As a content creator, it’s important to be aware of the rules your streaming service enforces regarding music played on streams. As streaming services have grown, so has the complexity of licensing laws that are forgotten about until it’s too late and streamers find their videos being taken down.
Rules for Streaming Sites
The general rule for most streaming sites is: if you play music and you lack the proper licensing and permissions for on your stream, you can be penalized by the legal owner of the music. This generally means anything you hear by any artist you’d find on Spotify, the radio, or even in your own personal collection.
This authority comes from a 1998 United States copyright law called the “Digital Millennium Copyright Act” or DMCA for short. Maybe you’ve heard that a youtube channel or Twitch streamer has been “DMCA’ed”. What that means is they’ve been penalized by the rights holder for broadcasting the music (or other content) without the proper permission.
These penalties come in a variety of forms, generally starting with a specific Youtube video, Twitch VoD, or clip getting taken down that has the offending song or content in it, and a “copyright strike” issued against your channel. While the chances of a lawsuit from the record label against most streamers is low, it has happened in the past.
Most platforms only allow a small number of “strikes” on a channel before it is entirely shut down.
Unfortunately, there is little recourse as a content creator when this happens. You can appeal it, but the process is slow, difficult and usually doesn’t result in favor of the content creator.
The music industry is very dedicated to protecting its IP and has the resources to continuously monitor, strike and litigate people who use their music without paying for the proper licensing.
The safest way to avoid your stream or VoDs getting muted and potentially having penalties to your account is to play royalty-free music.
Here, we’ll provide some sources for popular music safe for streaming. You should know that royalty-free music doesn’t necessarily mean free music. Some services may cost money either in the form of a subscription or licensing fee, and others may require attribution (like a link in the info section beneath your stream or a bot command).
Know of some great stream-safe music we should add? E-mail, tweet, or chat with us!
Pretzel – Pretzel is a music app crafted for streamers that plays only royalty-free music. You can use it for free but with some mandatory requirements. Alternately, you can subscribe for $4.99 per month and gain access to more features without restrictions. Check out our review of Pretzel here.
Monstercat – You can subscribe for $5.00 on their “gold” plan to enable you to stream their music on your channel. You can find their FAQ’s here
Anjunabeats – This is a free, no frills, streaming audio site that you can have playing in the background of your streams. Twitch references this site in its own setup guide under the Channel Trailer section.
NoCopyrightSounds – Free music with no copyright. To use this service, you must provide links and credit to the artists per their policy. The usage page is here
Incompetech – A large collection of free music with a variety of genres. To use this service, you must provide links and credit to the artists per their policy. The usage page is here
MachinimaSound – Legacy tracks are free to use, so long as you provide the required links and credit the artist. Other songs can be individually purchased for use in streams.
BenSound – Free to use with a variety of genres. Link attribution required. You can also purchase tracks for use. Here is their FAQ page.
AudionautiX – Also free to use with a variety of genres. Link attribution required. FAQ page
Popskyy – Mega Pack 1 contains 106 electronic/chiptune songs for free (name your price). Additional albums available for purchase. All songs can be used for streaming, videos, etc but link attribution is required.
Old VoDs and Clips are a risk!
In June of 2020, a large number of content creators on Twitch were hit with copyright strikes from record labels because their VoD’s and Clips contained music they didn’t have the license to broadcast.
The best way to safeguard yourself against this new area of being hit with a copyright strike is to remove your VoD’s and Clips from your channel. Download them if you want to keep them, or delete them outright.
You can do this from your Creator Dashboard on twitch, under the “Content” menu dropdown.
Once there, you can choose either Video Producer to manage your VoD’s, or the Clips section to manage your clips. As a broadcaster you can manage all the clips you’ve created, or the clips others have created from your stream.
If you want to download them to save, you need to click “Share” on the VoD or clip, then choose the “Download” icon.