soundtrack by twitch

Livestreaming platform Twitch is launching a new feature, Soundtrack by Twitch, with a catalogue of licensed music for its community of creators to use in their streams.

The Amazon-owned company has licensed more than 1m tracks from more than 30 independent labels and distributors for the beta launch, in what’s its second attempt at an in-house music library.

Labels on board include Anjunabeats, Chillhop, Empire, Monstercat, Nuclear Blast and Alpha Pup. The initial distributor partners are DistroKid, UnitedMasters and SoundCloud.

(Yes, SoundCloud: the streaming service has been expanding its distribution capabilities for artists this year, and also running its own live video channel on Twitch.)

Twitch says that Soundtrack will enable creators to choose from curated playlists or radio-style genre ‘stations’ to use when broadcasting, with Twitch’s team of editors (plus “select streamers and industry partners”) maintaining them.

The feature is launching today in beta for the Open Broadcaster Software (OBS) application used by many Twitch creators, but will soon also be available in Twitch’s own Twitch Studio, as well as another popular tool, Streamlabs OBS.

In a blog post addressing creators this afternoon, Twitch said that the Soundtrack catalogue has been licensed for “worldwide listening during your live streams”.

It added that the music 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).”


Twitch’s music licensing status has been a hot topic for the music industry this year, as more DJs and artists have started using the service during the Covid-19 pandemic.

In June, Twitch said that it had been hit by “a sudden influx of DMCA takedown requests for clips with background music from 2017-19” from music rightsholders: “the first time we have received mass DMCA claims against clips”.

Twitch quickly announced plans to use fingerprinting tool Audible Magic to scan clips on its platform and automatically remove copyrighted music, but has since faced pressure from US music industry bodies in particular to strike platform-wide licensing deals.

“We are concerned about unlicensed songs being used on Twitch and are exploring all options to protect the songwriters and music publishers who we represent,” said David Israelite, head of the National Music Publishers Association, in June.

Jeff Bezos, CEO of Twitch’s parent company Amazon, was asked about music licensing on the platform during his appearance at a US Congress antitrust hearing in July, with his “I don’t know” answer going down badly within the music industry.

Let’s be clear: there are several strands to the issue of music licensing on Twitch. One concerns music performances specifically – from artists playing live to DJ sets: what royalties are due and how should they be paid?

The second concerns music used in the background (or, indeed, the foreground) of non-music streams, most prominently gaming, which remains Twitch’s core category. This is the usage that Soundtrack by Twitch is tackling.

Some music companies already have licensing schemes created for streamers on Twitch and other video platforms: here’s Monstercat’s for example, while NCS (formerly No Copyright Sounds) has built an entire business on it.

Soundtrack will offer Twitch streamers another option, although it’s actually the second time the platform has tried this approach: in early 2015, it launched its Twitch Music Library with around 500 cleared tracks from labels including Monstercat, Spinnin Records and Fool’s Gold.

It was quietly shut down (so quietly, ahem, we’re not sure when) a few years later.

Twitch is also not the only online video platform to have created its own copyright-cleared music library for creators. YouTube has its Audio Library, for example, while Facebook has its Sound Collection.

The important question about Soundtrack by Twitch: are the independent label partners, and by extension the artists and songwriters creating the music, getting paid for this?

We asked Twitch, and while the company cited confidential agreements with its music partners, its spokesperson did talk about the promotional benefits that Twitch sees in the new feature.

“Soundtrack’s ability to bring new audiences to artists will meaningfully move the needle for musicians by allowing those audiences to discover their music, add tracks to their favourite music services, and head to the musicians’ live Twitch channels where fans can subscribe and support their channels,” said the spokesperson.

“Additionally, our curators will use playlists to highlight incredible new talents and create Twitch-wide celebrations of new voices and tracks.”

Note that separate to this, Twitch is establishing platform-wide licensing relationships with the music industry – its recent deal with collecting society Sacem in France for example. So, whatever the terms of its Soundtrack deals, there will be other ways it pays royalties for music used on Twitch too.

The spokesperson added that independent artists and labels will be able to submit music to Soundtrack through its “preferred distributors” DistroKid and SoundCloud, which will then be reviewed by Twitch’s curators for possible inclusion in the playlists and stations.

“Additional Soundtrack distributor options are Alpha Pup, Believe, CD Baby, Dig Dis!, Empire, Label Engine, Label Worx, Songtradr, Soundstripe and United Masters,” said the spokesperson.

Pressure for platform-wide deals will continue, particularly from the NMPA, which has proved a dogged licence-chaser in past tangles with the likes of TikTok and Peloton.

But Soundtrack is nevertheless the latest manifestation of Twitch’s growing engagement with the music industry, and as the pieces of that puzzle fall into place, we’re getting a sense of the platform’s true potential for musicians.

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