Twitch: Behind The Music

Today Twitch introduced Twitch Music, a new site brimming with 500 songs for casters to use, royalty free, on their casts, and to prevent those pesky muting problems that have been happening with VODS and streams. Twitch’s new music library features EDM artists and playlists for your perusal and use.

Last year, Twitch started muting VODS and streams that played copyrighted music “without permission.” Understanding the tenuous relationships between musicians, particularly games musicians, and their copyrights, permissions, and dealings with services like Tunecore is tricky. Services like Tunecore are meant to obtain royalties and, up until Twitch and Youtube, had been used primarily for collecting royalties from songs used in movies and television. Now, services like Tunecore, jointly with services like Content ID, mute videos of games being played, as the copyright maker isn’t being paid for their music being used.

It’s a mess without an easy solution and a host of questions. Music makers, and gamemakers, for that matter, deserve to be paid. But many of these creators want broadcasters to be able to play their games and music without a hassle for the caster. How does that happen without potentially harming these creators financially? Should they be paid? How much? It’s free publicity, right?

These questions, and more than I can think of right now, will need to be answered, and soon. Twitch is taking preliminary steps to try and present a solution with their free music library. It leaves much to be desired, though. On their site, they welcome musicians to apply to be part of the library but with a pretty steep catch:

If you are an artist, label or other music copyright holder and are interested in making music freely available to the Twitch audience and you have a minimum of 250,000 subscribers or followers on YouTube, Facebook and/or Twitter, we would love to hear from you.

What? Twitch pls. 250k followers? You have to have some serious public trajectory to get on that list. Games musicians generally do not meet that limit. Most musicians in general do not meet that limit. I’m baffled at why Twitch would ask for such a high following to be allowed to use their service – I can only imagine that they’re paying these artists or labels, and so don’t want to open it up to everyone, as that would open the gates to having to pay everyone, too. I’m on the side of “pay for what you use,” so if Twitch is paying those people, cheers for them. At the same time, you’re cutting off a community that has been thriving and building its own music scene, that can’t participate and will be punished for trying. Streamers will resort to the library to make sure that their VODS and streams don’t get muted, leaving these musicians out in the cold. What strikes me more is that popular games musicians don’t make the cut, either. People like Austin Wintory, who scored Journey, or Grant Kirkhope, who scored iconic games like Donkey Kong. Their follower counts fall far below the necessary 250k required to be part of Twitch’s library.

The second part of Twitch’s announcement today had to do with an experimental “beta music category.” Which, I have to say, isn’t that experimental, as “Music” has been an option as “Game” for months now, with games musicians creating music for games on Twitch already. Still, it’s nice to see Twitch opening up to broader horizons. I hope they go far with this. Once again, though, this seems aimed at already high profile musicians, as they namedrop Deadmau5 and Limp Bizkit’s Fred Durst, to name a few. While I’m heartened by this change, I hope Twitch doesn’t lose focus on the community that made it what it is today.

Twitch provided an FAQ, that you can read here, if you so choose.

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