Today, Twitch releases Soundtrack, a new product that allows streamers to play music while they’re live — or, at least, that’s the simplest way to explain it. If the product works the way Twitch says it does, Soundtrack will be much more than just a way to play rights-cleared music while you’re broadcasting. It might change how you think about using music on Twitch entirely.
The issue that Soundtrack is solving is pretty simple: if music is copyrighted, you can’t use it while you’re streaming unless you have the rights to those songs. If you do happen to use copyrighted music during a broadcast, there’s not a whole lot Twitch can necessarily do because it’s being played live. If viewers make clips from that broadcast, however, or the VOD of the stream is left online, it’s possible that the streamer will get a copyright strike from the original rights holder. Three strikes mean a permanent ban from Twitch. (It’s also worth noting that VODs are automatically muted if they’re found to contain copyrighted music.) Twitch streamers were also hit with a wave of copy strikes from labels back in June, sometimes from years-old clips they had no hand in making.
Which is why what Twitch’s Soundtrack actually does is super interesting. It’s a separate application that interfaces with your streaming software — it currently supports OBS and Streamlabs OBS, for now.
Soundtrack separates the music stream into its own channel and broadcasts it simultaneously but, crucially, separately. That integration allows Twitch to automatically strip the music from the VOD of your live stream — because songs that are cleared for live use aren’t necessarily also cleared for use in recordings — and at the same time allows the site to do a lot of cool platform-side things with the music itself. (In a word: it solves the desktop audio problem.)
So, if you’re watching a streamer who’s using Soundtrack in their broadcast, you’ll see some thoughtful additions from the Twitch product team. At the bottom of the stream, there’s a widget that shows what song is currently playing, which updates live. It also links to the artist’s Spotify page and their Twitch channel, if they happen to have one.
The implications of that particular decision are wild. Twitch is starting with a small group of labels and distribution platforms — including indie favorites like Dim Mak, along with bigger players like SoundCloud and DistroKid. The platform has also decided to curate playlists for specific moods, which means that the artists on those playlists will suddenly have an audience that’s potentially as large as the live audience for Twitch. And it’s not just playlists; Soundtrack also features libraries of music tuned to specific moods that they’re calling Stations. Everything you see on Soundtrack is cleared for use on air, whether that’s tracks from playlists or deep cuts in the music library from which it’s sourcing tracks.
All this means that those artists, who may or may not be stars in their own right, have a chance to break out on an entirely separate platform. That’s huge, especially considering how music is used on Twitch: as an accompaniment to the action, whatever that action is — a little like a sound bed in a podcast.
Facebook Gaming, on the other hand, recently announced its own music offering. It allows partnered streamers there to play music from major labels in the background of their broadcasts, with some restrictions. (Some tracks are “restricted,” for example, though Facebook will not say what they are unless you play them on your stream.) The company says that it’s working to roll the feature out to all Facebook Gaming streamers, but it did not give a specific date for that to happen.
As a Twitch streamer myself, I’m excited to see how streamers use Soundtrack in their broadcasts because it solves a lot of problems at once — it feels like it was created for a streamer-specific use case. I know I’ll be signing up for an early build, and I can’t wait to give it a try on my own channel.
Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that Twitch Soundtrack is compatible with Twitch Studio. It is not, yet. We regret the error.