If you’re into TikTok, chances are you’ve come across one of Giu Comia’s videos where he gives a sneak peek of his earnings as a singing livestreamer. He often ends his videos by inviting those who would like to try out his online gig by checking his post on YouTube or messaging him on Facebook.
Giu clarifies he’s not paid by Sessions Live, the music-only livestreaming app, to do the promotional posts. “It’s a personal advocacy,” the singer-slash-vlogger says. This newfound career has helped him get through tough times during this pandemic, not only financially but mentally and emotionally. So this is his way of giving back. “Sa akin kasi, if God blesses you, you want to bless other people also.”
The 2019 WCOPA (World Championships of Performing Arts) gold and silver medalist says a singing livestreamer can earn as much as $490 a week (about P24,000+) as a Level 20 singing livestreamer. The earnings one gets depends on the level he has reached, the number of viewers watching him, and the virtual gifts (or tips) he gets, among other things. The biggest salary Giu has taken home so far, including the bonuses, is $1,559 (P78,000+) in a week.
Livestreaming saved the day
The year 2020 has been a pretty “traumatic” year for Giu. And Sessions Live could very well be considered a saving grace for him and his family.
Pre-Covid, Giu was actively doing live shows. He was a sought-after performer in hotels, thanks to his 60s, 70s, and 80s repertoire. And then the pandemic happened, putting a stop to Manila nightlife as we know it.
Apart from singing in hotels, Giu was also a successful YouTube vlogger. He was one-half of the popular couple called AiGi Stories whose viral prank videos amassed millions of page views. But last year, he and his girlfriend broke up. He did continue his vlogging career, but he had to start over.
Before the pandemic, Giu’s father passed away. Being the eldest in a brood of three, Giu had to step up and play the role of the family breadwinner. A marketing graduate, Giu took over the management of his father’s construction company. But the business took a beating during the pandemic, and they were left with no choice but to close it down.
“Dumaan talaga ako sa depression,” he tells ANCX. “Kasi coming from my dad’s death, tapos pandemic, then the breakup. Nawala lahat ng sources of income ko. Hindi ko na alam ang gagawin ko. It was really traumatic.” In those months, their family tried to survive through whatever resources his father had left.
Money was already very tight when Giu came across Sessions Live online. He saw someone doing it, and through the help of a friend he found a way to kickstart a career as a singing livestreamer.
The application process was pretty simple, he says. Fill out a form. Get interviewed by the US based company via Zoom. “They do the background check na din as to how you sing. Hindi naman sila super strict,” adds the 31-year old.
Living the future
For someone like Giu who’s used to doing live shows—he started singing in hotels at 15– performing in front of a camera and imagining there’s an audience in front of him took some getting used to. It helped that the viewers actively chat on the app and he sees how many are watching him real-time. “If you have a hundred viewers, makakapuno ka na ng isang bar nun,” he says. “It’s overwhelming din na it makes you realize we are already in the future. This is the digital world and this is what it can offer.”
Giu usually does his livestream in the morning, around 10 AM to 12 NN. This is the time when viewers from abroad, mostly OFWs, are already back at home from work. “They miss the Philippines, so gusto nila makipag-hi and hello. They’re looking for entertainment,” he says. There are also non-Pinoys in the audience so it’s a must for a singing livestreamer to be able to communicate in English. It’s also best if an artist sets a regular schedule for his livestream so his followers know when to catch him and he becomes part of their routine.
Like in traditional companies, in the livestreaming world, one starts from the lowest and works one’s way up. “I’ve been promoted multiple times already, so even without the virtual gifts, may regular rate na akong nakukuha per hour,” he says.
Giu says he did grow as an artist in the livestreaming platform, despite the challenges of this new stage. Before the pandemic, his song list was only about 50. Now it’s over 1,000. He still sings a lot of Michael Buble, Frank Sinatra, Barry Manilow, Beatles, and Queen. But now he’s able to sing other songs. He can grant song requests. YouTube has an extensive library of music, after all, so one would have no problem looking for songs to perform.
Aside from helping him support his family, Giu’s new career allows him to look at the brighter side of things, and gives him a chance to continue where he left off as far as his singing career is concerned. He was planning to release an album right after his win at the WCOPA, but that had to take a backseat after his father’s death, and because the pandemic happened. Giu says he’s currently preparing to release six of his original OPM songs digitally.
The best advice Giu could give to an aspiring singing livestreamer sounds like an ad tagline but he knows there’s truth to it—Just go for it. “Ang ginagawa ko, I just set everything up and then I start. Lakas lang ng loob. Ganun lang,” he says laughing. “You’ll grow from it. Isipin mo na lang practice ito, lalo na sa mga newbies.”