How do Streamers Play Copyrighted Music?

Do you find yourself watching a streamer and notice they are rocking out to all the popular mainstream songs, but they never seem to mention any worries about DMCA strikes? How are they getting away playing copyrighted music every single day?

First off, playing any copyrighted content is still very much illegal without consent from the record company – in many cases, the individual artist’s consent is not enough as their recording studio is the one who has ownership of the song. Streamers who are playing copyrighted music during their live streams are probably doing so illegally and are gambling not only their Twitch account but also legal action in the form of lawsuits from the music industry. We strongly advocate using NoCopyrightSounds (NCS) or Free-Use content.

However, at this time of writing Twitch and the Music Industry is having a hard time scraping live streams for music being played to detect copyright infringement and issue punishment. That’s not to say these scrapping bots are not being widely used, but there are many more streams than bots – so chances of being caught may be slim. But is it worth the stress worrying and the repercussions if caught?

This leads to the new trend on Twitch to avoid DMCA strikes and takedowns. Streamers are now separating their audio sources for their mic/gameplay and their music allowing them to upload VODs without the music present. Twitch has gotten really good screening through VODs for copyrighted content but has not yet optimized their bots for live streams. Again, it may be a matter of time before the technology catches up to screening live footage – but this method currently works for many, many streamers without consequences. Still, proceed with caution and understand you can still get in big trouble using copyrighted content without rights or permission.

How to Play Music on Stream but not Your VODs?

Twitch has added the ability to have two different audio tracks in your stream – one for the live broadcast and one for the VODs. This allows users to keep their music out of their VODs as a layer of protection from DMCA strikes. The setup is fairly straightforward, especially if you are already using some of the software required. All you need is:

1. OBS Studio (26.1 or newer) – Alternate: Streamlabs
2. Voicemeeter Banana (free) / Potato (paid)
3. Windows 10/11 – otherwise, Audiorouter is needed

The method setup might take some time to tinker with, but if you are already familiar with Voicemeeter and OBS Studio then this might be a breeze in the park for you. Essentially, your audio sources (Desktop Audio, Microphone, and Music) will be separated into individual audio streams through Voicemeeter allowing each audio source to be itemized in OBS Studio for either the live broadcast or VOD upload to Twitch. In other words, you will be able to choose what audio channels are present in your Twitch VOD uploads – for example, you can remove background music and discord voices so that VODs are only gameplay sounds and your own voice.

VoiceMeeter Setup

It will be assumed you have Voicemeeter and OBS Studio already set up on Windows 10/11. We will be configuring Voicemeeter Banana to separate the Desktop/Game Audio and Music Audio – this is done by using the virtual inputs: VAIO and VAIO AUX.

First, make sure your Voicemeeter is configured properly. In our setup, the two virtual inputs provided with Voicemeeter Banana will be the Desktop/Game Audio under VAIO and our Music Audio under VAIO AUX.

Voicemeeter Default Device for Playback

It should be noted that the VB-Audio Voicemeeter VAIO is the Default Device in Sound Settings – Playback Tab

Voicemeeter Banana Setup

From here, you should be able to quickly set up Voicemeeter accordingly. This example setup is basic, yours may have more inputs and that’s okay!
Hardware Input 1 – Microphone
Virtual Input 1 – Desktop/Game Audio (VAIO Playback Sound)
Virtual Input 2 – Music/Chrome/Firefox (VAIO AUX)
Hardware Output A1 – Headphones/Speakers

Some may have VAIO AUX set for their microphone (a lot of early Voicemeeter guides suggest it), but you don’t necessarily need this. If you’d like to keep it as-is to not jeopardize your current working setup you can use Hardware Input 2 or 3 with a Virtual Cable instead.

Music Audio Routing

Next, identify which music application you will be using (Spotify, Chrome/Firefox Browser) so that we can then direct the music audio to be sent to the Voicemeeter input channel. Spotify will be used in this example, but you can simply substitute for any other application you want to use.

Again, assuming you’re on Windows 10/11 simply go to the taskbar speaker icon (lower right by the time) and right-click selecting “Open Sound Setting.” Scroll down the page until you see Advanced Sound Options and click “App Volume and Device Preferences.”

Sound Settings for setting audio channels for individual apps

Here you will now see a list of active apps – if you do not see Spotify/Chrome/Firefox/etc. then simply go to that application and play a song (a quick Play/Pause should do). In this example, we scroll down and find Spotify. Clicking the dropdown for the Output Channel and select your desired audio channel – in this example, it would be VAIO AUX.

Windows 10/11 sound mixer for audio channels

If you are not on Windows 10/11 then you will need to open up Audiorouter, find your music program, click the arrow at the bottom of the screen, click Route, and select VoiceMeeter VAIO AUX. Unfortunately, you will need to perform this step every time you start your stream – or never close Audiorouter.

OBS Studio Configuration

On the main OBS Studio screen, go to Settings and select the Output tab on the left side of the window. Make sure Output Mode is on Advanced from the dropdown menu on the top. Now you should see Audio Track and Twitch VOD Track. Select Audio Track 1 for Audio Track and select Audio Track 2 for Twitch VOD Track – make sure its checkbox is checked.

OBS Studio Advanced Output settings for Twitch VOD track

Now move down to the Audio tab on the left side of the setting screen. Here, you will set the two virtual outputs (B1 and B2) from Voicemeeter to OBS Studio’s Audio Devices.

OBS Studio audio tab settings for defining VoiceMeeter channels

Desktop Audio – VB-Audio VoiceMeeter VAIO (B1)
Desktop Audio 2 – VB-Audio VoiceMeeter AUX VAIO (B2)
Mic/Auxilary Audio – Microphone

Desktop Audio is the (B1) channel in VoiceMeeter and will be providing the Desktop/Game audio to stream

Desktop Audio 2 is the (B2) channel in VoiceMeeter and will be providing the Music audio to stream

Next, hit Apply and OK to close the settings window. Now on the main OBS Studio window right-click onto the Audio Mixer in the bottom-center of the main screen and select Advanced Audio Properties. A new window will open and display all your audio devices defined within your settings and scenes. It may be named differently than the screenshot below – you can right-click the device back on the main OBS screen and manually rename it to help identify what-is-what.

OBS Studio advanced audio properties

Here is where you will define what audio is live-streamed and what is excluded from your VODs. Remember, Track 1 is what will be heard on the live stream and Track 2 is what will be uploaded in the VOD. You should see audio devices for your Desktop, Microphone, Music, Stream Alerts, and a Webcam if equipped with a built-in mic. Because we are using an auxiliary mic we have turned off all audio tracks for the webcam.

Notice across the board we are sending all audio (minus duplicate webcam microphone) to the live stream Track 1 and repeating everything minus the music for the VOD stream Track 2. Music is not checked for Track 2. That’s it, you’re done! There’s nothing to do on the Twitch site itself, but you probably want to do a test stream to ensure everything works properly.

Take-Away Comments

Please note, again, using any copyrighted content without permission is illegal and risks disciplinary action. This method will also not save you from live DMCA strikes if and when they start rolling out. Using DMCA safe music may just be a small price to pay to remain safe and worry-free. There is plenty of NoCopyrightSounds (NCS) or Free-Use content available to fulfill any type of music one might be interested in. The gamble is your choice to weigh.

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