Mikey Lion is a DJ, producer, label owner and event producer for Desert Hearts. Like all other DJs during the past year, he has been unable to perform and has had to adapt to earn some income. A big part of that has been streaming, notably on Twitch where he and the Desert Hearts community has been able to keep himself and company afloat. He penned an op-ed for us to shed some light on how he was able to do so.
Streaming is an investment, but the effort can pay off; those who pair good production value with consistent, engaging programming and a focus on fan connection boost their earning potential. Amateur/new streamers with small, but dedicated communities have been known to make several hundred dollars a month, while high level veterans can make up into the tens of thousands. Mikey has provided his tips below on how he was able to build Desert Hearts’ Twitch community organically, and general bits on heightening production value. He has an album For The Love arriving on April 28 and hear the first track "Above The Cloud" below. The feature continues with his guest op-ed.
COVID really flipped the script for artists and promoters this year. All of a sudden the entire industry was faced with the ultimate adapt or disappear scenario, but it's been incredible watching the various ways our peers have pivoted under pressure. I always thought streaming would be an important part of the future of music, but I didn't realize it was going to be essential. Not only has Desert Hearts been able to promote all of our upcoming releases from music to merch, but the best thing that's come from streaming is we've created an online home for our fans and community to thrive and interact with one another.
This kind of intimacy amongst the community just wasn't possible on other social platforms. Had we not hit the streaming game hard from the beginning of quarantine, Desert Hearts would be in a really bad place financially like a lot of other festivals and promoters out there. Streaming has changed the business model forever. We're funding our business entirely through streaming and merch sales right now which is still hard to wrap our heads around. Even when the gigs come back, we'll still be streaming in the middle of the week to help promote shows, new releases, etc...
I foresee artists & brands across the entire music industry taking advantage of the streaming world. As an example, I'm a huge stand-up comedy fan and the entire business model for that industry is that almost every comedian has a podcast that they do during the middle of the week. They use it to connect with their fans on a personal level while being able to plug all their upcoming shows, merch, etc. And the comedians with the biggest podcasts right now are selling the most tickets. If you apply that to the music industry, streaming once a week is our equivalent to putting out a podcast, and the artists with the biggest streaming audiences are going to be able to sell the most tickets, merch, etc. It's the ultimate tool for our industry and it's just getting started.
In regards to issues faced by streamers right now, I'd say the biggest hurdle we have coming in the future is the copyright crackdown from the mainstream music industry. If Twitch can figure out how to strike a deal with the major labels similar to Mixcloud and SoundCloud, they'll be the de facto music streaming site for years to come. In the meantime, artists can avoid copyright strikes on their channels by not recording their streams to Twitch. It's all a gray area but that seems to be a workaround for now.
1. Add Entertainment Value
I believe longevity in the streaming game will come from fostering a community and making people feel heard and welcome within that community. Anyone can play good music on a live stream, but it's the streamers who have different forms of entertainment on their feeds who are having the most success. For example, my wife is my backup dancer in all my streams and she's become such a major part of the show that it feels lackluster when she's not there.
2. Invest in your Production
It's also really important to make your stream look as good as possible. Having a pro camera with good lighting is really important, and having either an awesome deco set up or a green screen with great visuals will definitely bring people back for more.
3. Gratitude is KEY
Finally, it all comes down to gratitude for your viewers. Your community is everything to your channel and if you strive for longevity, you need to genuinely show love and gratitude to the people who are your biggest fans. Make them feel loved and you'll have fans for life.
Twitch has been life saving for my own career and the livelihood of Desert Hearts since touring shut down. I have been able to sustain myself on the support I receive from fans through the tips, bits, and subscriptions from my weekly stream. Plus we have been able to welcome a ton of other artists onto the channel and offer them the same sources of support, which feels really good