‘The music industry can feel like playing the lottery for musicians. But those building communities on Twitch are getting rewarded.’

It’s no secret that some Twitch streamers are making a lot of money on the platform.

This was highlighted, albeit unscrupulously, by alleged hackers last month when a list revealing those Twitch creators earning millions of dollars leaked on a 125 gigabyte torrent file.

The platform’s revenue-generating potential for musicians specifically was made clear back in April by Twitch itself.

Twitch teamed up with former Spotify Chief Economist Will Page on the Rockonomics report. It claimed, as Tracy Chan, VP, Head of Music at Twitch, explains, that “artists can monetize three to 15 times [their income from] other streaming services on a per-hour basis” on Twitch.

Now, Twitch has announced that it is launching a livestreaming incubator program for artists, in partnership with DIY distributors like TuneCore , DistroKid and UnitedMasters. This comes against a backdrop of a booming indie artist sector.

So should record labels be worried about Twitch’s potential to offer artists an alternative to a ‘traditional route’ to market?

Speaking to MBW, Twitch’s Tracy Chan calls the platform’s new incubator program “part of our ongoing efforts to invest in music, help innovative music creators build their communities, help them earn money and build successful careers on Twitch”.

Chan, who joined the Amazon-owned live-streaming platform from Spotify last year, calls Twitch an “amazing opportunity for musicians to really connect and interact with their fans”.

“We’re seeing incredible monetization when artists really lean forward to build communities,” he says.

Via its new incubator program The Collective, Twitch will also work with partners such as: Amazon Music; instant messaging and digital distribution platform Discord; Rolling Stone; and UnitedMasters to “source, educate, and highlight” musicians on the platform.

An application to join the incubator is open to the public and Chan also tells MBW that its DIY distributor partners “will help [Twitch] identify talent from promising artists who use their services”.

After graduating from the incubator, Twitch says that artists will receive ongoing support and investment, and will also be prioritized for discovery opportunities, promotion, live activations and more.

To put the weight of being promoted to Twitch’s vast audience into numerical context, according to TwitchTracker.com, the platform attracted 2.7m concurrent viewers on average in October and has, in total, seen 1.289 billion minutes of content watched on its platform so far this year.

The launch of the program comes at a time when Twitch appears to be making significant strides in the music industry, striking its first major label partnership with Warner Music Group in September, as well as a deal with the National Music Publishers Association that same month.

It would be remiss not to note however, that these deals, and indeed the new incubator program, follow various music-related copyright issues faced by Twitch over the past couple of years due to music being played in the background of on-demand videos.

Nonetheless, Twitch, still not fully licensed, is getting closer and closer to the music business and its artists.

Here, Tracy Chan tells us about the livestreaming platform’s new artist incubator program, his response to critics of the platform, and Twitch’s objectives for the future…


THE COLLECTIVE IS AN ARTIST INCUBATOR PROGRAM. WHAT EXACTLY DOES THAT MEAN?

The Collective really is a three-pronged program. First, we have ‘Invite Only’ collectives. We will be inviting select musicians to join exclusive collectives, based upon complementary backgrounds and genre and career stages.

So they can work and learn together to maximise and monetize their time and community on Twitch. We see this as no different than a lot of collectives [that] musicians join today to help with creativity.

“Once we have created these collectives, we will help [artists] learn the livestream playbook for music.”

Once we have created these collectives, we will help [artists] learn the livestream playbook for music. They will be getting help and advice and support directly from the Twitch Music team, along with top industry partners and mentors who will guide each member of the collective in navigating the new world of streaming.

[They will also] teach them how musicians are building these live interactive communities and monetizing their fans directly, which again, is this new medium for musicians.

Once members graduate from The Collective, they will get ongoing Twitch investment and support.

As each of their channels progresses, they’ll receive support in the form of prioritized discovery opportunities, promotion, and live activations from some of our partners like Rolling Stone.


CAN WE EXPECT MORE ANNOUNCEMENTS OF PARTNERSHIPS, perhaps WITH MAJOR RECORD COMPANIES, IN THE NEAR FUTURE?

We’re talking with all of our partners actively, so nothing to announce right now. But you can expect to have more in the future.


Credit: Caspar Camille Rubin
YOU MENTIONED PART THE PROGRAM WILL INCLUDE TEACHING ARTISTS HOW TO EARN MONEY FROM THEIR FANS DIRECTLY. HOW MUCH OF AN UNTAPPED OPPORTUNITY DO YOU THINK DIRECT MONETIZATION IS FOR ARTISTS, PARTICULARLY IN THE CONTEXT OF TWITCH BUT ALSO GENERALLY IN THE MUSIC INDUSTRY?

