YouNow was far ahead of the curve with its foray into the buzzy livestreaming medium – as well as the development of unique monetization opportunities for broadcasters – all the way back in 2011. Today the New York-based company counts upwards of 40 million registered users who conduct roughly 60,000 financial transactions every day using virtual gifts called Bars. That all makes for a grand total of over $50 million in revenue on YouNow in just the past three years, a figure that would be enough if not for the breakneck speed of technological innovations (and with it competition) in the livestreaming industry.
And in order to maintain its edge and attract an even larger audience, YouNow has embarked on an ambitious project. The company’s aiming to tread new ground by incorporating cryptocurrency into a next-level livestreaming experience.
YouNow announced PROPS in September. It’s a standalone cryptocurrency-based live streaming platform. The first app on the platform, Rize, is the world’s first many-to-many social media video app and is already being tested by a core group of content creators and their fans. On PROPS, contributors of all kinds (e.g. content creators, developers, fans, and more) will be able to earn money on the app in the form of new digital tokens called PROPS. For example, a broadcaster might earn PROPS from viewers by hosting a lively group chat, a developer might pocket some units of the cryptocurrency by designing new features for the platform, or a viewer may get some PROPS from creators and other viewers by being a beloved fan or a particularly noteworthy participant of a stream.
PROPS is an Ethereum-based cryptocurrency. That means that the platform’s contributors can have a stake in the long-term health of the network for the first time. It’s a concept that’s perplexing to the uninitiated, but makes total sense to a growing number of cryptocurrency investors and enthusiasts. And if you’re at all confused or have more questions than answers, 1) you’re not alone, and 2) here’s a solid primer on the (don’t call it a) phenomenon from SciShow:
Rize—the first app on the platform—is an ambitious new application (both in terms of its technical capabilities and its financial model) that’s set to launch in beta before 2018, but it’s been in development for the greater part of the last 12 months. During that time, YouNow CEO Adi Sideman and his team have worked incredibly closely with a small group of the platform’s top broadcasters to ensure the new app provides them with new revenue-generating opportunities while redefining the normal capabilities of a livestreaming application. According to a few members of that small group of YouNow’s top broadcasters, the new initiative easily accomplishes both.
It’s not every day one of the biggest online video platforms in the world announces a product that could redefine the medium, so we took the opportunity to talk about it with a set of some of the most popular performers in the YouNow community. Emma McGann, Brent Morgan, and Kenneth Braley (aka The Dapper Rapper) are three of the top earners on the platform. All have built up sizable followings in the millions of viewers and all rely on their broadcasts as their main source of income. They’re also all part of that aforementioned group working closely with the company on its latest product offering (and all are receiving some potentially valuable incentives as a result).
We talked about Rize, PROPS, cryptocurriences, livestreaming, their bank accounts, and what the future of an application they rely on to make a living means for their lives and the livestreaming medium at large. Here’s what they had to say:
Tubefilter: How’d you get started on YouNow?
Brent Morgan: I had minor success on YouTube about six years ago. Some people commented on my channel and said I should try livestreaming. I’ve been on YouNow ever since. I grew it from zero to 14 million views. And it’s been been huge for me. I was a music teacher with 60 students, but now I do this full time. I’ve traveled the world – gone to China and all over the US streaming on YouNow.
The Dapper Rapper: I started on YouNow about three-and-a-half years ago. Prior to YouNow, I was taking the more traditional route as a musician. I was doing three open mics a week in and around Miami for a couple years. And then one day a friend of mine was in Seattle and he gave me a call and he asked me if I ever heard about YouNow. He said he started livestreaming on his front porch, smoked a cigarette, and 40 people were watching. Naturally, being someone who’s constantly searching for new fans and traction, I check it out immediately. I had eight people watching me. Which was pretty cool because I had those eight people to express myself to show my music. I’ve grown that since and now my channel has over eight million views.
Emma McGann: Initially I started on YouNow three years ago to build an audience online for my music and to try to reach new people. And then it exploded into something way more. I started earning money and it all seemed like a really sustainable way to make a living and a way to share my music.
I try to stream twice or three times a day and that’s usually from a little home studio that’s dedicated for live broad for broadcasts. They’re quite casual. They’re not structured. The audience really enjoys having that kind of casual environment to interact with someone who they enjoy watching.
TF: YouNow’s a huge part of all your lives. It provides with your main source of income and provides you with a vehicle to realize your professional passions. Given all that, how scared and/or excited are you about this new Rize app?
BM:I’ve been working with YouNow on Rize for a while now. Probably close to a year. It was a little scary when they first told me about it. I mean, I’ve put my whole life into YouNow. But at the same time, I trust [CEO of YouNow] Adi. At the first I honestly didn’t understand it because I had no idea how to wrap my head around cryoptocurrency part. But once I saw it and the app come to life all my fears went away and emotions changed to pure excitement. It’s amazing what you can do with the technology.
