Tag Archive for: plamp

**This article first appeared in The Conversation, May 28 2020**

The constraints of coronavirus isolation have closed down most recreational activities, but some creative industries are responding in innovative ways.

I have been researching “digital first personalities” – content producers who build massive (or highly engaged) audiences online first and then often make the jump to traditional media.

Online spaces and social media platforms including Twitch, Patreon, Streamlabs, OnlyFans, and SubStack are becoming more familiar to consumers. This new frontier of the creative industries has writers, comedians, gamers, musicians and even porn producers adopting new ways to make a buck online that could prove viable beyond lockdown.

Plamping the DJ

Zoom and TikTok have emerged as the go-to social platforms during isolation. Families share meals together online, colleagues enjoy drinks remotely after work, families perform micro-dance challenges together, and trivia has found a new audience.

DJs and their record labels) are providing an innovative model and keeping the good-time vibes rolling during isolation.

The recent phenomenon of “plamping” (a portmanteau of plant and lamp to describe the DJ’s classic background mise en scène) has emerged as a meme. When people are “plamped” they are ready to socially engage with others by tuning in to a live DJ set on Twitch TV and interacting with others in a “hosted” Zoom room.

This is the online equivalent of paying your entry fee to the club and hanging out with your mates. Once there, DJs and their labels encourage participants to donate to support the creators.

As users engage with each other via the chat functionality on the Twitch channel’s stream, they build relationships. Twitch has its own communication style – from platform-specific emojis to catch-cries. As the party kicks into gear, someone will likely ask: “Still plamped?”

New York club Nowadays is hosting virtual DJ sets and asking for financial contributions via Patreon. The highest level of support includes entry to a post-pandemic party.

DJ Khaled and Katy Perry are among high profile artists who will perform live concerts via BeApp, though the platform (sponsored by Coca Cola) will raise funds for International Red Cross.

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Plamping hard at Virtual Neon Oasis Fest! 🌴🌴The full set is up on SoundCloud now – check it out! http://Bit.ly/2TxpqHZ  #plamp

Front Runner Platforms

Twitch has exploded as the go-to streaming platform during coronavirus times. Italy’s Twitch gaming traffic alone increased by 70%. There are now 5 million monthly streamers on site, up almost 40% on last year.

What is new, however, is the evolution of Twitch (owned by Amazon) for other entertainment areas, including fundraising, house parties, and of course, plamping. It is estimated Twitch’s turnover was approximately US$1.54 billion in 2019 (A$2.32 billion), with creator revenue around US$600 million (A$900 million) per year.

Beyond Twitch, there are a number of other monetised streaming apps and platforms, established to enable creators to earn money while they “perform” their craft.

Patreon, Streamlabs, OnlyFans, and SubStack all have business models in place that enable creators to choose a plan and partner with the streaming app.

Started in 2013, Patreon now claims to be home to over 150,000 creators supported by more than 4 million patrons. A Patreon creator will select either a 5, 8, or 12% membership plan, with each level offering increased member benefits. As the artist earns more money, so does the streaming app.

OnlyFans – where users sell nude pics and videos – has reportedly been booming since lockdown, with a 75% increase in monthly sign-ups and gaining 150,000 new users every 24 hours.

Lee Reynolds digitally busking during his DJ set. Twitch TV

Can you make a living?

It is estimated Patreon paid its members approximately US$1 billion (A$1.5 billion) up to and including 2019. And with the isolation period in the first three months of 2020, Streamlabs says its active user base has increased by over 30%.

Online gamer Ninja earned US$17 million (A$25 million) in 2019 alone according to Forbes. Social media influencer Caroline Calloway (famous for securing book deals and then not delivering on them) has bragged about a projected US$223,800 (A$337,000) salary from OnlyFans pics, while porn creator Monica Hudt claims she earned over $100,000 on OnlyFans in 2019.

But are these figures representative of online streamers more broadly?

As with all start-up platforms, there are varying degrees of success with typically only a few rising as top earners above the majority of creators. Most streaming creators generally offer branded merchandise alongside their stream to support their income. In the plamping space, DJs are digitally busking by asking punters to leave tips or contribute to their rent.

OnlyFans has been criticised for recent changes to referral bonuses that will cut into earnings.

After lockdown

Some believe creative industries and major events will change forever after COVID-19. If that’s the case, new economic models are required for those who work in this space.

Digital first personalities who integrate streaming apps are leading the way, but it remains to be seen whether they can sustain themselves this way. As with all disruptive technologies, they explode when they emerge, then settle in the larger media framework.

Still with the increased exposure to live streaming during COVID-19, it is likely we will see more integration of online activity even when live events return. And that is a space where more attention is required to ensure those who work in the industry are supported.

plamping

Social media preferences are shifting during COVID-19 restrictions. While many of us have been house bound during the recent COVID-19 isolation period, many social media users have been finding innovative ways to socialise online, akin to how we would in non-restrictive times. But how are social media logics playing out during this time?

