If you want to use background music in your stream, you need permission from the copyright holder(s), and this usually involves a licensing fee.
Fortunately, there are many online music libraries online that offer royalty-free music for widespread use.
Using Background Music in Streams
Many Twitch streamers use background music to provide flair and atmosphere to their streams. Unfortunately, in too many cases, this music is obtained without permission from the individual or company that holds the rights to the music. Sometimes, streamers might use music with no idea as to whether they have the right to use that particular track.
If the music is commercial in nature — that is, it was released with the explicit intention of creating profit for the artist and their record label — that music is protected by copyright laws, meaning that someone owns the right to determine how the song is used. This means they can choose who is allowed to use their music, under what conditions that permission can be granted, and they are entitled to financial compensation for granting permission.
Of course, this also means that whoever owns the rights to a piece of music can simply refuse to let a streamer use the song.
This applies to whatever medium is used to play the song. Whether you’re playing it off a radio, Spotify (even a premium account), YouTube, or your own music library, is irrelevant. As long as the song has a copyright, you need a license.
Even if you bought a digital copy of the song off iTunes, Bandcamp, Amazon Music, or some other vendor, that purchase does not give you the rights to broadcast the song to an audience or to use the song in any other work. A digital purchase that you make for (and by) yourself gives you the right to listen to the song only for personal or private reasons. Twitch, being a commercial property, cannot be legally considered a personal platform through which you can play music that you purchased.
Streaming music in the background of a Twitch stream is a big deal. Some streamers have been temporarily banned for playing copyrighted music in their videos, and permanent bans for repeat violations are not unheard of.
So, How Can I Get Music for My Stream?
Under certain circumstances, you can safely play music on your Twitch stream.
You have obtained the proper license to play it. Royalty-free music applies here because it has no license.
The music is in the public domain.
You own the copyright to the music yourself. For example, a musician can write their own music to stream on their channel.
You can contact the organization that holds the rights to the song you want, or the artist directly, to find out how you can license their music for your stream. Or, you can search for explicitly royalty-free music. A number of musicians make their music freely available for background streaming, asking only to be credited by name.
If you want to get permission to use licensed music on your stream, you can contact the artist or their management directly. There tends to not be a flat rate for music fees. The rate will instead be determined by the artist’s popularity and how big your own platform is. For example, more obscure artists can ask for upwards of $300, while an established artist could feasibly charge $10,000 for their music to be used in your stream.
If you don’t have hundreds (or thousands) of dollars to put down for background music, you can look for online music libraries that provide customers with more affordable licenses and copyright cleared music to use for broadcasting. You can search for music by genre, feel, length, and other matches to fit your channel, and then pay a nominal fee (or no fee at all) to use the music.
Some libraries offer a subscription model to use any of their content, while others license tracks on a per-use basis.
What About Other Platforms?
The laws regarding copyright and licensing apply across the board, whether you’re streaming on Twitch, YouTube, or Facebook or Instagram Live. If you don’t obtain permission to use the background music you want (usually by paying a licensing fee), you’re unlawfully using that music, and you’re in violation of the terms of service of the platform.
The best way to get around this is to contact the copyright holder to see if they will license their song to you and how much it will cost. Alternate methods include finding royalty-free music or finding music by artists who specifically produce background music for free-of-charge use.