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!

Online Performers Group Pleased to Announce TangentGaming as New Client

We are pleased to announce that the Online Performers Group is now representing TangentGaming, a livestreamer and member of the Cohhilition stream team.

B_cYY5DXEAA_gMI1TangentGaming plays host to one of the most thoughtful and welcoming communities on Twitch. A competitive gamer at heart, Tangent tends to focus on deep play experiences, reveling in the complexity and design elements that make elegant systems work. He’s as comfortable talking through the finer points of a Magic: the Gathering match as he is crafting up survival gear in ARK. His audience is fiercely loyal and, despite the growth in his audience size, new members of his community are still welcomed in with Tangent’s traditional gong-ringing.

We will be providing career development and day-to-day management services so that TangentGaming can focus on providing high quality livestreaming entertainment to his growing fan base.

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!

2015 Wrap-Up: New Team Members, New Services, New Client!

As 2015 draws to a close, we’re pleased to announce several exciting developments at the Online Performers Group. You may have already noticed we’ve moved to a simpler web address and added some new faces to our team, which will allow us to provide additional services to our existing clients.

With this larger support team, we’ll also be able to offer management services to a broader range of successful professional streamers. Over the past nine months, we’ve developed and extensively tested two proprietary algorithms for rating livestreamers’ communities, channel stability, and brand strength. (Think of these ratings as more complicated versions of a ‘Klout’ score.) While no one can predict the future, our “OP Quotient” and “Hype Factor” scoring algorithms do a pretty good job of predicting audience behavior and the likelihood that certain strategies will help a streamer solidify or expand their fan base. These statistics allows us to quickly identify professional streamers of all sizes for whom professional management services can help ensure a bright future in entertainment.

BrotatoeWe’re very pleased to announce our first client under these expanded service offerings, Brotatoe. A key member of Main Menu, Brotatoe is one of Twitch’s most influential midlevel professional streamers and is among the top 10 most-watched Canadian livestreamers, with more than 9 million channel views. A true variety streamer, Brotatoe is as comfortable with AAA shooters like Destiny and Counter-Strike as he is with indie darlings like Darkest Dungeon and Rocket League. Welcome, Bro!

In addition to providing management services to an expanded range of professional streamers, we’re also excited to be providing resources for streamers we’re not currently able to offer direct management services. Since launching the business, we’ve received thousands of inquiries and applications. While we do our best to help everyone we interact with, there are a finite number of hours in the day. For those streamers who aren’t yet at the level where professional management makes sense, we’re expanding our blog to include in-depth posts on the most popular business topics that streamers request advice on. We’ll also be working in 2016 to establish an official network of Twitch-savvy tax accountants, top tier legal services, and an array of other professional services available on an opt-in basis to all professional streamers.

Finally, on a more personal note as we wrap up an eventful 2015– we’d like to wish all of you a happy holiday season and a bright New Year. We can’t wait to see what new heights the Twitch community and the business of livestreaming reaches in 2016!

OP Group Pleased to Announce CobaltStreak as New Client

CobaltStreakWe are pleased to announce that the OP Group is now representing CobaltStreak, a livestreamer and member of the Main Menu stream team.

A rising star on Twitch, CobaltStreak has built a loyal fan base through his friendly and interactive approach to streaming.

Cobalt is best known for his insane Binding of Isaac skills, but he is also a variety streamer who broadcasts more than 70 games, ranging from indie darlings to major releases. He has an impressive ability to keep an entertaining running commentary while maintaining an intense level of gameplay. He is also one of the founders of Main Menu, a leading stream team dedicated to providing the highest level of live broadcast entertainment.

We will be providing career development and day-to-day management services so that CobaltStreak can focus on providing high quality livestreaming entertainment to his growing fan base.

OP Group Pleased to Announce Towelliee as New Client

TowellieeWe are pleased to announce that the OP Group is now representing Towelliee, a renowned livestreamer and leader of the “Hammer Squad” stream team.

Towelliee is a highly engaging streamer who entertains viewers with interactive on-the-spot gameplay commentary. Known for his work ethic and devotion to his fans, he places a strong emphasis on ensuring a positive community chat experience.

