There Is a strong argument for music evolving with leaps forward in technology. From the electric guitar to the 808 drum machine to the laptop computer, innovations in affordable tech led to seismic shifts in the musical landscape. Equally, social media platforms have risen and fallen due to their own inbuilt strengths and weaknesses. Ever since Facebook made MySpace seem redundant overnight, platforms have competed to offer increasingly varied ways of ‘connecting’: likes, loves, shares, gifs, emojis are all part of the visual lexicon that makes words seem a bit….unnecessary
Words: Joe Atari @joeatari
Post-lockdown and overnight, actual club DJs found themselves stranded and turned to social media for their weekly buzz. However, established platforms such as Facebook and YouTube have inbuilt monetisation programs that often led to live DJ streams being cut short due to copyright infringements. Even Sophie Ellis Bextor, UK queen of the lockdown kitchen disco, had the aggravation of having her set curtailed for performing live over one of her own tracks. In reality, it was the FaceBots who caught her out. Currently, only MixCloud has a deal that monetises licensed tracks used in DJ sets.
In recent months, frustrated DJs, now familiar with live streaming tech such as OBS (open broadcaster software), have invaded gaming platform Twitch for a richer interaction with equally bored party people feeling cut off. Sure, you can comment, friend or follow a DJ you like, but crucially ‘raid’ and “sub’ them too, or start a “hype train” and if you’re a DJ yourself, reach “affiliate” or even “partner” status by broadcasting frequently and attracting new viewers. Eventually, successful Twitch-ers can monetise their efforts, but, as with
Instagram influencers or YouTubers, its often a long haul.
The chat room, to the right of the main screen, proves a fast way of showing your approval with “emotes” and connecting with other users in the moment. Here it trumps YouTube where live streams can get lost in other viral content, ad breaks, “noise”, or invaded by random trolls.
Crucially, Twitch have yet to enforce copyright violation rules which trip up live DJ sets on older platforms, although that might change as it goes mainstream and major record companies get nervous.
A Twitch DJ set is often less about mixing alone, although that helps, and more about hosting, and establishing a relationship with viewers, with music as the basis. It all happens so fast, it takes a minute to get familiar with the dialect, often derived from gamer speak. You either know what “hype train”, “raid” and “POG” mean or you need to be on Twitch more!
London club DJ Gem Precious is a relative newcomer, but says it has made her rethink her sets.
“It took me a while to get to grips with it. As a club DJ I was used to playing weekly to hundreds; as a Twitch newbie, I was often playing to less than ten. It was a lesson in humility. My friends were becoming hugely proficient streamers and constantly encouraged me to spend more time on the platform. I had a lightbulb moment when I took part in my first ‘Raid Fest’, where streamers create a timetable of DJ sets and take their followers onto the next virtual party, as it were.”
Alternative rock DJ Gemma Edwards is something of an expert, having reached “partner” status on Twitch recently. Maybe its down to her locating her crowd, for whom gaming and alt-rock run parallel.
Gemma: “I’m absolutely in my element on Twitch, it’s far more social than IRL (“in real life”) DJing where I’m often isolated in a booth for much of the night. For many people in my community, lockdown hasn’t been an entirely new feeling. There were many living fairly isolated lives in general, at the very least in reference to clubbing – for many, being without a local rock club (or the confidence, time, money to attend) is not new. Being welcomed by a group of varied and inclusive friends, being noticed and heard IS new.
It’s a totally different experience to real life clubbing – how often does the average person enter a nightclub, get a personal shout out on the mic from the DJ and greeted by multiple people in the room?! All from the comfort of home.”
For club DJs Zoe London and Tasmin Taylor, both Instagram natives, the expansion onto Twitch seems
natural. All the same, not only do they constantly update their sets, they find new ways to make the visuals fit their performances. It requires a certain know how of video editing and onscreen effects. Just live streaming a DJ set, two decks and mixer in a bedroom is, already, not enough. Cue green screen background visuals, donation buttons, floating logos, flying emojis, anything to make the visual side evolve in sync with the music.
Zoe: “I started Twitch exactly six months ago, as a way of coping with losing all my DJ gigs. At first I found it very complicated to understand, but I just took my time watching other streamers and learning how they do it, as well as the big players like Tiesto, Diplo & Dillon Francis who were all streaming regularly from April 2020. I have found the community incredibly welcoming and so kind in their comments – i know others have but i am yet to experience any trolls. I don’t find Twitch the same level of fulfilling as playing a real DJ gig, but it’s definitely close and it’s been an amazing experience i’ll remember for the rest of my life,”
Tasmin: “The incentives and interactive tools that Twitch have built to engage their viewership with streamers and vice versa go above and beyond any platform I’ve seen so far. From the personalised emotes (which streamers have to earn), to the ability to “raid” other streamers and take your viewers to them, Twitch is built on the idea of community & that is SO important, especially during a time like this. The fundraising tools have also meant that I’ve been able to raise thousands of pounds for various charities through live streams and events, including raising money for Music Venue Trust, MIND, Beirut, Refuge & local music venues. Twitch has even given me the tools and a space to start my own show (The Alt Hangout), be a part of other shows (Rock The Week on The Heavy Network) & even host our own virtual festivals and events for the Twitch community with my partner (as part of our DJ duo Hang The DJs).”
Post-lockdown, the goalposts may shift again, but communities, musical and social, are being built at lightning speed on Twitch. Ironically, real time nightlife returning may just make these Twitch based scenes even stronger.
Words: Joe Atari a London club DJ & producer @joeatari