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What You Need To Know About Streaming Music On Twitch

June 30, 2020

Streaming music on Twitch has grown tremendously in popularity in the recent months, and for good reason.

Twitch is the most popular livestreaming platform in the world. Nearly four million people have broadcasted on Twitch with 140 million monthly viewers. While it’s most popular with gamers (where it has its roots), Twitch has very popular channel categories like “Just Chatting,” “Music & Performing Arts,” “Talk Shows & Podcasts,” and more. Twitch recently added a “Music” section to the top of its site, a symbolic but important addition that indicate’s the company’s commitment to developing the music side of its platform.

You can watch Twitch on mobile or desktop, but most people watch on desktop (which is part of the reason the monetization opportunities are so much better). More than 3/4 of the users on the platform are male, with most of them falling between the ages of 18 to 35. It’s very rare that somebody is on the platform ONLY to watch music.

Seriously — Twitch is its own world. It’s also the main place where artists you’ve never heard of have been making full-time livings streaming music on Twitch from their homes. Many of them for several years.

Twitch is easily the most monetizable of all livestreaming platforms. It also has one of the highest learning curves, both in terms of understanding the culture and understanding how to put on a really great show.

How Hard Is It To Stream Music On Twitch

There's a pretty steep learning curve when it comes to understanding the technical mechanisms and actual culture of the platform. Case in point? You don’t even technically use Twitch to “produce” your stream in most cases (unless you’re on mobile).

When streaming music on Twitch, you typically set up your stream in a separate piece of software. Twitch then gives you a stream key which you plug in to that software in order to send your stream to Twitch, where people view it. Think of your home as a television studio. You use a piece of software (most commonly OBS) that is a lot like the studio’s broadcast booth, which sends your stream to Twitch. In this case, Twitch is a more like a cable provider with tens of thousands of channels (including yours). Twitch has recently launched their own version of “OBS” to help beginning streamers get started.

Twitch isn’t the only platform to operate this way. In fact, it’s the most common and professional way to operate a stream. It opens up a world of opportunities in terms of productions quality, interactivity, and monetization. Plus, once you learn OBS you can use the software to send similarly professional streams to other platforms like Facebook and YouTube (heck, there’s even a new piece of free software that will allow you to send an OBS stream to Instagram Live).

The good news is that, technically speaking, if you can figure out streaming music on Twitch via OBS, you can probably figure out how to stream anywhere. It will set you up for future success on any live platform. But it does take time and a decent amount of trial and error.

The other side of the learning curve is the culture of Twitch itself — including how you make money and grow on the platform, which we’ll talk about next.

How Do You Make Money Streaming Music On Twitch

Twitch has monetization down. You get paid from Twitch in three primary ways (though there are more), and you also have the opportunity to make money directly from fans (more on that in a second).

You used to have to achieve a certain set of metrics to be eligible to get paid by Twitch (what is called being an “Affiliate”), but Twitch recently partnered with several organizations like BandsInTown and SoundCloud in order to help artists fast-track that process and get straight to Affiliate status.

Currently, if you have at least 2,000 trackers on BandsInTown, you can become a Twitch Affiliate instantly. Likewise, SoundCloud Pro, SoundCloud Premiere, and Repost creators can all become Twitch Affiliates instantly. If you don’t meet either of those criteria and don’t want to sign up for SoundCloud’s various services, you can still become an Affiliate by hitting these milestones:

  1. Gain 50 followers on the platform
  2. Maintain an average of 3 concurrent viewers over your streams
  3. Stream for at least 500 minutes (a little over 8 hours) over 7 unique days within a 30-day period. Cool, now that’s out of the way, MONEY.

You get paid from Twitch for how many subscribers you have, how many bits (virtual currency) your viewers give you, and how many eyes you put in front of the ads they run. Fans can subscribe on three different Tiers ($4.99, $9.99, and $24.99). You get 50% of their subscription fee as an Affiliate. So if you have 50 Tier 1 ($4.99) subscribers for the month of August, you’d get paid a little under $125. Users can also “gift subs” to other people and if you’re an Amazon Prime member you get one free sub per month (though you have to manually re-subscribe every month). People with more subs eventually command better rates for them, too (meaning they make more than 50%).