New forms of connecting during COVID-19

There is no doubt, Zoom, TikTok and others have taken over as the go-to social platforms during these times. Families are sharing meals together via video conferencing, colleagues enjoy drinks after work on Friday evening, families are doing micro-dance challenges together, we’re notified when our friends fire up their ‘Houseparty’ app, and trivia games have found a new niche interest.

The recent phenomenon of ‘plamping’, however, has emerged as the one fringe-styled socialisation technique that is rapidly evolving to the mainstream. When one is ‘plamped’ they are ready to socially engage with others usually through a combination of social media platforms, focussed around live DJ sets – usually the combination of Twitch and Zoom.

The fast-tracking of reliance on these few platforms has resulted in a digital intermediation issue: who owns the ‘plamping’ platforms, and are users able to socialise while multi-platforming? [Side note dear reader, you must read the work of Kristian Møller and how chemsex is changing during isolation].

How does ‘Plamping’ work?

Plamp is a portmanteau of the words ‘plant’ and ‘lamp’ which first appeared on the Twitch Live streaming platform on the first weekend of quarantine 2020 to describe the live DJ set of Dark Deep and Dangerous. He had a plant and a lamp in his frame, which is now replicated as a typical ‘prop’ within the scene.

The term also refers to the act of tuning in to a live DJ set on Twitch TV and interacting with other participants in a hosted Zoom room – the preferred platform combination for many users.

As users engage with each other via the commenting and liking functionality on the Twitch channel’s stream, users begin to build relationships with each other. Twitch has its own style of communication, for example through the use of platform specific emojis such as WutFace, HotPokket and a host of unlockable channel specific communications. As the party starts to kick into gear, someone is likely to ask: ‘still plamped? [insert Zoom Meeting ID] [Insert Zoom Meeting Password].

Following that link can take one to all sorts of places.

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Screencap of a random Twitch chat to demonstrate the variety of emoji and language norms

The Twitch/Zoom combo has become a standard for many users wanting to enjoy their Friday and Saturday nights at home, with many users setting up their houses to mimic ‘the club’ with appropriate lighting and props.

But why are users flocking to this combo of platforms over, say YouTube or the Houseparty app?

Amazon dominating the live-stream market

There is no doubt that Twitch has exploded as the go-to platform during Coronavirus times. This has been expected in the gaming industry. Italy’s Twitch traffic alone has increased by 70% in gaming traffic alone.

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Source: TwitchTracker

What is emerging is the adaptation of this gaming network for other entertainment areas, including fund raising, house parties, and of course, plamping.

And Jeff Bazos is rubbing his hands together.

Twitch is owned by Twitch Interactive, a subsidiary of Amazon. Initially propped up by venture capital of around US$15 million, it was acquired in 2014 by Amazon for US$970 million. Recently, Twitch has introduced Amazon Prime, further monetizing the platform for creators who can now offer in-stream links for events underway.

It is estimated Twitch’s turnover is approximately US$1.54 billion, with creator revenue around US$600 million per year. It is estimated that Ninja, the top Twitch streamer, earns around US$500,000 million per month. 

A close up of a map

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Source: NewZoo

Zoom, however, is owned by Zoom Video Communications, who’s founder, creator and CEO has earned nearly, Eric Yuan, US$4 billion dollars as a direct result of the Coronavirus pandemic. The platform’s usage statistics have gone from ~10million daily meeting participants in December 2019, to 300 million+ in April 2020 (Iqbal, 2020).

Twitch and Zoom combined have skewed the social media space away from the usual suspects (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube) for highly engaged social media users.

Is this the end of YouTube?

It is difficult to see the sunset for YouTube (if ever), but the platform has certainly taken a significant hit as these two new platforms become the go to for users during the COVID-19 moment. YouTube are increasingly working on their ‘Live’ offering but are not having that much of an impact on Twitch as the Western streaming giant in this space.

Skype (Microsoft) must be scratching its head, wondering what happened (although Microsoft has proven its resilience time and time again).

This moment does bring into question, how much market share is there for multiple platforms? And indeed, as big tech companies are in the mergers and acquisition game to prevent market competitors, can social media users navigate (engage) more than a handful of platforms (beyond Facebook, Instagram, Twitter etc.)? Or is this a typical media technology media that sees other technologies shift and change to accommodate new innovative practices?

So next weekend when Friday night hits and DJs start entertaining their audiences around the world, will people be plamping on YouTube and Skype? Probably not. But will they integrate their old favourites in new ways? That remains to be seen. In any case, I have found an amazing new field to explore an emerging area for social media logics.