Royalty Free Music and Other Tips to Protect Your Twitch Channel
As Twitch cracks down on streamers using copyrighted music, here’s how you can avoid having your content deleted.
After Twitch streamers’ videos were deleted without notice in October due to copyright violations, many were left wondering what to do. The mass deletion of VODs (video on demand)—past streams that are archived to view later—and clips came after Twitch received an unprecedented number of DMCA takedown notifications from record labels, prompting the streaming platform to act against its users without prior warning.
Signed in 1998, the Digital Millenium Copyright Act is a combination of several copyright laws that protect copyright holders on the internet. Platforms protect themselves from being liable for copyright infringement by enforcing DMCA takedown notifications, issued by the copyright holders, on their users. On Twitch, that involves removing content using copyrighted assets (such as music), and banning users with repeat offenses.
Previously, Twitch would notify streamers before taking action, but in the summer of 2020, record labels sent takedown notifications to Twitch en masse. Instead of issuing streamers takedown notices, giving streamers a chance to challenge the claim, Twitch outright deleted any content that had received a DMCA takedown notification from record labels.
Although Twitch didn’t ban users who were in violation, users were issued a one-time warning. The way Twitch handled the situation left a sour taste in streamers’ mouths, leading to backlash and intense media coverage. Though Twitch did issue an apology and promised to develop better tools for streamers, there’s still the fear of streamers’ work being deleted or outright banned.
For streamers who rely on Twitch as their primary source of income, this can be hard to overlook. The whole thing is a mess, but there’s one easy and relatively inexpensive solution—using royalty-free music from Premium Beat.
Why Use Royalty-Free Music from PremiumBeat?
According to Twitch, 99% of the DMCA takedown notifications received from record labels were for music playing in the stream’s background. Using royalty-free music is the solution, giving streamers access to affordable tracks to play during the stream and for any other project. PremiumBeat provides high-quality, royalty-free music that doesn’t violate copyright laws.
If you’re not familiar with the concept of royalty-free, it’s fairly straightforward. Once you purchase a license, which is a one-time fee, you can use the track as many times as you want, in as many projects as you want (although there are some exceptions based on the type of license). The standard license is the go-to for creators on the internet since it covers projects hosted on streaming platforms, social media, websites, and podcasts. If a project falls within the scope of the standard license, it’s fair game to use it as many times as possible, at no extra charge.
On PremiumBeat, you can search for songs based on genre or mood. Alternatively, you can browse the collections, which are curated for specific projects and situations. When browsing, you can listen to the complete track to see if it fits your needs. After purchasing a license, you can download the full track, short versions of the track, or a looped version, which you can splice together to create the illusion of an ongoing track. Also, you have the option to download the track in .wav or MP3 format.
Apart from being convenient, PremiumBeat offers peace of mind for streamers and online creators. If you’re on the fence about licensing royalty-free music from PremiumBeat, the next section can help you.
Sample PremiumBeat’s Library for Free
PremiumBeat offers a small selection of curated tracks that are entirely free to download and use. You can view the selection of free, curated, royalty-free music here, or you can select the “Free Tracks” option on PremiumBeat’s website in the advanced filter menu.
Once you get the license, which doesn’t cost anything, the track is yours to do as you please, so long as it’s within the scope of the standard license. If you’re looking for a few tracks to spruce up your stream or make videos on YouTube, it’s worth checking out. If you like what you see, PremiumBeat’s monthly subscription is the best deal for royalty-free music.
Get a Constant Supply of Stream-Ready Songs with the Monthly Subscription
Typically, a standard license for a PremiumBeat Song costs $49. However the new monthly subscription offers five tracks for a monthly fee of $64.95. Each month, you can download five new tracks and add them to your library of royalty-free music, which you can use as many times as you want in perpetuity. Once you’ve got the license for a track, it’s yours to keep, even if you stop paying for the service.
While $64.95 is roughly the price of a new game, the subscription is magnitudes more cost-effective than purchasing individual licenses. Each month with a subscription, you’re getting five tracks priced at $12.99 each instead of $49 for one, which comes out to 70% in savings.
It’s worth noting that there’s a three-month commitment when you initially sign up, and you’ll be charged for the full three months, even if you cancel before the commitment is fulfilled. Also, unused credits don’t roll over to the next month, so use them up!
How to Protect Your Account and Streams
For those who rely on Twitch for a steady income source, being banned can have detrimental financial repercussions. While the latest DMCA takedown actions targeted and deleted archived videos and clips that violated copyright, that’s still hurtful to streamers who spent hours creating that unique content. While not ideal, there are some steps that streamers can take to avoid being banned or having their content deleted.
