Business News Digital Labels & Publishers

Twitch launches library of pre-cleared indie label music

By | Published on Thursday 1 October 2020


Twitch yesterday announced the launch of a new service that will provide gamers and creators on the livestreaming platform with access to a library of pre-cleared commercially-released music. Those gamers and creators can now have that music playing in the background on their streams without running into any copyright issues.

The new service is launched as the Amazon-owned livestreaming platform comes under increased scrutiny by the music industry, partly because of the boom in livestreaming during the COVID shutdown, and partly because Twitch itself has been more proactively courting creators beyond its core community of gamers, including artists and musicians.

The issue of unlicensed music appearing in Twitch streams has come up before, including when the record industry started more prolifically issuing takedown notices against the platform in 2018 and affected gamers started discussing the copyright alerts they were receiving.

Twitch has made some nominal moves in legitimising music on its platform before too, including a previous, smaller and subsequently aborted attempt at launching a pre-cleared library of music like the one it announced yesterday. Plus the service has had licensing agreements with the US song right collecting societies for a while.

However, it’s in more recent months that Twitch’s music licences – or lack of licences – has become a much bigger talking point, and the need to sort everything out has become much more pressing.

First, because a more aware music industry is issuing more takedowns. Secondly, because the reforms of the copyright safe harbour in Europe could end up affecting livestreaming services more than user-upload platforms. And thirdly, because Facebook’s smaller rival live gaming app, Facebook Gaming, just announced a load of music licences.

With all that in mind, it’s perhaps unsurprising that the Amazon company seems to be ramping up its efforts to secure licensing as well as marketing partnerships with the music industry, including its recently announced licensing deal with French collecting society SACEM.

Soundtrack By Twitch is enabled by a number of licensing deals with digital distributors like DistroKid and UnitedMasters, a small number of indie labels, and fellow streaming platform SoundCloud, which also offers digital distribution services these days. Twitch says that the new music library, currently in beta with restricted availability, launches with over a million tracks in place.

The specifics of the deals Twitch has done with its new label and distributor partners are, of course, not known, because they never are. Though Twitch generally likes to big up the promo value of having music in streams on its platform which – while a legit thing to talk about – is usually code for “we’d rather not pay you much money for your music”.

It’s also not clear how Twitch is covering the separate song rights in its new music library. It may be relying on the aforementioned collecting society deals. Although there are still plenty of those deals to be done – UK society PRS is not currently licensing Twitch, for example.

The jury is also still out on which elements of the copyright are actually being exploited by a livestream. Depending on what the industry decides in that domain, it may be that the societies are not able to provide a full licence for a service like Twitch, especially with Anglo-American repertoire, necessitating direct deals with the music publishers too.

Either way, as is usually the case when new digital music deals are done, artists, songwriters and their managers will likely have to do some detective work to figure all that out.

In the meantime, here’s Twitch bragging about its new Soundtrack in a blog post yesterday: “We know how important music is to your creative process, and have heard how frustrating it is to understand and navigate the complex and evolving music ecosystem. Soundtrack gives you a curated collection of rights-cleared music and integrates with your streaming software to separate your audio sources, allowing you to keep your channel safe while you create compelling content and grow as a creator”.