If you’re as out of touch as I am, you may have been under the impression that Twitch, the live streaming service, is primarily for teenagers watching each other play Fortnight. But, as I’ve recently become aware, the Twitch community is actually incredibly diverse, and not only is the music community especially active, but, especially in recent weeks, it’s expanding rapidly.
Quarantine guidelines and orders against any kind of nonessential gathering have crippled the entertainment industry, canceling tours and shows and handicapping the livelihoods of musicians and performers at every level. Besides the obvious economic impact, the global quarantines also means that many people are being forced to stay at home, and the lucky ones, the ones who aren’t directly impacted by the virus, are bored on their couches, looking to new platforms for entertainment. Twitch offers at least a partial solution to both of these issues.
Musicians who were forced to cancel upcoming shows and tours have taken to Twitch, in an attempt to recoup some fraction of lost profits- but also to bring live music to fans who are banished to couches, unable to attend concerts.
As an enthusiastic fan, a somewhat avid concertgoer, and a recent addition to the Bored Couch Potato Brigade, I decided to check out what the music community on Twitch has to offer. I have to admit, I was skeptical of whether a livestream on my computer could really encompass the same kind of energy that sparked my love for live shows. Alas, I am a fool. Of course a livestream doesn’t have the same energy as a live show- you’re potentially thousands of miles from the performer and every other audience member. It has an entirely different energy. But it’s still fantastic, entertaining, intimate, and unique.
I watched a pianist write a song in real time. A duet figured out and improvise covers by ear. Diplo DJ’d from his living room, and thousands of people in lieu of swaying lighters, spamming the chat with fire emojis. A Nashville artist, recently big time, who I won’t name, argued with a fan about the viability of shotgunning a White Claw. Then she treated us to a beautiful stripped-down version of an unreleased single. Many of the performances were obviously unrehearsed; they had a spirit of spontaneity and authenticity that’s so often lost in large scale productions, which require a village of people and choreography for every step.
There’s a sort of intimacy to watching a famous artist perform in their own living room. Also, with the recent influx of artists, you get to watch people who have no idea what they’re doing try to figure out how to use Twitch. Just yesterday Kenny Beats accidentally lost his temper with someone for donating money. So that’s amusing.
That’s another thing. Amidst all of this entertainment, there are constant transactions. Like, a shocking amount. Any skepticism I had about Twitch as a viable platform for musicians to earn money evaporated almost instantly. Just about every stream was punctuated by notifications, at very regular intervals, that someone had tipped the streamer. I saw a drummer make hundreds of dollars in one hour of a stream. It probably won’t compensate for the lost wages of countless canceled shows, but, as far as supporting people in the arts, it’s a start. And it’s good to break up the Netflix binges every once in a while. Check it out below.