The 8-Bit Big Band was listened to a lot while writing this article.
Livestreaming has blown up in popularity during the pandemic, and according to TwitchTracker there were over 9 million unique channels that broadcasted on twitch during January 2021, up from 3.9 million just one year ago. Most of these channels use music in some way or form, ranging from just pure background music to music being an integral part of the streamers persona and identity. The setting is this: you are one of the ~120 000 active broadcasters, competing over the attention of ~ 2,9 million active viewers. How do you pop off? Well, its a sum of many things, but once you’re almost there the music you play just might make the difference. But why video game music and not just any music?
1. It is like it was made for it
Music in video games is often made to fulfill a specific purpose. For example a fast paced level probably has fast paced music in the background, and a slower puzzle game might have some relaxing non-invasive tunes playing to help you think. For streaming this means that video-game music often has a very set function for it, which makes it an easy tool to use yourself to create a similar effect. The way video games use music also makes it so that the compositions often need to be designed to be easy to listen on repeat for an extended period of time. This is optimal for longer streams, as you want the viewers to hang around as long as possible to maximize the engagement.
“…the more pronounced emotions your stream reflects, the more people will enjoy it.”
A study done by Mihalcea and Strappavara found that music can help detect the emotion from lyrics and vice versa, a result that suggests that using the appropriate music with the right content would make both the music and the content easier to enjoy. Emotional responses to music on the other hand are linked to a more pleasurable experience. So in a nutshell, the more pronounced emotions your stream reflects, the more people will enjoy it. Take for example this clip from Ludwig Ahgren, a streamer who is known for using music very creatively in his streams. He uses the song Greatest Journey from the Halo 3 soundtrack to add suspense and significance to the critical part of a chess match in the infamous Pogchamps 3 tournament. Even though it seems like an obvious thing to do, not every streamer goes through the effort to change the music to highlight the narrative. It is no wonder Ahgren is one of the fastest growing streamers on the platform.
LUDWIG VS MOIST CR1TIKAL IN POGCHAMPS 3, Ludwig VODs
2. Because you can
If you’d ask Ludwig himself for his reasoning behind using music from video games, his response is likely not going to be as technical as mine. One of the most talked about advantages of using game soundtracks is that they are often good to stream despite copyright laws, while other copyrighted recorded music is not. Video games often give permission in their EULA (end user licence agreement) to stream the game with the in-game music. This means that it is okay if you stream the game with copyrighted music on it. This doesn’t make it legal to stream the music without the game, but you most likely won’t get into trouble for it because the game companies are okay with their music being played on twitch overall. This is the case with most games, and for example according to twitch less than 1 % of all copyright claims are due to music in video games.
3. Your audience already loves it
A streamer’s community is more often than not built on video games, which means that the viewers there are already familiar with games and game music. Research shows that we tend to enjoy familiar music more over unfamiliar ones, which means that an audience that has grown up on gaming and game-culture, is most likely going to enjoy video game music more than for example the current billboard pop chart. Nostalgia works in the same areas of the brain as other highly dopamine related activities such as addiction, which means that nostalgia might make your audience come back. It also serves the purpose of helping you bring your otherwise diverse fanbase to enjoy the music and the stream together, as gamers. 😉
The natural choice of soundtrack for streaming seems to be music from video games. This claim is supported by scientific studies and even the Twitch.tv copyright system so why don’t you try it as well!
Mihalcea, R. & Strapparava, C. (2012). Lyrics, music and emotions. In Proceedings of the 2012 Joint Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing and Computational Natural Language Learning, 590–599. Jeju Island, Korea. https://www.aclweb.org/anthology/D12-1054.pdf
https://youtu.be/18PgrD-fROs?t=9836 LUDWIG VS MOIST CR1TIKAL IN POGCHAMPS 3, Ludwig VODs
van den Bosch, I., Salimpoor, V.N. and Zatorre, R.J. (2013) Familiarity mediates the relationship between emotional arousal and pleasure during music listening. Front. Hum. Neurosci. 7:534. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2013.00534
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Twitch_Logo.jpg Brian Collins, Used under lisence: CC-BY-SA-4.0