057. An Intro to Creative Streaming on Twitch

Going along with my Sunday Twitch Story days, I'll occasionally mix in some advice for those who are interested in starting (or growing) a stream on Twitch in the Creative Community!

First, what is the Creative Community?

I've discussed this in my other Sunday posts, but I'll do a quick recap here (if you want to read them, search for "Twitch" in the little search box on this page).

Twitch Creative is a flourishing community of artists who have found a unique platform for sharing their creative process on the popular streaming website known as Twitch.tv
Twitch (which used to be Justin.tv) is primarily a website on which people broadcast themselves playing video games. Anyone can watch, and interact in a chat box with the streamer and other viewers. Streams are categorized by game, so you can quickly find what you're looking for.

Between late 2014 and early 2015, some broadcasters started streaming themselves making video game themed artwork (like painting characters or landscapes from a game). This attracted hundreds and then thousands of viewers, and more and more creative people started streaming artwork. Twitch realized this was a growing trend and wanted to support this community. In the fall of 2015, Twitch officially launched the Creative community, with the support of Adobe and in conjunction with Bob Ross's 73rd birthday in which his past episodes were aired 24/7 for an entire week.

Now, you can find artists (myself included) streaming everything from painting and drawing to sculpture and music! Viewers are able to interact directly with the artist through the chat box, to ask questions or just chit chat.

The Basics:

  • Channel/Stream: an individual page on Twitch that you can watch (either video games or Creative). At any given time there are thousands of people live-broadcasting through their individual channels.
  • Broadcaster/Streamer: The person who controls the channel. The artist. The gamer. The one you are watching.
  • Chat/Viewers: Each channel has a built-in chat system. If you have a username (signing up is free) on Twitch, you can chat in the stream. This is how a viewer interacts with the streamer.
  • Follows: Much like twitter and instagram, users can "follow" a stream by clicking a special button on the channel, and at any time open their "Following" page to view all the live broadcasters that they follow.
  • Host: Any user can "host" one channel at a time. When you host a channel, anyone that follows you will see the hosted channel on their Following page (under "live hosts).
  • Creative is organized by "Communities." A live stream can join one community, usually relevant to what they are streaming. If they are painting, most likely they will join the Painting community. If they switch to drawing, they'll change their community to Drawing. 
  • Partners/Subscribers: Some streamers are "Partnered" with Twitch - meaning Twitch provides them with a special "Subscribe" button which viewers can click and pay $4.99-5.99 per month in order to support the channel. Subscribers get special access to emotes, ad-free viewing, and more by supporting a channel. Note: the streamer receives 50% of this as income. Twitch keeps the rest.


So, you're interested in trying it out. Now what??

First thing you'll want to do is go watch other Creative broadcasters. Observe how they set up their stream, how they interact with viewers, and get a feel for the system.
You'll quickly learn that a successful stream is not based solely on the artwork that is created, or even just the streamer themselves. It's also the community.
The Creative community is now vast, with upwards of a thousand streamers (not all at once, but scattered across timezones), and even more viewers. Many of the viewership watch multiple artists every day. If you hop into a few different Creative streams, you're bound to run into the same people in chat. 

This is similar to the gaming streams, however it's more noticeable in the Creative community because it's smaller. Many of the streamers started out as viewers, and built up relationships with existing streamers before they started their own channel. 
This is a great way to build relationships and get your name out there before you start your stream.

Ok, so you've hung out and built relationships with lots of streamers and viewers, and you're ready to start your own stream. Where to begin??

Next, you will need to learn the software and technology involved in streaming.
Most streamers use software called OBS (Open Broadcaster Software) or XSplit. Each offers their own benefits and features, so it's up to you to decide which one you'll use based on what you need.
There are TONS of tutorials on Youtube with detailed explanations about how to use these programs.
I learned by watching these tutorials while I slowly set up my OBS (I chose OBS because it's free and powerful).

Here are some useful tutorials:
How To Use OBS To Stream To Twitch - Full Tutorial
How to set up OBS Studio
How To: Setup Donation/Follow/Subscribe Alerts in OBS

Once you get the basic software set up, you'll want to make (or hire someone to make you) some kind of overlay or graphics for your stream. It's not required, but it really helps give your stream a more professional appearance. It is also useful for displaying pertinent information (like current projects, stream goals, currently playing music, etc).

You can also use third-party add-ons like Streamlabs and Muxy to accept tips (people can send you money through PayPal or other forms). When someone sends you money, you can use these add-ons to have a little graphic/sound pop up on your stream to celebrate their gift!  

