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Facebook secures music deals for its gaming app

By | Published on Tuesday 15 September 2020


Facebook Gaming – the social media giant’s app for livestreamed gaming – has announced a bunch of deals with the music industry legitimising the use of music in streams delivered through the app, initially for those gamers classified as ‘partners’. It’s an interesting development given all the chatter about the lack of music licences held by its much bigger rival in the livestreamed gaming space, Amazon’s Twitch.

In a blog post published yesterday, Facebook’s Global Director For Games Partnerships, Leo Olebe, writes: “We know you want to play music during your gaming livestreams – and not just any old music, but music people know, that will get them hyped as they watch”.

“At the same time”, he goes on, “you probably realise, or have heard from elsewhere, that music rights are complex and hard to understand. Instead of suggesting you go to music law school to figure it all out, we want to make the whole process a lot easier so you can focus on being a great streamer, and not a rights specialist”.

By which, Olebe means that Facebook has now secured licensing deals specifically for its gaming app from all three majors, BMG, Kobalt, indie-label repping Merlin and others. The deals cover recording rights and those song rights that are directly licensed by the big publishers.

Olebe’s post also says that, while the new licensing deals will only initially benefit Facebook Gaming’s higher-level gamers, the plan is to also roll out the extra music options to what it calls its ‘level up’ creators.

He then talks a little about the mind-fuck that is music licensing, especially on the songs side. Not all tracks and all songs will be covered by the deals, of course, meaning gamers could still see their videos blocked or muted if and when it turns out they contain unlicensed music.

How do gamers know which tracks and songs are covered by these new deals? “We’re unable to disclose which songs are not covered”, Olebe admits, because of, well, you know, music industry bullshit. But, he insists that the blocking or muting of streams from Facebook Gaming partners on music rights grounds should now be “rare”.

There are other limitations to the licences, he adds, though that’s mainly if and when gamers start making videos more about the music than the gaming. If any gamer is planning to do things beyond conventional livestreamed gaming, he advises, they might want to make use of Facebook’s own production music library Sound Collection.

The new licensing deals with the Facebook Gaming app come as livestreaming services of all kinds are increasingly under the spotlight when it comes to music rights, mainly as a result of the increase in interest in livestreamed entertainment during the COVID-19 shutdown.

Twitch in particular is in that spotlight, partly because it’s so big in the livestreamed gaming space, partly because it’s been proactively pushing into the music space, and partly because it’s owned by Amazon so (a) has access to lots of cash and (b) has a parent company that knows all about music licensing.

In almost related news, there was a flurry of online chatter last week to the effect that Facebook was limiting the use of music on its main platform via new terms and conditions that will go come into force next month.

People had noted that the music section of those terms say that commercial use of music on its platform is not allowed unless the commercial user has direct licences from whoever owns the music. And another term prohibits the posting of videos containing music onto Facebook where the aim is to basically create an audio playlist or service.

However, Facebook has pointed out that it isn’t actually making any changes to the music section of its terms and conditions next month, and those rules have been in effect ever since it did its original deals with the music industry more than two years ago. It’s just that very few users had noticed.

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