Visiting the Soft and Melodic World of Streaming Star supercatkei
New generation streaming star SUPERCATKEI runs one of Southeast Asia’s top Twitch accounts – but DENISE TEO tells LOUDER she never expected her childhood music dream to turn out like this.
As a timer counts down to zero, a woman strums a rose-pink guitar and readies for the chorus.
“Can you feel the love tonight?” she sings, as emote-filled comments rocket upward like a gravity-defying waterfall. “It is where we are.”
After finishing her rendition of the Lion King classic, Denise Teo, who goes by the handle supercatkei online, will stick Post-it notes on her forehead, solve math problems and ice a cake, all the while fielding questions and thanking fans in an ever-flowing gush. The sum of these efforts? Thousands of paid subscriptions and views – not bad for 40 hours, 41 minutes and 6 seconds of entertaining the online masses, with just breaks for naps where her team briefly takes over.
This is the world of subscriber marathons – subathons, for short – practically a rite of passage on the global streaming platform Twitch. For Teo, one of Southeast Asia’s most popular streamers, renting a pricey city center apartment for her anniversary push for subscriptions is nothing unusual: kitted out in neon lights and top-shelf microphones, she must ensure viewers hear every word, every note.
“A subathon is extravagant,” Teo says. “I have a good friend who works in audio, and I just tell him, ‘Hey, can you give me the best stuff for the stream?’ And he's like, ‘Yeah, let's get Shure.’”
A subathon’s logic is simple. The more subscriptions fans purchase, the longer the streamer carries on, in a sort of mutual endurance contest not unlike limbo dancing or investors pumping GameStop. How far can we take this? is on the hive mind.
This is Teo’s third rodeo, having burst onto the Southeast Asian streaming scene with fanfare in mid 2020, as pandemic lockdowns left the formerly-New-York-based start-up builder with much free time. The 26-year-old Masters graduate hails from equatorial megalopolis Singapore.
The variety-style streams of supercatkei began simply with her talking while gaming. “The timing I started was relevant,” she says. “At that point, people were a lot more curt and unfriendly. The internet was quick to coin me as wholesome; like, good person energy.”
“Some were watching to see me thrive, others were watching to see the opposite. Both are eyeballs that gave [my account] a lot of traction. The viewership I had at that time was exponential; almost unrealistic. You have to be one of the top creators in the world to have those kinds of numbers.”
For four fateful hours in her first year she ran the world’s 10th most-watched stream on Twitch, serenading thousands of listeners with music covers.
“I've always wanted to be a singer,” she smiles, segueing into a childhood story about buying a $15 guitar behind her parents’ backs. “As I got older, I realized that actually, I didn't sound that good.”
But the internet disagreed. After she put ‘Sing a song’ as a fan reward on her channel, viewers couldn’t get enough of the chatty streamer’s dulcet pipes. “The longer you stay on a stream, the more points you accumulate,” she explains, “so I had that as a redemption for fun.”
Thus enamored, a viewer gifted her the SM7B – and she promptly fell in love with its clean, clear sound and audio-enhancing attributes. Both features are critical to the quality content needed to stake out territory in streaming’s hypercompetitive class.
“We were planning the things we were going to do in the subathon, and I knew I was going to do music, so I took my SM7B because I wanted the audio to be crisp and great for capturing vocals,” Teo says. “I can tweak things using external mixers to make my voice sound even better. It gives you the freedom to really explore.”
Concerts with Cat
Having reached the top of the regional pecking order, supercatkei is parlaying her substantial fanbase into a new direction: live music performances at major venues in the Philippines and Singapore.
As gigs pour in, is it surprising that the streamer with a pink room, pink instrument and pink manicure boasts a monogrammed, rose-hued KSM8 dripping in crystals? With its princess-perfect spin, the custom-made dynamic microphone, built for world-class vocal performances in elite venues, feels like the embodiment of her younger dreams come to life, despite flirtations with startups, an education business, and the security of corporate work.
“I can no longer separate my identity from whatever I've done as a streamer,” she concludes. “I want to explore every single aspect of streaming before I move on.”
Yet, she admits, there is fear. “The truth is, in this industry, you're very replaceable. It's easy to be forgotten. If we focus too much on that, it limits us.”
Perhaps that’s what’s on her mind as she croons Elton John and ruminates on her journey, thinking of the fan community watching her subathon in their homes. “It's enough for this wide-eyed wanderer,” she sings, “that we got this far.”