Towelliee rose to prominence as a World of Warcraft streamer, but his programming now includes more than 60 different games. His channel is the #3 most viewed variety streaming channel on Twitch (78 million+ views), surpassed only by his friends Lirik and Sodapoppin. Within the livestreaming community, Towelliee is often referred to as “Twitch Royalty.” His influence extends beyond just his community – other streamers look to him for guidance and inspiration.

We will be providing career development and day-to-day management services so that Towelliee can focus on his role as an influential leader in the growing online performance industry.

OP Group is invading PAX Prime 2015!

(Well, at the very least, we’ll be taking up a few seats at the bar.)

PAX-Prime-Logo2015 has overwhelmingly been the Year of Livestreaming. Not only has it taken off as an entertainment medium, but also a viable career path on the ever-changing internet. From the announcement of TwitchCon, to multi-million dollar e-sports tournments, there is no better time to be in this budding industry. This is the ground floor! #hype

If you’re an upcoming streamer or just interested in what this space has to offer, we’d like to recommend a few panels during your trip to PAX Prime:


Dropped Frames: An Evening with Twitch Streamers!
Saturday: 9-10PM
CohhCarnage, itmeJP, Ezekiel_III, and other awesome people will be talking about all things streaming related. A must-see for anyone interested in livestreaming and the Twitch community!

Women in Geek Media
Sunday: 11AM-12PM
Being a woman on the internet can still present hardships. Hang out with a bunch of amazing content creators to talk about how they overcome difficulties, why they keep creating, and how you can get started.

Omnia Presents: How To Build an Audience
Sunday: 6-7PM
So you want to make content, but how do people see it? How do you build your identity in a sea of budding creators? Get some advice from a few of the biggest names on YouTube.

Make Stuff for the Internet!
Sunday: 7:30PM-8:30PM
An open discussion on how some of the largest channels on YouTube got their start, and insight on posting online content for a living.

Mindcrack: Creating Group Content
Sunday: 12-1PM
Join the Mindcrack crew as they explain how they worked together to coordinate content and find a diverse audience via their videos and streams.

The Far Future of Gaming
Sunday: 1-2PM
What do the next five years hold for video games? What about the next 30, or the next 100? A discussion about what is driving and holding back this industry, and where it may go in the future.


The OPG crew will be around PAX, attending panels, walking the show floor, and hitting up parties all weekend. If you’re a livestreamer, YouTuber, or other awesome content creator, we’d love to talk to you. Follow us on Twitter for updates on where we are at and how to find us.

We also invite you to DM or tweet at any of us if you’d like to meet up!

OP Group: @op_group
Omeed Dariani (Founder): @omeed
Moblord (Strategic Consultant): @moblordTV
Skyla Grimes (Account Manager): @skylatron

Gender Study

Today OPG launches a blog. This will be a place where we’ll put some of our upcoming posts will feature tips on hardware, quick guides, research, analytical studies of games and streamers, and news on what we are up to.

And I can’t think of a better first post than what we’re about to share with you.

Gender Study on Twitch

Several months ago, it became a personal project of mine to address myths and inaccuracies on Twitch around the topic of female broadcasters. I’ve been a moderator for a variety of mid-size female broadcasts for the last year and a half, and over that time, I saw hundreds of people who would wander in and spout some generalized sexism about how “cam girls were taking over Twitch” and “they’re only popular because they are a girl” or “I wish I had boobs so that I could get big on Twitch”. These kinds of opinions run rampant on Twitter, Reddit, and in the female broadcaster’s chatrooms. So… I thought I’d look up statistics to find out how accurate these claims were.

It turns out, there really weren’t any statistics here. I tried even writing Twitch directly, and my response back was basically “you know as well as we do; we don’t collect this data”. So, I gathered a mixed group of trusted mods, grad students, and streamers and we set out on a mission. With the help of Twinge.tv, who gave us custom access to their systems, we’ve produced the largest study to date. And, this is tip of the iceberg, as we have more info coming soon.

Without further ado: OPGroup.tv – Gender Analysis on Twitch.

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