Tracy Chan has spent his career in jobs that never existed in the old music industry. The music-tech entrepreneur started as a product manager at YouTube, then launched his own company, CrowdAlbum, a photo-aggregation algorithm collecting pictures taken by fans at shows. Spotify acquired the startup and brought Chan on board to lead Spotify for Artists, its industry-side platform for musicians and label executives — and after four years there, he hopped over to Amazon-owned Twitch and became the gaming-and-livestreaming company’s head of music in August.
At Spotify, Chan worked to solve artist problems ranging from the simple (how can an artist add details to their bio?) to the more thorny (how much insight should content creators have into their data on tech platforms?). At Twitch, which revved up its music ambitions in earnest during the Covid quarantine by enticing artists like John Legend and Willie Nelson to sign up and engage with fans on the platform, Chan’s job is to explore what new questions can be added to that mix.
As artists bunkered down in their homes this summer, Twitch smelled an unparalleled opportunity. Logic inked a seven-figure deal to stream guest conversations, games, and studio sessions on Twitch in July, becoming the company’s first signed artist, and hip-hop festival Rolling Loud aired exclusive virtual shows on Twitch in September. Grammy-winning artist RAC says he makes more money from fans on Twitch than he ever did on tour; smaller artists, like OrtoPilot in Manchester, England, are using their earnings to produce and release their own albums. Despite fierce competition in the livestreaming space, Chan thinks Twitch’s proven success in the video-game-streaming business is a unique draw as he sets out to lure more artists in.
At Spotify, “one of the things that became very clear to me was that artists and fans wanted to connect with each other,” Chan says. “But Spotify is about listening to music and discovering music — it’s a kind of background experience. What attracted me to Twitch was that even though it’s game-centric, at the core, it is creators and fans building community and spending quality time with one another.”
Chan’s predecessor Mike Olson, who is now Twitch’s head of mobile gaming, told Rolling Stone back in May that he expects Twitch to eventually “change the economics” for artists the same way the business of gaming has created new revenue streams between video-game streamers and their fans. Chan declines to say whether Twitch will sign other artists outright but hints that the company is laser-focused on identifying creators — whether they’re performers, chefs, or athletes — who can connect with audiences. And intensely so.
“We’re just seeing how the space evolves,” he says. “Artists are like, ‘OK, how do I transition my tour to a new medium?’ But it’s not just about putting your show on Twitch. It’s about hanging out with your fans, doing Q&As, having really special moments. I want to be in a place where we’re building the future.”