Music While Streaming

Late last night after I had turned off the fourth Twitch stream in a row because the music the stream had playing was unpleasant to me, I tweeted this:


Due to the brevity Twitter requires I was unable to fully explain why I felt this way in this single tweet. I wanted to take a second and write why I feel the way I do about playing music while streaming.

First – lets assume everything is setup and balanced well. The music is loud enough for me to hear, but not so loud that it drowns out the content the streamer is creating. If I enjoy this music (or am neutral about it) I will not mind. If I dislike the music I will likely leave. In this case the streamer lost a viewer because they did not like the music, even if they wanted to watch the content otherwise.

Now – the common response to this is some people watch twitch streams explicitly for the music. In the digital age today, it is very easy to share playlists of music. Pandora, Spotify, and other services easily allow a stream to have a link that says “listen to my music” below their stream. This allows for people who want the streamer’s music to enjoy it, while not turning off people who dislike it. Even my smart phone can play music while watching Twitch at the same time.

The other defense of music on stream I heard from several people is that the streamer just wants to listen to music. Using modern streaming software, like OBS, a streamer can very easily select individual audio channels to send to their stream. They can very easily listen to their own music while streaming and not share it with the rest of the world directly.

Not playing music directly on the stream also has the added benefit that any archives you create will not be muted for copy right reasons. This means people who like the streamer’s content will be able to see more of it. Being able to archive things without audio disputes to a place like YouTube can also be an additional revenue source for streamers.

Finally – Yes I used to play music while streaming. I did it because most people I watched stream did it and it seemed like the norm. I realize now that it lost me viewers then for the reasons I list here and I am glad I stopped doing it.

Taste in music is subjective. Regardless of how many people are enjoying a stream’s music, it is always costing the content creator some viewers who dislike the music. There is a reason major sporting / eSports events do not play music as an underscores to their shows – it is a net positive not to.

6 thoughts on “Music While Streaming”

  1. I wouldnt say easily. Im not smart enough to use OBS. 🙂 Also comparing it to major esports/sports events doesnt feel fair to me. They are alot less dead air in those events, are there are commentators usually interacting with easy other. Almost of them have music between rounds as well. I realize what you are saying, I just dont feel its the same thing.

    1. They play “waiting music” essentially, which is very different from playing music while they are talking. Playing music while a stream is AFK isn’t a big deal because then people who don’t like the music can mute the stream till the streamer comes back.

  2. I’d make the argument that some more reserved streamers use music as a way to supplement their own lack of talking. newer streamers especially. After you’ve exhausted all your talking points about a turn but are still waiting on your opponent (hex especially here) music is a way to keep those people who are using the stream as background noise “interested” and tuned in. You also routinely pull in active viewers (those in chat) others will have 20 viewers with no-one talking in chat which limits discussion considerably.

    Overall I agree with you, I don’t play music on my stream for a lot of the reasons you listed, and I’ve tuned away from a lot of channels due to music I didn’t like. It’s a good discussion to have

  3. I think it really depends on what kind of streamer they are. If they are just streaming for fun and don’t have any concerns for profit through it, ( I used to do this) then playing music is fine. But for someone such as you ( who actually makes a non-zero amount of money through twitch ) I feel would be smarter not to have music due to trying to make your stream welcoming enough for any viewers that are new or coming back even. Just my opinion.

  4. Music is also a way of the streamer expressing their personality. A stream with music can be more interesting to a viewer. It can also help build a connection between the streamer and viewer. I will not disagree that music can can cost viewers as well and potentially result in lost revenue.

    There are many factors that make a stream successful. Quality gameplay and an engaging personality from the streamer are certainly two variables, but music is also one. The same argument you make about music can easily be made about speaking on stream. It’s possible the best gamer in the world can be doing amazing things dominating the competition and drawing thousands of viewers just from his or her gameplay. However, if their voice is like nails on a chalkboard to the majority of viewers, is it better for them not to speak?

    Ultimately, the streamer is responsible for how he or she presents themself. The viewer than makes the decision to watch or not based on the content. You’ve made a decision not to stream music for the reasons stated. It’s the right decision for you, but not the right decision for everyone.

    1. If someone isn’t interesting / engaging enough without taking another person’s work to supplement their own they probably shouldn’t be streaming.

      If a streamer is playing music as the primary source of entertainment they are essentially stealing if they don’t have the rights to use that music. They are just reusing another person’s created material.

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