Rochester Chamber Pop Musicians Connect With Fans On Twitch | Musical features


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  • Sabrina Nichols, aka Shep Treasure, performs in July as part of Disposable America’s weekly Twitch livestream.

Sabrina Nichols sat in front of a camera and computer with headphones and an acoustic guitar in her hand in the corner of a dimly lit bedroom in her Brooklyn apartment. Behind her, plants rested on a shelf, and a curious cutout of a Boxer dog face hung on the wall.

“Can anyone hear me?” ” she asked. “Is anyone up?” Is anyone listening? “

Nichols, a native Rochester musician named Shep Treasure, waited for a response in the form of a fan-written text stream that scrolled a moment later: “Yes.” “Yeah.” We hear you. ”

“Alright, let’s go,” Nichols replied and began strumming a pleasant mid-tempo song and singing softly.

Her fans responded with approval, “Woooo.” “So good.” “Hell yeah.” “Bedroom rock.”

It was a performance by Shep Treasure that was broadcast live on the Twitch video platform late in the night in July. It was raw, intimate, and what musicians and their fans expect from the medium.

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“Live broadcasts are cool because you can do a show for someone watching who's from an area where almost no band is visiting,” Nichols says.  - PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH

  • “Live broadcasts are cool because you can do a show for someone watching who’s from an area where almost no band is visiting,” Nichols says.

If you follow the music, chances are you’ve stumbled upon a Twitch stream. While the platform has its roots in gaming, musicians are interested in it as a way to showcase their talents, boost their visibility, monetize their music, and interact with their fans.

Viewers are thrown into a streamer’s chat room where they can send Twitch emoticons (small emoji-like icons) expressing approval or annoyance, bark song requests, and receive real-time responses to comments. Sometimes the Twitch channel host posts a link to where the audience can buy the artist’s music.

“Live broadcasts are cool because you can do a show for someone watching who’s from an area where almost no band is visiting,” Nichols says. “It’s also a more intimate environment, because you can read in the chat what your audience is saying and you can respond instantly. I think it’s also just a way for anyone to explore the possibilities.

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Kitchen's James Keegan and Nichols bring their bedroom pop songs direct to fans on the Twitch live streaming platform.  - PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH

  • Kitchen’s James Keegan and Nichols bring their bedroom pop songs direct to fans on the Twitch live streaming platform.

Nichols is part of a new generation of “bedroom” or “DIY pop” lo-fi musicians embracing Twitch and its limits which they and their audiences believe are part of its charm. It is not uncommon, for example, for musicians to encounter technical difficulties or for their video and sound to lag behind. At the same time, these drawbacks give an air of authenticity to the performers and their acts.

Rochester artist James Keegan, who goes by name Kitchen and whose latest album, “Halloween in August,” was featured on Rolling Stone last year, performs frequently on Twitch.

If he says he enjoys the experience, he says his performances are in some ways more intimidating and overwhelming than playing live on stage, as the anonymity of the discussion board lends itself to the audience shedding its inhibitions.

“Half the time when I play a set and watch the cat, I try not to laugh when people are joking and joking,” Keegan says. “Obviously, if you were performing in a venue, you wouldn’t hear a lot of things being typed in the chat. ”

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  • “Half the time when I’m playing a set and watching the cat, I try not to laugh when people are joking and joking,” Keegan said of the live broadcast performances.

Nichols, who first played in local indie rock trio Slumbers and works as a visual artist for indie label Beggars Group, agreed the medium can be entertaining.

“It’s like someone is talking or shouting on your set in a room,” she said, “but in a nicer and more fun way then you want to interact.”

The interaction is worth it from both a PR and financial perspective.

Fans can interact directly with musicians on Twitch by subscribing to their channels and making monetary donations known as “bits” – the digital equivalent of throwing money into a musician’s case. itinerant. This type of direct sponsorship can pay off for artists, but it can be a lot of work for the artist and requires a horde of fans to dig in their pockets.

A typical Twitch streamer earns 15 cents an hour per fan, according to “Twitch’s Rockonomics,” a platform-independent analysis by the former chief economist at Spotify. Artists with Twitch channels with established audiences can earn over 25 cents per hour per fan.

If those numbers seem stingy, consider the analysis found that artists would earn an average of a third of a cent per fan per hour on other streaming platforms.


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  • James Keegan.

DIY archivist and videographer Steven Coleman, aka Modern-Ringtones, began documenting Rochester’s lo-fi and bedroom pop after roaming the burrow of his bustling underground scene with artists such as Kitchen and the band. Attic Abasement. In particular, Coleman was drawn to Kitchen’s simple yet catchy guitar chords and the warmth of a Casio PT-30 keyboard, as well as the nostalgic, lo-fi whistle of the recordings themselves.

“Chamber pop is an obscure art form, so most pop artists don’t go on tour and it’s more of a hobby for a lot of people,” he says.

Before the pandemic, Coleman hosted a series of shows called “Casiodome” in his apartment, before moving the concerts to Twitch. He says the change has helped artists gain exposure, while also allowing them to exchange ideas with other musicians and fans through discussion forums.

“With a platform like Twitch, artists see this welcoming internet community where the audience is truly united and always wants to know more and especially during the pandemic, which has been a breath of fresh air,” Coleman said.

Some independent record companies embraced the bedroom pop artists who took to Twitch and started showcasing them there. One label driving this scene is Boston-based Disposable America, which began airing small shows at the start of the pandemic.

Now, the label organizes shows almost every week. Indeed, he hosted Shep Treasure’s performance in July as part of his “Tuesday Night Live” series.

Dustin Watson, founder of Disposable America, says he believes it’s important to build online music communities by digitally connecting artists around the world. With the long hiatus from live music, Watson’s digital streaming concerts have become an ideal substitute, especially for chamber pop artists.

“Other online platforms can be very limited, while a platform like Twitch has the best of all worlds,” Watson said.

Watson adds that he believes Twitch is the way small artists are going to be recognized and sees his live broadcasts as an invitation to the artist’s world.

“You will hear the perfectly produced records of these artists and then watch them fumble with their pedals in their living room, which can be a little stressful, but at the same time beautiful,” he says. “You get this totally different and raw experience, and it’s kind of like a portrait of how the songs they perform came to life.”

Joe Massaro is a freelance writer for CITY. Comments on this article can be directed to [email protected]

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