Twitch, ban Amouranth and Indiefoxx. Does the new goal create controversy?

Twitch, ban Amouranth and Indiefoxx. Does the new goal create controversy?


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Controversies related to the types of content brought to Twitch are becoming more and more frequent, especially after the difficult matter of hot tubs. The formats that provide for the presence of content creators in pools have in fact been actively adopted by the platform, making it in effect a streaming category. This choice could only create a long series of controversies from many other creators who strongly believed that those are not suitable content for Twitch.

Recently, however, a completely new format has been devised: the "ASMR TikTok Leggings Yoga Meta", in short "ASMR Meta", consists in bringing the already known ASMR to live with the difference that the streamer wears yoga leggings and the sound is emitted by the contact of her tongue with the microphone. This type of live streaming has started to take root on Twitch, with more and more content creators starting to offer it on their channel.

However, besides the complaints of those who said that this format is not suitable for the platform, added the concern of many others who have instead thought about the creators of underage content and the best ways to protect them in the face of this new trend. Above all this is why more and more people have been clamoring for a stance from the platform, which has come relatively quickly. In the last few hours, in fact, both Amouranth and Indiefoxx have been banned from Twitch following the use of the ASMR Meta format.

❌ Twitch Partner "Amouranth" (@wildkait) has been banned! ❌ #twitch #ban #fourthban #partner #twitchpartner 🌌

- StreamerBans (@StreamerBans) June 19, 2021

In a video prior to the bans, streamer SweeetTails, and many others like her, explained how unsuitable this type of streaming is for Twitch and why she thought it was crazy that the platform allowed such broadcasts. For the moment, given past attitudes, it is difficult to predict what Twitch's official response will be: the possibility that the platform actively adopts this format with a dedicated category is not as far off as one might think. Stay connected on our pages so as not to miss any updates on the matter.

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Can Streaming Pay? Musicians Are Pinning Fresh Hopes on Twitch.

Can Streaming pay? Musicians are pinning fresh hopes on Twitch © Maryam Farooqui Can Streaming pay? Musicians are pinning fresh hopes on Twitch

By Ben Sisario

Each weekday at 8:30 a.m., after getting his twin 2-year-olds dressed, fed and set up with their nanny, Matthew K. Heafy decamps to an unoccupied bedroom in his home in Orlando, Florida, and flicks on three computers, three cameras and a battery of guitar equipment in preparation for his morning livestream shredfest.

Heafy, guitarist and lead singer of the metal band Trivium, is one of the most dedicated musicians on Twitch, the livestreaming platform that began a decade ago as a gaming haven but has grown into an always-on smorgasbord of entertainment — one that has proved especially attractive to musicians during the pandemic. Twitch, which is owned by Amazon, attracts an average of 30 million visitors a day, and its users watched more than 1 trillion minutes of content last year, according to the company.

Livestreaming apps are a dime a dozen these days. But what makes Twitch stand out, particularly for music, is how it fosters connections between performers and their audience, and allows those connections to be efficiently monetized. Fan interactions — which pour across the screen in a river of song requests, inside jokes and “emotes” (Twitch-specific emoticons) — are as much a part of the show as the artist onscreen, conveying the sense of a tightly knit, mutually supportive community.

Since January 2018, Heafy, 35, has kept a strict Twitch regimen, streaming nearly every weekday at 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. For up to three hours at a clip, he practices guitar riffs — pedagogically breaking down his technique for student-fans who inquire in the chat — jams with his band and plays first-person shooter games. Heafy has about 220,000 followers on Twitch, and well over 10,000 people may be watching him at any moment; all that attention, he said, keeps him motivated.

“Even if I don’t feel like practicing, I know people are going to be there who want to hear a couple hours of their favorite Trivium songs,” Heafy said. “So I make sure I’m there to make their day good.”

CENTRAL TO TWITCH’s popularity among musicians is its economic model, which is quietly revolutionizing the business by providing an alternative to the winner-take-all system of on-demand services like Spotify, Apple Music and YouTube.

