As the popularity of the live video streaming service Twitch has gone through the roof, many users have wondered how to make their Twitch streams more appealing and interesting to their audiences. Playing music during your stream may be an excellent option to keep your audience entertained, but are you allowed to play copyrighted music on Twitch?
The short answer to that question is: no, you can't play copyrighted music on Twitch unless you have secured the written rights to play it during your Twitch stream. This includes not only your live streams but also your VODs (Past Broadcasts, Past Premieres, Highlights, Clips and Uploads). Unless you own the song or hold a license to use it, you cannot play any music in your viewable content even including a stream intro or outro.
Legal Ways to Improve Your Stream With Music
One economical way to follow Twitch's rules but still play music on your stream is to use royalty-free music. Royalties are fees people pay to obtain a license from a record label or copyright holders to use something like music or pictures in their projects. Royalty-free music and pictures, however, are also available.
Websites like Soundstripe and Epidemic Sound allow you to pay a monthly or yearly subscription fee to obtain royalty-free music for Twitch or for any other project. You are entitled to play music from these sites on your stream, as paying for the subscription gives you a direct license to any song they have available since they own the rights to all of the music provided.
A subscription on Epidemic Sound is available for $15 USD a month or $144 USD a year, saving you $36 USD. It is an excellent choice for streamers as it prevents potential demonetizing issues by accidentally playing copyrighted music. This will save you a lot money in the long run and also keep you from being at risk of losing your Twitch channel that you work so hard at growing a following.
Royalty free music providers should not be confused with traditional music streaming services like Spotify or Apple Music. Even though you are paying for a subscription to use these streaming services, it does not give you the right to stream any song for any purpose other than for personal use. This goes for physical copies of music as well, like CDs. Paying for streamable music or CDs only allows you to play it for yourself in a private setting – it does not allow you to play the music during streams or in videos.
Now that we've covered what music is allowed in your Twitch streams, it may be important to note which music is not allowed in your content or anywhere on your channel.
Strict Music Restrictions & Potential Consequences for Streamers
Games like Rockband, Dance Dance Revolution (DDR), and Guitar Hero contain copyrighted music, so they are not allowed to be streamed. In the past, streamers on Twitch may have had music content-based shows like a radio show where they would function as a typical radio station by playing music, maybe doing interviews with other streamers and talking to the audience.
Despite the popularity of that type of content, unless your radio show is playing royalty-free music or you have the rights to the music, you cannot play it. Similarly, though audiences may have enjoyed it in the past, as copyright laws become stricter, you also cannot sing along to songs or perform DJ sets, including songs that you do not own the rights to.
Another type of music content you cannot include in your stream that many people don't realize is visual music. This includes things like lyrics from songs, sheet music (tablature or music notation), or any other visual representation of music like playing a music video even if there is no sound. All of this material is still covered under the same copyright laws as the actual music, so you cannot include it in your stream or content.
Twitch guidelines state that if you violate any of their terms of service in your Twitch stream, you will receive a takedown notice from music rights holders. Twitch may also later mute the parts of your recorded streams that contain copyrighted music.
Twitch streamers have also been known to receive a 24-hour ban from the site before for violating music copyright guidelines or in rare cases, permanently removed if they are repeat offenders. Twitch gives their users three strikes before the channel is removed, so save yourself the hassle and only play music that you have the rights to either by owning it, paying for the royalties/rights or using royalty-free music.
Twitch Sings Offers Free On-Stream Karaoke With Licensed Music
If you want to provide your audience with other music content, another way to use music in your streams is through Twitch Sings. Though most people use Twitch to stream video games like Fortnite, League of Legends, or Grand Theft Auto (GTA), Twitch has decided to create their own streamable video game. Twitch Sings is a free karaoke game that allows users to live-stream on their channel.
The karaoke game includes copyright-approved Twitch music as the platform obtained the necessary copyrights from the respective artists. There are plenty of old and newer songs and artists to choose from, such as Beyonce, The 1975, and plenty of Disney music. The most recent song available is from 2018, but there are also songs available all the way back to the 1500s.
This may be the best way to include copyright music in your content, as there is no doubt that it will be allowed on your channel since Twitch provides it. There is also an option to perform with friends, other Twitch streamers and even audience members. If the audience members don't want to participate in such an active way, they can virtually cheer with emoticons, give standing ovations or send in song requests.
Audience members can also challenge the streamer by removing the lyrics to a song or challenge them to sing in a silly voice. In general, Twitch Sings is a fun and interactive way to use copyrighted music that adheres to copyright law and Twitch's guidelines. Though Twitch has its own karaoke video game, you cannot stream yourself playing any other type of karaoke or music game from outside of the platform.