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Twitch Streaming For Celebrity Influencers: Some Tips For Musicians, Athletes & Other “Influencers”

By Justin M. Jacobson, Esq.

With today’s current events, there has been a shift of musicians, professional athletes from a variety of sports as well as other celebrity influencers engaging with their fans by creating and distributing original content through live streaming platforms, such as Twitch and Mixer.  Some have begun playing video and computer games with other influencers as well as interacting directly with fans through a livestreaming platform.  A livestreaming website permits a user to create a live broadcast or “stream” that is instantly accessible to a stream viewer.  This “cast” may come from the influencer’s smart phone or device, their computer, or even from their gaming console, such as an Xbox or a Playstation. As a result of the entertainment and sports industries’ uncertainty, including the wide-spread wave of league suspensions and event cancellations; many traditional entertainment and sports influencers are taking to the digital world to interact and engage with their fans. While it may seem as simple as clicking on a button to go “live” to the world, there are a myriad of legal and business considerations that an athlete or other entertainer should consider in order to take full advantage of their digital streaming outlet. These tips are also important in assisting the talent in best maximizing the potential revenue that they could earn through this income stream.

How An Influencer Can Do Streaming The “Right” Way

Without exploring the legalities of proper music licensing for a stream, any music played live during a stream is subject to proper authorization. This means that the influencer must have written permission from the rights owner to perform any protected works on a streaming platform. This authorization may be provided from the recording owner, such as a record label or from some other rights holder. An individual’s failure to obtain such permission may lead to their stream being “muted” or otherwise “blacked out” due to the unauthorized use of a protected work.   Furthermore, popular streaming services such as Twitch and YouTube have policies related to “repeat” copyright infringers that may subject these infringing accounts to suspension or even termination. If a user cannot obtain the rights to music, they may instead work with music licensing companies who provide a “blanket” license that permits the usage of any media contained in their applicable catalogue.  For example, dance record label, Monstercat has created its own monthly subscription service specifically for streamers. This service enables an individual to simply pay a monthly fee in order to use any of the available Monstercat music during their live streams and in any other monetized content.   The service currently supports music usage on YouTube, Twitch and Mixer and provides a subscriber with access to “over 2,000 songs across 29 genres of music.” The influencer may then utilize any of these licensed works while hosting a live stream.

In addition to proper rights to any music included in a stream, it is generally ideal for the influencer to structure their actual stream profile in the most professional light that they can. This is extremely important for an athlete or entertainer that wishes to incorporate new, as well as their current sponsors and other brand partners, into their streams. Therefore, in order to establish the requisite level of professionalism, a stream user should attempt to incorporate properly sized imagery and stream “overlays” as well as “emotes” to provide a visually attractive and immersive fan experience.  Proper usage of streaming software is also beneficial and may help further professionalize an individual’s stream. Additionally, a user wishing to provide a visually appealing presentation should obtain the required equipment, including a webcam and microphone.

Since Twitch and other streaming platforms might be a new social media outlet for many mainstream influencers, the talent must be ready to consistently stream in order to gain a large, active viewership on the streaming platform. This includes the entertainer or athlete establishing and promoting a consistent stream schedule so that their audience can prepare to watch the live stream at the appropriate time. In fact, a substantial live concurrent viewership is also very important for potential opportunities, including the inclusion of sponsored product placement as well as the creation of other “branded” or sponsored segments.

Some Revenue Avenues From “Streaming”

The proper and professional use of this new social platform may provide a chance for an artist to earn additional income. A live stream may offer an innovative opportunity for the talent’s existing brands to engage with their fan base. This means that the athlete or entertainer can now present a new sponsorship offering to their existing sponsors in the form of their live stream. In this light, the personality may offer to provide placement of a brand’s logo on their stream “overlay.” Alternatively, the individual may instead propose to demonstrate or otherwise utilize a sponsored product while on stream. Furthermore, the influencer may even just provide their current sponsoring company with the added exposure of inclusion in their stream as a form of “added value” for their partners.

Furthermore, the use of Twitch, YouTube, Mixer, or any other live streaming service may also create avenues for new endorsements. In particular, an entertainer or professional athlete may now be able to discuss sponsorships activations with traditional, endemic gaming brands that would not have been interested prior to the usage of this new social media platform. For example, these entertainment influencers may initiate discussions with a variety of gaming products including gaming keyboards, headsets, controllers, monitors, chairs, and with other gaming peripheral companies. It is important to note that most gaming brands generally value authenticity and high levels of consistent engagement in a potential partner, so any influencer desiring to obtain endemic brand sponsors should proceed properly.

In addition to potential new brand partnership leads, the talent’s use of streaming may also create new opportunities with non-endemic companies that the influencer does not currently work with and who may benefit from this new unique fan engagement outlet. In this light, a professional athlete or other entertainer who incorporates livestreaming can now provide a sponsoring brand with this new promotional avenue in addition to the typical utilized social marketing techniques such as posting an image or video on Instagram or Twitter.  In fact, this new streaming outlet may provide the artist with new opportunities to effortlessly and cost efficiently incorporate a sponsoring brand’s products into their stream, including soft and energy drinks, wine, beer and other alcoholic beverages, clothing, watch and other apparel companies, automotive brands, health and snack food sponsors as well as any beauty care and hygiene products.

