The COVID-19 pandemic caused seismic shifts for the whole music industry. Without the possibility of gigging and streaming paying little, artists had to find new ways to make ends meet. DJs were no different, and they had to find a unique platform to show their skills.
That platform was Twitch, a streaming platform that was founded in 2006. It was developed to cash in on the phenomenon of watching gamers play on YouTube. Except with Twitch, everything is live. Over the years, the platform developed with streamers bringing new things to the platform. Now you can see anything on Twitch, from political commentators to dancers and even people filming their everyday lives.
DJs found Twitch to be the perfect platform as they wanted their share of the 30 million Twitch daily users. As a result, many DJs were able to have a hugely successful career on Twitch. Fans flocked to their live streams to get the fix of dance music that they were sorely missing. Over the year of COVID-19, the watch time of music and performing on Twitch rose from 3.6 million hours to 17.6 million hours. DJs such as the Soul Clap duo quickly rose to prominence on the platform, boasting thousands of viewers on every stream. The duo gained notoriety for the quality of the DJ streams but also for the variety of their content. Soul Clap held chat sessions, showcased unheard music, and aimed specific streams at kids.
Taking their career in this direction allowed DJs to hone their skills and keep up their love of music. But it also secured their financial stability. Twitch streamers benefit from their audiences’ donations as well as advertising revenue. What’s more, was that the DJ streams became so popular during the pandemic that Twitch directly paid certain DJs to stream.
This golden age of DJ Twitch streaming may be coming to an end. It is all because of strict copyright laws enforced by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act or DMCA. This American law gives protection to people’s digital data. Unfortunately, it is both a blessing and a curse for musicians. While it ensures that their own tracks are protected, it severely limits their ability to earn money playing other people’s tracks. Such laws are most damaging for DJs, who make a living by mixing and playing other artists’ tracks.
As DJs flocked to Twitch, the number of complaints under DMCA rules made to the platform reached astronomical proportions. Twitch realized that they could be in legal hot water and decided to take action immediately. In October, they sent a letter to all creators on their platform. It asked that they stop streaming content with copyrighted music and take down any of their content with copyrighted music. Twitch faced so much creator backlash from this statement that they quickly published an apology. Although they acknowledged the “completely justified” streamer anger, Twitch kept their demands.
So, what does this mean for DJ streamers? Most likely, they will have to move away from Twitch and try to develop their platform. Organizations such as ‘The Lot Radio’ from New York are attempting just that. Whatever the solution is, it is unlikely to last. As the pandemic winds down and normal life returns, so will conventional live music. Twitch was only ever a substitute, and online DK mix streaming is unlikely to remain popular when concerts become available. Twitch DJs tried to exist in a new space and found that it was not very hospitable to them. Now, it is time to move back to performing music as they have for years.