10 Apr Melissa Lamm on Twitch, Artistry, and Twinkling Lights
It’s the Spring of 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced every live music venue to shut down for the safety of the public. Independent artists the world over are scrambling to learn how to live stream, and replace lost income. I’m social distancing in my apartment when I receive an email from a good friend and professional Twitch streamer, Melissa Lamm.
Wait – let me clarify. Melissa is a full time singer-songwriter based in Toronto, who for the last year and a half has been live-streaming herself performing from her home, 4 times a week.
“I usually stream twice on Tuesdays and twice on Thursdays. I do a piano performance in the mornings, and then sing with my piano in the evenings. Usually the streams last about two to four hours, which is so much fun but can be exhausting some days. I’ve found on those days it’s in my best interest to focus on the streams. I used to sandwich a bunch of work in before, after, and in between the performances, but I found that my vibe wasn’t right when I would perform, or I’d be tired by the evening stream. So these days, I usually wake up, have a shower, get some breakfast and steam over a big pot of hot water, which opens up my vocal chords. I’ll do my hair and makeup, check my socials, warm up and set up my home studio for the livestream. After my first stream, I’ll have some lunch, a little break, and then warm up my voice for the second stream, which usually lasts until around 8pm. Then I’ll have dinner and chill out!”
Twitch is a platform best known for live-streaming people playing video games. While that might seem an odd fit at first for a pop artist, it’s a stroke of brilliance to be different when viewers scroll through the browse page’s thumbnails.
“I think discoverability is a great part of Twitch. There are lots of people browsing the platform and all of the live music streams show up on this one music section of Twitch that you can scroll through. One way to get people’s attention is through your thumbnail, which is a live shot of your stream and setup. I wanted my thumbnail to be nice and chill and the best visual representation of my stream, so there are lots of colourful lights behind me and you can usually see my keyboard in the frame.
One of the biggest assets that Twitch has, compared to other live-streaming options such as Facebook Live, Instagram Live, and YouTube, is that since its launch there has been a culture of viewers tipping content creators as a token of appreciation.
No one logs into their Facebook account with the thought of “hmm, I wonder what I’ll spend money on today…” On Twitch however, the virtual tip jar is built in to the platform, and streamers don’t need to anxiously craft the perfect ask, for fear of being called a sellout.
“It’s the perfect platform for fundraising, not just for musicians,” Melissa gushes. “Even Bernie Sanders runs all his campaign live streams over Twitch. One night I was watching and he raised $8,000!”
Earlier this year, I loudly congratulated Melissa Lamm on her fundraiser for the Australian wildfires relief efforts, a testament to the power of music for good.
“I was just doing my regular Thursday streams, and I said ‘Today, we’ll be raising money for the Australian Red Cross in support of the wildfire efforts. So if you donate today, that’s where the money will go’. So that was great. I was hoping for maybe $300, I don’t want to impose on people and set large goals, because I never know what people are going through and I never want anyone to feel pressure to donate, it’s just amazing that people show up and listen. So I was just like ‘I’ll be playing song requests, if you donate, I will bump up your requests above the other ones’, and I had people just start donating $50, 20, $100… At one point someone dropped over $1,000… And after conversion into Australian and Paypal deductions, it was over $5,000 AUD which was crazy! People were so generous, and some of them were’t even people who were part of my “regular audience” all the time but they saw that we were raising money for Australia, so they just dropped in and donated and shared some messages of support for Australia”
Last year, Melissa wrote a guest article for Pop of Colour full off her Twitch tips and experiences so far. Naturally, I asked if anything had changed in her setup since then.
“It takes a lot of equipment to get started with it, and I just wanted to get started in the beginning but I had pretty basic equipment. As people started donating I wanted to improve the stream so I got better lighting, some colourful neon lights, a much better microphone, a better audio interface, which has been huge for streaming and also great for recording.
** Listen To Got My Heart **
Melissa Lamm also recently released a new single from an upcoming EP, called Got My Heart,a chill electro-pop love song with upbeat energy. Got My Heart has an important job to do, cement Melissa as an artist as talented and legitimate as those following the more conventional live performance-oriented career path. It’s the same hurdle musicians on YouTube need to clear, ascending beyond the digital platform in the eyes of their fans and the industry alike.
“I want to definitely show that I’m a musician. There’s this word, streamer, that gets used a lot. A lot of people call me a “streamer” and they aren’t wrong, it’s true! But first and foremost, I’m a musician. I use Twitch just as I use Instagram or Twitter to reach new listeners and share my art and connect with my listeners. I’ve been working on music since I was a kid, I even went to University for music. I’m a serious musician with a lot of ambition, and Twitch is one part of what I do as a musician. But it’s a seriously amazing part that has opened up so many doors for me and connected me with an absolutely fantastic online community. I would love to see more musicians hopping on Twitch and trying it out!
Hosting her own virtual concerts on a regular basis has also sharpened her stage presence at traditional live gigs. “I’ve noticed when I do play live now, there’s a lot of overlap with the banter. It’s a great way to practice your banter, going on Twitch. It’s a great way to feel out witch songs seem to resonate with people, which songs get people excited, and then you can apply that to your set list.”
Thank you Melissa for taking time out of your busy day for us! Stay safe and stay colourful!