A love letter to the DJs of Twitch and Mixcloud.
Thank you for saving me. Thank you for bringing light and connection and genuine joy to the hellscape of the past two years.
It was just a couple of weeks into lockdown, with the world plunged into chaos and confusion. No one knew what was happening or how long any of this would last. Time very quickly ceased to have any meaning and days blended one into the other. One night, a friend posted a link to an online DJ night hosted by someone who normally spun at one of her local clubs. And so it was that I logged onto Twitch for the first time and found myself tuning into a club night in Dallas from the comfort of my living room in Toronto.
As weeks turned into months, DJs piled into Twitch and Mixcloud from around the world, and in almost no time, I found myself tuning in to DJs from Germany, England, Scotland, Seattle, New York City, Portland, Boston, Japan, Portugal, France and many others. Tuning into livestreams became a daily ritual, something that gave shape and meaning to my days, but over the past two years it has become so much more.
I never imagined that there would be something I might miss when the pandemic is over. I long to return to clubs and have rejoiced at once again seeing live music, but I feel a pang at the thought of Twitch’s beacon going dim and quiet for good. As vaccines roll out and the world slowly opens back up, there has already been talk of continuing the livestreams even when clubs reopen.
Why would we want to continue connecting online when so many of us miss in-person socializing so much? Because Twitch and other streaming platforms have created a global community that has sustained everyone involved with it – DJs and listeners – all around the world. I now have a list of clubs around the world that I need to visit and DJs that I need to buy drinks for when This Is All Over. The global goth scene now seems a lot smaller and a lot friendlier.
The Twitch community has created genuine unity in a scene that is far too often fragmented. With everything falling into chaos around us, I sensed that few people had the time or energy to fall prey to the drama and infighting that so often plagues the goth scene. We were all suddenly painfully aware of how much we stood to lose, and we rallied to support our own, to make sure that there would still be a scene for us to return to.
The DJs all tune into and promote each others streams. There’s a feature on Twitch where you can raid someone else’s stream and many DJs, when their show is over, will raid another DJ and bring all their listeners with them to boost listenership. DJs that would normally never have heard of each other are collaborating, making guest appearances on each other’s streams and creating online festivals together. At a time when clubs were closed and many DJs had lost all their income, with no idea when it might return, Twitch DJs have hosted fundraisers for racial justice, animal welfare, and local food banks, just to name a few. The support and cameraderie is incredible to see and experience, proof that something good can thrive even in the darkest of times.
And it’s not the just the DJs who are benefitting. People from all over the world tune in and chat during the streams. We learn about each other’s lives, our cities and local scenes, find out how we’re all coping during the pandemic, share how much we miss clubs, shows and festivals. There’s a palpable sense of camaraderie that reminds me of being on alt.gothic back in the heyday of Usenet. Back when we connected over simple text chats, no pictures or memes to distract us. How many times have I wandered into a chat room at the end of a long, hard day, only to find my spirits lifted by a chorus of friendly greetings and a fantastic DJ set?
I have spent literally hundreds of dollars tipping DJs over the past year. Every cent of it is money well spent because every minute spent tuned into a livestream is a minute I did not spend sinking further into the abyss of despair, isolation and fear. Can you put a price on connection, on joy in the unlikeliest of circumstances?
I can’t. I can only say, once again, thank you for saving me. For saving us all.
(FYI, my Twitch handle is 50 foot queenie. See you all online!)