Those platforms have become the default consumption mode by making virtually every song in existence available free or for a small subscription fee. As a technological feat and a consumer offering, they are nearly miraculous. But as revenue-sharing systems, they have come under fire from critics who accuse them of devaluing music to a point where only superstars can make a living wage from recordings. According to Spotify’s own figures, 97% of artists there generated less than $1,000 in payments last year. (Spotify points to the growing number of musicians earning large sums as a sign of its value.)

Twitch, by contrast, is an alternate universe where even niche artists can make thousands of dollars a month by cultivating fan tribes whose loyalty is expressed through patronage. With its interactive chat threads and internal economy of channel subscriptions and “bits” (donations), Twitch would seem to fulfill the long-hyped but elusive promise of creative commerce on the internet. Yet the platform may work well for only some kinds of artists. (It is enormously labor-intensive.) Its relationship with rights holders is strained. And though it got a boost during the pandemic, Twitch may soon face a reckoning once artists and their fans emerge from their cocoons and return to in-person events.

But for those making a living on the platform, it has been a revelation. Its potential was highlighted in a recent report by Will Page, former chief economist of Spotify, which compared musicians’ earnings and audience reach on Twitch versus on-demand audio services like Spotify and Apple Music. The numbers, while anecdotal, are striking.

According to Page’s report, Laura Shigihara, a composer of video game music, last year earned an average of about $700 a month from audio platforms but $8,000 a month on Twitch, where she sings and plays piano in a cozy room filled with anime-style stuffed creatures. In 2019 and 2020, Heafy’s four-man band, Trivium, collected an average of $11,000 a month from the audio services while his own Twitch channel generated nearly as much (just under $10,000) from an audience that was about one-tenth the size. The band Aeseaes, a married couple in Austin, Texas, that specializes in acoustic covers, earned 70% of their income in 2019 and 2020 from Twitch; just 6% came from audio streaming services and Bandcamp, the online indie music store.

“There’s just something about being able to directly support an artist that you are enjoying, and being able to see that support accepted by that artist and get an immediate thanks,” said Travis of Aeseaes, who plays bass and makes the microphones that he and his wife, Allie, who sings and plays guitar, use for their streams. (Both are in their early 30s, and use only their first names professionally.)

Tracy Patrick Chan, Twitch’s head of music, said that of the musicians who can earn $50,000 a year there, their median viewership — the number of people watching their streams at any given time — is only 183. By comparison, it may take 5 million to 10 million streams to yield the same payout from major audio streaming platforms, according to most estimates of those services’ per-stream rates.

“What the artists on Twitch are showing you is that you just need a passionate audience and they will be there to support you,” Chan said. The commerce comes in the form of subscriptions — at $5, $10 or $25 a month — as well as bits and links to third-party donation and fundraising sites like Patreon.

As it grows, Twitch appears increasingly capable of supporting a broad middle class of musicians, a concept that has been a PR talking point for digital services for years. Twitch is able to do it by gamifying the artist-fan relationship and by channeling audience payments directly to musicians. (Twitch takes a cut of 50% or less from subscriptions, and shares revenue from bits with streamers.) This contrasts with the so-called pro rata method of royalty distribution used by most on-demand audio services, where all the money contributed to a platform is divided by the total number of clicks. That system equalizes rates but also means that users subsidize a lot of music they never listen to, and the high-yield “head” of the distribution curve — superstars like Drake and Dua Lipa — benefits most.

“Twitch’s focus isn’t the head or tail, it’s growing the torso — the body of middle class artists in between,” Page said. “It’s a pivot away from the traditional hit-or-miss blockbuster model where hits hit big time and misses miss out badly.”

BEING A SUCCESSFUL music livestreamer, however, is hard work.

Travis and Allie of Aeseaes (pronounced “A.C.S.,” an abbreviation of their channel name: a_couple_streams) quit their office jobs five years ago to focus on Twitch. Unlike many who use it for behind-the-scenes glimpses of their creative process, Travis and Allie put on the equivalent of an intimate stage show, with mood lighting and a dedicated camera on one of their snuggling cats; the only chatter is their effusive thank yous to contributors.

Aeseaes gets more than 5,000 viewers for each broadcast, with close to 1,000 tuning in at any given moment, and their channel has maintained well over 1,000 paying subscribers each month for the last two years, according to a data report the couple shared with The New York Times. That success allows Travis and Allie to devote themselves full-time to making music at home.

