[Editor’s Note: This article was written by Sırma Munyar.]
A few months ago, independent alternative pop artist HANA came out of her shell with a revolutionary experiment: an album fully written, recorded and produced by her, live on Twitch, within four weeks.
There have been similar attempts in the recent past: most notably, Esperanza Spalding live streamed the recording process of her album three years ago. Artists who are aware that fan engagement is more important than it’s ever been take over platforms like YouTube, Instagram, TikTok and Snapchat to share bits and pieces of their creative process all the time nowadays.
So then, you might be wondering, what was so revolutionary about HANA’s project?
I became aware of HANA when she released her self-titled 2016 EP. Since then, I got the impression that she wanted to put an album out sooner rather than later, but due to being involved with so many different projects, she kept postponing her own plans.
This is why when she made the announcement that she would be making an entire LP from scratch in front of her fans, I was stunned. As an artist who writes and produces her songs, I know exactly how it feels to overthink every little detail. It can be downright crippling! In a way, HANA’s attempt was not just about creating an immersive experience: it was her defying her self- doubt and inner resistance.
All that being said, HANA clearly didn’t just jump right into this. Take one look at her setup and you can tell she and her team thought of everything, from lighting to providing multiple camera angles and stellar sonic quality. What really took me by surprise, however, even more than her cool demeanor and in-charge attitude, was how fearless she was when it came down to making her viewers a part of her creative process, by asking them what she should write about and which song she should work on next. The fact that some of HANA’s followers can actually say “hey- I remember suggesting that in the Twitch chatroom and now it’s on the album!” is truly remarkable to me.
After streaming for over ten hours five days a week for four weeks straight and taking the weekends to rest and write lyrics, HANA sent the resulting album, titled “HANADRIEL”, to get it mixed and mastered, and then released it immediately via TuneCore in a true digital age fashion. While there’s no telling if she will ever embark on a similar project again, as an observer, I witnessed how she managed to build a stronger relationship with her fans throughout this process.
There was a perfect balance between her usage of each social media platform, too: after archiving her live streams on Twitch, HANA uploaded them on her YouTube channel, made recap videos for each week, which she then posted on her Instagram as well. It was also cool to see her going live on Instagram and tweeting during her Twitch streams, which definitely helps put things in perspective for those who don’t know much about social media marketing. It can be time consuming to run socials as an artist, but it can be done, and done right- and HANA is the living proof of that.
I admit that before HANA’s project, I didn’t know much about Twitch. I’m not into video games, and I’m not really into watching other people play video games, either. I had heard that other artists like Deadmau5, Marshmello and Illenium used Twitch to live stream at one point or another, but I had no idea that this platform came with a specific built-in culture.
During HANA’s streams and while browsing other chatrooms on Twitch out of curiosity, one thing became abundantly clear to me: this is a platform Gen Z adores.
Perhaps it’s because that particular age group has more time in their hands to watch live streams or maybe it’s the fact that they grew up with social media, but either way, as soon as you dive in, you feel that you’ve stepped into a different world that is much less diverse than, say, YouTube or Instagram.
When it comes to generalizations, I tend to think twice before I make a judgment: I’m sure there are a few millennials in there too, if not commenting at least tuning in every now and then. But demographics matter when it comes to social media marketing strategies, and it certainly doesn’t hurt to keep this in mind if you’re contemplating delving into the world of Twitch.
Unique Features, Unique Strategies
Today, Twitch is still a pretty niche platform, much like TikTok is, and that’s
exactly why if you can crack the code, you can build a loyal fanbase fast.
Just like there are TikTok stars whose followers eventually carry over to other platforms, on Twitch, too, there are gamers and artists who put most of their effort and time into streaming to connect with their fans some of whom eventually end up following them everywhere else.
The format, too, provides some unique features that YouTube and Instagram don’t offer. On Twitch, you can stream for up to 48 hours straight, and the streaming quality, while not perfect, is pretty impressive.
In some ways, the sense of community on Twitch reminds me of reddit: people who frequently participate in the chatrooms can bond over their mutual interests.
You can also customize your Twitch page to the point where it feels like it’s your own website, similar to the way you can on Tumblr: the more customized your page is, the more of a chance you have to stand out.
Another thing I really like about Twitch is that from including links to your
merchandise directly on your home page to charging for monthly subscription and accepting one-time donations, you can go beyond the typical monetization models you see on other platforms.
Bits and Subs
It’s useful for newbies to keep in mind that Twitch comes with a bit of a learning curve. For one thing, there are multiple customizable tools with names that are unique to Twitch. Two of those names that should be on your radar are bits and subs.
Viewers can make one-time donations to the streamers by using bits, which are virtual goods created by Twitch. With bits, you can donate as little as $2 to support an artist who’s playing a live show, for instance, just like you would purchase concert tickets if they played a venue in your town.
If you want to support your favorite streamers on a monthly basis, similar to the way you would on Patreon, that’s an option as well: subscribers, or as Twitch labels them, subs, can pick a tier and get benefits like ad-free viewing and subscribers-only streams.
Twitch Turbo and Twitch Prime
Twitch Turbo offers benefits to content creators similar to the way SoundCloud Pro does: extended broadcast storage and ad-free viewing.
Twitch Prime, on the other hand, comes with the additional benefits of an
Amazon Prime membership specifically designed with Twitch gamers in mind.
Typical Social Media Marketing Strategies vs. Twitch
Before you step into the extremely time consuming world of Twitch, you should know that it’s up to you to make this platform work for your project. You can’t hand it over to a social media manager: Twitch is all about building a relationship with your fanbase and committing to your community.
You might be thinking that giving Twitch a try is not worth your energy, but if you’re an artist on a budget, it is one more option to pursue before you spend thousands of dollars on a PR campaign next time you have a release cycle coming up.
The times we live in are changing: blog placements don’t make or break release campaigns like they used to. In this day and age, every person can build a presence solely on social media by themselves, and the good news is that compared to a standard budget spent on traditional marketing devices, social media marketing doesn’t have to cost a thing.
Lesser known social media platforms that are on the rise like Twitch and TikTok are not ailed by the algorithmic disadvantages like Facebook, Instagram or Twitter are- but they might be soon. But even if some of those platforms cease to exist in a decade, your loyal fans will remain. Like many other artists out there, you too, can find your audience if you make educated decisions instead of blindly throwing hashtags into the void.