Twitch Inks Landmark Music Licensing Deals for Livestreamed DJ Sets

Twitch has inked licensing deals with Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group, Sony Music and “hundreds” of independent music rightsholders enabling DJs to legally play copyrighted songs in their streams, the company announced this week.

The landmark agreements, which Twitch claims are the first of their kind, precipitated the “Twitch DJ Program,” which will pay royalties to the platform’s artists—but with a few caveats.

“This program is only applicable to those who live-stream as DJs, and does not apply to other uses of music,” Twitch CEO Dan Clancy said in a blog post. “DJs will need to opt-in to a new agreement that will apply to all streaming on their channel. For those who only stream DJ content part-time, we recommend creating a second standalone channel dedicated to DJ live-streaming.”

In order to “cover the cost of the music” played by DJs in their videos, Twitch will allocate a portion of their revenue to the record labels and artists behind the streamed music. In other words, DJs will have to cough up an unspecified percentage of their earnings to rightsholders. These costs will vary depending on “how a channel monetizes,” but for most streamers, Clancy says, Twitch will split them 50/50.

The platform experienced breakneck growth after its acquisition by Amazon for $970 million back in 2014, and its popularity erupted during the COVID-19 pandemic as DJs desperately turned to streaming to stay financially afloat. But Twitch found itself in hot water after issuing rampant DMCA takedown notices to legions of its users, who were unwittingly playing songs in their streams without the rights to do so by virtue of the company’s business model.

“DJs have been streaming on Twitch for some time now, but have been personally responsible for the challenges of tackling these issues, along with the risks of not doing so,” reads Clancy’s blog post. “Twitch has been able to mitigate these risks during ongoing negotiations with music companies, who have been willing to keep the status quo during our discussions.”

“It’s crucial that DJs understand the status quo on Twitch was not sustainable, and any viable future for the community required we find a solution,” he added.

Twitch CEO Dan Clancy.

Twitch

The new licensing deals not only legitimize Twitch as a veritable music hub, but also serve as a watershed moment for DJs. They can now freely select music and perform without legal ramifications, opening up new avenues for monetization and audience growth.

A late-2021 study by the music analytics firm Luminate suggested that Twitch is instrumental in fueling the discovery of electronic dance music and found that the platform’s users “are 84% more likely to listen to EDM than the average music listener.” Look no further than Crossmauz, a teenage Twitch creator who configured in his bedroom a rig of festival-grade lasers, strobe lights, speakers and even pyrotechnics to blast EDM during his gaming streams.

The number of DJs streaming on Twitch has more than quadrupled since 2020, according to Clancy, who said that “over 15,000 of them have been able to build and monetize communities of music fans” on the platform.

“We’re proud to be the first major service to provide a safe, permanent home for DJs, and we are excited to now be able to promote and support these creators as they build communities on our service and beyond,” he said.

You can can find out more about the “Twitch DJ Program” here.

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