OP Group Pleased to Welcome Bajheera as New Client

We are pleased to announce that the Online Performers Group is now representing Bajheera!

Bajheera is one of the most inspirational leaders of the World of Warcraft community. He has a strong commitment to physical fitness and living a healthy lifestyle. Whether it’s crushing his foes in an intense PvP match, or crushing max reps at the gym, he’s always about those #GamesAndGains.

We will be providing business development, negotiation, and day-to-day management services so that Bajheera can continue to focus on providing high quality livestreaming entertainment (both video games AND his gym routine) to his dedicated legion of fans.

The Secret Truth of NDAs: Five Reasons to Sign

secretOne of the most frequent documents that streamers ask me “is this ok to sign?” is a standard NDA. I always find this a little odd, because usually there’s no real useful information to review until after an NDA is signed. Recently, I’ve seen some advice floating around on NDAs that is plain wrong and in some cases potentially harmful!

NDA stands for “non-disclosure agreement.” It’s a standard business document where two parties (usually you and a potential sponsor) agree to keep certain information confidential. It doesn’t enter you into a contract or obligate you to work with a company in any way, it just covers how you will treat confidential information that they give you – mainly, that you’ll keep that information to yourself.

Nondisclosure agreements get signed all the time, for all sorts of reasons. In most cases, you shouldn’t hesitate to sign one. Here’s why:

  • The best opportunities require an NDA. If a major national brand is planning a huge, amazing marketing campaign that requires perfect precision, they want that information to stay secret. In most cases, you’ll never know about the biggest and most exciting opportunities unless you sign an NDA first.
     
  • It’s standard business practice. Keeping sensitive information to yourself is one of the most basic skills you’ll need to interact with businesses and sponsors. As a 17-year veteran of the gaming industry, I’m under literally thousands of NDAs. Being weird about signing an NDA signals at best that you’re unprofessional, and at worst that you’re not a good or trustworthy person to work with.
     
  • It’s not difficult. Sticking to an NDA is easy. Just keep quiet (no need to announce you’re under NDA with a company unless someone specifically asks you a question you aren’t allowed to answer), and keep confidential information to yourself. You’ll know information is confidential, because the company will say “this is confidential” or “this is under NDA.” If you’re ever unsure if something is confidential or not, you can always ask. When you share information that you consider confidential, you should make sure to let them know as well!
     
  • It provides access to inside information. When you sign a nondisclosure agreement, you agree to keep certain information secret – but that doesn’t mean you have to pretend the information doesn’t exist. You can use it to expand your understanding of the game industry, improve your broadcasting schedule, or even plan out a networking strategy.
     
  • It protects you. Most nondisclosure agreements apply to you and the company that’s asking you to sign it. Signing an NDA is a sign of good faith from both you and the other party that neither of you will inappropriately share confidential information. If you haven’t signed an NDA with a company, you should think twice about sharing sensitive information that you wouldn’t just want ‘out there’, including your home address, financial status, or future broadcasting plans.
     

There are, however, a few things to watch out for and be aware of in NDAs. First, an NDA typically shouldn’t prohibit you from sharing the information you receive with your lawyer, accountant, or business advisors. If it does, it could be a sign of shady dealings to come.

An NDA doesn’t obligate you to work with a company

Second, there’s a big difference between a mutual NDA (both parties keep each other’s info confidential) and a one-way NDA (you agree to keep someone else’s information confidential.) With a one-way NDA, the company you’re working with isn’t legally bound to keep anything you share confidential – so be careful not to provide any information that you’d feel uncomfortable having other people know.

Finally, as you become more successful, you may find yourself signing quite a few NDAs. You can make your life easier by keeping a running document listing companies, games, or projects you’ve signed NDAs on, and any notes on the specific information you’re supposed to keep confidential (including when the information will be made public & will be OK to talk about.) It’s a good reference document to have on hand if you’re ever unsure of what’s OK to say or not.

Hopefully this gives a little perspective on what an NDA is and why it’s perfectly normal to be asked to sign one. Keep in mind that all it does is make you & a company able to talk freely – there’s a good chance the opportunity you’re discussing may turn out to be a dud. (And if that’s the case, you’ll need to keep that confidential too!)

With any luck, if you keep these tips in mind, having an NDA land in your inbox will be a stepping stone, not a stumbling block!

OP Group: Year One

One year ago today, I sat down at breakfast with a few folks in Boston and told them that I was starting a management company for livestreamers. Later in the day, our website launched and we quietly became a real company. I had no idea where the Online Performers Group would head from there. It was exciting.

