Building a DJ Community, one Twitch stream at a time

By Daniel Paiz

There is no easy way to build a community. Whether it’s one in your neighborhood, one from your academic past, or one that centers on the love of your hobby or passion. 2020 has not been a kind year to most people. Their routines, wallets, and sense of community has been decimated by a once in a century pandemic; any kind of perverted normalcy is likely to be welcomed.

So when I first stumbled upon the streaming site for gamers known as Twitch, I figured I would maybe find one or two people who I follow because of music. What I uncovered is something closer to a lifeline for people looking to connect online when in person is all but a fantasy.

How each DJ has learned from Twitch

DJ Miggy

Being an artist is something that takes a lot of time. So naturally DJ Miggy decided he had time to create via both visual and audio means. Drawing and designing posters, fliers, and other visual media is what drew Miggy out to Denver, but the scene he began to help build in the realm of DJs is one of many other reasons the LA product stuck around the Mile High City. The two skillsets collided at the start of the pandemic back in March of 2020.

In high school we used to draw our own fliers and and print ’em out and stuff like that, and then I moved out here.

I was doing all that graphic stuff; and then when the pandemic hit, I got hit with a double whammy.

-DJ Miggy

Miggy was creating concert posters and artwork for venues across the country while simultaneously playing DJ nights; the worst of both worlds converged on the longtime artist. It’s hard to imagine dealing with your main line of work coming to a halt, but when everything you do freezes? That’s tough. A lot of folks might be taken back by it. Perhaps not keep going. From what I can tell, Miggy has plugged along throughout all of this, taking it in stride as well as anyone really can. As the music continues to play on Twitch, so too does Miggy.

The communal aspect of Twitch has provided a new roadmap to building community. Like word of mouth prior to the pandemic, the online version is executed in the same way: the people are the party. The community built on the platform isn’t just a space to hang out, but also a place to learn on the fly if needed.

If you see our chats, you see we pay it forward to everybody. If you go on their streams and they’re having problems, you “whisper” them, try this, here are some Facebook links, I learned the basics, it’s just two pages to help set up your OBS, set up your video, set up your audio–we usually pay it forward. 

-DJ Miggy

Coming together in one of the most divisive times in recent history is tough to do right now. Whether it’s social distancing and wearing masks in public, or attending Zoom meet-ups or Instagram video chats. Spending time with each other through the screens that had been blamed for so much are the primary line of keeping one’s sanity. That’s a common unifier in 2020 and Miggy reflects on how important this together time is.

People thank us and tell us we’re keeping them sane, but they’re also keeping all of us DJs sane too. We’re all in this together.

-DJ Miggy

DJ Dawn Perignon

It’s not often that you come across a DJ who just a few short months ago was working on things that fly over our heads (indirectly of course). The aerospace industry has grown considerably, but Dawn Perignon departed after needing to aid her family. Personal growth is now at the forefront of the Reno-based DJ’s streaming days, as she’s decided to focus on her passions before returning to career mode.

DJing on Twitch, I have found myself being reengaged with music, which I haven’t been in a long time.  I have DJ’d on the side for years and have always focused on finding music for the venues I play at.  Now, I spend time finding and listening to music for my own enjoyment and then I get to share it with others.

-DJ Dawn Perignon

Too often we get into ruts. While things in 2020 have been grievous at best and catastrophic at worst, it’s important for those who entertain to have some time for themselves. When we as individuals have a chance to enjoy and disconnect and grow, that matters. Too often those who entertain and create are taken for granted; cast to the side as request machines or an expected service.

This might sound like a dramatic response, but until society was forced to appreciate what it does have, a good number of people didn’t. If individuals are enjoying what they are doing, then they are going to provide an overall better experience. Those experiences together provide an escape and a chance to yet again grow a community, no matter the venue. DJs are a community that also benefit immensely from this newfound support system.

The thing that I’m most thrilled about with Twitch is watching other DJs play music that brings them joy.  As viewers/listeners we are now exposed to music outside of what we would typically hear in a bar/club or other entertainment setting.  We have an opportunity to interact with the performer.  We get to have these unique, shared experiences with people from all over the world.

We seemed to have opened Pandora’s box and I’m excited to see what this blossoms into.

-DJ Dawn Perignon

The constraints now faced by DJs are really only those of their imaginations. If you can conceive and execute on an idea, there’s no reason to not do it. 2020 has challenged us all to re-imagine what is possible. For DJs, that comes down to what to do with their latest outlet of creativity.

It’s a really cool time for music for me, because again I’m a listener, and not just the DJ providing formatted tunes. I’m playing for my own enjoyment, which I haven’t done for years.

-DJ Dawn Perignon

DJ Low Key

When you have spent a good chunk of your adult life deejaying, there are plenty of challenges you’re going to face. Figuring out new sets, what’s going to work for this or that venue, etc. Deciding how to keep deejaying in a pandemic is likely something most DJs never prepared for or contemplated. But for DJ Low Key, it was just the next step of his unusual career trajectory.

A lot of things in my DJ career have been unconventional, so to me I didn’t really look at it as a huge problem or disadvantage. I looked at is as, okay what are the options. Twitch has been one of the biggest silver linings of the whole year.

-DJ Low Key

Finding new ways to connect with people has been hard in 2020. Signs of depression have rose significantly amid stay at home orders and the closures of many avenues that were stress relievers (concert venues, restaurants, sports arenas, movie theaters, etc.). Finding community online has been a thing since the internet started, but it definitely feels like a rediscovery of this possibility since COVID-19 started. DJ Low Key is one of many who have utilized Twitch to push through 2020.

