Entertainment

What is VTubing? Virtual creators are taking over Twitch & YouTube

Published: 27/Jan/2021 17:59

by Adam Fitch

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VTubing isn’t a household term in the Western hemisphere yet, but in the East it’s nothing short of a phenomenon, enabling creators to rack up millions of views each and every month — so, what exactly is it?

Firstly, it’s worth noting what the norm is when it comes to content creation on YouTube, Twitch, and other video and streaming platforms. While ‘Just Chatting’ is becoming a more popular category over time, gaming content with a player streaming or recording their gameplay with a camera overlay is the standard.

Sometimes these creators are popular for their high-tier gameplay, but people often return because of their personalities. Much like in any other form of entertainment, viewers gravitate towards people they can relate with or aspire to be like.

Gamers such as Ninja are rapidly becoming staples in pop culture, transforming into celebrities both online and offline in front of our very eyes. Gaming and streaming are becoming flagpole elements of entertainment; what if there was a means of becoming popular through video content while remaining entirely anonymous?

What is a VTuber?

Kizuna AI VTubing
Kizuna AI
Many credit the emerging trend of VTubing to the success of Kizuna AI.

Originating in Japan, VTubers are virtual YouTubers (although counter-intuitively, are not exclusive to YouTube). They create content online using a virtual avatar that’s digitally-generated and heavily inspired by anime. It’s estimated that there were over 10,000 active VTubers at the start of 2020 (and that number has no doubt grown exponentially), with streamers and YouTubers alike hiding their real identity in favor of being represented by an avatar. They use characters custom-designed by artists and bring them to life through programs such as Live2D.

While the main viewer base for VTubing is currently those outside of Japan who love the nation’s culture and anime, there’s real potential for this approach to outgrow its origin and become as common as, if not more widespread than, creators using their real identity.

The technology behind VTubing typically includes facial and gesture recognition combined with animated software. It’s not simple. Aspiring VTubers need to invest in creating a full-body avatar, 3D animation software that enables the avatar to move naturally, a motion capture system, and some smaller components to bring it all together.

Some VTubers choose to use voice-changing software to further mask their identity and make their avatar truly a character of its own. It’s not as simple as using your smartphone to stream live to Twitch or record a simple video, that’s for sure.

Who are the main players in VTubing?

Hololive Talent Roster
Hololive
Hololive is a VTuber agency that currently manages 52 creators.

Kizuna AI is considered to be the first-ever VTuber. Since debuting in late 2016, she has racked up millions of views on YouTube and inspired countless other versions of this emerging trend. Kaguya Luna and Mirai Akari are also regularly named among the top creators in this sector.

If there’s a VTuber agency that’s a relative equivalent to gaming firm Loaded — the team that represents the likes of Shroud, sjokz, CouRageJD, DrLupo, and Anne Munition — then it’s Hololive. What they’ve built in just over a year is nothing short of remarkable.

The agency has risen to prominence in no time at all since its launch in December 2019, now managing over 50 creators. They represent prominent talent like Inugami Korone, Shirakami Fubuki, Usada Pekora, Gawr Gura, and Houshou Marine. These are names you may not recognize, but their respective followings are nothing to scoff at.

There was controversy surrounding Pokimane, one of Twitch’s biggest stars, when she returned to the platform in September 2020 after a month away. The source? She opted to debut her new VTube character.

While some may see this as bringing attention to VTubing among her significant Western audience, some fans felt as if she was trying to capitalize off of the approach instead of contributing towards it. A couple of months later, she explained that the backlash forced her to use her VTuber avatar less.

CodeMiko is one of the more prominent VTubers to date, gaining traction on Twitch with a healthy follower count of over 200,000 at the time of writing. Dexerto recently looked into the account’s growth, including a look at how the creator — known as ‘The Technician’ — brings her avatar to life.

The future of content creation?

Screenshot of Pokemon Sword & Shield protagonist challenged by PewDiePie avatar.
Game Freak / YouTube: PewDiePie
Pokemon fans couldn’t help but compare PewDiePie’s new avatar to an NPC from Sword & Shield.

There are several advantages on the business side of the equation that VTubing can bring. Typically in content creation, unless the creator is playing a character like Dr DisRespect, then they themselves are their IP. It’s their identity and personality that appeals to consumers, not a separate brand.

VTubers detach their personal identity from their on-camera avatar, meaning they can command millions of views online and go unnoticed in real-life. They can walk the streets, create content under another avatar, and attend fan conventions — for example — without the fanfare that other creators may be subject to.

If a creator also uses a voice-changing application, what’s to stop their avatar being controlled by somebody else? As long as the character is crafted carefully with styling choices and personality traits established, actors can take the reins. This reduces the strain on any single creator and perhaps means the IP of the avatar could even be sold.

