While established artists benefited from record-breaking streams and online concerts during the COVID-19 pandemic outbreaks, budding musicians had to find ways to reinvent themselves.
Many artists turned to social media to promote their music in creative ways. From shooting TikTok videos of them producing a song to standing in front of a webcam for hours on Twitch streams, artists are now using social media streaming to their advantage.
“We stay awake, create every night.” This an original lyric from rapper/producer Beatox in an Instagram Reels video entitled “Learning How To Live.” For artists like him, learning how to navigate content creation in addition to producing original music has been a way to “learn how to live’’ in a digital setting.
Beatox made a TikTok account a few months ago during a trip to Europe, after noticing that many emerging musicians were using the platform, too. This casual undertaking became a means of promoting his album Beatox Experiment and other production projects.
“I did videos for both TikTok and Instagram Reels. With TikTok, I felt like it was more carefree, because I didn’t have a fanbase (on the platform) yet. With Instagram, though, I felt like my videos had to be more polished,” he says.
From no followers on TikTok to upwards of 1,000 at the time of writing, Beatox shares freestyling clips and beat-making tutorials. Although he says he isn’t very knowledgeable about how the algorithm works, he has felt like TikTok and Instagram Reels have been great resources to connect with his audience. Now that the artist received a Canada Council for the Arts grant to work on an album with his mother Rachel Kane, Beatox looks forward to exploring more of what social media has to offer.
“My mom and I received a Canada Council for the Arts grant for an album that I am working on with her. Part of it is for the production side, while the other is for marketing. We will be exploring Tik Tok and Instagram to get our music out there, but to also show the behind-thescenes process,” he says.
Aside from short-video content creation, some artists are also engaging in Twitch streaming. The platform (with over 140 million active users in 2022) was originally predominantly a hub for gamers. Now, the streaming medium has welcomed musicians into their streamer clique.
Gillian Hayek, a Winnipeg-based singer-songwriter, praises the experience she’s had so far as a Twitch streamer. The artist has over 1,400 followers and is part of The Collective, a program offered by Twitch to support musicians by putting them together into invite-only groups to build community and make money.
“With anything, when you are starting out, you just figure (it) out as you go. I came in thinking that I had seen a few streams and that I was ready, but I had no idea what I was doing. That only made it more exciting. People love to see growth in there and witness the next big thing,” she says.
On March 30, Hayek was featured on Twitch’s front page through the support of The Collective. Over 47,000 unique viewers watched her livestream when it happened.
“I’m smiling from ear to ear right now just thinking about it. It was wild! The Collective pushed for that to happen. Being on the front page, you have so many people getting in there and having a glimpse of you. You have this small window (of time) to capture their attention, and you have to stay for the full two hours. I felt like that gave me energy,” Hayek says.
Although being active on social media seems like the right move for artists trying to dip their toes into the music industry, Hayek was quick to note that content creation requires dedication.
“Doing the most will give you the most opportunities. Whether that is live performances in person or doing content creation, everything is going to give you a better shot. You have to give it your all,” she says.
Another emerging local artist weighed in on her experience using Twitch. While Kwiat, a classically trained Métis and Polish chamber-pop artist, shares production and songwriting collaborations online, she also uses Twitch to connect and relate to her followers. Most importantly, the platform has allowed the artist to be herself.
“The best that someone can do, and what I did since the beginning, is to be true to who you are. Really establish your values as a person and what you want to come across in your streaming. I knew I wanted this to be a welcoming and safer space. I am naturally a very goofy person, so I embraced that silly side of me to be authentic,” she says.
Like any other social media or media platform around, there isn’t a guarantee that creators will have a successful outcome with their content. Kwiat emphasizes that Twitch has low discoverability, so relying entirely on the platform to grow an audience can be tricky. The best way to enjoy the experience, she says, is to build lasting connections with followers.
To stand out, she suggests producing on a regular basis and doing things organically.
“When I started to see momentum in my streaming, it was because I had a schedule, and I stuck to it. I was open to suggestions from my community and building off of what they wanted to see,” she says.
Like Beatox, Kwiat also received grants to help her work on her music. She hopes to include her followers on Twitch in her upcoming writing and recording sessions.
Follow Beatox on TikTok @itsbeatox and on Instagram @beatox_. For Twitch streams, follow GillianHayek and Peaceandkwiat.
Published in Volume 76, Number 24 of The Uniter (April 7, 2022)