Twitch Inks Live-Streaming Deal With Indie Music Companies

Amazon-owned Twitch, which now has 17.5 million average daily visitors, responded to the escalating problem of its users being hit with music copyright takedowns. Under pressure by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and National Music Publishers Association (NMPA), Twitch debuted a beta version of Soundtrack by Twitch, an in-platform music streaming service featuring 1+ million copyright-cleared songs by independent artists that can be used legally and free of charge as background music.

Billboard reports that Twitch, which doesn’t have music licensing agreements with Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group or Sony Music Entertainment, is rolling out its Soundtrack product “to select creators … with a wide release for all users planned down the line.”

Soundtrack, which was under development for a year, is based on “partnerships with around 30 independent music companies, labels, publishers and aggregators, which are exchanging access to portions of their catalogs for exposure to Twitch’s enormous user base.” The deal, however, only covers use of full songs in live streams, “not in clips or other archived versions.”

Twitch vice president and head of music Tracy Chan would not reveal details of the deals. SoundCloud vice president Jeff Ponchick dubbed Twitch a “companion platform” and indie artist mxmtoon said she partnered because, “I know how much my own audience loves to listen to music alongside me, and the thought of allowing other creators the opportunity to have access to my music was extremely exciting.”

Soundtrack, with an interface similar to Spotify’s, is accessed via a clickable button, which “will display the song being played and allow users to open the song in a separate streaming service.” Also on Soundtrack will be “marquee editorial playlists curated by Twitch music staff, label partners and Twitch users like Logic, plus a handful of ‘endless’ stations which repopulate songs continuously.”

Any music outside the Soundtrack catalog requires Twitch to “comply with copyright takedown requests from rightsholders under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s ‘safe harbor’ provision.” NMPA and RIAA have criticized Twitch for not being “more proactive about negotiating robust music licenses, rather than relying on the ‘safe harbor’ provision.”

Twitch does have “licensing deals with performing rights organizations like ASCAP, BMI and SESAC, and frequently works with the music industry on activations like virtual album release parties, artist channel launches and virtual festivals.”

On the Twitch blog, the company notes that, “music from Soundtrack is separated into its own audio channel so you can play music on stream without worrying about your archives being muted or receiving strikes against your Twitch channel (or wherever else your content may go!).” It adds that the music catalog is diverse, from “the latest electronic and dance music” to “chilled out lo-fi beats.” The early Soundtrack version is “compatible with OBS Studio v26.0 or later on PC … [and] Twitch Studio & Streamlabs OBS compatibility will be coming soon.”