TDR: Uncertainty was the first feeling I was met with when I heard there was a new app coming out. I didn’t know hot it would affect me, because YouNow is my primary source of income. But YouNow is one of the most interactive and fun livestreaming sites to use. I’ve dabbled with everything out there, but I’ve stayed on YouNow because I enjoy the features and the community moreso than others.
So with Rize, they’re coming at it from a solid infrastructure. They’re proven within the community. And the tech behind this app is something that’s never been seen before. I think the world may take a minute to understand. But once people see how intuitive this is and how close to a real life experience this is – hanging out with your favorite content creator – people are going to be into it and want to know more.
TF: What’s so different about the the tech?
BM: It’s instantaneous. You really do feel like you’re in the room with your fans. I was just on a broadcast on the beta version with six other people. As soon as I want to talk to anyone, they’re there. I just touch their face. You’re always live on Rize. If you chose to watch me I can talk to you. It’s a little different feeling. Viewers have to realize they’re always live. But that’s a good thing. Broadcasters and fans have no choice but to interact.
TDR: It’s the most interactive FaceTime call you’ll ever have. Like FaceTime on steroids. The interface makes for a very personal, intimate connection. And you can split the screen with up to four people. That’s going to make it extremely exciting for viewers because it’s giving them opportunities they’ve never had in a live broadcast setting before.
EM: What I’m really enjoying at the moment is thinking about ways to harnessthe new technology, this may-to-many kind of broadcast, where I can drag two or three people into the broadcast and we chat and interact with one another. I’ve spoken at TEDx about livestreaming and my life, how the medium breaks down the walls between me and my audience and they have an imprint on the broadcast itself. Rize is way beyond that. It feels like social media just got more social.
We’re not just there staring at screen names not really know who’s behind them. We’re talking with people and getting to meet and interact with our audience in a more human and natural way. The fact that you can click on someone’s profile and see them instantly and live. While I’m still getting used to the new platform, you can tell the excitement is there. Everybody’s buzzing about what they’re going to do with it in the future.
I’m really excited about hosting songwriting tutorials on Rize. I wrote a book about the topic and post videos about it on YouTube, where the audience is really engaged. But that’s just in the comments. There’s been no great way to offer individual or group tutorials where the audience can actually interact. My idea is to host subscription content on Rize where viewers can jump into the broadcast and we can go through weekly tasks. I can have them jump in and do exercises live on the stream. There are a lot of things we could do, but the overarching idea is to bring the enthusiastic beginner songwriter audience to Rize to interact, ask me questions, and collaborate with me and other members of the group. There’s nothing that’s been able to really accommodate that until now.
TF: So what’s your take on PROPS and the cryptocurrency component of all this?
TDR: It’s all something that entrepreneurs have been a little hush hush about. It’s been their little secret because once it gets into the open and people understand it more, everyone’s going to be all over it.
When it comes to Rize and PROPS, the content creator can help drive the health of the network. Viewers can put in US dollars and tip in US dollars, but we’ll be paid in PROPS … In order to get your hands on some, you don’t need to be a computer genius and mine the cryptocurrency, you just need to be a content creator. To mine PROPS you just need to create really good content. You’re essentially a cryptocreator.
I’m bullish on all of this because I do see the value in it. I think that the early comers into Rize and PROPS – if they play their cards right – I think this can be an amazing opportunity for the future.
BM: It’s all very forward thinking for me. We get an opportunity to start from the ground up. I went to a cryptocurrency event in LA two weeks ago, and when I saw the couple thousand people show up I felt this rush of excitement. I don’t have any fears right now when it comes to continue to do what I love and make a living. Just like YouNow, Rize is going to be a huge part of our lives and reading up cryptocurrencies has only gotten me more excited to be on the project.
EM: I heard about PROPS, read the white paper, and am very excited. I think the revenue opportunities can be the same or greater to what I’m seeing now. The fact that YouNow now already has a platform, audience, and virtual currency in place is fantastic. People have been buying and gifting Bars on YouNow for years, so the transition to crypto shouldn’t be as hard. The crypto is also going to attract more people, both inside and outside the community.
TF: So do you think the fans will adopt and/or adapt to all of this?
TDR: Being the first people to figure out the app, it’s up to us to educate everyone on the opportunities. And the opportunities aren’t there just for us, but for viewers, too.
YouNow has 40 million users right now, but only 4,000 or 5,000 of those users are Partners who can get paid. That’s a big gap. But now with Rize, everyone is essentially partnered from Day 1. Viewers can give PROPS to me, I can give PROPS to viewers, viewers can give PROPS to each other, and developers can create products for the app and get PROPS, too. It creates a sense of community. It’s one enormous blended community and everyone is equal with the ability to earn. I think it’s’ going to catch on tremendously.
BM: We have fans on YouNow who are not Partnered, but they bring life to our channels. They bring life to our broadcasts. But now with Rize, we can reward them. During a broadcast, anyone can throw PROPS towards someone else. If someone is supporting me, I can give them a gift right back. Everyone is going to feel like they have a stake in the company.