The Year in Livestreams 2020: Twitch Brings Artists Together to Maximize Impact

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As previously reported, Elton John topped Billboard’s year-end Top Tours ranking, while Radio City Music Hall and Live Nation crowned the annual Top Venues and Top Promoters lists. But in 2020, traditional touring did not account for the full landscape of the live music industry.

Amidst an indefinite COVID-19 shutdown, artists took to the internet, broadcasting live from empty theaters, outdoor landmarks and their own living rooms.

This week, Billboard is remembering the year in livestreams, with highlights from some of the major digital platforms that connected fans to their favorite artists. Here, we dive into some notable events from Twitch.

Twitch is closing in on a decade since its 2011 launch. The company is unique among the platforms we’ve recapped this week in that is has always existed for the purpose of livestreaming but not, originally, in the music space. The service is primarily known for video games and esports but has become increasingly inclusive, welcoming artists of all kind to go live, doing pretty much whatever they want to do.

And as the livestreaming space grew to unexpected heights of saturation in 2020, Twitch found its footing with hours-long festival-style events. These multi-artist streams were a point of differentiation, reaching for the once-in-a-lifetime lineups that, to a degree, can make festivals feel even more unique and memorable than one artist’s concert.

A major player in this space was Abracadabra, a video series that magically aligned several pop, hip-hop, and electronic artists into a festival-style lineup each week on Twitch. The Sept. 17-20 edition was particularly successful, reaching 22,000 peak concurrent viewers and over 3.1 million total clicks thanks to A-list headliners like Diplo and Snoop Dogg.

The formerly (and future) real-life music festival Rolling Loud aired multiple streams on Twitch, combining to more than 4.5 million total views. The first, on Sept. 12-13, featured Swae Lee and Ski Mask the Slump God atop its lineup, while the Oct. 30-31 follow-up was topped by Gunna and Trippie Redd.

San Francisco’s Outside Lands streamed a similarly themed quarantined version of its annual festival with Inside Lands, garnering more than 3 million total views on Aug. 28-29.

The overwhelming presence of multi-act bills didn’t stop individual artists from finding success on Twitch, so long as they too found a way to give their live streams a hook. Phish’s Trey Anastasio performed eight shows from New York’s Beacon Theatre, streaming one show each Friday from Oct. 9 through Nov. 27. The final stream on Nov. 27 hit a high of 50,000 concurrent viewers.

While Twitch is known for free events, some artists added functionality to their streams for fans to donate to a given charity. Twitch Stream Aid, a March 28 broadcast that featured up-and-comers John Legend, Sting, and Barry Gibbs, among others, raised $2.77 million for the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 fund.

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