What’s next for music on Twitch

by Ashley Fontaine

Content creators have always faced the challenge when it comes to music copyrights and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). This could be inadvertently having a sound clip played in the background or even music within a game they are playing on a livestream. The constant fear that their channel could be copyright striked, meaning revenue they could have earned rescinded, and in some cases a channel being removed from the platform altogether, are some of the biggest issues faced by streamers and content creators.  

Independent artists such as KSI, AJ Tracy and Flo Rider recognise the value of having their music played on popular live streaming platforms such as Twitch and Youtube, as they directly reach a new audience who might not have listened otherwise. However, the majority of musicians and artists' music is owned by music labels and therefore they aren’t in direct control of copyright infringements across social media. 

We’ve constantly seen creators, platforms and music labels at loggerheads with no sign of a middle ground. An infamous example was the BlizzConline incident which happened earlier this year. It saw Twitch mute a Metallica music segment to avoid a DMCA copyright strike along with countless others. 

In recent times, content creators and audience watchers have discovered that turning streaming mode features on certain games such as Life is Strange: True Colors, have made particular moments within the game awkward in order to refrain from breaching DMCA laws. Most notably we have seen a lead character within the game sing along to a cover of a Radiohead song. The music was turned off so all viewers could hear was the sound of boots stepping on the floor with no added context. 

While, there has been an increased effort on live streaming platforms to adhere to the DMCA laws it is an increasingly common theme around music labels acquiring rights to music albums and songs years later and subsequently copyright striking older videos on the internet. But is that all about to change?   

Twitch x National Music Publishers Association.

Last week it was announced that streaming platform Twitch had partnered with the National Music Publishers’ Association amidst the rising concerns that content creators on their platform are using copyrighted music on the platform. While there aren’t any immediate changes being implemented, Twitch plans to offer music publishers the opportunity to ‘opt-in’ to a deal, to allow for future collaborations. 

While the new systems and processes have not been publicly disclosed as of yet, the initial thoughts will in theory provide more flexibility and “forgiveness” to content creators who inadvertently use copyrighted music in their livestream. This provides content creators the opportunity to ‘correct’ the copyright issue within their content, in the first instant by flagging this to the creators with a warning before removing any content and monetisation revenues they would have received under a breach in T&S, DMCA and similar global laws. 

We spoke with Mason Breeding, talent director at Turopium for his thoughts;

“Throughout my career in talent management I have constantly seen issues around the DCMA laws across platforms such as Twitch and YouTube. While I understand why the DCMA is in place we often find it to be a hindrance to our talent. 

The ultra strict regulations and harsh consequences have punished creators for using copyrighted music, which sometimes is out of their control, for example through in-game sound clips. However I’m excited to see how the news around Twitch and the National Music Publishers’ association plays out and something we have already planned ahead of here at Turopium.  

With the content creator community seeing this as a positive, we are hopeful this will lead to looser regulations and better systems in place to protect our creators and more creative freedom when choosing music to broadcast to their audiences.“ 

 Key takeaway 

While it is still early days, we will have to wait to see how the latest partnership between Twitch and NMPA plays out. Overall I think it is a positive move for brands that have already pre-planned. As an example we can look at popular esports organisation FaZe Clan. They recently announced the signing of DJ and producer FaZe Kaysan as the brands first ever talent to exist outside of the gaming and esports landscape with Faze Kaysan becoming FaZe Clan’s first in-house musician and gamer hybrid.

What makes this so unique is the way gaming is playing it’s part in contemporary culture alongside music. Whether it is a casual gamer or competitive player, it is interesting to see the data behind this with around 45% of people not identifying as a ‘gamer’ much less fans of esports teams. 

What we can see is a common trend amongst Gen Z and Millennials and the synergy between their passion points, whether it is the love of music, video games, sports, fashion and lifestyle. What makes this so relevant is by bringing musicians, DJs, athletes and creators together alongside brands and platforms such as Twitch, through innovative partnerships discussed above, in turn transcending the way users are consuming popular culture. Instead of focusing on just one element and passion point it becomes an all encompassing platform / entity that serves multiple touch points.  

Twitch follows up with Warner Music Group partnership  

Following on from Twitch’s partnership with the National Music Publishers Association, Twitch has signed another agreement with Warner Music Group making them Twitch’s first-ever major music label partner. However it is important to note this agreement doesn’t mean content creators on the platform will be able to use Warner Music Group owned music in their content straight away. They could still face DMCA copyright strikes should Warner owned music appear in content whether that be live streamed or in games.  

As part of the deal Warner Music Group will be launching a dedicated artist channel for their talent on the Twitch platform with the likes of Bella Poarch and Swaweetie, as well as Atlantic Records singer and producer Sueco. Through the collaboration Warner Music Group will share exclusive and behind-the scenes content.  

Furthermore, as reported, the partnership grants Warner Music Group access to Twitch’s revenue model, where creators earn through channel subscription priced between $4.99 and $24.99 per month as well as tips and advertisement opportunities. 

It clearly shows Warner Music Group has a road map to create meaningful partnerships to innovate the music industry, after they acquired social media digital media company IMGN last year. A dedicated Twitch channel will provide a platform for original content series to a completely new audience with shows like ‘The Drop’ discussing music news; ‘freestyle throwdown’ where artists freestyle based on topics chosen by the audience. This is fantastic for community engagement on platforms such as Twitch and ‘The One’ where artists perform songs that influenced their careers. 

We spoke with Liam Parkinson , managing director at Turopium for his thoughts;

“Over the past couple of days, we have seen a huge uplift in conversation around Twitch’s partnership with the National Music Publishers’ Association and the impacts it will have on the DMCA system.  

This is a great time as an artist/rights holder to embrace content creators and give them the opportunity to share your music with thousands of engaged viewers, some would even call this free marketing. Currently, it is near to impossible for creators to get legal access to the music genres they love and want to share with their audience as part of the experience they are trying to build.

We have engaged a number of labels and independent artists over the past few days and we are definitely moving in the right direction in terms of giving creators access to a music library with some of their favourite artists. A great example of the power of creators using music is TikTok, if you look at the Top 40 charts in the UK, at least 50% of the songs have gone viral on Tiktok. I don't think that is a coincidence. “ 

Key takeaway 

It’s clear that Twitch has become a disrupter in the space and provides the opportunity for all types of content creators to connect with their fan communities. The biggest takeaway is the opportunity for music labels, artists and content creators to unlock an entirely new revenue stream and exposure, between the artist-specific channels and original content series. It is a move I feel taps into consumers' passion points and builds upon the innovative way we consume pop culture. It also provides people with never before seen views into the music industry and the lives of their favourite artists making them more personable. 

Given the average payout per stream for artists on Spotify is $0.004, Twitch certainly makes its case as being a viable alternative as a disrupter in the music industry with artists potentially earning 3-15 times more using the video streaming platform. The added value exchange between the two brands certainly is an exciting prospect with Warner Music Group assuming they now having access to the audience data that Twitch provides to its content creators. 

Will we see a new wave of data-driven music-labels and artists? Or maybe more digital music experiences through virtual concerts following the enormous success of Travis Scott live concert, within the Fortnite game? It was a first of its kind last April and drew more than 12 million concurrent views with an estimated 50% of players using the game’s creative mode - impressive right?

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