The work, of course, had begun months before that, as had conversations with our first two clients, CohhCarnage and Ellohime. It was in large part because of their encouragement, feedback and faith that the OP Group now is growing faster than we can hire people. A big thanks to the two of them for their patience and willingness to take a risk on a new idea.

For the first several months, we solidified our processes and began to answer some of the most difficult questions in the business of livestreaming. Bringing on Barry, with his broad understanding of the technology of streaming and Jenn, with her background in data analysis and deep understanding of online communities, has been a tremendous advantage. And a big thanks to Skyla, who has been with us since Day 1!

We’ve still got a long way to go as a team and a company, but the amount we’ve learned – statistically and business-wise – is staggering. As we celebrate our 1-year anniversary at OPG HQ, I wanted to share a few of the lessons we’ve picked up along the way.

Livestreamers want:

Simplicity. For one major launch, where there was no money involved, the company provided a fifteen-page, 12MB PDF outlining what could and couldn’t be streamed on various days. It was so complex that many streamers responded with the same question: “when can we stream this without getting in trouble?”

Achievability. We routinely see deals for unknown or unproven games that require a 15+ hour commitment to the game. That’s a long time, even if the game is good. Streamers don’t want to take deals like this because they’re afraid they can’t live up to the commitment.

Authenticity. Though we have yet to see a promotion for a game explicitly request or require a streamer to be positive about the game, streamers worry that their audiences will view them as sellouts.

Respect. While companies are starting to understand the tremendous impact that success on Twitch represents for their games, they struggle to understand that, within their communities, livestreamers are every bit as famous as any celebrity.

Companies want:

Creativity. Anyone can stream a game or put a sponsor’s logo on their page. What are you going to do to make it memorable? Why is your channel worth providing sponsorship support to, while thousands of others are not?

Flexibility. Sponsored streaming (whether through direct sponsorship or in-kind payment via product keys) is often the tip of the sword for marketing. They want it to start as soon as the game is ready. Of course, games often have hiccups, server issues or bugs in the first few hours or days of a launch. Companies are thrilled to know that you’re able to adjust to these bumps in the road.

Passion. While a lot of streamers could successfully promote a product or a game, companies are looking for people who know their products and have a history with them. They’re nervous that a streamer may tear into their product or game – so someone who has liked previous iterations is more likely to receive it well.

Professionalism. It may sound silly, but answering emails in a timely manner, getting paperwork signed quickly and even sending a follow-up or thank you can mean the world to a publisher who is trying to wrangle fifty streamers all at once.

As we move into year 2 as a company, we’re setting our objectives as a team. We’ve had a great first year – and 2016 is already beating my expectations, in terms of excellent partners we’re working with and amazing new talent that we’re representing. As we continue to grow this year, I hope we can continue educating the industry, preventing the exploitation of talent, multiplying the number of opportunities and helping to define this business more precisely.

It’s an exciting time – and I can’t wait to see what happens next!

Responding to Your First Sponsorship Opportunity

You’re at a party. A notification pops up on your phone. Maybe it’s from Lootcrate. Maybe it’s from Razer. Maybe – if you’re incredibly lucky – it’s from Microsoft. The subject line is: Hello – Sponsorship Inquiry.

You look at it again. It can’t possibly be real. You’ve been working towards this for so long and it seems like no one has ever noticed. But it’s finally happened. Your heart is pounding. You’re out of breath. The reality is crystallizing: all that hard work you’ve been doing may be about to pay off.

It all depends on how you answer this one email. Scary, eh?

It doesn’t have to be. Let’s pull back a little bit. You got an email. Disregard who it’s from for a second. It’s just an email like the dozens of others you get every day. Here’s an example of an actual email we’ve received (the names have been changed):

Hey Livestreamer,

My name is Important Guy at Important Company. We’ve been watching your channel for the last few months and are very impressed. We’d love to discuss sponsoring you in the future. If you’re interested, can you send me back an email with some information on your channel and what you could do for Important Company?

Thanks, Important Guy

Take a moment and be pumped. Regardless of where it came from, getting this email is a great sign – it means you’re getting noticed – which means you’re probably doing something right!

Figure out what you want.

