The latter portion of Twitch’s 2020 has been characterized by two seismic shifts: a big push to make money off ads and deals, and creator-unfriendly capitulation to the music industry. The company’s latest announcement, a deal with music label Monstercat that allows streamers to purchase affiliate status instead of earning it, combines both.
Monstercat outlined the new program in a post on its website today. If streamers subscribe to Monstercat Gold for $5 per month, they now gain access not only to a library of songs they can play during their streams, but also Twitch affiliate status. Affiliate is Twitch’s first monetization tier, which allows streamers to gain paid subscribers and Bits, which are basically a donation currency. Before this year, the only way to become an affiliate was to unlock it by having at least 50 followers, 500 total minutes broadcast, an average of 3 or more concurrent viewers, and streaming on 7 different days.
This is similar to a program that Twitch launched with SoundCloud earlier this year, which allowed SoundCloud subscribers to get fast-tracked to affiliate status. But that promotion was focused on musicians. This one, theoretically, is aimed at everybody.
It makes sense for Twitch to partner with a label like Monstercat given its ongoing DMCA troubles, but this is yet another move that’s left creators feeling slighted. While it’s much easier to become an affiliate than it is to achieve Twitch’s coveted partner status (which requires an average of 75 concurrent viewers, among other things), it’s still something thousands and thousands of streamers have had to earn over the years. Now people can just buy it—as part of a band-aid over a much larger issue that Twitch and Amazon could address by spending their own money to license music like Facebook has, but have chosen not to. Streamers are baffled by Twitch’s decision.
“This seems amazingly unfair to all those folks who have worked hard to get to affiliate, but it also feels like it lessens the value of an affiliate status if you can just buy your way in,” Spawn On Me’s Kahlief Adams said on Twitter.
“I think this is not good, kind of gross, and...a little exploitative?” said commentator and streamer Thom “F.” Badinger. “Also depressing how the platform sees its creators with an issue and thinks of it as a monetization opportunity vs something they should help with.”
The biggest issue here, though, is Twitch giving streamers the option to spend money to gain the ability to make money in the first place. The site’s affiliate and partner programs offer monetization options that, frankly, should be available to everybody from the get go, but which Twitch has turned into shiny baubles at the end of a gamified tunnel. Over the years, this has led some streamers to gatekeep in the name of status. Others have hosted lengthy marathon streams, overworking themselves in pursuit of affiliate or partner. That means more content for Twitch, more grist for the mill, at the expense of streamers’ health. Once upon a time, Twitch handpicked partners, and becoming one meant that you either were a full-time streamer or were well on your way to becoming one. Now it’s just a checkmark, some customization options, and more means of making money that, again, you probably should have had access to all along. It doesn’t guarantee anything. But Twitch cashes in on the prestige of what it used to be.
This Monstercat promotion, then, just turns long-simmering subtext into text: Affiliate and partner status don’t mean anything. They’re just means of incentivizing streamers to do what Twitch wants. Before, that was streaming. Now it’s giving money to companies with which Twitch has made deals. Twitch business partners, at least, must be pleased.