Twitch kicked up a huge storm last August when it started muting users' archived footage that used copyrighted music -- a sudden and unpleasant change that lead many to accuse the service of taking the worst possible cues from YouTube. Today, the company offered a concrete idea for a new way forward: a music library.
The newly-minted "Twitch Music Library" is "a library of songs pre-cleared for Twitch broadcasters to use live and with VODs (past broadcasts/highlights)," the company said in a post on its blog. They don't shy away from the problem that upset so many gamers last year:
As you may recall, we implemented an audio recognition system last year out of respect for copyright holders and to protect both our broadcasters and our brand. We knew it was equally important to ensure broadcasters had music options. Thus, the Twitch Music Library was born to offer safe passage through the less-than-clear legal landscape when it comes to audio rights.
The Twitch Music Library features more than 500 songs provided by established and burgeoning labels, including Mad Decent, Dim Mak, Spinnin' Records, OWSLA, Monstercat, Fool's Gold, and many more.
To jog your memory: shortly before Twitch revealed that it was being acquired by Amazon, the company started enforcing a new rule that penalised any users who had captured footage that contained copyrighted music. As Luke wrote at the time:
The streaming giant has implemented audio monitoring tools similar to those used by YouTube, aimed at identifying the use of copyrighted music in archived copies of user's videos. The software will scan 30-minute sections of videos; if any unauthorised music use is detected within that block, the entire 30 minutes will be muted, even if music was only playing for ten seconds (the video itself will remain).
It only affected video-on-demand stuff, not footage that was being broadcast live. But that was more than enough to get many gamers up in arms. The monitoring tools cast such a wide net that many users felt they were being unfairly penalised, with the quality of their videos suffering as a result. The imperfect accuracy of the monitoring tool meant that even videos that featured in-game music (from companies that were totally fine with it being used) were being muted for 30-minute blocks, along with some of Twitch's own programs.
Shortly after the kerfuffle got started, Twitch said that it had already begun working to improve the accuracy of its audio monitoring tools and other problems people identified. In an FAQ page, Twitch said today the audio recognition system hasn't been changed for its new music services:
Q. How does this affect content appeals (i.e., muted VODs)?
A. Our audio recognition system, as it pertains to VODs (past broadcasts/highlights), remains unchanged. However, music tracks available via the Twitch Music Library will not be muted for VODs going forward.
If you have the necessary rights to the stream the music in your Twitch broadcast, we want to ensure your VODs are not muted. If one of your VODs has been muted that you believe contains a track from the Twitch Music Library, please first refer to the Twitch Music Library page - and playlists posted there - to ensure the right version of the track you used was included in your original broadcast. If you believe there was an error, and you have the necessary rights to stream the music in your Twitch broadcast, please note this in your appeal.
Q. Will I be able to export my VODs to YouTube that have music from the Twitch Music Library?
A. Music from the Twitch Music Library is only cleared for use on Twitch. VODs exported to YouTube are subject to YouTube's Content ID system.
It sounds like the best solution they have come up with, then, is to pre-empt as many future disputes over the use and ownership of music by bringing the music itself in-house, so to speak. The library only has 500 songs at the moment, though, which is a paltry sum. Given how many gamers use Twitch, relying on the library alone could make things sound pretty darn repetitive. But that's where the company starts to sound really ambitious.
Related to the music library its creating, Twitch is also introducing a "music category," intended for musicians "to use for creating, performing, and presenting original music." Sounds like a solid plan, in theory. The problem it will undoubtedly face is that, like any digital service relying on user-generated content, people have to actually start using it. The company's announcement includes this hopeful note:
Artists such as Deadmau5, Steve Aoki, Porter Robinson, Fred Durst of Limp Bizkit, and many others have already turned to Twitch to launch channels to play games. With the beta Music category, they are now able to make music a part of their Twitch presence.
Will big-name musicians like Deadmau5 or even Fred Durst feel compelled to start putting even part of their work on Twitch, of all places? I think the prospect will seem much more inviting to up-and-coming musicians looking to enhance their discoverability. That, or record labels. TechCrunch observed that the EDM label Monstercat has already managed to attract over a million listeners to its Twitch channel that streams its music 24 hours a day.
Now let's see if someone like, say, Drake follows suit by shifting his OVO music from Soundcloud to Twitch. Or Taylor Swift, now that she's cast off the shackles of Spotify. We can dare to dream!