Lastly, you will probably want to setup a bot to help with monitoring your chat. This is a third-party program that you link your channel to and in doing so, it can help automatically police your chat based on your preferences. It can also help viewers get information in chat instantly like a link to your website and shop. Do some research to find which bot suits you. Most are free. Some are super simple and others are robust with tons of features. I use Ankhbot and love it. I started out with Nightbot because it was really easy to use as a beginner.

Now you're ready to broadcast!

Hitting the "start broadcast" button can be scary - I still get nervous once in a while. Will anyone show up? Will they like what I do? What if I mess up?

Most of your viewers will be people who are already familiar with you, who you've built relationships with. The more you stream, you'll realize that your regulars (those who continually watch you day-to-day), will watch regardless of what you're doing. Most of them are there for you and the micro community of your channel. Each streamer attracts different types of people. Some channels are great for lurking (watching but not chatting). Others are high-energy where the chat moves fast! Some are a nice combination of the two. 
Remember, it's YOUR domain. You can set the atmosphere and tone of your stream. You'll attract like-minded people. 

Tips for Success

  • Don't pretend to be something your not. Not only will this be exhausting to keep up with in the long run, you'll most likely end up miserable because you aren't going to attract the right kind of audience. The world is big enough for you to be YOU!
  • Hosting: It's really beneficial to your channel's growth if you host other streamers. Doing this as often as possible is better - so use Auto Host (find this in your settings under 'Channel & Videos'). Hosting is just a kind way to share your viewership. As I mentioned, there is a lot of cross-over within the Creative community. Hosting is mutually beneficial to all parties! Most people who you host will host you back.
  • Raiding: By the time you end your stream for the day, you'll have some viewers (maybe a lot!). Rather than just end and have everyone dissipate, use it as an opportunity to build support and awareness of your fellow streamers! Immediately after you end your stream, find another Live stream and host them. Send your viewers there with a "raid call" - a short phrase or sentence that unites your viewers - and make sure everyone pastes it in chat at the same time. This is like a barrage of activity and love - it notifies the streamer that you are there and bringing all your viewers to watch! It is a fun and sort of silly way to hype up your host.
  • Utilize social media! Twitter is the primary platform for Twitch users to share information, stay connected to each other, and spread awareness about the community. A common practice is to tweet out your channel link and a little preview image of what you'll be working on when you go Live. After the stream, tweeting out what you worked on along with other things like "we raided/hosted so-and-so" or "thanks for the support!" or whatever is relevant!
  • Consistency is the key to growth. If possible, make a streaming schedule that you stick to. When viewers can rely on your stream to be live, they are more likely to become regulars. I notice drastic differences in my viewer numbers and follows when I have a schedule vs. when I don't stick to a schedule.
  • Don't self-advertise in other people's streams, unless the streamer directly asks for your information. Sure, people are supportive of each other, but showing up in a chat and blasting all your portfolio/social media links is considered very rude. The same goes for saying "hey, I'm about to start my stream." or something similar, which is considered rude across Twitch.
  • Fill your "info" section on your stream with relevant information and links to your portfolio, social media, and shop. Make it as easy as possible for your viewers to find your artwork & shop online!
  • Use free statistic services like Loots.com to track your channel's stats. This is helpful in discovering what times of day your stream has the most viewers, which days of the week are most popular, and much more! It may help you determine your schedule and be helpful during your growth.
  • Don't stress about the numbers. It will take time for your channel to grow. When I first started, there were months of under 10 viewers. Success on Twitch is not instant (unless you come to Twitch with an established following elsewhere - like over 100K followers on Youtube or Instagram). Just let your channel grow organically and stick with it, if you enjoy it!

Most importantly, make sure you maintain a balance in your life. While streaming for the last two years, I have suffered from occasional burn out and even times where I thought I should quit streaming. I learned the hard way that taking time off is necessary to re-energize. Streaming creative work can be mentally exhausting (and sometimes emotionally). I now stream every-other day, which works perfectly for me. I'm able to be productive in my days off so I don't get behind and stressed during my streams.
Yes, consistency is important, but your mental and physical health is more so. If you are unhealthy or unhappy, it will show on your stream. Life is too short to let your stream rule your life!

I hope this helps those of you who are interested in streaming in the Creative section on Twitch. It's a massively supportive and positive community, full of incredible artists who open their studio to the world every day. Being part of it is so rewarding, and it's the reason I'm able to pursue my career as an artist!

If anyone has any questions, feedback, or tips/tricks or stories, please share them in the comments below!