Recently I attended High Concept Labs’ spring open house and was drawn in by one of the guests who was as much of a spectacle as the featured artists. I spotted him walking around with runway swagger, filming himself seductively eating a cupcake or toasting his virtual audience with a glass of wine. I couldn’t help but peek in on him throughout the night, curious to see what he was going to do next.
His name is A.J. Hastings and he's a Live.me star with 75.9K followers worldwide, from China to Alabama. For the HEAUXS who don’t know, Live.me is a live broadcasting application with more than 25M registered users, most of whom are ages 16-24. People use the platform for all sorts of talent related things like singing, playing instruments, comedy, dancing, and just talking to people. But for a star like Hastings, fans propose marriage, send fancy underwear to his P.O. Box, message nude photos of themselves. Some fans, like Cupcake, make t-shirts featuring some of his famous sayings like, “My pussy is BURNING, girl!” And some fans have Instagram accounts which almost entirely feature photos or compilation videos of him.
Perhaps most fascinating though are the fans who send virtual gifts during a live broadcast. Live.me takes likes and loves to the next level. If you’re really into what someone is talking about or doing during a Live.me broadcast, you can send monetized gifts: magic wands, sunny faces, star showers, boats and castles—all of which translate to real money. Gifts range from 1 cent to $500USD and users can take the gifts (diamonds) they've received and convert them back to coins to send their own gifts to people. During a broadcast, a fan (screen name Justcallmedoctor) dropped twenty castles on Hastings, at $250 a pop. “I cried," Hastings recalled. "I was in IHOP and just cried. I couldn’t find any words.”
I tapped Hastings for some social media pro tips over riesling in the Loop.
BASICS: Hastings says you need a smart phone, an unlimited data plan, and a charger pack. He also recommends tripods: “I have a tripod where I can stick on my charger and go for days, broadcasting.” He also says that good lighting and sound are critical. People need to be able to see and hear you well.
PERSONA: According to Hastings, there is a LOT of competition on Live.me and you’ve got to have personality to stand out. Personality he has. Hastings is funny and crazy, but he also has a big heart, moving followers with inspirational talk, which is why fans feel compelled to shower him with blue stars or drop castles on him. (I’d also note, it doesn’t hurt that Hastings is extremely easy on the eyes. Probably the most popular broadcasters are a combination of both super charismatic and HOT.)
PRODUCT: It’s important to have a product on which fans can rely. On Hastings’ broadcasts, he teaches makeup and walks around the city talking to strangers. He says, “Sometimes it’s makeup, sometimes it’s comedy, sometimes I dance, sometimes it’s just inspirational talk. But yeah, mostly, I do crazy things. And I bring the people wherever I go. I bring them to the gym. I bring them to my haircuts.”
PURPOSE: When I asked Hastings what his end goal is with Live.me, he said, “I want to reach everybody—to the farthest corner of the world, I want to reach that one gay person who is in the closet and tell [them] to come outside because it’s ok to be who you are. I want to mainly use it for that—to remove labels, open peoples’ minds, and inspire people. Just be who you are. It’s ok.”
TIME COMMITMENT: On the average, Hastings spends about four hours per day broadcasting. He tries to do two hours in the morning before work, and two hours at night. But he says, “it never happens like that. Sometimes, I will end my broadcast after thirty minutes because something comes up. Sometimes, I’m on there for six hours straight.”
ADMINISTRATORS: Hastings currently has five regular admins. They’re fans who have access to his account and mostly help block creepsters from trolling Hastings’ broadcast. It would be near impossible to be in the moment and also worry about the haters.
GIVE BACK: Though Hastings is grateful for the star showers, boats, and castles, he says it’s absolutely necessary to give back; it’s not a one-way street. He says, “I exchange gifts to coin so I can send it back to people. I have to show love back. I cannot send to everybody. But little by little I send it back.” He also brokers deals with places he frequents around town so that fans may benefit. He says, “For example, I go get my eyebrows done and if people go where I go, they say my name, they get 10% off. And if they get their haircut where I go, I’ve worked out a deal where if they say my name and they’re from my show, they either get 10% off or a shampoo and hot towel for free.”
SACRIFICE: It seems a certain degree of privacy is hard to keep. And in terms of a significant other, Hastings says, “I don’t have anybody because I don’t have any time for anybody. When people ask me to go out on a date, sometimes I do get ready. I do a broadcast [and get ready] but I end up not going because I have to decide if I want to stay on my broadcast or go on a date, and I pick my broadcast… If I DO go on a date, it has to be secretly. Sometimes, I tell [my fans]. But as soon as I tell them, ‘Pictures! Who is he? What does he do? How much money does he make?’ All of these questions. So I try to keep it secret but it’s a big deal to see somebody and most people are scared of what I do… [And often if] I do have people who show interest, the audience doesn’t like him. They’re like, ‘he’s BORING.’
You can find A.J. Hastings on Instagram and Snapchat (ajs_makeup) but for the full experience, follow him on Live.me by scanning his QR code.