Is Twitch Performing the New Live Music?

Livestreaming Platform is Gaining Traction as a Paying Performance Venue

Six months into a pandemic, musicians have been some of those hardest hit by the worldwide quarantine. The majority of a musician’s income derives from playing live shows, but if every venue is closed and large gatherings are banned, how can an artist make money performing?

Enter Twitch. Twitch, the world’s leading livestreaming platform for gamers, has recently evolved into a paying performance venue for musicians. “Twitch is where millions of people come together live every day to chat, interact, and make their own entertainment together,” as the channel says of itself. Twitching for musicians is not just about getting in front of a camera and a mic and performing — it is about interacting with fans, creating a community, expanding your brand and fan base, continuing to perform despite the COVID shutdowns and, perhaps most important, it provides income. And this has been one of the platform’s biggest draws for quarantined musicians.

Joe Altier, known professionally as “Just Joe,” uses his Twitch channel to keep performing, on his own and as part of the Bogart Artist Network.

“It’s been amazing to see that money’s been coming into my account on a weekly basis,” said singer and pianist Joe Altier of Syracuse, NY, known professionally as “Just Joe.” “Now it’s a legitimate part of my income to the point that when everything pulls back [to normal after COVID], I may be a full-time Twitcher and my side things will be going out and actually playing gigs.”

Altier has been a musician for 20 years and has created different arms of income along the way — from performing live, to merchandising, to Facebook transactions and advertising — but the COVID pandemic is what pushed him towards Twitch. Another Twitch artist with a similar story is Jess Novak, also from Syracuse. In fact, Altier is the one who suggested Novak try the platform out.

“Twitch has provided a whole new world of opportunities for me,” said Novak, who sings and plays guitar and fiddle. “Suddenly, I can play shows from home to audiences all over the world. Listeners have also been very generous with tips and streaming offers great opportunity for sponsorships.”

And that is how the money is made. Anyone can watch a Twitch artist for free, but artists offer subscriptions, from which viewers get more perks. Twitch broadcasters can apply for the Twitch partnership program, which enables them to get a cut from the advertisement and subscription revenue received by Twitch. Artists can also receive tips/donations via PayPal and Venmo from their viewers and subscribers.

Still, building an audience takes time and effort, and both Novak and Altier have joined a new artist network on Twitch that has already helped them expand their respective audiences and brands. The Bogart Artist Network works with artists to help them launch a Twitch channel, learn how to monetize their streams, and improve their promotion, marketing, and branding.

The Bogart Artist Network is a great opportunity for artists to launch on Twitch, a great platform for musicians to monetize their livestreams.

Bogart, a brand that makes disposable, one-hitter pipes, is owned by Ultivara, a sales and marketing growth agency. Bogart’s artist program happened completely because of the COVID quarantines, and how the shutdown of commerce affected artists, according to Ultivara Director of Business Development Ben Reilly. “Our CEO Lee Buttoph saw a Facebook post from a musician saying his entire career has been wiped out because of COVID, and he had no idea how he would work through it. Lee said to me, ‘This is something we need to address. We need to help artists be artists and be creative in the way they can showcase their talents. I want to figure out a way to do this.’”

So the Ultivara team created an action plan for the Twitch artist program and reached out to local musicians where they are located in Syracuse, NY. “We were able to spin up this artist series and we said, wait a minute, we have a brand in Bogart that fits pretty well with musicians, that are now out of work. We think there’s a real synergy there to be able to support them with the Bogart brand, give them the platform of Twitch and give them the expertise and equipment to potentially be successful on a new platform,” Reilly said. “Joe and Jess are our two brightest examples of what can be done when people are open-minded, have a boatload of talent, and can cultivate a community on a new platform. It’s been very inspirational to watch.”

“I don’t know where I’d be without them,” Altier said of his affiliation with Bogart. “The early parts of Twitch were really driven by Bogart and them propping me up and me giving back by enabling them to launch this new product. Their constant support to this day has been unbelievable.”

“Twitch has provided a whole new world of opportunities for me,” said Jess Novak, who sings and plays guitar and fiddle.

Novak agreed. “Working with a company can be really challenging, but with Bogart it was about instant trust—and that goes a long way,” she said. “It felt like a partnership, not somebody telling me what to do. I love that every artist they bring on board they are really into: They come on the streams, they encourage us to be ourselves, they request original songs. It means everything to work with a company that cares.”

Novak, who performs on her Twitch channel every day, has found that Twitch has opened up new opportunities for her as a musician. “I need to be in front of people. Twitch provided that and also provided me a space where I could get immediate feedback and reactions to new songs,” she said. “It also allowed me to suddenly reach people all over the world and fans of mine who live out of state. Now, I can play to them every day and it’s easy to continue growing. … This is how people succeed now — virtually.”

Altier agreed. “Now I have fans all over the country, all over the state, all over the world, and people that would have never discovered me if I had just been out playing five or six days a week around New York,” he said. “It’s made my brand blow up and expand beyond what I could have even imagined.” He also said the interactiveness and the community of Twitch has actually reinvigorated him as an artist. Instead of being out grinding six days a week and maybe playing in the corner of a bar where few people are listening or interacting with him, now he has a “constant engagement” with his fans through his Twitch channel.

“In order to build a successful Twitch channel, it’s about building that community,” he said. “That’s what going to sustain you. It’s like everything else: You’ve got to build a fan base; you’ve got to make them feel special — and that has been the greatest part. You don’t just turn on the camera and show off your talent. People want more than that. That’s what Twitch is about. Once you build that community, that sense of connection with people, your success is just going to build.”

Reilly said Bogart, which currently has four artists in its network, sees no limit to where this artistic collaboration can go. “I think what’s fun about this is that we’re starting to see potentially a hybrid model when it comes to entertainment,” he said. “We’re seeing some of our artists actually take their Twitch channels on the road where they’re starting to book more live events and they’re starting to do more traditional entertainment. A lot of them will just pop up their laptop or their cell phone and bring their Twitch audience with them. … So it’s kind of created this hybrid entertainment model, which we didn’t anticipate. We had no idea that the artists would even think about doing this. So I think it’s just another added dynamic layer that could potentially turn into a long-term thing where you have artists or bands or people talking into their phones while they’re on the stage, because they have an entirely new unlimited audience that’s coming out of that phone. So that’s been really a fun thing to watch.”



What is the Bogart artist program?

The Bogart artist network offers a live interview/set on the whyBogart twitch channel with host Mark Eischen. After which, musicians can perform regular sets on the whyBogart Twitch channel, where Bogart’s team advertises the artist’s show to our 15K+ network, and receive tips and subscriptions from the audience. The network is supported by musicians who have their own regular, well-known livestreams that support each other through cross-promotions and raids. Overall, the Bogart artist network is a great opportunity for artists to launch on Twitch, a great platform for musicians to monetize their livestreams.

Steps to joining the artist network
Step 1: Text artist to 844-471-0001 to apply for the Bogart program. Their team will get back to you if there is a fit for our show
Step 2: Mark invites them you to livestream with him on whyBogart’s channel.
Step 3: After the show, shortlisted candidates can perform regular sets on our channel.

A career journalist, Jason has worked as a reporter, editor, photographer, designer, and publisher in multiple forms of journalism, including newspaper, newsletter, website, and magazine. In his spare time, Jason is a historian who writes articles and books about Abraham Lincoln and his family.

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