Twitch is the music industry’s new enemy
And just like that, Twitch is crossed off the music industry’s Christmas list.
The decade-old, U.S.-based video live streamer emerged as one of techland’s big winners of the global pandemic, as artists and their fans clamored to its platform while live music was shut down.
Twitch has been popular with the gaming community since day nought, as a place where players could stream their efforts, build a community and, just maybe, monetize it all.
Snapped up by Amazon in 2014, the business then made a strategic shift into music.
The company recruited Spotify employee Tracy Chan as Twitch VP and head of music. The likes of Diplo, Brendon Urie, and Steve Aoki are regular users. Earlier this year, Grammy Award-nominated rapper Logic struck an exclusive partnership to stream each week on the service, and create new music for its 17.5 million average daily visitors.
According to stats published in Variety, Twitch hosted 5 billion hours of livestreamed content in the second quarter of 2020, up 83% year-over-year from the year before.
With the pandemic raging on in the U.S. and elsewhere, Twitch’s popularity will continue to soar.
Along the way, however, Twitch dropped the ball with the music business.
The platform hasn’t fully licensed the music on its platform. There are currently no deals in place with the major music companies, and trade associations the RIAA and NMPA are pressuring Twitch to negotiate terms.
In late September, Twitch returned serve with the beta launch of “Soundtrack” by Twitch, a rights-cleared in-platform music streaming feature, which would allow Twitch streamers to play along with a legit library of more than 1 million works songs.
It’s not enough for the music biz. And it’s not entirely accurate, either.
“There are several licensing roadmaps for Twitch to follow. Instead, Twitch has gone to incredible lengths to avoid properly licensing music for its streamers,” writes David Israelite of the National Publishers’ Association, in a guest op-ed for Billboard.
“Soundtrack” is one example, notes Israelite, which he says “appears to use technology designed by Twitch to avoid the need for synch licenses – by removing music from certain copies of a livestream.” This tool doesn’t fix the problem. Rather, he writes, “it exacerbates the confusion around how streamers can use music in the content they create.”
Whether artists will take their business elsewhere, remains to be seen. There are signs that’s already happening.
Overnight, Billboard reported Ross Golan and Joe London, the songwriters behind the popular music podcast “And the Writer Is…,” had planned to debut their “Demo” podcast on Twitch, but switched course on hearing the copyright criticism.
Israelite concludes with a warning. “Clearly Twitch has advanced far beyond a gaming platform, and music is critical to its growth,” he writes. ‘The platform claims that as “a company that is built around a community of people who create content, we take allegations of copyright infringement seriously.’ Well, this is not a game, and Twitch will not win in the long run unless it respects and pays songwriters.”
Israelite doesn’t engage in battles he doesn’t think he and his colleagues can win.
As the music industry escalated its copyright war with TikTok last year, Israelite called on Congress to scrutinise the behaviour of the video-sharing app.
Not long after, TikTok took the fair-play route with a raft of content of deals stuck with copyright owners, music companies and publishers.
Read more here.
This article originally appeared on The Industry Observer, which is now part of The Music Network.