Business News Deals Digital Labels & Publishers

US National Music Publishers Association close to signing Twitch deal, sources say

By | Published on Monday 20 September 2021


The US National Music Publishers Association is close to agreeing a licensing deal with Amazon’s livestreaming platform Twitch, according to multiple sources who have spoken to Billboard.

Twitch has come under increased pressure of late to sort out its music licences, of course, given how much music features in livestreams on the platform. Both record labels and music publishers have also become more prolific in filing takedown notices against the Amazon service, which has annoyed creators streaming via the platform, given that Twitch’s systems for dealing with such takedowns and any subsequent responses from affected creators are not that sophisticated.

On the songs side, Twitch does already have licences from the US collecting societies ASCAP and BMI. But those only cover the so-called performing rights in songs, and a stream also involves a reproduction, which – with Anglo-American repertoire – is controlled by the music publishers. And as a video-based service, Twitch also arguably involves a synchronisation of the music, which also has an impact on the licences it needs.

In a blog post aimed at its creators late last year, Twitch said that it was attempting to sort out some music licences to reduce the number of takedown notices it was receiving, but that music licensing was a big challenge. And, it added, the kinds of licensing deals the labels and publishers had agreed with other digital platforms wouldn’t work for a service like Twitch, where many creators don’t use music in their streams.

But NMPA boss David Israelite said the blog post contained “astounding admissions”. He wrote: “Twitch has the audacity to imply licensing music for its platform is a novel or difficult exercise. Twitch – and its parent company – cannot seriously argue that their profit margins do not leave room to fairly compensate creators and songwriters for the use of their music”.

“Other sites, including Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat and TikTok, to name a few, have figured out how to compensate songwriters for the use of music on their platforms, even though not all of their user-generated content contains music”, he added. “There are several licensing roadmaps for Twitch to follow. Instead, Twitch has gone to incredible lengths to avoid properly licensing music for its streamers”.

But, it seems, Twitch has now found a roadmap to follow. NMPA has negotiated a number of template deals with digital platforms on behalf of its members over the years, and – according to Billboard – the trade group is now “close to signing a music licensing agreement” with Twitch “potentially ending an arduous, year-long stalemate between the livestreaming platform and publishing organisation”.

An agreement in principle is in place, it added, although nothing has as yet been signed. But one source reckoned the deal could be announced as soon as this week.

Of course, that deal doesn’t mean that all of Twitch’s music challenges are dealt with. It’s not clear how many NMPA members would opt into the deal and it would only presumably apply within the US. Plus, on the recordings side, only a small number of labels and distributors currently have deals in place with Twitch, so there’s lots more to be done in that domain as well.

But you know, one step at a time I guess.