As for any streaming platform, playing music to an audience often leads to the question of copyrights. Facebook and Youtube have a strong policy about it whereas Twitch seems more flexible. Is it legal to DJ on Twitch though?
DJing on Twitch is illegal unless you own the rights for the music. Having bought the music does not give you the right to play for an audience. However, Twitch does not detect songs in live yet but only on VODs and clips. Thus, it is ok to stream as long you don’t save the lives for replay.
Please note that though Twitch does not detect songs in live streams yet, playing them is still illegal. Moreover, Twitch may create tools in the future to automate the detection in live broadcast live Facebook does. Therefore, today’s statement may differ tomorrow.
This blog post will give you all the keys to understand the whereabouts of copyrights and DJing, such as: How to avoid DMCA strikes, how to legally stream, or what songs you can or can’t play on Twitch.
How to legally stream a DJ set on Twitch
Twitch does pay a license for live music, but that concerns only live performances such as covers. It does not include recorded music even if it is a remix, pitched or not. Therefore, DJ sets are not covered by Twitch own license. Playing your own remix of a track does not solve the problem because you need the rights of the original holder to do so.
Buying the music, either in a physical or digital format does not give you the right to stream the music either. The same thing applies to music coming from streaming platforms like Spotify. Indeed, these only grant the use of music for private and personal use.
The only way to legally stream DJ sets on Twitch is to use music that the artist or label cleared for this specific use. I provide a way to find these just below.
What music can DJs play on Twitch?
DJs can play any music on Twitch coming from “Soundtrack“, a player made by Twitch with only Twitch-ready songs. Its music comes from labels that made specific deals. Some labels, such as Anjunabeats, also made Spotify “stream-free” playlists. Others also propose their catalog for a monthly fee.
For DJs, “Soundtrack” is not very useful. First, the player is not a DJ software. Therefore its only purpose could have been to be a catalog to browse from. However, the tool lacks a search bar or even categorization by artist or label. That makes it impossible to use for any DJs. You can find music from big names such as Don Diablo, Anjunabeats, or Dim Mak, but there are really hard to find. For this reason, I recommend “Twitch-ready” Spotify playlist instead.
To find music DJs can play on streaming platforms, use the following keywords on Spotify:
- Copyrights free
- Twitch ready
- DMCA free
- Twitch safe
- Stream free
- Royalty free
Or any other combination of these keywords with the words “free”, “ready”, or “safe”.
Then look for playlists and read the description. This will give you information about if the music was cleared for Twitch only, Twitch + Youtube, etc. You will find playlists curated by users and by labels. I do prefer the ones from the labels themselves because the information is sure. That would also make a solid reference in case of a dispute.
Some electronic labels cleared some of their music for DJs to be used on Twitch:
- Anjunabeats: Link to playlist
- Spinnin’ Records: Link to playlist
- Proximity: Link to playlist
- This never happened: Link to playlist
Below are two links that curated artists and labels free to be used on Twitch:
Then you have some labels offering a subscription system to play their catalog freely on Twitch and Youtube. You can play for instance the Monstercat catalog for $7.5 / month. Another cool alternative is Soundstripe, its catalog regroups several labels that you can browse from genres and even BPM. Its price is $12.5 per month.
Keep in mind that any “DMCA free” playlist can only be true for the present date, even when coming from major labels. If their position about copyrights changes in the future, what is not at risk today can be tomorrow.
Does twitch do live DMCA strikes?
A DMCA strike is a notification you receive from Twitch when a right holder complained about the use of their music. DMCA means “Digital Millennium Copyright Act”, which is a United States law about copyrights created when the Internet started to become big in 1998.
There are live DMCA strikes on Twitch. The process is not automated as on Youtube or Facebook though. Indeed, Twitch tool “Audible Magic”, only mutes music on VODs and clips. It has never been mentioned for lives yet. Therefore, to this day, the live strikes are only manual.
A famous occurrence is what happened to Metallica during the 2021 Blizzcon. Their song “For Whom The Bell Tolls” was replaced by some elevator music leading to an awkward yet funny event. This change was strangely done on Twitch gaming channel only and not on its main channel (it was streamed on both). This seems to confirm that the live DMCA strikes are only manual.
