Twitch's Imperfect Soundtrack Could Change Streaming

Creators are left with more questions than answers

Key Takeaways

  • Twitch unveils a new streaming platform, Soundtrack, seeking to monopolize the integration of music into its live-streaming services.
  • Streamers and musicians express discontent with the new feature and are left with more questions than answers about its usefulness. 
  • Still, Twitch’s attempt to leverage clout to change the landscape for copyright on streams is a welcomed one, according to some streamers.
The logo for Twitch's Soundtrack, now in beta
Twitch

Soundtrack by Twitch is the name, and copyright-free music streaming is the game. At least, in theory.

The new feature, unveiled on Sept. 30, is a free-to-download beta with the intention to provide an in-service streaming platform for Twitch streamers to gain access to rights-cleared music. Some streamers and competitors alike dove into the FAQ page and found specifics about the new feature’s shortcomings. What the Twitch team hoped to be a clarion call of groundbreaking portions seems to be more of a fleeting thud.

"At first, almost everyone I know was celebrating this until they started going in depth with the terms and conditions," said Twitch streamer and musician Ceddy Ang. "They found that playing music through Soundtrack does not exempt us from being [subject to copyright enforcement] and that's when most of my friends went ‘meh’ about it."

The World of Digital Copyright

Ang was among a slew of streamers enthralled by the latest new feature, but the fine print on the announcement’s FAQ page shone a spotlight on some of the failures of Twitch’s latest moves.

"We have built functionality into Soundtrack that is intended to remove the music and other materials licensed for your use in live streams from archives of those streams," reads Twitch’s FAQ. "When properly downloaded and installed and used in accordance with our Terms of Service, music from Soundtrack is not captured in your stream archives or Clips."

“At first, almost everyone I know was celebrating this until they started going in depth with the terms and conditions.”

In other words, the company failed to acquire synchronization rights to music in its Soundtrack catalog, leading to VODs (video-on-demand clips) archived after a livestream to be stripped of any music streamed via Soundtrack for legal purposes. Soundtrack works seamlessly for live-streamed content, but has more than a few hiccups when it comes to archived and shareable content.

Soundtrack by Twitch launch page and waitlist sign up
Twitch 

Streamers and online video makers have been dealing with the asymmetrical enforcement of esoteric copyright law on a daily basis.

Competitors like Pretzel Rocks, marketed as a stream-safe music platform for live-streamers, have called out the media giant’s new feature as a failure to address the site’s much-talked about music problem. In a lengthy Medium post, Pretzel Rocks CEO Nate Beck outlines how the company is using the new feature via a series of licensing loopholes, effectively saving the company money while leaving streamers and musicians on the cutting room floor to pick up the pieces.

A Changing Industry Standard

While there are kinks to be worked out, streamers like Ang still suggest the integration of Soundtrack is a net positive for the growing platform that has cemented itself as the face of online live-streaming. 

"It'll be a delight to see my music being played by other streamers and hopefully people get to know more of my work," said And. "As a streamer, I can also help my fellow artist friends by playing their music if it's listed on Soundtrack, too. If it means I don't have to subscribe to other services just to play royalty free music, why not?"

How soundtrack by twitch appears when live

A subsidiary of business behemoth Amazon, Twitch’s attempt to make everything an in-house affair is likely to yield positive results with the Midas touch of Jeff Bezos at the helm.

During lockdown, at the height of the coronavirus pandemic’s national fallout, analytics firm StreamElements found that the live-streaming giant singularly grew by 50 percent over the course of a month, and more than doubled its average year-over-year watch time. As people turned to social media seeking a quarantine pastime, Twitch further monopolized the live-streaming sector.

Earlier this year, streamers were inundated by a flurry of DMCA claims from clips dating all the way back to 2017. These copyright claims can often translate into strikes against a creator. Per Twitch’s Terms and Conditions, it’s three strikes and you’re out; a creator who receives three strikes on their account is permanently banned from the platform, threatening their livelihood and creative outlet.

"Many times, I caught my YouTube videos and streams being muted or given copyright strikes. I think the existing copyright regulations are garbage for the modern era when most of the time we just play music for the sake of our own enjoyment and hyping the audience," Ang said.

The move to swiftly create an in-house feature for creators to mitigate risks with streaming music, which has become a big part of the platform, made sense. From a business perspective, these creators bring in paying subscribers and advertising-susceptible viewers to the platform. Having creators’ channels constantly threatened by overambitious copyright claimants only hurts Twitch as a platform.

In the end, while Soundtrack is far from perfect, creators like Ang think it’s their best bet.