Twitch partners with indie music licensing group Merlin

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Twitch will enter into a partnership with independent digital music licensing group Merlin, marking the Amazon-owned live-streaming platform’s latest effort to get to grips with the recording industry.

The deal emphasizes how independent Merlin artists can leverage Twitch’s live streaming ecosystem and, in turn, how these artists will further Twitch’s vision to grow further. in content beyond games.

Merlin and Twitch note that the partnership will “unlock live experiences around the world” and open up new marketing channels for Merlin members, including through Twitch’s Musician Incubator, The Collective.

Merlin represents tens of thousands of independent labels worldwide, including Anjunabeats, Armada Music, Beggars Group, Empire, MNRK Music Group, Epitaph Records, Lex Records, Mad Decent, Secret City and Sub Pop.

Over the past few months, Twitch has cemented its relationships with some of the major record labels that previously criticized the company for its lax approach to copyright enforcement. After building a reputation for inaction, the company has swung the other way, going after users who stream unlicensed music on their live streams.

Now, Twitch seems to be looking for common ground, establishing preliminary agreements that stop short of full music licensing agreements. The companies declined to share financial details of the arrangement.

“Merlin and our members are thrilled to enter into this partnership with Twitch and grow our relationship,” Merlin CEO Jeremy Sirota told TechCrunch. “Every partnership has a starting point, and we look forward to building a long and successful relationship between Twitch and Merlin members and their artists.”

With the onset of the pandemic, more and more DJs and musicians have turned to Twitch to build and engage with their audience. The companies noted that the deal would open up new avenues for its artists to grow on Twitch, providing them with “dedicated support” on the platform.

“Our partnership with Merlin provides independent artists in their membership an on-ramp to our dedicated and engaged Twitch community,” Twitch Music Manager Tracy Chan said in the announcement.

Last week, Amazon and Universal Music announced a agreement it would give Amazon Music users access to more HD music from Universal’s vast catalog. As part of the deal, Twitch will also work with Universal to give its artists “business opportunities” to engage with fans as well as create artist and label channels on the streaming platform. direct.

The company hit a similar deal with Warner Music Group last September and announced that it would also give Warner and other music rights holders a new system to manage streams that share unlicensed music. So far, Twitch’s deals with Merlin, Warner, and Universal haven’t expanded the catalog of licensed music available to its creators, but these breakthroughs could pave the way for deeper relationships.

Two years ago, Twitch launched a tool called Soundtrack to help streamers find licensed music, even though at the time the company had no relationship with major record labels. The tool was designed to direct streamers to a limited pool of approved music, reducing instances of muted or deleted VOD archives and attacks on user accounts for use of unlicensed audio.

Since 2020, Twitch has launched waves of DMCA takedowns when unauthorized music has appeared in creators’ streams. The company’s handling of these requests has been controversial, with streamers pushing back on Twitch for suddenly deleting their archived videos without warning. Following such a DMCA crackdown on the platform in late 2020, Twitch streamers complained that they had no way to identify pieces of content that may have violated music licensing rules after receiving notice. .

The aggressive posturing was a response to growing pressure from major players in the music industry. “Twitch continues to turn a blind eye to the same users who repeatedly break the law while pocketing the proceeds from massive unlicensed uses of recorded music,” RIAA CEO Mitch Glazier said as tensions between Twitch and major labels escalated in 2020.

Last September, Twitch entered into an agreement with the National Music Publisher’s Association (NMPA) which established a “more flexible and lenient” system for flagging streamers who deliberately do not use music to which they do not own the rights, instead focusing on “flagrant” violations, such as live streaming a concert. Under the new system, streamers receive warnings before facing account-level repercussions for inadvertent breaches.

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