Apr 2, 2020
Twitch is pretty transparent about its music rules, which is great. The last thing any streamer wants is to get a cease and desist claim because they played a song they shouldn’t have.
But having access to Twitch’s music rules isn’t quite the same as understanding them. (Let’s be honest, a lot of people don’t even read them.) And the only way to protect yourself and your channel is to know what’s allowed and what isn’t.
Twitch even gives examples of the types of music that are allowed. You might have a whole list of ideas, but there are really only three different options for you to use during your streams:
And that’s it.
All of the streamers you know who use their Spotify playlists or game soundtracks are doing it wrong. It’s scary enough that you could get a takedown notice or a ban. But it’s a whole lot worse to think that a record label’s legal team could come after you and press charges for tens of thousands of dollars.
It sounds dramatic, but that’s the risk you take when you violate Twitch’s rules and use unlicensed music when you stream.
If you’ve purchased songs from iTunes or paid for a Spotify Premium subscription, you might think that you paid for the rights to that music. You aren’t trying to monetize the songs or anything — you just need songs to play as background music for your livestreams.
At the very least, purchasing and downloading those songs gives you the right to play those songs for other people, right?
That might be hard to believe, but it’s true. If you’re confused, you’re not alone. Most people don’t quite understand how music licensing works, especially on a streaming platform.
Here is the Golden Rule of Twitch’s music rules:
“Please note that buying music (such as a CD or mp3) or subscribing to a music streaming service typically does not grant rights to share the music on Twitch. Such a purchase or subscription grants you a personal license to access the content only for your personal and private playback.”
Now if you were confused before, this probably comes as an even bigger surprise. It’s the total opposite of how most of us think about our digital libraries and what we can or can’t use.
Music licensing is a confusing set of rules and regulations that exist to protect musicians. They’re also essential to helping Twitch streamers know how to avoid legal action for using music illegally.
As a streamer, the last thing you want is to get a temporary ban because you broke the platform’s music rules. But if a record label or musician comes across your channel and files a DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) claim, Twitch is legally required to strike your content.
Understanding music copyright laws is more than just buying songs from iTunes before you play them. The only way to protect yourself is to get familiar with music licensing.
You don’t have to become an expert (I’m not sure anyone knows everything about the industry) but you should at least understand the basics. So that’s what we’re going to cover here.
The tl;dr on music licensing is that it is a necessary evil. Copyright law exists to protect creators, artists, inventors, etc. — it makes sure they get paid for the things they make. But copyrights also protect people who use them — it makes sure you know how to access created content and not get sued in the process.
When it comes to music, each song is “owned” by multiple people. Anyone who played a part in turning the song from a musician’s idea to a finished product holds a piece of ownership.
A music license means that you reached out to each person on that list — songwriter, performing artist, record label, and so on — and got their permission to use the song. That license usually comes with a price tag, as well as an agreement on how the song will be used and how often you’ll need to make royalty payments.
That brings us to the final part of traditional music licensing: royalties.
As a content creator, there’s a good chance your goal is to monetize your channel through the Twitch Affiliate payout. If that’s the case, then anything on your channel contributes to that income. The music you play up during a livestream goes in that category, and copyright holders will expect a share of the revenue your streams make as a result.
Royalty payments are usually included in a licensing agreement. The copyright holders determine what percentage of revenue they expect to receive, and how often they expect to receive it. So these payments won’t be a surprise...but they might be an annoyance.
My guess is you are wondering how you can follow the Twitch music rules without paying thousands of dollars for music licenses.
Good news: There’s an entire industry built to help content creators like you! (And no, it isn’t a bunch of elevator music to play in the background of your streams.)
Royalty free music cuts out the multiple levels of “middle men” involved in traditional music licensing. Instead of reaching out to each copyright owner and signing contracts, royalty free music companies do that work for you.
These companies establish relationships with music artists and pay them directly for ownership of their songs. And because they now own those songs, royalty free music companies can sell individual licenses to songs at a huge discount.
If you don’t want to pay $60 per song, you’re still in luck.
You probably already pay a subscription fee for services like Netflix or Spotify. What if there was a way to pay a subscription fee for royalty free music that you can use in your streams? And what if that subscription gave you unlimited access to a library with thousands of songs?
Soundstripe makes finding Twitch music as simple as possible. We don’t offer single-use licenses or lock our best songs behind a higher price tag. If you sign up for a monthly or yearly subscription, you can download any song from our library and use it for your Twitch streams, your YouTube vlog, or any other content you create.
And if you sign up for our Twitch Pro plan, you unlock unlimited access to over 20 curated playlists (200+ hours) of label-quality music for your channel.
We've covered a lot of ground in this article, but if you want to learn even more about the do's and don'ts of music streaming on Twitch, here's another resource worth checking out.
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