If Ninja sold his brand to another streamer then it’d be nigh-on impossible for the new owner to maintain, or grow, the IP. This problem doesn’t exist in the world of VTubing — a world that’s in a nascent stage and is poised to grow even more over the coming years.

Entertainment

How does Addison Rae make money? TikTok star’s revenue streams explained

Published: 24/Feb/2021 16:04 Updated: 24/Feb/2021 16:27

by Adam Fitch

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When you think of the select few who are at the forefront of the current wave of influencers-turned-entertainment-giants, Addison Rae Easterling comes to mind. The TikTok star has blown up, especially over the past year, and she’s poised to make millions of dollars because of it.

The 20-year-old is traditionally a dancer, competing in the sport across the United States since the age of six. After blowing up on TikTok from, unsurprisingly, dancing, in late 2019, she’s amassed millions of followers across all major social media platforms.

The typical method of monetization for influencers comes in the form of sponsored posts and brand deals, and that certainly was the case for Addison early on. Though, after signing with talent agency WME in January 2020, she has her sights set on devising major revenue streams across multiple mediums.

From pretty standard ways of making money like advertisements on YouTube to launching her own beauty line, Addison is proof that social networks such as TikTok can serve as launchpads for a career that’s much bigger than any single platform. As she continues to expand her footprint and command higher paydays, it’s worthwhile looking at how she’s building an empire that may well set her up for life.

How Addison Rae makes money

Content

Addison Rae Mama Knows Best Podcast
Spotify
Spotify are hoping to bring more teenages to their platform with Addison Rae’s podcast.

Addison Rae is a major force in the world of content creation, it’s even been reported that she was the highest-earning TikToker in 2019. The majority of her income, which was said to be $5m that year, was from posting sponsored posts for the likes of Rebook and Fashion Nova.

When going live on TikTok, viewers can donate in the form of gifting. Addison Rae, once living in the Hype House — a collective of content creators in Los Angeles — has gone live with her friends to give further insight into her lifestyle, an enviable one for her many young fans. So, from TikTok alone, she’s made plenty from gifting and branded content deals.

Then, as you’d perhaps expect, there’s YouTube. The Google-owned video platform isn’t Addison’s main platform but she’s proven that she is a hit on there whenever she chooses to post. With 4.64m subscribers at the time of writing after posting only 16 videos, she makes money from adverts on her content and sponsorships from brands.

It’s clear that sponsored content is a big driver of revenue for the dancer, and that translates over to Instagram too. Companies such as American Eagle, Disney, and Daniel Wellington have all paid healthy sums to have a presence on her ever-popular feed.

Moving away from video content, Addison Rae signed a podcast deal with Spotify in July 2020. Published weekly, Mama Knows Best is an original audio product from the TikTok star and her mother, Sheri Nicole. The show is produced by Spotify-owned Parcast. There’s no word on how much she’s being paid for this endeavour but if it’s even a fraction of the deal Joe Rogan closed then she’s receiving handsome cheques for her weekly show.

Other ventures

Addison Rae Merchandise
Fanjoy
The internet celebrity’s merchandise range features lines based on popular phrases she coined through TikTok.

A fairly typical avenue for content creators to go down when they amass popularity is merchandise, and that’s no different with Addison Rae. She launched her own self-named merchandise store, in collaboration with Fanjoy, on May 1, 2020. Products available for purchase include clothes, phone cases, notebooks, and mugs.

An extension of her popular Instagram is a blossoming modelling career, one that was kickstarted by posing for Kim Kardashian’s SKIMS brand. She found herself blown up on a billboard in New York City in some of Kardashian’s line and has since publicly spoken about how much she enjoyed the experience. As she continues to grow in popularity, she’ll be tapped to be a face of major brands.

Getting further into the world of business, Addison Rae launched a joint venture with Madeby Collective in August 2020. ITEM Beauty is a makeup line that is said to be cruelty-free and vegan-friendly. It launched with just a handful of products but that’s to be expected; you wouldn’t want to invest too much into a new business initiative just to find out it wasn’t in-demand. More products have been launched since, perhaps indicating that it was received well by her audience.

Addison Rae ITEM Beauty
ITEM
Addison Rae’s beauty line ITEM launched with a limited range but has since expanded.

Film & music

In September 2020, Addison took a major step into the world of traditional entertainment when it was announced that she had been cast in a movie. ‘He’s All That’ is a remake of the 1999 comedy ‘She’s All That’ and she’s occupying the main role. At the time of writing, she’s busy at work filming her Hollywood debut.

While not confirmed, it appears as if she has other ventures in the works too. As expected based on her desires to pursue many facets of the entertainment industry, there are rumors that she’ll soon be launching a music career, including a Nicki Minaj collab, and that she has a reality television show in the works. One thing is for certain though, and that is she has no interest in being pigeonholed — there’s no doubt she’ll make a killing financially along the way, too.