Meet the NZ DJ who turned Twitch into a full-time job

In 2020, Haden Gilgen, aka DJ Spell, was living the dream DJing in bars and clubs in Melbourne.

But then the pandemic hit, everyone stayed home and the music stopped. Spell (Tainui, Ngāti Porou) was left jobless. 

“It was either go all in on Twitch or come home and go on the dole”, he says. 

“Do I go home? Do I put my little bit of savings into the stream? I (didn’t) know if, y’know, Twitch is going to help but I had enough confidence in me.” 

With his boy-from-Huntly sense of humour and killer beats, Spell quickly found his following on the platform - and has now amassed more than 40,000 followers.

Twitch was launched in 2011. Initially, users would broadcast live feeds of themselves playing video games while chatting with an audience. Now, you can find almost anything on Twitch from cooking, to expert carving - to even politicians using the platform for campaign runs.  

Twitch really found its following when the pandemic hit the world. People across the globe turned to the livestreaming platform for entertainment while stuck inside their homes.

On a recent work trip back home to Aotearoa, Spell sat down with Re:’s reo Māori series Ohinga to talk about how Twitch turned his life around. 

Spell says his success on Twitch means he’s now got a steady income and it’s now turned into his full-time job.

“I’m very grateful as a poor artist to have a regular cheque”, he says. 

“Now that I’ve got that constant paycheck… it makes that money stress go away”.

Despite his success, Spell cheekily says he doesn’t understand why people follow him: “I don’t know why people watch me - I wouldn’t watch me… (but) I’m grateful and happy”.

Ohinga asked what’s next for the beat maker.

“The dream was: pay the rent with my art. So now the rent’s been paid with my art - what now? Buy a house with my art? (Maybe) come home and try (to) buy my whenua back - or something like that,” he says. 

This is part of our reo Māori series, Ohinga, created by Mahi Tahi Media, with funding from Te Māngai Pāho and the NZ on Air Public Interest Journalism Fund.

Stay tuned for a new episode every week.

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