Another update: Sessions has shut down. If you're feeling nostalgic, give this article a read. But yeah, it's donezo.
Update: Sessions has changed quite a bit since these articles were posted. In order to keep up with the most up-to-date rates for compensation and monetization of your livestreams, we recommend going straight to the source. Long story short, you can still get paid from getting "Love" from fans, and you can still get bonuses directly from Sessions, but those rates and incentives can change really at any moment (and they have).
Sessions is a livestreaming platform designed specifically for live music. It's like if you logged on to Twitch, or Facebook Live, or YouTube Live, but ALL you saw were musicians playing shows for their fans.
If you don't know, Sessions was co-founded by Tim Westergren, a respected music industry veteran who also founded Pandora Internet radio before leaving in 2017. Westergren recently spoke to Pollstar about Sessions and shared a few interesting facts and figures.
But before we get to what he said (and how much of it you should put stock in), let's look at some of the platform's recent developments.
So What's Up With Sessions?
Though still in its beta phase, Sessions has developed quite a bit since the early parts of beta. While artists used to have to start by actually going live on YouTube, pretty much everything about the app is now "in house," so to speak.
Artists now go live using OBS directly from the Sessions dashboard. They still get paid from fan "Love" (virtual tipping), of which Sessions takes 30%. The artists they call "Touring Artists" still get a guaranteed amount of love per hour — up to $48 per week over 6 hours. Oh, and they're still running leaderboard contests with bonuses.
Sessions is still hosting artist-friendly virtual "town halls" to help answer questions, and much of the payout timeframe and everything is still in place. They also launched a Zendesk site (again, edit, donezo). However, Sessions is on the verge of some big changes.
New Payout Structures
Last week, Sessions announced that over the next few months, the platform is going to change the way artists get paid. Specifically, they're introducing an "Artist Leveling and Reward" overhaul.
The TL;DR of it all is that there will now be 10 levels artists can achieve. Each level unlocks better monetization, an increasing number of paid shows, and more. Artists achieve levels by unlocking points, and points cycle over 10 weeks.
If this all sounds like they're turning livestreaming into even more of a game, well, you're right. Gamifying platforms has become increasingly popular as a way to incentivize participation. While Sessions hasn't revealed any specific numbers when it comes to payouts, the platform has stressed that artists won't receive any less guaranteed money than they are now (if they continue to stream at the same rate).
Artists will start seeing the new changes in the coming months.
What Hasn't Changed With Sessions (or Changed For The Worse)?
There are still some serious growing pains in the app. For starters, streamers can't currently see how many people are watching them. The best way is to look at the "party" and estimate it (seriously).
While streamers used to get in front of dozens to hundreds of people at once, you're now more likely to only stream for 10-20 after a few hours. Sessions has been fairly mum on this change, though it's pretty apparent the app has changed its focus on how it brings eyeballs to the platform. It also officially separated from NEXT Music, a separate game where Sessions livestreams also used to live.
The app still doesn't have pretty much any data around streams, either. Meaning you don't get a summary of how long you streamed or how many people watched (or even the total amount of Love you received). Sessions is still incredibly far behind competitors like Twitch when it comes to that.
And the actual interactive component of the stream isn't great. For instance, on Twitch, streamers can allow people in chat to interact with the stream, share things on screen, gift subscriptions and much more. Right now, Sessions still pretty much relies entirely on a very basic chat with very basic monetization opportunities.
So What Did Tim Say To Pollstar?
Tim Westergren told Pollstar that some artists are making between $5,000 and $20,000 per show on Sessions. This number requires a HUGE caveat. For starters, some of the artists coming over to play shows on Sessions are already very well known (like Icona Pop) or have huge online followings (like Loren Gray).
Unless you typically make thousands of dollars when you try to monetize an online appearance, you will NOT make that money on Sessions. At least not for a long time.
Westergren says some of the top "amateurs" on the app are making $500 an hour. While this seems more reasonable, this is also the same line they were selling when the app first launched. The vast majority of artists on the app probably make closer to $5-15 an hour streaming (assuming they get some bonus Love as Touring Artists from Sessions itself).
Westergren did share some really helpful thoughts on the livestreaming environment and how to be equitable to artists in the digital economy, though. It's worth reading the article to see what he said. Just, you know, separate the salesman stuff a bit and don't let your takeaway be "I can make hundreds of dollars an hour on Sessions right now??"
What Does This Mean For Me?
That depends. One takeaway is that Sessions doesn't seem to be going away, and that's a very good thing. Especially after Microsoft shut down Mixer. Musicians will need platforms like Sessions to compete with or provide an alternative to the bigger companies if they're ever really going to be able to diversify their online presence.
Does that mean you should immediately start streaming on Sessions? Again, it depends. If you're not livestreaming anywhere right now and you want to get your feet wet, becoming a Touring Artist and putting your efforts into leading people to your Sessions streams could be a good start. It is decidedly less intimidating than Twitch, even if Twitch has a much bigger upside.
But what it really comes down to is this: if you haven't bought into increasing your digital presence as an artist, you need to. Whether it's some place new like Sessions or some place tried and true. Your best opportunity to make money as an artist will almost always come from being seen by your fans. Sessions is one of many potential tools for that.