Bits are a currency that Twitch sells to its users. Users can then give them to you in the form of “cheers.” You get paid for that. It’s Twitch’s digital, interactive tip jar.

As far as what you make for getting bits, it’s a 1 to 1 conversion in that 1 bit is 1 U.S. penny. So if somebody cheers 100 bits, you’ll get $1. Why do viewers buy bits at a premium (for instance, 500 bits currently costs users $7 even though it’s only “worth” $5)? Because bits are interactive on the stream, meaning you can incentivize users to give you bits by unlocking features. It also helps users stand out from others, have their name flash on the screen etc. It’s part of that culture thing, remember?

The third most common way you get paid streaming music on Twitch is for advertising. Unless somebody subscribes to you, they have to watch an ad when they click on your stream. As a streamer, you also have the option to intermittently play advertisements during your stream (a great chance for a bathroom break etc.). When you run ads during your stream, you disable the “pre-roll” ads for 20 minutes, allowing new viewers to come into the stream right away without watching an ad.

Realistically, advertising is not a particularly big source of income for most Affiliate streamers. If you stream to an average of 100 people (that’s a lot and not easy to achieve) for 10 hours a week and run 3 ads per hour, you might expect to make an extra $200-300 per month in ad revenue. This is just a ballpark figure but it should give you an idea. It’s not nothing, but you’re probably not quitting your job from Twitch advertising alone.

There are also ways to make money from Twitch by affiliate fees from game sales and “bounties,” as well as directly from “extensions” (like add-ons) you put on your stream, but *most* of these are more applicable to streamers who focus on streaming game-related content.

You have to have at least $100 in your account before receiving a monthly payout from Twitch.

Twitch shows you the breakdown of money you've earned directly from the platform by way of subscriptions, ads, bits (cheering) and more. Keep in mind, these are just the official ways you can get paid by Twitch. There are plenty more ways to monetize the platform using things like PayPal, Venmo, merch, and affiliate links.

Phew, that’s a lot to digest. Oh, and that’s just half of it.

You can also make money streaming music on Twitch directly from fans by enabling donations through third-party platforms like PayPal. Many platforms designed to help you produce your stream (like Streamlabs) integrate and track donations for you, too.

One practical example is letting fans donate to request certain songs. You can charge flat rates or different amounts of money. Or you can make requests free but “live learns” (where you learn a song on stream) cost $25 etc. Donations are a well-accepted part of the culture and many users pride themselves on being able to support streamers with donations.

There are also easy ways to integrate your merch sales, Patreon links, and other monetization opportunities you may already have set up (and don’t worry, we’re getting to those topics later in the book).

Oh, you can also monetize affiliate links through sites like Amazon. For example, you can list all of the gear you use beneath your stream. If a user clicks on it and then ends up buying something from Amazon (it doesn’t even always have to be the item you listed), you get a cut of that revenue. You can do it through the official Amazon Blacksmith feature or just by adding them yourself below the stream.

The opportunities for making money streaming music on Twitch really are extensive. But perhaps the biggest thing about Twitch is that subscribing, cheering with bits, and donating are all part of the culture.

People typically *want* their favorite streamers to make money from them. If you stream frequently enough, it’s not uncommon to have completely random strangers come in and throw some money your way via subscribing, cheering, or donating. Which brings us to our next point.

How Likely Are You To Make New Fans Streaming Music On Twitch

Twitch is an extremely competitive space in many of the top categories. But when it comes to music, you still have the opportunity to grow a fan base completely out of people who were already on Twitch. The discoverability levels are typically pretty high compared to other platforms and Twitch is continuing to develop better ways to recommend channels (that’s you!) to people.