Therefore, small streamers should not be afraid of live DMCA notifications yet. Indeed, as the action is still manual on lives, there is a good chance right holders only claim streams from big names. Please note that there is a good chance it changes in the future. I would therefore not be surprised if Twitch goes on the same path as Facebook or Youtube by stopping streams that infringe copyrights.
How to avoid DMCA strikes while DJing on Twitch
After three DMCA notifications, Twitch permanently ban your account. That’s why it is important to avoid them.
This is what you can do to avoid DMCA strikes:
- Disable the creation of clips.
To do so, go to your Channel Settings (Creator Dashboard -> Preferences -> Channel) and turn off “Enable Clips”. Indeed, most deals made by labels are for the music played live but not for replays in the form of clips or VODs. Therefore you are at risk if someone made a clip from one of your lives.
- Disable the creation of VODs.
To do so, go to your Channel Settings and turn off “Store past broadcasts”. Again, cleared music for Twitch is mainly for live use only and not for replays.
- Delete all VODs and clips containing copyrighted music.
If you have any doubt about the music being copyrighted, then there is a good chance it is! For clips, you can delete all your clips by clicking “Delete All Clips of My Channel” or delete several at a time like the image below.
Deleting VODs is done in a similar manner: delete everything or up to 20 simultaneously. For VODs, you can also choose to unpublish instead. This way you can review your VOD and decide afterward if it needs to be deleted.
- Play only music from “Soundtrack” or “Twitch-ready” playlist.
To do so please refer to the previous heading.
In the future, Twitch will give more options to handle copyrights. You will be able to sort clips by date or number of views for instance. They will also give more details about the VODs being claimed, which is not the case today. Today you only know you have a claim without knowing its origin. Twitch will also provide an easier way to dispute DMCA strikes. All these updates are tracked in a roadmap you can find here: DMCA and copyrights roadmap.
Please note that if you are playing music through Soundtrack, you can save it as a VOD for this particular case. Indeed, the Soundtrack software stream the music to Twitch thanks to an additional channel that Twitch does not keep in its replays. What it means is that everything coming from OBS would be recorded but not the music coming from Soundtrack. Again, the reason is that labels made deals for the live streams but not for replays.
For DJs, this is not very useful since you cannot mix through Soundtrack. Moreover, a VOD without any music does not make sense for a DJ. However, that may come in handy for some chat or Q&A sessions with background music.
What are the risks of playing music on Twitch?
As a general rule, playing copyrighted music will result in a permanent ban of your account. This suspension takes place after three violations. Each copyright violation also leads to the immediate removal of the content and sometimes a temporary suspension if the claim was made for a live stream.
Unlike youtube, the individual DMCA strikes do not reset after 90 days. Therefore, receiving three notifications can happen really easily over time. That’s why it is important to disable the creation of clips for the time being and not to publish any VODs. At least that’s the case for DJs where the main content is music and therefore the risk very high.
Moreover, Twitch does not provide the right tools to understand which VOD or clip is concerned by a DMCA strike. You only know you have one, but you don’t have any information about the content concerned. A process to dispute each DMCA notification does not exist yet either. Twitch promised to incorporate such tools in the months to come. Thus it’s better to avoid all clips and VODs before that.
If you have any doubt about having the appropriate rights to stream a song, then there is a good chance you don’t. What you can do however is chose music from a selective list of authorized songs.
Can I play music on Twitch if I’m not making money?
You cannot play music on Twitch that is protected by copyrights even if you don’t make money from it. Indeed, music copyrights are not linked to their commercial use but to the notion of public usage. Twitch being a public place, you cannot play music you don’t own the right for.
If you are interested in the question of music license to play for an audience, please read my blog post: “Do DJs need a license to play music“.
Where can I stream live DJ set without copyright issues?
The best place to stream DJ sets without worrying about copyrights is Mixcloud Live. It costs $11 per month but is 100% legal since the platform redistributes the money to the artists thanks to a music recognition algorithm.
Mixcloud Live is the best alternative to Twitch to legally stream DJ sets.