The ugly side of China’s live-streaming celebrity factories

To make even a modest living, online presenters have to work long hours in cramped conditions, and all under the watchful gaze of demanding agents

PUBLISHED : Friday, 30 June, 2017, 2:23pm
UPDATED : Friday, 30 June, 2017, 7:54pm

It might seem like a glamorous way to make a living, but being a presenter on a Chinese live streaming platform is anything but, according to a recent media report.

For a basic salary of just 5,000 yuan (US$750) a month, Er Xuan spends a minimum of six hours a day – and often as many as 15 – singing and chatting with her loyal fans from a tiny room in her agent’s office, Beijing News reported.

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Keeping fans happy is the principal aim of all online “celebrities” like 19-year-old Er. The happier they are, the more likely they are to send her gifts, and that can boost her salary significantly, the report said.

Er has approximately 10,000 fans and receives about 3,000 yuan a month in gifts. Unfortunately for her, she gets to keep only 40 per cent of the take, with the remainder being split between her agent and the operator of the streaming platform.

Agents provide accommodation – within their “celebrity factories” – and equipment for their presenters, which costs them about 5,000 yuan per head, the report said.

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To achieve as many fans as Er takes about 720 hours of live broadcasting over three months, it said.

For the whole of that period, and indeed beyond, would-be streaming stars can expect to be closely monitored, with many agents known to use peepholes in studio doors to keep a beady eye on their hosts at work, it said.

The presenters also have to abide by strict rules, such as not going on air without make-up – the majority are young women – and not talking about their private lives.

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Despite the long hours and relatively meagre rewards, Xinhua reported earlier that being an online presenter was the dream job for more than 50 per cent of young Chinese born since 1995.

Of all those who’ve sought fame and fortune online, however, just one in five makes a decent living, the report said.

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A former employee of a live streaming platform said: “Fans are the gods of the hosts ... If someone is going to give you a 1,000 yuan gift, will you sleep?”