But to keep their business going, and to maintain engagement, they must churn out content regularly, going online three times a week for about three hours at a time. “Since the beginning, we’ve known that streaming on Twitch is kind of an endurance run,” Allie said.

Page compares running a Twitch account to operating a taxi: It only makes money if the meter is running. And long rides are the most lucrative.

The vastness of Twitch’s audience means that streamers must seize every opportunity for broader reach. This month, Danielle Allard, a 31-year-old musician and professor in Ottawa, Ontario, who began experimenting with livestreaming a year ago, learned that a planned 6 a.m. set would be featured on Twitch’s home page — the equivalent of prime-time TV promotion.

Allard awoke at 4, got her equipment ready, brewed some tea and went online — for nearly seven hours, playing originals, Cranberries and Chris Isaak covers, and some wailing kazoo solos. By the end, she was tearful and seemed nearly delirious with joy. Her stream, which usually gets a few hundred watchers at a time, brought in 408 new subscribers and 1,659 followers, sending her over the 10,000 mark. (Top gaming accounts have well over 5 million followers.)

Speaking about an hour after her stream ended — and still not having eaten — Allard praised the generosity of her fans, whom she calls “dinos.” Their contributions, she said, net her a few thousand dollars a month.

She has an album and an EP on audio streaming platforms. Do they bring in any money? “Oh, goodness no,” she said.

ONE SIGN OF Twitch’s success in challenging the status quo is that it is now in the music industry’s legal crosshairs.

Last year, as the pandemic sent musicians to Twitch in droves, the site was served with thousands of copyright infringement notices from record companies. Twitch has licenses that allow its users to perform songs live, but it generally does not have permission for the music contained in saved on-demand videos.

After receiving takedown notices, Twitch removed clips that contained unlicensed music, as required by law. But the company also responded with a surprising blog post in November in which it apologized — not to the complaining copyright holders, but to its armies of streamers. “We could have developed more sophisticated, user-friendly tools awhile ago. That we didn’t is on us,” the company wrote.

Music industry lawyers have kept up the pressure. This month, at the same time that it announced a copyright infringement lawsuit against the gaming platform Roblox, the National Music Publishers’ Association said it would continue serving takedown notices to Twitch.

“It’s inexcusable that they don’t just license their music platform, as other companies like YouTube, Facebook and TikTok do,” said David Israelite, CEO of the music publishers’ group.

A spokesperson for Twitch said it is in discussions with music rights holders, and added that “we continue to work with them to establish potential approaches that would be appropriate for the Twitch service and our entire community.”

TWITCH’S MUSIC STREAMS exploded during the pandemic. According to the company, music viewership has grown by 550% over the last year. Part of its branding outreach has been through deals with shuttered music venues, hosting streams by indie bands at clubs like Brooklyn Steel in New York. Those have helped keep the live infrastructure working when it was otherwise dead, said Jim Glancy of The Bowery Presents, the company behind Brooklyn Steel and other venues throughout the Northeast.

But while Glancy is positive about Twitch, he expressed a skepticism common among music insiders about livestreaming’s continuing role in the concert world, where in-the-flesh contact is everything.

“If you have an artist on tour playing 30 venues, and 18 of them are wired and trying to sell a stream but the artist is doing the same set every night, is that a business?” Glancy asked.

Still, Glancy expects livestreaming to be integrated with concerts, somehow, and other players are making the same bet. Live Nation is equipping more than 60 venues to allow streaming, and new players like Flymachine are planning concert-livestream hybrids whose social interactivity owes something to Twitch.

And the musicians? Heafy, of Trivium, said he expects viewership to go down a little as fans stay at home less. But he has already integrated Twitch into his working life to a degree that seems compulsive, and he is not ready to stop.

“I’m going to keep it to the same exact thing — 9 a.m. and 3 p.m., Monday through Friday,” he said. “Every show, every soundcheck, every vocal warm-up; every day off, me playing games in the hotel room.”

“I look at it as part of my life now,” he added. “And I want to keep doing this for as long as I can.”

c.2021 The New York Times Company