These streaming apps don’t pay properly, creatives warn

Creative types like yogis, musicians, artists, comedians and more will normally earn income from working at events.

With multiple lockdown periods during the current Covid-19 pandemic, creatives have lost out on much of their usual work. Naturally, many have been excited for the opportunity to earn money from live streaming their creative talents from home. Unfortunately, some of them end up enduring ruthless hostility and working many hours – only to find out last minute that they won’t be paid like they thought they would. We spoke to some creative types who say live streaming professionally isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. Here are the apps they say to avoid at all costs, which ones to be cautious of, and their tips for anyone considering live streaming for a living.

Kik

Spidey Williams, a retired professional boxer, poet, and author of 5 published books tells us about his bad experience. “I was contracted through an agency called Talenture to work for Kik. They wanted me to do 2 full hours a day. The app kept crashing before 2 hours many times before an hour was completed. I had to keep starting the hours over. Did not get paid for the entire week after I did 8 hours and more. I’ve been waiting for hundreds of dollars. After consistently and constantly reaching out to customer service, no reply. Still missing my money.”

Alice (not her real name) adds, “It’s not like you can talk about it on the app because then they will fire you. Also, nobody knows we are being paid to be on there – Kik trained us from the beginning to hide the fact that we are paid streamers.”

Vikki Lenola, a model and activist, shares “I happened to go to the same university as the founders of the Kik, so I thought it would be a good experience. I signed onto their regular live streamer program to talk about healthy lifestyle and fitness. Unfortunately, it became apparent that the app would crash constantly to prevent you from finishing your hours in your designated time slot. Therefore, we wouldn’t be paid for weeks of work because you didn’t fulfill the contract.

“You’d think this is where splitting some of your pay with an agency comes in handy. Like they will do something for you to ensure you’re paid. But whenever I had a problem (which was often), Talenture did nothing. Either I was ignored or sent in endless circles. Talenture tells you to contact Kik. Kik tells you to contact Talenture. Nothing gets resolved.

“I also only agreed to live streaming on Kik because I do not want to be on any streaming services that are sexual in nature. I take no issue with them, but it is not for me. I was promised that the app was very clean. But towards the end I decided to check out what other people were doing on there to see if other people were having problems. I saw a lot of vulgar language and very sexual content, to say the least. I don’t think this app should even be allowed on the app store. It’s very disturbing that Kik markets themselves towards teens.”

[Popular model Vikki Lenola had a positive and prosperous experience promoting Bigo to her large social media following, but says when it came to live streaming about health and fitness on Kik for Talenture agency, she was "ripped off and stressed the whole time".]

An emotional support group for the Kik streamers was created on WhatsApp. There, many of the complaints were about not receiving pay. Others were about racism, bullying, and not being able to properly block the abundance of rude Kik users commenting on their streams. “I don’t know if I can go on like this” one of the hired streamers confided to the group. The streamer was spoken to rudely throughout giving bible lessons. Another streamer discloses, “I wish they would do something about the racism. I have been called the N word, monkey, gorilla, ape. Been told I should hang myself almost every night” another shared. Similar complaints run rampant in the support group.

Others, like Kyra (not her real name), talked about the security and privacy problems on there, such as bricking or hackers stealing their personal information. Streamers’ full legal names, phone numbers, and addresses were announced by the hackers to thousands of people on Kik. “It was even possible for people to hack into streamer accounts and cash out their pay” says Kyra, “I feel like if you hire a host, you should actually protect them. Kik hasn’t even answered me”.

She continues, “With Talenture and Kik, they didn’t care about my schedule. Time I could have spent studying was put off because I thought I had to stream, but I didn’t end up having to. They also only gave me a 3-hour window to stream per day instead of 4 hours like everyone else. And like everyone else has said, the app would crash constantly.”