To be 100% honest I’d imagine it’d be a lot lonelier and rougher during the pandemic without having an outlet like Twitch where I can still connect with a lot of folks. Not just my Denver friends but to connect with folks throughout the whole country or other folks from other parts of the world, and it’s allowing cool things to happen that wouldn’t be able to happen otherwise

-DJ Low Key

Some of those cool things are DJs introducing their followers and subscribers to some of their favorite DJs. There are really two different ways that both fans and DJs alike can build community and have brand new experiences. The first way is jumping around different pages, seeing who is on Twitch, and following different pages based off of what you uncover on your own. The second, and more communal, way of finding out someone new is by raiding other DJs’ pages.

For example, on Friday nights I start out watching DJ Lazy Eyez (discussed in the next section). Lazy Eyez and Low Key are the two current wheelmen of a Friday night party entitled The Solution. Lazy then raids DJ Low Key with all of his listeners, and they are combined with Low Key’s audience. Think of it as an online mixer where the DJs come to you, and you run into music fans with varying yet similar interests. It’s intriguing and yet requires very little from the listener if they so choose. That’s why there’s so much DJs can do: some play music while others get truly creative.

It’s been really fun to just nerd out, playing different versions of records and having different people nerd out on that. I was speaking with Lazy Eyez and we were discussing treating it like Twitch 2.0, taking all the stuff we’ve learned through eight months of live streaming, how would we apply it like if we were just starting today.

-DJ Low Key

DJ Lazy Eyez

So when you work a full-time job and have numerous commitments outside of work, that means you naturally have time for DJing as well. As mentioned above when discussing The Solution, DJ Lazy Eyez has been grinding away throughout the pandemic, both at work and at home. There are some DJs who have really put in the time when it comes to their visual presentation. Then there are others like this guy who happened to have an assortment of skills; those skills have led to one of the best visual setups in the Twitch DJ game.

I think I benefit because I have photoshop skills and when I was a kid I wanted to do art, and be a comic book artist so I have some creative skills like that. I know how to do all this technical stuff. I have a lot of random skills that just come together. 

-DJ Lazy Eyez

Not only did this DJ used to create things as a kid, he and a buddy used to create their own little radio show. They practiced having multiple versions of themselves in their show. Those childhood reps have led up to a production value that few other DJs are putting out there when it comes to an overall show. That’s a big part of this pandemic: making people laugh and distracting them.

I remembered doing that, and now [for the Twitch stream] I thought I’ll have another me walk in the background and that shit will be funny, and I should I interact with him. That’s when the first thing came up and I felt like I set a bar, and then I felt like I had to outdo the bar every week. There’s hundreds of DJs to watch on Twitch, and not even that, you can watch movies, play video games, spend time with your family; I have to do something to make people watch.

-DJ Lazy Eyez

Deciding to challenge yourself creatively in the midst of a pandemic, while working full time and maintaining other commitments? That’s stuff people didn’t do pre-COVID. Yet again we see that DJs on Twitch, in their own creative way, are providing an outlet some people might not otherwise have. Furthermore this insight is informing us of all the different ways in which to forge connections all over the world wide web; the music itself, the chat rooms, the shared experience, and the efforts put in pre-production prior to the streams.

This experience is weirdly one that’s going to be discussed for decades to come. Since we’re in the thick of it right now we might not see that or really believe that to be the case. It really will be something future generations will question and scratch their heads about. It’s important for the time being to figure out how to make the days not bleed together. While we’re not in the exact same scenarios together, a lot of us are stumbling and living our way through a once-in-a-century event. Finding a helpful outlet is everything right now.

At the end of the day it’s just fun right, we’re all in a different form or another of quarantine life. The chat room helps build a community, even if you’re just saying what’s up, the chat room makes it feel like it’s a place rather than something you’re just watching.

-DJ Lazy Eyez

Continuing the community?

Four anecdotal accounts are just a glimpse into the thousands and thousand of DJs who are building community on Twitch. Nearly every kind of genre is on there, all kinds of setups from studio sessions to DJ decks, and music-related streams are happening daily. This is the peak of Twitch during the pandemic. However, the clouds of uncertainty rest just beyond the horizon for one particular reason.

With any kind of creative endeavor, the world of law is not far behind (though actual laws clearly are still very much so). Twitch follows the guidelines put forth by the DMCA, as explained below:

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”) is a set of US laws that allows you to create and share content on digital service providers like Twitch. We comply with the DMCA and similar laws worldwide.

Twitch email entitled “Music-Related Copyright Claims and Twitch

The DMCA has ruined plenty of things when it comes to playing music or attempting creative endeavors with popular music. From flagging unknown rapper’s freestyles on YouTube to handing out copyright strikes on SoundCloud, no music outlet is safe. Here’s what this means for those utilizing Twitch right now:

How did we get to this moment? Until May of this year, streamers received fewer than 50 music-related DMCA notifications each year on Twitch. Beginning in May, however, representatives for the major record labels started sending thousand of DMCA notifications each week that targeted creators’ archives, mostly for snippets of tracks in years-old Clips. We continue to receive large batches of notifications, and we don’t expect that to slow down.

-Twitch email entitled “Music-Related Copyright Claims and Twitch

There will always be legal roadblocks caravanning down the road right behind the hype train of success. Some DJs might be worried by this and think their accounts might be banned. Others will keep playing and only change when absolutely forced to. It all comes down to who is making money off of what. If music labels, Twitch, and the DJs themselves can all figure out a middle ground, Twitch as we know it will continue to prosper. But if things become hostile and greedy, look for the good times to only last for so long.


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