DJ Vince Adams's Twitch livestreams include a "VA Cam" that lets viewers show off their dance moves. Credit: Courtesy the artist

Musicians are a scrappy lot. No matter what challenges life throws at them, they do whatever they can to pursue their art and bring the party (or whatever it is they’re starting) to the masses. What happens when those challenges include an uncertain amount of time without concerts or even gatherings of any kind? How do you stay fulfilled when your work depends so heavily on having an audience? Everyone did whatever they could to stay afloat last year, and the Internet provided a lifeboat for many local entertainers.

Twitch isn’t just a playground for Gen Z gamers. Veteran Chicago DJ Vince Adams, active since 1984, found a whole new audience and revenue stream when he created a Twitch channel in May. Adams’s years of doing double duty at fundraisers as a DJ and host serve him well: His transmissions go heavy on audience interaction, and he incorporates a Zoom-based “VA Cam” where audience members can show off dance moves. Adams’s mixes of house and R&B can already power a great virtual party, but making the broadcast a two-way street really turns up the heat. Another live­streamer well outside the typical demographic is 92-year-old blues musician Jimmy Johnson, who can be found weekly on his Facebook page, playing live solo sessions from his home. A family member turns on the camera, and Johnson fills the next hour or so with his electric guitar, his singing, and stories from the nearly 70 years of his music career. The international mix of fans who show up in the chat for these sessions have become a community of their own, weathering the pandemic as they embrace the blues.

  • Vince Adams promotes a livestream on December 30, 2020.