How To Grow Your Audience Streaming with Twitch: Part Two

Democratising the very nature of live broadcasting, Twitch is now home to well over 2 million broadcasters. Streaming content to more than 100 million visitors a month, they come in all shapes and sizes. Some boast millions of followers and generate eye-popping incomes through donations, subscriptions, sponsorship, merchandise and other deals. Others stream to just a handful of viewers and see it simply as a way to network or unwind. And while Twitch was originally famed for its games-orientated content, the platform is now also home to a thriving creative community—including CG art. Here 2D and 3D creatives are able to connect in new and more direct ways, and share knowledge in a truly interactive environment. We caught up with professional digital artist and successful creative streamer Brendon Isaiah Bengtson to discuss what it takes to become a successful Twitch broadcaster. Brendon studied 3D modelling and animation at Cogswell forging a career in the medical field before catching the video game art bug at 2013’s Blizzcon event. He has since worked on a number of freelance and contract projects, and is currently employed as a 3D production artist on-site at Apple.

A reason to start Twitch streaming

“As an avid gamer I had, of course, heard of Twitch. Then I started seeing people doing art streams and all of the sudden there was a whole Creative section. That’s when it clicked. What I specifically wanted to do was to show what it takes to make video game art in real-time. There are so many amazing tutorials out there but the thing they lack is interactivity. So I set up my stream as an on-going interactive tutorial for 3D character and prop art for video games. Truthfully, I also knew that having people watch me in real-time would motivate me to create and learn more. And, of course some good exposure always helps.”

“The majority of viewers and streamers on Twitch are focused on gaming so it’s been an interesting challenge. There really isn’t an established or proven method yet for Creative streamers. I think everyone, including the audience, is still trying to figure it out. That could be good or bad, but it does give us Creative streamers an empty canvas to work with, and that’s what we like. I knew it would take time to get the ball rolling, but for the first few months there were a few times when there was no-one hanging out with me. That’s kind of awkward. Do you talk to yourself? Wait for someone to show up and ask some questions? The best advice I can say when starting out is to focus on making good art, share knowledge, be respectful and consistent and eventually people will come hang out with you more often.”

‘I think the early stages of your streaming are critical. Being consistent is probably one of the easiest ways to grow an audience. Not necessarily consistent in what you work on, but rather in how and when you get artwork done. I do also think that Twitch is its own island—one that stands apart from social media outlets like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram—so it’s important to build as many bridges as possible to help grow your audience.”

Presenting yourself

“Just try things out. Try focusing on the art for a few streams, then try focusing on entertaining the audience. See what works and what you are comfortable with. It’ll definitely help if you roll high on charisma but it’s not a make or break deal. Every stream is a little different and that’s totally fine. We like variety.”

Standing out from the crowd

“For me, I’ve always wanted to help others. What can I say, I’m a giver. I think one of the things that makes the Creative field so strong is the sense of camaraderie. Because most of us are struggling to get better we all have a deep appreciation for what it takes to become a good artist. There are no shortcuts or cheat codes. You earn it, and we can all appreciate what it takes to get there. So in that light I try to help as many people as I can. I’m always answering questions, providing suggestions, and giving advice based on my experience.”

Choosing content

“I think it’s important to stick to your guns and be consistent about why you’re doing what you’re doing and how you’re doing it, though I do try to leave some wiggle room to adapt to what people are interested in seeing. Ultimately, I’d say broadcast what you love doing. You’ll have the most fun and people feed off that.”

Connecting with your audience

“I think interactivity is what really pushes good streams to the top. People can watch regular art tutorials or YouTube videos on their own time. You’re streaming to connect with people. So say hi and keep an eye on that chat window. There are a couple of ways I keep interactions going even after the broadcast ends. Since becoming a Twitch Partner, I have tried very hard to keep a lot of value in the free end of my broadcasts while adding more value to those who can support me by subscribing to my channel. I run a private subscriber-only Discord chat channel, so I can stay connected with my subscribers and provide a location for things like general chatting, a broadcast and workshop suggestion box, and a critiques section for feedback from everyone. I’m always thinking of creative ways to keep the free stuff and subscriber stuff fresh and entertaining while fitting into my personal time availabilities.”

Scheduling your broadcasts

“It’s incredibly important to be consistent, but if you can’t, be communicative. When people spend enough time hanging out with you there are connections. No one likes being stood up. But if you’re communicative then people are more understanding. On a side note, if you are interested in becoming a Twitch Partner, they really like when you have a consistent schedule, too.”

“There were a couple of factors to consider when deciding my regular streaming times: where I am in comparison to the rest of the world, and when I consistently have the most creative time on my hands. I’m in California and have a full-time job plus a family, so super-early in the morning works best for me. That does mean my fellow Californians probably won’t be watching, but it’s the price I pay. Every once in a while I try to do a night stream just to shake things up a bit and test out some alternate times. I’d recommend focusing on when you have consistent times to work and stream, and when the greatest number of people in your target demographic will most likely be on Twitch. If you don’t get the views then maybe try different times. Take the first couple of weeks or months to feel out what works best.”

Setting boundaries

“Being in any public space you’ll always deal with a bell curve of personalities. Most people are cool and courteous but there are a few outliers. You’ll deal with a lot of different scenarios and it’s a good idea to be able to have some people skills. Try not to let things get out of control. There have been a few lines crossed during my time broadcasting and I used those opportunities to let everyone know that common respect for all will be enforced. Twitch provides a couple of really easy tools for dealing with tools.”

Strength in numbers

“Since making Twitch Partner I have tried to keep value in the free end of my broadcasts while adding more for those who can support me by subscribing to my channel. I work hard to bring industry-leading artists on the channel to help inspire and teach, including Dan Roarty, Milan Nikolic, Fausto de Martini, Justin Goby Fields, Kurt Papstein,  Bjorn Hurri, Glauco Longhi and Anthony Jones. It has been an incredible honour to have these guys on and the viewer response has been overwhelming. There are some more awesome guys and gals coming down the pipeline, so stay tuned. I’ve also started gathering other video game artists who stream art by starting what’s called a Twitch Team. It’s a page where people can go to see those of us on the team to see if anyone is streaming or just to find other video game artists on Twitch.”

Final advice

“It’s important to give back as much as possible, but try not to give the house away. Find out what works for you and create a little business plan around how and why you stream. And do keep a close eye on ArtStation. It is an incredible platform for meeting like-minded artists and getting crazy awesome inspiration. To sum up: don’t be a jerk, keep an eye out on your chat window, be respectful, encourage others, support other artists and streamers, stay creative, and keep growing. See you all on the stream!”

Brendon’s Twitch Channel
Brendon’s ArtStation Portfolio
Brendon’s website

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