Immediately, the owners of these smartphones swipe right to enter a live chat where a Chennai-based broadcaster is showing off her makeup skills in a lace black off-the-shoulder dress. As she talks, Dimple’s screen is flooded with instant messages from followers, who ply her with virtual gifts like roses and tiaras.
Dimple is a star on Bigo Live, a Singapore-based app, which is a cross between Snapchat (a messaging app that allows you to post short videos which disappear after 24 hours) and Periscope (Twitter’s live streaming video app where videos can be saved) for its live-streaming and multimedia messaging features. It’s just one of many live-streaming platforms that allow users to showcase their skills and make a quick buck from their fan base.
Dimple, for instance, earns a six-figure salary from live streaming alone. A makeup artist cum love guru, she broadcasts on a range of topics from health to relationships to paranormal activity.
The app claims to have over 20 million registered users in India. Unlike YouTube, every user is both a broadcaster and follower. The more people you follow, the more followers you earn, who in turn gift you virtual stuff like a picture of a sports car, which can be exchanged for money. Other apps simply pay you based on the number of followers. Users range from college students to 20-something millennials who sing, bake cakes, stream video game sessions and jabber about mundane stuff.
To gain more followers and subsequently more cash, a lot of broadcasts get a little raunchy. A quick glance through various streams reveals teenaged girls lying on the bed in provocative positions reading out onscreen messages and answering questions about their personal life with eager fans. Across the screen ‘call me’ and ‘sexy’ mushrooms over the comments section along with bubbling heart emojis. Earlier this year, Vice wrote about how sugar daddies in Indonesia were spending a big slice of their incomes on sending virtual gifts to women starring in such X-rated streams.
There are other ways to make streaming money. Ishan Agarwal, a Gurgaon-based photographer, who sings for his followers on a range of popular apps like BeLive, BigoLive and Live.me, recently pocketed Rs 16,000 from his 5 lakh followers.
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