If you haven't heard, livestreaming is a serious business. The money on Twitch is real. And it's only getting bigger.
Headlines about the top streamers striking huge deals, appearing in Hollywood films, increasing revenue year on year etc. seem to dominate the conversation around livestreaming's move into the entertainment market.
But what about smaller streamers? After all, revenue in livestreaming is (like the music industry) largely dominated by the few at the very top. But that doesn't mean there isn't great potential for smaller streamers to build revenue on the platform.
In fact, RootNote co-founder Jeremy Burchard made an in-depth video detailing exactly how much his band Moonlight Social earned on Twitch as a smaller streamer in 2021 and published it to Moonlight Social's YouTube account. Here's the video below breaking down how much an account averaging 15 concurrent viewers in 2021 earned, plus some key takeaways.
Money On Twitch For Smaller Streamers
First, it's important to define "smaller streamers." With livestreaming on platforms like Twitch and YouTube, there are so many potential metrics to determine where you currently fall within the scope of "size."
For instance, you could use something like followers — but as Jeremy points out, that's a misleading number. On Twitch, a follower doesn't always translate to an engaged viewer, just like an Instagram or TikTok follower doesn't always translate to somebody who will see your content. You may only see 1% of a streamer's follower number actually concurrently watching — and even then, not all concurrent viewers are followers.
Concurrent viewers is probably the best stat to determine a streamer's size because the number is most immediately visible — and because having more concurrent viewers usually (but not always) results in more revenue. It's also important to note that different Twitch streaming categories command different audiences.
So having 10 concurrent viewers in a massively popular video game channel may be much more difficult than having 10 concurrent viewers in a game where viewers can join in. Or, for instance, the top music streamers may flirt with 1,000 concurrent viewers, while top streamers in other places hit three to five times that with regularity. But music streamers also tend to do a better job of monetizing streams and delivering value for things like tips.
Moonlight Social made nearly $9,000 in 2021, almost all of which went back into the band bank account to pay for band expenses.
Subscribers Are A Double-Edged Sword
In most cases, subscribers are the lifeblood of a stream's health. Because subscribers indicate viewers who are both excited to support the stream financially and want to have deeper engagement within the stream.
On Twitch, the typical perks for becoming a subscriber include watching that stream free of ads, gaining access to special emotes (think much more fun and customized emojis) to share in stream, and getting additional visual flair/status in chat.
Beyond that, streamers can also choose to reward subscribers with things like a subscriber-only chat, or even subscriber-only streams. They can also come up with their own perks, including ways subscribers can interact with the stream, like granting song requests, changing overlays, playing sounds on stream, and more. The possibilities are essentially endless. And when somebody subscribes to a stream, it generally indicates they are passionate about the stream and will continue to show up when they can.
But Twitch has the worst revenue split for subscribers of any streaming platform. Twitch and the streamer split the revenue 50/50 in almost all cases — but that's after fees, meaning a $5 subscriber will yield less than half that in a streamer's bank account. In Moonlight Social's case, it averaged out to about $2.40 due to fees etc.
There have been some vocal moves to make the subscriber split more fair to streamers, who do the vast majority of the work in making subscriptions worth it for viewers. Streamers are asking for a more reasonable 70/30 split of subscriber revenue, which would align the platform closer with competitors like YouTube.
The Revenue Twitch Pays You Is Only Part Of The Story
Perhaps the biggest takeaway from the video above relates to the opportunity to earn money on Twitch via other platforms. Moonlight Social, for instance, earned more money streaming on Twitch from a PayPal donation link than from Twitch's built-in monetization.
Jeremy also mentions things like viewers becoming members of the Patreon club and buying items from the band's Shopify store. In other words, Twitch viewers are true fans who want to support streamers — but streamers have to provide the opportunity and value for viewers to support on other levels.
At the end of the day, livestreaming is a commitment, both in terms of time, energy, and resources. It may take a while to build up both the confidence and viewership to start seeing meaningful revenue. But once you do, the support you get from viewers can be much more impactful than simply relying on passive income from platforms like Spotify and YouTube.