amazon-twitch-2020-9?international=true&r=US&IR=T.

Grundberg, Sven, and Jens Hansegard. 2014. “YouTube Star Plays Videogames, Earns $4 Million a Year – WSJ.” The Wall Street Journal. June 16, 2014. https://www.wsj.com/articles/youtube-star-plays-videogames-earns-4-million-a-year-1402939896.

Hilvert-Bruce, Zorah, James T. Neill, Max Sjöblom, and Juho Hamari. 2018. “Social Motivations of Live-Streaming Viewer Engagement on Twitch.” Computers in Human Behavior 84 (July): 58–67. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2018.02.013.

Iqbal, Mansoor. 2020. “Twitch Revenue and Usage Statistics (2020) – Business of Apps.” Business of Apps. July 23, 2020. https://www.businessofapps.com/data/twitch-statistics/.

Ingham, Tim. 2020. “Can Twitch ‘Change the Economics’ for Artists? – Rolling Stone.” Rolling Stone. May 18, 2020. https://www.rollingstone.com/pro/features/twitch-music-business-economics-1001225/.

Millman, Ethan. 2020. “Coronavirus Is Giving Livestreaming the Chance to Prove Itself.” Rolling Stone. March 17, 2020. https://www.rollingstone.com/pro/features/coronavirus-livestreaming-concerts-967169/.

Perez, Sarah. 2019. “Twitch Continues to Dominate Live Streaming with Its Second-Biggest Quarter to Date.” TechCrunch. July 12, 2019. https://techcrunch.com/2019/07/12/twitch-continues-to-dominate-live-streaming-with-its-second-biggest-quarter-to-date/?guccounter=1&guce_referrer=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuZ29vZ2xlLmNvbS8&guce_referrer_sig=AQAAAKStnXDBU-Yi5CmfeCTDa5N9lC2Xnlxq5uQhc5mxloIdhucEx6sEMQmGfi5ToSX0ZcdaY66H8Qaut7mgm-i1erAPu8ySlbNh5vGYRyW2S9eMdrkzvIgpPylqW9uj7LytU0VGYBc5XFEU5I9N0m1YOaNvV6xHUyPjgwQfFMwGyOX9.

Poell, Thomas, David Nieborg, and José van Dijck. 2019. “Platformisation.” Internet Policy Review 8 (4). https://doi.org/10.14763/2019.4.1425.

Popper, Ben. 2013. “Field of Streams: How Twitch Made Video Games a Spectator Sport | The Verge.” The Verge. September 30, 2013. https://www.theverge.com/2013/9/30/4719766/twitch-raises-20-million-esports-market-booming.

Salaun, Theo. 2020. “Logic Slams UMG for Not Letting Ninja & Twitch Streamers Play His Music | Dexerto.” Dexerto. September 19, 2020. https://www.dexerto.com/entertainment/logic-slams-umg-for-not-letting-ninja-twitch-streamers-play-his-music-1421512.

Shaw, Lucas. 2020. “Twitch’s Streaming Boom Is Jolting the Music Industry.” Bloomberg. June 18, 2020. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-06-18/twitch-s-streaming-boom-is-jolting-the-music-industry.

Sjöblom, Max, and Juho Hamari. 2017. “Why Do People Watch Others Play Video Games? An Empirical Study on the Motivations of Twitch Users.” Computers in Human Behavior 75 (October): 985–96. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2016.10.019.

Sjöblom, Max, Maria Törhönen, Juho Hamari, and Joseph Macey. 2019. “The Ingredients of Twitch Streaming: Affordances of Game Streams.” Computers in Human Behavior 92 (March): 20–28. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2018.10.012.

Srnicek, Nick. 2017. Platform Capitalism. Cambridge, UK: Polity. (Chapter “Platform Capitalism”)

Su, Jeb. 2019. “Amazon Owns Nearly Half Of The Public-Cloud Infrastructure Market Worth Over $32 Billion: Report.” August 2, 2019. https://www.forbes.com/sites/jeanbaptiste/2019/08/02/amazon-owns-nearly-half-of-the-public-cloud-infrastructure-market-worth-over-32-billion-report/.

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