Though acoustic duo Ffyona and Earl now pays all their bills from tips earned on live streaming app Kumu, they discovered the platform by accident. The pair had taken leave from the University of the Philippines to save money for tuition largely through busking, or performing on mall walkways to earn tips from passersby.
One night in late 2018, Ffyona and Earl had been set to busk in Eastwood, but could not push through because of heavy rain. Not to be deterred, Ffyona and Earl set up a live stream on Kumu and began singing to an enthusiastic audience of Kumu users.
Ffyona and Earl soon began to regularly busk, preferring it to perform in-person in Eastwood. For one, they saved significant time by not having to commute and set up on a sidewalk. More crucially, their audience was much more intimate and interested.
“When busking in person, you don’t have everyone’s full attention, as most of them are only happening to pass by. When you’re doing a live stream on Kumu, in contrast, we do have their full attention, as people only watch shows that truly interest them,” said Earl.
Getting acclimated to Kumu was not without its challenges. Both Ffyona and Earl describe themselves as introverts, which could be off-putting for a very in-your-face medium like live streaming. Earl shared that they overcame their introversion by interacting with other users in the community, or Kumunity, in the parlance of Kumu.
“We met a lot of fellow users and content creators on Kumu and established healthy friendships. This made it easier to be natural on our live streams, as it felt like we were sharing our singing with a close group of friends. We could stay true to who we are,” said Earl.
On Kumu, users have the ability to tip their favorite content creators with digital gifts that correspond to and can be redeemed for real cash. After initially earning humble tips, Ffyona and Earl’s monthly income from these gifts quickly rose in lock-step with their budding fan base. In time, they began to eventually pay all their monthly expenses from their Kumu income, with plenty left over for their own savings.
Ffyona and Earl’s tips and fans have risen in large part because they are no longer just create user-generated content. After seeing the success of Kumu’s in-house shows like QuizMoKo and PinoysDoingStuffs, the duo wanted to conceptualize a show that allowed them to engage with more people, all while doing what they loved the most: music.
According to Ffyona, they pitched Rexy Dorado and Roland Ros, two of Kumu’s co-founders, and they were very supportive of their idea for a musical game show titled, Sing Tanong.
“It was a simple set-up at first. We did the show in our condo unit and assembled props on our own. The show started out with roughly 400 viewers each live stream, and we thought that this reach was already blasted for a user-generated game show,” said Ffyona.
Eventually, the Kumu team invited Ffyona and Earl to produce the show in their in-house studio, similar to a QuizMoKo set-up. Sing Tanong now regularly commands thousands of viewers, and Ffyona and Earl have a devoted fan base for both their show and their music.
After seeing how successful musicians can be on Kumu, many people will want to follow in the footsteps of Ffyona and Earl. What advice does the duo have for these aspiring Kumu talents?
Earl held no punches in dishing out his advice. “It will not always be rainbows and butterflies when it comes to earning an income. The key to your own branding is being yourself. If you can show people who you really are, they’ll recognize you with not only appreciation but also with their support,” said Earl.