The next thing you have to do is figure out what you want. Are you excited about this company and it’s products? Are they asking you to do anything you’re uncomfortable doing? Are you looking for money? If so, how much will you be happy with? Knowing the answers to these questions up front will allow you to present yourself confidently and help you establish what your time and effort are worth. We turn down most of the offers we receive for one reason or another. Most of them are not bad offers – they just don’t fit with what our clients are looking for. That’s okay. It’s not all about the money.

Provide clear answers.

Before you respond, re-read their email. If they asked questions, make sure you provide clear answers. Try to understand not only what they’re asking for, but WHY they’re asking for it. If you don’t understand a question or something doesn’t seem to make sense, its okay to ask for clarification – just don’t do this on terms or concepts you can easily look up on Google or Wikipedia.

Give an overview of your channel.

If the email is generic and doesn’t mention anything specific about you, there’s a good chance it has been sent out to several dozen streamers. In that case, its a good idea to also include a brief overview of your channel in your response. (Keep the overview to a couple sentences. Avoid sending a wall of text — a sponsor is looking for someone who can represent or endorse their brand clearly and concisely, an overly verbose response will be a red flag.)

Explain how the sponsor will benefit.

If there’s one thing to understand about convincing people to work with you, it’s this: tell them how they will benefit from working with you. Too often, I see streamers explain all the reasons it would be good for them to have a sponsor… but instead they should be explaining all the reasons that the sponsor will benefit. Remember, a sponsorship is a two-way street. It’s a partnership, really. You’re both working together to profit. There should be a level of professional respect in all communications. A good sponsor will work with you for years, and your businesses can grow together.

Thanks for reading! If you have any questions, you can always hit me up on Twitter!

Before You Sign: 7 Red Flags to Watch Out For in Any Contract

Hope you’re having a great break! For the Online Performers Group, holiday break means spending quality time with friends & family and, everyone’s favorite activity, contract reviews!

As a livestreamer, it’s important to review your contracts and agreements periodically to make sure you understand their terms and ensure that both sides are living up to them.

A contract you sign today could limit your ability to make money in the future.

Knowing the details in your existing contracts is critical when you begin talking to potential new business partners. One of the first things we do when we’re talking to a new client is review all existing deals they have in place. This is for two reasons. First, to make sure we understand a livestreamer’s revenue sources, so we can be confident that working with OP Group will provide value for both parties. We don’t want to represent clients unless we feel that we can help them. And second, to make sure the livestreamer hasn’t already signed any agreement that would limit their ability to have a business manager or limit their ability to earn money from other sources.

It’s crazy to think… but a contract you sign today could limit your ability to make money in the future – and could disqualify you from working with major sponsors or companies like ours.

JR_1This is because there can be rules in agreements that prevent you from entering into future relationships – either because they outright forbid it or because contracts you’ve signed are onerous or exploitative, and may put harsh restrictions on future partners.

We, like everyone else in the universe, call these rules red flags. When we see them, we know there’s going to be trouble. Red flags can take many forms, but there are a few we see frequently. Every example on this list comes from a real contract I’ve reviewed.

  1. No way out: contracts usually contain ways for them to end. There are not a lot of “forever” contracts in the world. If there are no ways to end a contract – or the contract goes on for an unreasonable amount of time – this is something to be concerned about.
  2. Burdensome rules: be wary of contracts that severely restrict your ability to make your own choices or allow companies to make decisions for you without your approval.
  3. Severe penalty clauses: if we see a contract that requires someone to pay damages for violating the contract, or allows the company to ‘fine’ you outside of the court system for perceived or actual misbehavior, we always become worried. Why is the company planning for your failure? There are courts and lawyers for a reason – to determine what damage was done by someone violating a contract. When I see penalties written into the contract, I can’t help but think: “maybe this is how they plan to make money.”
  4. Requires investment: If a contract requires you to pay money up front to be involved or associated, that’s going to be very risky – and could potentially damage or destroy your finances. Not all investments are bad – you just need to know what you’re getting into. You’ll want to talk to legal and financial professionals to assess the level of risk involved.
  5. Certain types of revenue sharing: Contracts that ask for an ongoing monthly fee or percentage of your existing revenues are high risk and can endanger your financial well-being. To put it another way, it’s risky to work with a company that’s getting paid whether or not their work generates value. If a company is taking a fee for their work with you, that fee should come out of the additional revenue created by working together. 

    Companies you want to be in business with are reasonable and flexible with their terms.