There’s a couple of interesting facets to that. Earlier in the year, we partnered with Will Page to understand the economics of Twitch relative to other sources.

What his findings were, were that on Twitch, artists can monetize three to 15 times that [of] other streaming services on a per hour basis. So there’s the actual opportunity to monetize on Twitch directly from your fan base.

One of the metrics that we track is how many artists are making $50,000 or more per year. We look at the median concurrent audience for those artists [on Twitch]… and it’s 183 fans. Contrasted with tens of millions of streams on a music streaming service.

“From January 2020 to February 2021, in the core pandemic months, the number of artists making $25,000 or more [on Twitch] grew 1,635%.”

There is a massive potential to earn quite a bit of money with a core passionate fan base. That’s a lot of what this program is about: How do you build that community? How do you interact with them in order for them to show you that support?

What we’ve seen, and why we were inspired to create The Collective is that from January 2020 to February 2021, in the core pandemic months, the number of artists making $25,000 or more [on Twitch] grew 1,635% so we know that there is a really big opportunity.

We see Twitch as an opportunity to engage your fan base and make real money. We think that there’s a huge potential for artists. And again, it’s all about interacting with the fans and building a community. What we’re seeing on Twitch is, passion trumps scale.


DO YOU WANT TO GET TO THE POINT IN THE FUTURE WHERE TWITCH IS SEEN BY EMERGING ARTISTS AS THE PLATFORM TO TRY TO BREAK GLOBALLY?

First and foremost, Twitch is actually great for any size artist. There’s artists like T Pain and he was really leveraging Twitch for monetization specifically and to be able to connect and get to know his fans.

We have a lot of large artists who are on here, not only to interact with their fans, but create as well. We have Mike Shinoda from Linkin Park. He created three EPs with his community. Ultimately, artists have different goals and depending on what the goal of the artist is, Twitch really has a place there.

When it comes to emerging artists, we do think that there is a huge potential to have Twitch as a place where you can start to build and hone your craft and build your community. It can be a launching off point.

There’s a lot of opportunity for artists on Twitch if they don’t want to go down the traditional route. You know, ‘I’m trying to get signed, I try to get on playlists and try to go on tour”. Like, that is an awesome path, but it’s really limited to the few.

Again, the median concurrent audience, for those making $50,000 or more is 183 fans. Being able to earn money from something that you love just gives you options in your career. Whether it’s making Twitch the centre of it, or making Twitch a part of it, ultimately, community and monetization give artists options.


WE’VE BEEN COVERING TWITCH FOR A FEW YEARS NOW AND MUSIC IS OBVIOUSLY A VERY STRONG FOCUS FOR your. YOU’VE RECENTLY SIGNED A DEAL WITH WARNER MUSIC GROUP AND YOU’VE EXPLAINED YOUR MUSIC STRATEGY, BUT WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO CRITICS OF THE PLATFORM WHEN IT COMES TO COPYRIGHT ISSUES THAT TWITCH HAS HAD TO DEAL WITH IN THE PAST?

The really important lesson, especially over the last year, is that Twitch is something new, and it’s something that the industry and artists are getting familiar with.

This is what the Collective is largely about. It’s helping artists specifically understand what the possibilities are. What are the opportunities to get to know your fans, to build a community, to monetize directly.

We see this as an evolution of the music industry where it’s: “I’m uploading my music to a place and then maybe I get placed on a playlist and maybe I get a royalty check at the end.”

“Right now, the music industry can feel like playing the lottery for musicians. What we’re seeing is musicians who put in the work, who are innovative, who are building communities [on Twitch], they are getting rewarded.”

Right now, the music industry can feel like playing the lottery for musicians. What we’re seeing is musicians who put in the work, who are innovative, who are building communities [on Twitch], they are getting rewarded.

To answer your question, we really believe in this world.  We’ve seen the proof points in all the artists who are being very, very successful.

We’ve been working with our partners to help them understand the opportunities that they can have, leveraging this Twitch audience that just loves music, that want to support their favourite creators, and can actually create quite a bit of opportunity for artists, labels and publishers alike.


IS THE HOPE IN THE FUTURE TO BE A FULLY LICENSED SERVICE?

We’re continuing to talk with rightsholders and like you mentioned, we struck a deal with Warner Music Group. We struck a deal with the NMPA.

“We’re doing partnerships in ways that really make sense for our service. And there isn’t a lot of precedent for it.”

What we think is really important is that we’re doing partnerships in ways that really make sense for our service. And there isn’t a lot of precedent for it.

Most services out there are video-on-demand and they have certain structures. We are a live service. We have core monetization, we have live interaction.

How our platform functions is very different than other services. That’s the progress that we’ve been making with these industry groups.Music Business Worldwide