In China, streamers camp outside in search of tips

In China, streamers camp outside for tips


In the middle of the night, young Chinese people sit in front of their smartphones on a bridge: they broadcast live on the Chinese TikTok, singing or chatting, in the hope of getting tips users. 

Seated in their seats, facing their phone fixed on a tripod and their round LED lamps responsible for illuminating their faces, they settle down in a group of about twenty in some places in the big cities.

In Guilin (South), they meet every evening on this bridge with the hope of attracting the attention of users of Douyin (pronounced “Do-Yine”), the Chinese version of the TikTok application.

Why such motivation despite the late hour and the vagaries of the weather? Because the application allows users-spectators, on the other side of the screen, to donate digital money to live broadcasters (“streamers”) whose talent or personality they appreciate.

“When you do live streaming indoors, you have to be pretty to attract viewers,” says Qiao Ya, a 27-year-old who sings and chats on her channel between 9 p.m. and 3 a.m.

“I have a fairly ordinary physique, no particular artistic talent, so broadcasting outside, it still helps to attract spectators, thanks to this rather special environment that we have around us.”

82 euros

Outdoor live streaming really took off about a year ago. But the conditions are sometimes harsh.

During the AFP visit this week, in the face of near-zero temperatures, many young streamers were bundled up in blankets and some had brought small space heaters.

“If we are at the 'outside, alone, late at night, viewers see it's a bit difficult for us, they are often more friendly,' says Qiao Ya, whose only income comes from online tips.

< p>Broadcasting live on Douyin, an app with hundreds of millions of users, is a popular way to earn extra income in China.

Some sell products or explain everyday life tips and tricks, others sing, dance or simply chat with the spectators.

Some streamers, especially those specialized in recommending food or cosmetics, have become celebrities in China capable of generating millions of euros advertising revenue.

The income from those installed on the bridge in Guilin is obviously much more modest.

On good days, Qiao Ya manages to earn some 600 yuan (82 euros) in tips in eight hours of broadcasting. An amount that sometimes drops to just 10 yuan (1.37 euros).

A side job”

For the eyebrow tattoo artist Zhang Xiaoxiao, 36, live broadcasting is mostly supplemental income.

Because the COVID-19 epidemic has crippled the beauty salon sector in China. Many have seen their activity reduced by health restrictions on travel and some have even closed.

“We were under a lot of pressure and business was not going well (…) I don't think I I would stream otherwise,” she explains with a smile.

“Basically, I like to sing and dance. So I thought it would be nice to make it a side job, so I can do something I love.”

But this activity and the noise that comes with it don't is not necessarily to the taste of all local residents.

“Some people don't see us in a good light. They sometimes tell us “Why don't you look for a real job”? So now we settle far from places of residence so as not to disturb people,” says Zhang Xiaoxiao. 

And sometimes, the game is worth the effort. A user has already paid 3,000 yuan (410 euros) to Qiao Ya.

“I was so happy that I went home early that night,” she explains.< /p>