  6. Loss of ownership: Contracts requiring you to give up a portion of ownership of your channel are dangerous territory. Your channel is a company that, while smaller, is no different than Apple or Tesla. If someone is asking for a percentage of it, they better be offering you something very compelling in return.
  7. Tons of restrictions: we’re always on the lookout for contracts that unreasonably limit your ability to work with other companies. For example, if you were being sponsored by xBox, it’s reasonable that they ask you not to promote PlayStation or Nintendo – but if they ask you not to promote anything that competes with Microsoft, that could limit your ability to find sponsors in a broad range of categories.

Remember, the company writing the contract has a tremendous amount of motivation to protect itself – and very little interest in protecting you. Contracts – even good ones – are often written to heavily favor the company that drafted them.

This might all sound scary, but seeing red flags in a contract isn’t the end of the world – you can often ask for them to be removed. Companies you want to be in business with are reasonable and flexible with their terms. If they aren’t – then that’s a red flag all on its own.

Hopefully, these tips will help keep you from signing away more than you intended – and keep your channel a healthy and prosperous business! Have a happy new year!

Sponsorships 101

Hey there! Hope you’re having a great week. At the Online Performers Group, we spend a TON of time focusing on Sponsorships, as they’re one of the most reliable ways for a performer to make money.

Before we get into too much detail, let’s review our definition from our previous post.

“Sponsorship” is a general term that applies to any arrangement where a company pays some amount of money to support your stream in exchange for advertising or marketing work. This is typically a long-term strategy, where the sponsor is hoping that their support for a livestreamer’s channel will generate awareness and goodwill within their community. These payments usually take the form of cash or some sort of product (we often refer to this latter type as an “In-Kind Sponsorship.”) Sponsorships usually last for a set period of time, typically 3, 6, or 12 months and have recurring monthly payments and recurring monthly obligations.

When we’re looking at a healthy revenue portfolio for a streamer, we want to see a minimum of 25% of total revenue coming from long-term sponsorships, ideally more. There are a few reasons for this.

  • Consistency: Subscribers and donations fluctuate seasonally, but sponsorships provide an “always-on” revenue stream. This means a streamer can sleep a little easier at night, knowing they’ve got the income to pay the rent.
  • Ease of Use: A good sponsorship doesn’t require a ton of day-to-day effort to support. There’s definitely work to be done consistently, but a lot of the hardest stuff happens at the beginning while setting up.
  • Non-Selloutiness: Sponsors are generally welcomed by communities, who view them as supporters of the stream, rather than opportunistic marketing moments.
  • Synergy: A good sponsorship comes from a brand a streamer either uses or could recommend their audience use. When the streamer can speak passionately and honestly about the sponsor, it feels authentic and meaningful.
  • Credibility: Once you are established with a few good sponsors, it becomes significantly easier to find additional sponsors and promotions.

Of course, no one is just giving you free money. Sponsors don’t do this out of the goodness of their hearts – they know that by associating with popular and highly credible livestreamers, their brands will benefit in both awareness and direct sales. Remember: this is business.

HERE ARE A FEW OF THE MOST COMMON THINGS SPONSORS ASK FOR:

An Exclusive Contract
Most sponsors require that their product is the only item of that type you use or endorse. For example, if you’re talking with Microsoft, they’re going to expect you to use Windows products and NOT use competitors, like Apple.

Sponsored Streams
A few times a month (typically once a month or once a week), a sponsor may want your title to read something like: Fallout 4 Playthrough, Sponsored by OP Group.

Organic Brand Mentions
Covered in our “Terminology of Streaming” post, this basically means that you will talk about the brand whenever it is relevant. 

Below Stream Banner Graphic
Down there where you’ve got your Twitter info, donations details and stream rules – every sponsor is going to want one of the most prominent boxes to feature their logo and some text related to their brand.

On-Screen Advertising
This is the most valuable real estate you have, because it’s the easiest place for a viewer to see it (think about how often you look at the info boxes below the stream… especially on mobile).

Social Media Mentions
A few times a month, a sponsor generally requests you retweet their announcements – or create a social media post that specifically talks about their brand.

When you get that first sponsorship email, it can feel super-exciting. We’ll dive into this more in the future, but it’s important that you don’t let that excitement cause you to make any bad decisions. You always want to make sure you understand what you’re agreeing to. You want to make sure it’s something you can actually do and doesn’t feel like an unreasonable amount of effort for the sponsorship fee. Most importantly, you want to make sure that the company and their product feels like something you and your community will be excited about.

Of course, a blog post can’t tell you whether a particular deal is a good one or not. So remember to ask questions, talk to your colleagues (unless you’ve signed an NDA agreeing not to talk about the sponsorship deal), and have a lawyer look at anything you’re thinking of signing before you commit!