Along with an influencer’s brand partnerships and endorsements, an individual utilizing a streaming platform can generate income from several other avenues. A user may directly earn revenue from a streaming platform as a result of the advertisements displayed before and during their live streams upon achieving a certain established account viewership threshold.  Furthermore, a streaming platform may also provide additional income producing opportunities for its users. For instance, Twitch provides the option for a user to purchase a “subscription” (known as “sub”).  These “subscriptions” are monthly payments from to a specific streamer so that the subscriber can access “exclusive” or other unreleased content. Being a channel’s subscriber also enables the usage of subscriber-only “emotes.” An “emote” is an image that can be typed into a stream’s live chat. “Emotes” are uniquely designed to be specific to a particular streamer and are only available as a result of subscribing to a Twitch channel.  Therefore, in addition to live streaming, an influencer utilizing Twitch can produce pay walled content that requires a paid subscription in order to view. In fact, Twitch provides a multi-tiered subscription service, including different levels available for a monthly charge of $4.99, $9.99, or $24.99, depending on which “tier” they select  Each subscription “tier” or level typically corresponds to a different amount of access to exclusive content.

Together with subscription fees paid by viewers, Twitch provides its streamers with the opportunity to earn additional income in the form of “bits.” A “bit” is an animated cheering “emote” that a viewer can type in the chat to support the influencer.  “Bits” can be purchased through Amazon Payment or PayPal. “Bits” may also be earned by a viewer by continuously watching the online advertisements displayed on a stream over a period of time.  It is reported that Twitch currently pays “Affiliates” and “Partners” level members about one ($0.01) cent for every fan-used “bit” on their channel. Furthermore, since Twitch was purchased by Amazon, an Amazon Prime member can utilize their Prime Membership “tokens” to subscribe to a specific Twitch channel.  In these situations, Twitch and the influencer may equally split all of the income from subscriptions, “bits,” and Prime “tokens.”

In addition to “subscriptions” and “bits,” a celebrity might utilize other third-party platforms which enable a viewer to provide “donations” or “tips” to the streamer. This means that any viewer is able to contribute money directly to the influencer as opposed to purchasing “bits” or a monthly Twitch subscription.  While many third-party services exist, one frequently used is Streamlabs.

Some Examples of  What To Stream

Subject only to a streaming platform’s terms and conditions, the content of a celebrity or other influencer’s stream has few limitations.  In fact, there are a variety of creative ways that an individual can utilize their livestream. A musician might provide a viewer with access to live rehearsals and practice sessions as well as provide an “inside the studio” or other “behind the scenes” viewing experience. They might also highlight their work while in a recording studio, such as engaging in a collaborative songwriting session or engaging in a solo or “jam” session playing live instruments.  Alternatively, a DJ or producer might actually play a set live or provide a “how to” production session live on stream.

In addition to music content, an influencer or athlete may engage in live gaming with their actual fans as well as with other professional athletes, celebrities and even professional gamers and streamers.  Other engaging content might be a “question and answer” session hosted by the celebrity that permits viewers to type questions into a live stream’s chat so that the influencer can reply to the submitted inquiries. These streams can be categorized under Twitch’s large established “just chatting” and “ask me anything (AMA)” existing community.

On top of these content ideas, an influencer can further interact with their viewers through Twitch by hosting “watch” or “viewing” parties. These might be livestreams in conjunction with a nationally televised pop culture or large event such as a popular television show’s season finale, the Super Bowl or the Oscars. To engage with their viewers, the streamer may provide their instant reactions to a scene or episode ending. They might also talk about the “winners” of a particular category, their predictions for a game or anything else relevant to the content that they are viewing and commentating on while streaming. Ultimately, there are so many different unique content pieces that can be generated utilizing a streaming platform, as it is the perfect medium to highlight the artist’s specific interests or hobbies outside of their traditional sport or lane.  This might include the creation and airing of cooking shows focused on a particular type of cuisine or a wine tasting and ranking segment.

Overall, the shifting climate may continue to force athletes, entertainers and other celebrity influencers to re-evaluate their current situation and begin evaluating and utilizing new avenues to earn income. Thus, it is apparent that live streaming will continue to grow to supplement any lost income as well as due to influencers’ desire to authenticity interact and immerse themselves with their fans. However, it is always important that a streamer understand their legal obligations as well as the fact that any income earned from streaming is still considered income, subject to any applicable taxation laws.

This article is not intended as legal advice, as an attorney specializing in the field should be consulted.

© 2020 The Jacobson Firm, P.C.

About the author

Justin M. Jacobson, Esq. - Vice-President, The Jacobson Firm, P.C. - Attorney Specializing in Entertainment, Sports, Esports, Fashion and Art Law. In particular, The Jacobson Firm, P.C. handles Trademarks, Copyrights, Contracts, Estate Planning, Music Business and Brand Development on behalf of creative talent and lifestyle brands.

We are New York's Esports & Trademark Lawyers who are also a sports & entertainment law firm with world-class attorneys handling a variety of entertainment and music law matters as well as trademark monitoring services, dilution, and trademark applications servicing Los Angeles, San Diego, Las Vegas, Nashville, Austin, Houston, Washington D.C., Miami, St. Louis, Philadelphia, Dallas, Chicago, Seattle, Sacramento, Orange County, Hollywood, East LA, California, Cali, Texas, NYC, ATX, Detroit, San Francisco, London, Amsterdam, Berlin, Barcelona, Paris, the US, and the UK. Hire professional esports lawyers in 2020.

Hire the Esport & Trademarks Law Firm in 2020 and get a world-class attorney handling a variety of entertainment and music law services as well as trademark monitoring, dilution, and trademark applications. We take cases in Los Angeles, San Diego, Las Vegas, Nashville, Austin, Houston, Washington D.C., Miami, St. Louis, Philadelphia, Dallas, Chicago, Seattle, Sacramento, Orange County, Hollywood, East LA, California, Cali, Texas, NYC, ATX, Detroit, San Francisco, London, Amsterdam, Berlin, Barcelona, Paris, the US, Ireland, and Great Britain.