James Blake Once Again Slams Streaming Services for Ripping Off Artists, Announces Vault Venture

The launch of the service comes just a few weeks after Blake criticized streaming services for not paying enough royalties to artists.

James Blake performs at Alexandra Palace on September 28, 2023 in London, England.
Jack Hall via Getty Images
James Blake performs at Alexandra Palace on September 28, 2023 in London, England.

James Blake is helping to launch the Vault streaming platform weeks after criticizing mainstream streaming services for not paying artists enough.

"About a week ago I went viral with a post about the effects of streaming and TikTok on artists' ability to support themselves," said Blake in a video announcing the venture. "I wanted to give you some figures. This is how much artists make out of streaming: Between $0.0003 and $0.0005 per stream depending on that platform. Which is one million plays equals $3,000. If you're signed to a label then imagine that numbers cut at least 50 percent. And after management cut, which is between 15 to 20 percent, and taxes and recording overheads, it's just not sustainable for an artist to focus just on their art."

Blake highlighted that roughly 19 percent of artists on Spotify have over a thousand listeners, while Universal Music Group recently took its entire catalog off of TikTok because of how little it pays out.

"Most musicians are not extroverts who are social media and branding geniuses, least of all me. And I wanted to find a way for musicians to make money directly from the music they make, not least to be able to reinvest in the very expensive process of renting studios, hiring musicians, etc.," he continued. "I’ve spoken to a lot of artists who feel frustrated that so much great music goes unreleased because it doesn’t meet certain requirements or trends."

Shortly after Blake shared his tweets criticizing the current state of the music industry, specifically in regards to online royalties on streaming services and TikTok, he was contacted by the team behind Vault. "I’m going to start the experiment off by releasing from my Vault of unreleased music for a subscription of $5 a month," he said. "It’s music direct from me to you, where no one can gatekeep what I release to you, or delay my releases. And I’ve got a chat section for everyone to discuss the music."

Blake stressed that Vault is still in its infancy, but more features will be added as it continues to develop. "The concept of subscribing to an artist directly, I think can change the game and release artists from the relentless merry-go-round of the current state of things," he said. "This is hopefully a great step towards allowing artists to be as authentic as possible, while still making a living."

Ok, so for the first time I’m going to be releasing from my vault of unreleased music

We are launching @vaultdotfm to show music has inherent value beyond just exposure

Subscribe to unlock 👇 pic.twitter.com/pIic7Ef47G

— James Blake (@jamesblake) March 20, 2024
Twitter: @jamesblake

Users can subscribe to James Blake on Vault for $5 a month. So far, he's shared three unreleased songs on the platform with more on the way soon.

What if making music was enough? pic.twitter.com/oP64sE7llU

— Vault (@vaultdotfm) March 20, 2024
Twitter: @vaultdotfm

Blake's initial criticism was co-signed by the artist formerly known as Kanye West, with whom Blake has worked in the past.

"If we want quality music somebody is gonna have to pay for it. Streaming services don’t pay properly, labels want a bigger cut than ever and just sit and wait for you to go viral, TikTok doesn’t pay properly, and touring is getting prohibitively expensive for most artists," Blake tweeted at the time. "And by the way, since it’s cheaper to produce fast, synthetic music to drop on streaming every week to capitalize on the strengths of the model, watch how the model is preparing you for AI generated music that pays musicians nothing at all."

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