“I’m thinking about streaming, what advice can you give me?”
This is a common question a lot of streamers receive and it’s one that will never go away. A lot of the advice returned is about the technical aspects of livestreaming, what software to use, how to set up a modbot, how to create an overlay, formulate a brand, web apps for notifications, the list is endless. However one aspect of streaming that people overlook is, in my opinion, the most important of all. What kind of streamer are you going to be? Now I’m not talking “creative”, “music”, “variety” or “specific game” type streamer; this is something you will very much already have in your head, or will be dictated by your own personal interests and skills. I’m not talking about platforms or business structures either. These are all things that should evolve over time.
No, what I’m talking about is how YOU present yourself to your prospective audience. Some people ape more sucessful streamers thinking that this is the key to partnership and their dream life of earning a living through streaming. Some look for a gimmick, a hook that will bring in viewers and hopefully keep them coming back. This is all well and good, but it’s not going to work for everyone. If you spend all your efforts on developing gimmicks etc your are going to lose sight of the most valuable asset at your disposal. You.
If you want to turn streaming into a career you’re going to have to approach it like a business, only the product you are selling is you. You need to identify what is unique about you, you need to look at the pros and cons, and you are going to need to be brutally honest with yourself. You mustn’t look at what you HOPE to become, but what you have going for you right now. Identifying that is half of the battle when you’re starting off.
If you’re a game streamer who’s not dripping with “1337 skillz” then you need to look at what else you have going for you. You could be extremely knowledgeable about the particular game you play, this will attract newcomers and veterans to the game looking for advice, tips and hints. Just know you’re going to have to be shit hot on it forever because this is the internet, you fuck it up once and it will never, ever forget. It will also become limiting if you decide to try out new and different games as the expectation is that you will have similar knowledge about them, and if that’s not the case then you’ve just dumped your Unique Selling Point. While yes you can evolve your stream over time, you must be aware of what it is that draws viewers to you in the first instance.
Interaction with your audience is vital so the most important thing as a streamer you need to work on is your “patter”, how you talk about what you are doing, keeping up the energy for long periods of time and delivering the same level regardless of how many viewers are watching, you have to come out of the blocks running and have the stamina to keep that going. A journalist recently described what I do as “Hilarious talk radio with exciting visuals” which is probably the most accurate description of streaming I’ve read. When I started I would sometimes barely scrape 10 viewers per stream for months, but I treated each stream as if I had hundreds. Those weren’t the “dark times” they were rehearsals, training for when that viewer counter finally did tick up into the 100s.
I try to check out streamers with low viewer numbers on a semi regular basis, lurking in their chat, and the amount I come across who sit in utter silence because they “don’t have the viewers” is huge. It comes across as if they feel that gameplay should be enough to bring in the views. No, no and thrice no. Unless you are a highly skilled or pro-gamer your gameplay is not going to stand out and get you views. When your viewer numbers are in the toilet that is the perfect time to practice your “patter”. practice talking about what you are doing, explore verbally topics you find interesting. We all at some point will sit and talk to ourselves, it helps us get our thoughts lined up and it is this you must harness when you are first starting out.
While it can be disheartening to sit on stream with no viewers, with your carefully crafted notifications gathering dust and your bot games unused, you have to be able to battle through that and treat an empty stream as if it has hundreds of people watching. If you can’t do that then maybe streaming isn’t for you and no amount of hashtags on twitter, stream teams or social media blitzing is going to change that. Viewers aren’t something a streamer deserves, it’s something a streamer has to earn. You can have the most fantastic graphics, 1080/60 crystal clear game, green-screen webcam and the best mic money can buy; if you don’t have the engaging verbal diarrhea to go with it you aren’t going to grow.
Anyone can give streaming a go, the bar to entry is very low, if you can watch streams on your computer or console you can more than likely stream yourself (if you have decent upload speeds). No one can tell you whether or not you’re going to be good at it, but you must be prepared that regardless of the technology you throw at it the key ingredient is always you. I see many small streamers bemoaning their lack of views/followers on social media and invariably when I go to check out their streams what is revealed is the most low effort and dull content on the internet. Yes they have the graphics, the gifs, the bots etc but that is just eye candy, their engagement is practically none existent. Is it any wonder that they don’t get viewers. “I work hard” they cry on twitter “why is no one watching?”, but their content is the antithesis of working hard, it’s lazy as fuck.
If you’re not afraid of working on yourself first, before adding the flashy graphics etc, then you’re going to get started on the right foot. If you think you can just sit there and expect the views to come flooding in, you’re going to be down the bottom of the stream list forever. Don’t be afraid to fail, not everyone is cut out for this, don’t go chasing numbers because therein lies many a streamers downfall. A lot of people will say “Don’t quit, keep trying! You can do it!” but that’s not honest, if it’s not working out there is no shame in walking away. You’re not letting anyone down, not even yourself, because you can walk away saying “I gave it a go”.
The main thing I will say is try it because you never know, you could very well break out and become a streaming superstar. Don’t make that your goal though, the likelihood that you will is very slim, but the odds get better if you put the effort in the right place. Your stream is about you above all other things. Work on you before anything else, even if it’s just recording a test of you playing and talking for a few hours. Go back and look at it, be brutal with yourself. What works? What doesn’t? What is you and what is you “putting something on”? People can spot fakeness a mile away.
Put in the time to develop you. Put the time aside to practice, after all what is it they say? “How do I get to Carnegie Hall?” (travel south from West 59th Street on 7th Avenue and it’s 3 blocks down on the left…)