Azar

Kyra tells us about her experience with a streaming app called Azar. “They were very unorganized. First they didn’t have the proper tracker on their app, so you couldn’t track your hours or the amount of gifts you received. You could only hope they would get it right… which they didn’t. Then they claimed it was okay to wear certain outfits but then banned me for 3 days anyways when I did wear that outfit. That messed up my hours. Then they banned me again for no reason. I was just sitting down chilling. I feel like they kept banning me because they didn’t want to pay me. They would have owed me $3,000. But seems like they couldn’t afford to pay us, so they kept sabotaging our lives.

“Not only that but originally I was supposed to do 30 hours and I was going to get paid regardless. But then they changed it in the middle of the month and basically told me that I would have to hit a higher tier in order to get paid. So I had to do my talents (comedy)… and they kept banning me. Conveniently on the weekends usually, when they weren’t around. I made this app a lot of money, and this is what they do?

“The final straw was when they decided to just end the whole damn thing. They laid us off because they couldn’t get anything right and I guess they realized they couldn’t really afford any of us. Everyone ended up getting less than half of what they were expecting.”

Bigo

“This wasn’t my first rodeo” Kyra tells us. “All of these apps, they don’t care about you. They just care about the money they can make off of you. When I streamed for Bigo, I was spending more than half my time in therapy talking about it. I had to do so many hours that my phone overheated and was destroyed. I had bad experiences with other apps as well.

Nicole Procyk, a glamour and tattoo model used her Bigo platform to talk about tattoos with her fans. She tells us, “someone reported me for something that I didn’t do and my account was banned. I had put in so many hours prior to the ban and didn’t get paid for anything. That’s not fair.”

Meanwhile, Vikki Lenola chimes back in saying that she had a good experience working for Bigo. Instead of the regular streamer program, she was signed onto one of their rare, high-paying, and highly coveted “Elevated” contracts to promote the app on her large and verified social media following. While she was contracted on at an entry-level tier, the tiers go up to A-listers like Snoop Dogg.  Lenola remains professional in not spilling the beans about her pay rate, after some digging, it’s rumoured to be enough to cover a mortgage payment – or two – each month.

LIVE 17

Vikki Lenola continues, “Before the problems with Kik, I had already signed another contract with Talenture to start on another app. Reading that contract, if you have any problems and don’t complete your hours on any given week, you forfeit a month’s worth of pay. After what I experienced with Kik… no thank you.

“When I wanted to deactivate my verified LIVE 17 account, the app would tell me to contact Talenture, and Talenture would tell me to contact the app or ignore me. It was the same runaround, unsurprisingly. I didn’t want my name up on there as if I’m being paid and all is well – because it’s not. So now I’ve just changed my username, deleted my images, and updated my bio explaining how Talenture has ripped me off in the past, and how they and the app both refuse to deactivate my account.”

Kyra joins in the conversation and tells us “I gave up another live streaming contract to work for LIVE 17 (at the time it was called LIVIT). I agreed to work for LIVE 17 because I was told I wouldn’t have to earn a minimum number of “coins” (essentially tips that people can give you on the app). But when it came time to live stream, they changed their minds and told me I’d have to earn a minimum of coins after all. This was very frustrating because it was during the pandemic when I wasn’t working my typical acting and brand ambassador jobs. I was relying on this money.

Advice for creatives thinking about live streaming

“I usually don’t tell people I live stream because they often get the wrong impression and think it’s something dirty” Kyra tells us. “But these contracts for creatives, it’s not supposed to be about that at all. For me, I’m hired to do live comedy. I like to make people laugh. As a black woman it’s hard to get in the spotlight for this.

“I have been a live streamer for several different apps and different agencies. Some are worse than others. It’s not all that it’s cracked up to be. It can be devastating when you work your ass off and they don’t end up giving you your money.” Kyra ends with offering advice, “my advice to anyone looking to get into streaming professionally is not to put all of your eggs in one basket. Have another source of income to fall back on.”

Vikki Lenola adds, “always read the contract, and realize that even if you try to fulfill your hours, they might not let you -and there’s nothing you can do about it. Like anything, do your research, and ask around to get other live streamers’ opinions on the app before you sign up.”

Photo credit: Preacher Photography 

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