James Blake Partners With Subscription Service Vault to Address Streaming Royalty Issues for Artists

After a handful of social media rants on the fairness of royalty payment structuring in the music industry, James Blake has announced his participation in the launch of Vault, a direct artist-to-fan streaming platform focused on unreleased music.

“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 post on X (formerly Twitter), announcing his new participation with Vault to provide artists with better streaming rates. Vault, whose motto is “What if making music was enough?,” approached Blake after his initial tweets went viral, and he describes their partnership as an “experiment” wherein he will charge listeners $5 per month for access to unreleased material.

“It’s music direct from me to you, where no one can gatekeep what I release to you, or delay my releases,” he said. “And it’s got a chat section for everyone to discuss the music.”

In the video, he begins by laying out just how little artists make from streaming royalties. “I wanted to give you some figures. This is how much artists make out of streaming: Between $0.003 and $0.005 per stream depending on that platform,” he said, “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.”

He continued by explaining that only 19 percent of artists on Spotify have more than a thousand listeners, and referenced the fact that TikTok pays so little that Universal Music Group removed its catalog from the platform. “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. Music is not cheap to make and I wanted to help incentivize musicians to actually spend more time making music. Also, I’ve spoken to a lot of artists that feel frustrated that so much great music goes unreleased because it doesn’t meet certain requirements or trends.”

Blake, whose music is often intimate and introspective, is a Grammy-winning English singer, songwriter and producer best known for the electro-soul of 2019’s “Assume Form” and collabs with Frank Ocean and Beyoncé. But his quiet demeanor cracked with a recent series of Instagrams that smartly addressed issues surrounding difficulties that artists face in earning a genuine living from their music.

Initially, he was ticked off by a post from Off Record Sounds that discussed rapper-producer French Montana uploading different versions of songs from his mixtape “Mac & Cheese 5” (including sped-up, slowed-down and a capella versions), as well as TikTok’s negative impact on artists struggling with financial difficulties. He stated that the “multiple versions thing isn’t great,” and that the “effect of TikTok/Reels on the core songwriting and arranging of music” caused “attention deficit” in the listening public. “Music is my life’s purpose, and I will not have mine destroyed by a bunch of labels and tech companies who don’t even pay us and exploit us relentlessly.”

Blake then pointed out that when his cover of Frank Ocean’s “Godspeed” went viral, neither he nor Ocean “made a cent” from the song’s popularity. “I don’t know how many millions of unique videos were made with that song but it was multiple. Most people didn’t even know it was me because my name didn’t show up and I wasn’t tagged. I don’t care about the money but next time your fave goes viral remember they aren’t making shit off that. They just got ‘given a platform’ and now have the ‘privilege’ of touring one clip of one song.”

“The industry is beyond fucked and musicians are getting fucked harder than anyone,” he added. “I’m extremely lucky I got in before streaming took over and before all these shady deals were made behind our backs.”

“If we want quality music somebody is gonna have to pay for it,” he stated. “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.”

On social media, Tyler, the Creator and Kanye West came to his defense while Blake himself promised to come up with a viable solution to the music industry’s woes. Though it’s not apparent how this latest move will contend with his contracts with UMe, Republic or Polydor, Blake said he has had to wait for six months or more at times “in order to get the green light to release his music.”

Through Vault, Blake said that he and other artists can “cut out the middleman completely,” and drop more music than they ever have been able to in the past.

“This is a backstage pass to the process,” stated Blake. “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. This is hopefully a great step towards allowing artists to be as authentic as possible, while still making a living.”


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