What is Twitch and how does it work?


So you may have spotted that I've started using a website called Twitch to do my music live streams. A move away from Facebook, which might seem a bit silly when you factor that the majority of people who normally watch my streams are facebook people, but after doing some research and spending some time watching streams on the platform, I decided that i think it was a much better option. I've had the most fun streaming on there since November, and I think that those who have made the leap over with me have really enjoyed it. I know that setting up a profile on a new site isn't ideal and that learning how it all works is frustrating, but those who have done so, have really got a lot out of it. I'm aware that there are those who used to watch my live streams on Facebook who haven't come over, or who came over once and said "I don't understand this" and then never came back, so I thought I'd write a blog about what it is, why i prefer it and how to use it.

1. What Is Twitch? - Twitch is a video streaming site. Although predominantly and historically used by gamers, it's become the home for many people who are streaming themselves doing all sorts of things, music, comedy, art etc. Streams tend to be highly interactive, and those who are watching the streams tend to be engaged - because most viewers have made the decision to watch streams, it's a very different experience to watching on Facebook where you're there with those who just happened to be scrolling through. Streamers tend to have better set-ups than elsewhere on the internet, with a focus on quality of sound being one of the main things. This results in a higher quality stream than you'll get on other platforms. The combination of these things makes it a much better experience for both streamer and viewer.

Each streamer has their own channel, and for those you like, you're encouraged to press follow and you can set up whether you get notifications when your favourites go live. I've got e-mail notifications on, so I don't have to miss a stream by one of the streamers I follow. Setting up an account and pressing follow is completely free. You may have to watch the odd advert every now and then, but it's the same as Facebook or other social media in that regard. 

Anyone can stream on twitch, but there are three different tiers. Those who are starting out, and then affiliates and partners. To become an affiliate you have to meet some basic goals set by Twitch (stream on 7 days in the last 30, total stream time of 8 hours in those 30 days with an average of 3 people watch over that time and have 50 people follow your channel). Once you're an affiliate you have a few extra things available to you. You can have custom emojis (or emotes as they're called on twitch), and people can have access to your emoji's by subscribing to your channel. We'll talk more about that later. You can also earn money from the adverts and people can use the in built twitch currency to donate to you. To become a partner you have to have a lot more people watching and reach a few more goals, but Twitch also has to approve you, so there aren't that many partners, but they are considered to be the elite of twitch streamers. 

Twitch is also the best online site I've seen that actively encourages growth of the streamers. Most other social media sites are making it so hard to grow an audience and then to reach that audience once you've grown it, whereas Twitch wants you to grow. Either through the discover part of the site, or with raids. (more on that later). This makes it a wonderful tool to all artists especially while we can't tour.

2. How Does The Chat Work? - This is where most people seem to get confused when they're new. On the surface it may appear to be a different language, but it's really not that complex at all. Just like on Facebook, you can comment along as things are going on, but there are some cool features which make this a better environment than Facebook chats.

  • Almost all streamers will have a "Bot" which is connected to the stream which will post messages that are either timed or can be triggered using commands. I use one called 'Streamelements' - so if you're in my chat and you see Streamelements (which also has a green sword next to it), know that it's not a real person.
  • Some of these commands can only be triggered by mods, others can be triggered by anyone in the chat. Commands look like this: "!clap" exclamation mark followed by a word - this particular one appears in most streamers lists, and it simply will bring up clap emojis in the chat (in twitch language emojis are called emotes). You can view the list of commands by writing "!commands" and then a link will appear which will show you all the different commands available to you, but on the whole you can see what other users are doing and then use them yourself if you wish. Some of them are for information, but most are just for fun.
  • Emotes are a whole new level on twitch. As discussed briefly earlier, when a streamer becomes and affiliate they can create their own custom emotes and if you're subscribed to that persons channel you can use them in any chat that you go in. So as well as the standard emoji's you normally see, there are plenty of others that you'll see being used in the chat which may have something to do with another streamer. This is all part of the fun of it, and people use these emotes to express themselves. Some streamers have emotes that are used in the chat appear on the screen while they're streaming, so by using them you're influencing what is happen. This is something I do, and when i play a song like "Kiss from a Rose" people love using the lips and roses emotes to have them coming up on the screen. It's the small things in life that make us happy :D

3. How Do I Request A Song? - One of the things that i like most about Twitch is that music streamers all use something called Streamer Songlist. This means that the chat isn't full of "can you do this one?" or "Do you know this one?" kind of questions. Each streamer has the list of songs they know set up on another site which is connected to their twitch account. You can go on there and view this list and request a song. It will then get added to their queue and they'll eventually play it if there is time. You can often have your song bumped up the list by donating or subscribing (more on this later). My own songlist has nearly 600 songs on it. Some streams I limit that list to certain themes to make it a bit more fun. That also gets me learning a few more songs, which is also interesting for me. If you want to see the song list, in the chat you type "!sl" or "!songlist" and the bot will post the link. You can then browse and select the song, but you'll need to log in to streamer songlist, which if you have an account with Twitch, is super easy. If you know what song you want you don't have to go into the songlist at all. Within the chat you can type "!sr name of the song" and it will get added. If you're stuck, just ask the chat.