The Business of Streaming: Know Your Terminology

Hello streamers! As we mentioned in our last post, over the past year we’ve received thousands of inquiries, questions and applications for management services. While we try to help everyone that we interact with, there are only a finite number of hours in the day and we’re still a very small team! We’ve decided to tackle some of the more frequent requests for advice here in our blog.

knowing basic terminology will help you present a professional image  

One of the consistent themes we’ve noticed as we’ve interacted with businesses and casters is that there is no standard “language of the streaming business.” Most livestreamers don’t have ten years of marketing experience, so it’s not surprising that they have questions about terminology. We get asked all the time: What is the difference between a promotion and a sponsorship? What about an endorsement? Or, my favorite, what is an organic brand mention?

Knowing what a company means when they ask for these sorts of things will give you a huge leg up in your negotiations with them. Here are a few of the most common terms we see in contracts and discussions:

Business Manager
This is what we do! We work long-term with streamers in order to help them produce content, create a brand that works well for marketing, negotiate fair deals, meet sponsorship & other deal obligations, and help plan and facilitate their careers as online performers.

Sponsorships
This is a general term that applies to any arrangement where a company pays some amount of money to support your stream in exchange for advertising or marketing work. This is typically a long-term strategy, where the sponsor is hoping that their support for a livestreamer’s channel will generate awareness and goodwill within their community. These payments usually take the form of cash or some sort of product (we often refer to this latter type as an “In-Kind Sponsorship.”) Sponsorships usually last for a set period of time, typically 3, 6, or 12 months and have recurring monthly payments and recurring monthly obligations.

Endorsement
An endorsement is a specific type of advertising arrangement where a company is not only looking for a livestreamer to promote or try a product, but they are looking for a livestreamer to recommend that their audience use the same product. This is an important distinction, because it involves the risk of losing credibility if the product is not up to standards.

NDA
Stands for “non-disclosure agreement.” This is a straightforward business document that restricts the sharing of confidential information between the signer and any third parties. Many companies require an NDA before discussing the details of a deal. Like any legal document, it should be read carefully – but a standard NDA simply states that the signing party will not share or disclose any confidential information shared by the NDA’s creator.

Affiliate Program
This is a deal structure where a livestreamer gets paid a commission on sales they generate on a particular site, like Amazon. For example, if someone clicks through a livestreamer’s link and then purchases a pair of headphones, the livestreamer would receive 5% of that item’s cost. Affiliate programs tend to be relatively easy to get, so streamers starting out on the business side will often add them first.

Agent 
An agent is a person or organization that specializes in acquiring deals and matching them to performers. They generally are working with a number of streamers and are trying to get the lowest possible rates for their clients (the sponsors). In general, the deal you sign will tell you who works for whom — if the paperwork has you working for an agency as an independent contractor, the agency is not working for you (you are working for them)!

Promotions
A promotion is a paid opportunity that happens at a specific time, typically because the promoter is trying to accomplish a specific goal, such as being the top game on Twitch. They often will supplement this with marketing, including with livestreamers. A promotional opportunity may be as simple as playing Game X for 3 hours on Saturday – or it could be as complicated as a viral marketing stunt involving actors taking over your stream, as happened here with Snickers. In general, promotions can be paid for in cash, giveaway keys or other promotional items.

Organic Brand Mention
A “brand mention” is when a livestreamer talks about a sponsored product. “Organic” in marketing means the same thing it does in the grocery store: natural. When a sponsor is looking for organic brand mentions, they are looking for a livestreamer who will talk about their brand naturally, when it comes up in conversation. This feels less forced – and more like part of the show.

MNDA
Mutual non-disclosure agreement. The same thing as an NDA, except that it goes both ways. You may have confidential information you’d like to share as well. It’s best to protect it.

CPM
This means “cost per mille.” This is a measure of the price advertisers pay to generate 1000 impressions on an advertisement or webpage. If you are a Twitch partner, your partnership agreement has a standard CPM rate for your stream. The same is true if you monetize YouTube ads.

While there’s a ton more terminology out there and no way to capture every single piece of the lingo, this should provide a good start and a framework for many of the topics we’ll be discussing in future posts. While there’s never any shame in asking clarifying questions about terms you aren’t familiar with, knowing some of the basic terminology will help you present a professional image when interacting with companies – and, if done right, should translate to more and better deals!