One key feature of Twitch is a pretty wholesome concept: raids. At the end of your stream, you can choose to “raid” another streamer, which basically means you and all of your viewers go jump to their stream. It’s then common for your viewers to shower that new streamer with emotes (the Twitch version of custom emojis), follows, and occasionally subscriptions. You can go from 10 viewers to 200 in a matter of seconds.

This is really just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Twitch culture, but it’s also some of the coolest parts. Very few socially-driven platforms out there encourage that kind of discoverability in platform (without you having to pay for it). Also, Twitch viewers are used to hanging out (or “lurking”) for a long time. It’s not uncommon to have the average viewer watch you for an hour or more.

Twitch also has a game called Twitch Sings, which is basically fancy karaoke that you can do either by yourself or with other people. You can save your performances and people can duet with them later on the stream — it’s a great opportunity to grow even while you’re not streaming.

It should be noted, however, that big Twitch followings don’t necessarily translate to higher music streaming numbers. While they’re real fans who really support you financially and tend to follow you on social media when you ask, the exponential growth within the platform doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get it out of the platform. In other words, Twitch is not the marketing solution to your Spotify and Apple Music music streaming woes.

How Likely Are Your Current Fans To Watch You Streaming Music On Twitch

Unfortunately, Twitch’s unique features and strong culture can also make it difficult for your current fans to adopt if they have no familiarity with the platform. It can, in some ways, kind of be like showing up to a party in a strange house where everybody knows each other except for you. And for as popular as Twitch is, it’s still new to a lot of people — or they think of it largely as a place for gamers to hang out.

The reality is, trying to drive your fans to a new platform is hard no matter what. Adoption of a new social or streaming service takes a huge push and, quite frankly, people can be lazy. Asking your fans to move over to Twitch, *especially* if they’re slightly older or come from a platform where they’re not used to spending so much time in front of their computer, isn’t easy.

How Much Time Do You Need To Spend Streaming Music On Twitch

If you spend roughly 9 hours a week streaming on Twitch (say, streaming 3 times a week for 3 hours a piece), you can get to a point where you’re making $100-200 a month pretty quickly just from Twitch’s own monetization (subscriptions and bits etc.). If you’ve taken the steps to accept and encourage donations etc., you could easily make much more than that.

Conversely, if you only stream once a week for 2 hours, you’re going to find yourself up against a wall in terms of growth. Once you get your setup locked in, going live for multiple hours a few times per week really should be the goal. Of course, there are also streamers in the music space who make a full-time income streaming for maybe 12-20 hours per week. But they’re consistent and deliver good, community-oriented streams. Most of them have been doing it for more than a year (and probably closer to 3 years on average).

Twitch is one of the most immediately monetizable options out there. You can go from zero to $100/month in no time. But getting to a point where it’s half or more of your needed income takes time.

How Much Data and Analytics Does Twitch Give You

Twitch does an excellent job of showing you where your money and channel growth comes from. The platform also has certain badges and awards for your channel’s growth in an effort to “gamify” your commitment to the platform. It has hands down one of the most usable data interfaces, along with lots of third-party extensions to allow you to take that data further.

In other words, it’s got the kind of stats you’d hope for coming from a platform that got its start with people streaming video games.

Want to know more?

Here's A Perk: an in-depth guide on everything you'd ever want to know to become a musician on Twitch

Karen Allen is the foremost expert on how to use Twitch as a musician. She produces streams and has lived this world since way before it was cool. She's basically the Twitch music momma bear. And she's hooking you up on her crazy in-depth book Twitch For Musicians. Get a few chapters free and also get 20% off the e-book by using our code BLUEPRINTS20 when you snag it from her site. Note: you can buy it lots of places, but the discount code only works on her official site.

Even cooler: if you want to go in on it, enroll in her Teachable course that will guide you all the way through the whole process of setting up a super good Twitch stream. Students also get to interface with and ask her questions. And you get 20% off that course because you're reading this Blueprint: you've got to use this link for it to work and the discount has already been applied

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