4. What Are Channel Points? - If you have followed a streamer and are watching their streams, you'll earn channel points. These will show up at the bottom of the chat box. You redeem these points to do a number of things and sometimes influence the stream itself depending on what the streamer has set up. I have a number of things set up like "Hat Change" or "Play a song on the White Guitar" etc. Sometimes little silly things but they can also be really good fun. I'm constantly trying to find new things to add to this to mix it up. But essentially the more you watch, the more points you get, and the more fun you can have with these. These are not a currency, and haven't cost you anything, nor does the streamer earn anything, but it's good fun!

5. What Are Bits and Cheers? - This is the in house currency on Twitch. Twitch is free, but just like on Facebook, streamers do appreciate it if you can contribute somehow. It's not essential, but it does mean that the streamer can pay their bills, or invest in more stream equipment etc. Often streamers will have their donation goals on the screen so you can see what they're working towards. If you want to financially support a streamer there are a number of ways you can do it. The most efficient of these is a straight donation through a Paypal link. Most streamers will have these on display somewhere on their channel page, or they'll pop up in the chat. Or you can find out by using the command "!donate" within the chat. However, if you're really getting into Twitch and are watching a lot of different streamers, then purchasing some "Bits" and donating them may be an easier option. Within the chat box you will see a diamond. If you click on that it will tell you how to purchase bits and you can also them use them here. You can use them with different emotes within the chat. 1 bit is roughly 1 US cent. But you'll get discounts on buying them the more you buy. You can also then just donate really quickly within the chat using the cheer command: "cheer100" will donate 100 bits to the streamer. you can change the number to whatever amount you want as long as you've purchased that amount of bits. 

 6. What is a subscription? What is a gift sub? - I've mentioned this a couple of times now, but once a streamer is an affiliate, viewers can subscribe to their channel. This is different from following, and always make sure you're following if you want the notifications. Subscriptions are you paying to support the streamer for a month. There are three different tiers of subscription and they cost more as you go up. The basic one is £4.99. For that, you're are supporting the streamer financially, but you get access to use their emotes and you'll earn channel points quicker. The higher tiers give you extra emotes and you'll earn channel points even quicker while also helping out the streamer you're watching. This is all non-essential, but a nice thing that you can do. If you can't afford to do this, then that's fine but what you might find is that just by being logged in and watching a stream, you might receive a "Gift-sub" which is where someone pays for you to receive the perks of being subscribed without you having to have to pay, and the streamer still earns from it! If you're someone who has some money and wants to help the streamer, you can be the person who gift subs. Subscribing and giving these gifts is something that can be done on the streamer's page, it's a purple button in the bottom right underneath the screen. You can set this up to subscribe for a set amount of months in advance or just pay month by month. It won't role over unless you ask it to though.

Twitch is owned by Amazon. If you have an Amazon Prime account you can connect that to your twitch account and you'll have one free subscription you can use per month. This means that a streamer gets paid by amazon without you having to spend an extra penny. If you'd like to know how to do that then read this article: https://help.twitch.tv/s/article/twitch-prime-guide?language=en_US 

7. What is a raid? - When a streamer finishes their stream, they can go and 'raid' another streamer. This means that everyone who was watching that stream gets taken to watch another person. This is one of the best features of Twitch. As a streamer, when you get raided, new people are joining your stream and potentially finding out about you and hopefully clicking the follow button to come back another time, but as a viewer, you get to discover a whole load of artists that you'd never heard of. I've seen people become fantastic supporters of people they're discovering because of this system. So, if you're watching a stream and someone raids be sure to welcome the raiders into the chat, and if you're at the end of a stream with someone, go with them into the next stream. If you don't like it, you can always leave, but you might just find your new favourite artist.

8. What is a hype train? - Sometimes when you're watching a streamer, suddenly a hype train bar will appear at the top of the chat. Each affiliate streamer has the option to set this up. Essentially it requires a number of different things to happen in a 5 minute window, either a certain amount of subs, gift subs or bits donated (over 100 bits to qualify). Completing these hype trains will unlock new emotes for those who have participated. It's not something you have to take part in, but it's a bit of fun, which if you can contribute is also helping the streamer earn something. 

9. What is Discord? - This actually isn't part of Twitch but you'll hear most people talking about their own discord servers. This isn't something you have to get involved with, but I've found some great benefit in doing so recently. Discord is an app, which you can have on your desktop or phone (or both), and you can join different people's servers. Within that server there will be a number of different categories which you can join in with if you wish. Each person who has a server will set this up for their own tastes and encourage their community to participate as they see fit. A word of warning, some servers have all the notifications turned on, so you may end up with lots of notifications. You can of course turn these off, but it depends how the server is set up as to whether you'll receive these or not from the moment you join. I have it set up so that notifications are only sent if you're directly @ed. Or if i hit @everyone (and i'm the only one who can do these and i'm pretty good at not over doing this). This is another way to stay up to date with what your favourites are doing and engaging with them and other viewers on a number of different things. There are also options to have video chats and group calls on this, which has been a lot of fun. You can be as involved as you want, but as with all of these things, you'll get out what you are willing to put in. 


I hope this helps with your understanding of this new world. It's really not that complex, although the length of this blog may suggest otherwise.


Thanks for reading, and thanks for coming and trying it out!



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