Partly responsible for a massive change in the industry (including the emergence of eSports and a change in the way people learn about games), game streaming service Twitch commands a large audience of over 45 million regular viewers. It also commanded a large price tag late last year when online retailer Amazon bought it for $970 million. The deal concerned some users though as it came following another big change at Twitch – the decision to clear out their archives, only allow users to save videos for two weeks and to mute archived videos featuring unauthorized audio.
While active streamers ceded to the fact that most people did not go back and watch archived video that had been archived for more than a few weeks, others remained disgruntled that Twitch would mute their archived streams for something as small as playing the radio in the background. It was still an issue despite Twitch CEO Emmett Shear stating that "audio-recognition currently impacts approximately 2% of video views on Twitch" and after Twitch explained that it had been done to protect their users (and themselves) from copyright infringement laws - and to prepare for an imminent acquisition.
It will be good news for Twitch users then that today there archived streams are slightly less at risk of being muted in half hour chunks. Twitch has announced the Twitch Music Library which provides over 500 songs for Twitch streamers to use with no mute (or copyright violation) risk whatsoever.
Twitch describes it as "a library of songs pre-cleared for Twitch broadcasters to use live and with VODs" with those songs being provided by "established and burgeoning" labels including Mad Decent, Dim Mak, Spinnin’ Records, OWSLA, Monstercat and Fool’s Gold. A selection of artists on the list includes RIFF RAFF, Trivecta and Sound Remedy who are responsible for tracks like Tip Toe Wing In My Jawwdinz, Believe and Ozymandias, respectively.
Obviously, a clear problem with the current songs on offer is that they aren't by particularly well known names. Twitch says that they "knew it was equally important to ensure broadcasters had music options" and broadcasters may very well find new music to enjoy but in order for the Twitch Music Library to really be effective it will have to be continuously be updated with more, better known labels, artists and songs.
Twitch has also announced Music Category Beta which they say is an "experiment with music content creators." Essentially, Twitch is looking to let fans get closer to the musicians that they love not just by watching them stream games (Deadmau5 is a popular game streamer, for example) but they'll now be able to see them make and perform music too. This will include more streams of concerts, festivals and even radio stations too with record label Monstercat having launched their own 24 hour radio stream called Monstercat FM.
While it may seem unusual for Twitch to be doing so much to branch out into the music sector, it seems less bizarre when you realise what they're up against. Recently, Twitch rival YouTube revealed that gamers flock to their site to watch original videos about games, with Minecraft being the site's second most searched topic of 2014. Video creators like PewDiePie are also a prime example of YouTube's draw for gamers. So, as YouTube has long been the go to place to watch music videos and has also branched out into live performances and music award shows (such as the YTMAs), Twitch's new musical direction will help them compete and expand.
Twitch hopes that this strategy goes down as well as their other recent changes, including the no nudity policy, the ad transparency policy and Twitch Gaming Movie Night. However, there's also the risk that it could fracture their core gaming fanbase and send them to other game streaming sites such as hitbox.