Step 1: Don’t Use Copyrighted Music
That’s it, really, and it’s a big one. Unless you own the rights to the copyrighted music in question or are licensing the music, you should not play it. If you don’t have the artist’s explicit permission, or that of the copyright holder, you should also not use the music. It doesn’t matter if the music is by an unknown artist. It’s still copyrighted unless it’s in the public domain or under a creative commons license.
If there’s any doubt whether the music is copyrighted or not, stay away from it. In some cases, something as trivial as the chime of a grandfather clock—via Polygon—has elicited a DMCA takedown on Twitch.
So, to recap, don’t play copyrighted music unless you meet the following criteria:
- You own the rights to the music.
- You have permission from the artist or copyright holder to use the music.
- You have a license for the music that covers your intended use.
- The music is under a creative commons license, which may have some limitations and require you to give the artist credit.
- The music is old enough to be under public domain, in which case its copyright is expired and no longer protected.
Step 2: Use Royalty-Free Music
Using music in the background of a stream makes sense. It livens up the stream, sets the mood, and fills the silence with something. However, you can’t use copyrighted music unless you meet the criteria listed above. With Twitch now being stricter than ever on using copyrighted music, it’s best to stay away and find an alternative.
Like I mentioned above, royalty-free music is the most convenient way to use music in your streams. And, while it’s not free to use, you can use royalty-free music as much as you want once you’ve purchased a license. Of course if you’re musically inclined, create music for your streams. But for everyone else, purchasing royalty-free music licenses is the best course.
Step 3: Delete Past Streams with Copyrighted Music
As much as this sucks, Twitch recommends going through each VOD one-by-one if you think you may have used copyrighted music in the past. Offending clips and VODs should be removed from the platform to prevent Twitch from taking action in the future. Not doing so may result in you being temporarily banned.
Deleting all that work is a bummer, and Twitch doesn’t have great tools to help you. One tool, which deletes all your clips at once, is convenient, but it does sting, especially for creators with a large backlog.
Twitch promises better tools for streamers in the future, as well as giving streamers ways to challenge DMCA notifications. But, right now, deleting old videos with copyrighted music is the best option to protect yourself.
Step 4: Mute Games that Use Copyrighted Music
When you’re playing games on stream, there may be occasions when copyrighted music plays within the game. This is one of the trickiest areas to navigate. Twitch recommends muting the stream as a panacea, but muting the game isn’t so easy to do when playing rhythm games or other games that depend heavily on music. Muting the stream sounds like an easy solution, but it’s not. The bad advice has led to hilarious takes from various streamers, as reported by PCMag.
The best course of action seems to be muting the stream, which I know is terrible, but the alternatives—bans and content deletion—are worse. In a Twitch post about music-related copyright claims, Twitch recommended reading a specific game’s EULA (End User License Agreement). The EULA may contain text regarding music and streaming, clarifying whether it’s possible to play the in-game music on stream.
As a reaction to Twitch’s DMCA takedowns, games such as Cyberpunk 2077 have built-in options that disable copyrighted music in the game. If it’s not possible to disable copyrighted music in a game, it’s probably best to mute it to be sure. However, you can choose not to, at your own risk, as Twitch claims they don’t receive many takedown notifications for in-game music.
Step 5: Twitch Soundtrack is Good and (Mostly) Bad
Soundtrack by Twitch is a tool/service that provides streamers with access to licensed music to use on stream. Soundtrack offers music from different genres, and it’s much better than empty silence, but there’s one huge caveat.
Using the music from Sountrack in a Twitch stream is okay, but you can’t use the same music in archived streams. Soundtrack music will play in a separate track, which is not recorded, when properly using the tool. That means that when archiving a stream, Soundtrack music will be absent, making it a completely different experience for users watching VODs or clips. If the tool is set up incorrectly—when audio from the game and microphone are in the same track as Soundtrack—whole sections of VODs that have Soundtrack music may be muted. To set up Soundtrack with OBS correctly, check out the FAQ.
The whole situation is tricky and, even if Soundtrack is set up properly, it changes the content. Sure, Soundtrack is a nice band-aid for streamers looking for a way to play background music, but, like all band-aids, it offers only a reprieve from a larger problem.
Royalty-Free = Worry Free
Worrying about what music to use is not what streaming is about. Laws that protect copyright holders are good for all creatives—you wouldn’t want others using your work for free—but it does impact how content creators on the internet do their job. The best way to circumvent being punished for using copyrighted music on stream is not to use it at all.
PremiumBeat’s library of royalty-free music is there to help streamers and other creatives do their work without worrying about copyright. Whether you want a few songs to play a stream’s background or are looking for a track for a YouTube or podcast intro, PremiumBeat is likely to have what you’re looking for. To get started, check out this collection of music curated for Twitch or sign up today for the monthly subscription.
For more music-related tips and tricks, check out these articles:
Cover image via Gorodenkoff.
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