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Martin Guttridge-Hewitt
21 March 2024, 13:52

James Blake announces subscription-style alternative to streaming for artists, Vault

"I'm going to be able to drop way more music"

James Blake Vault music streaming solution

James Blake has announced his affiliation with a new music platform, Vault. Presented as an alternative to streaming, the platform aims to give fans exclusive work from artists they follow in return for a monthly fee. 

The UK singer, songwriter, producer and DJ recently shared a number of posts on X discussing low returns for artists from services such as Spotify and TikTok. He then teased that a solution could be on the way, substantially increasing revenue for musicians.

On Wednesday 20th March, Blake released a video introducing Vault, explaining that he had now uploaded three previously unheard tunes to the network. You can find the platform here.

Fans can sign up to pay $5 a month to receive tracks from an artist of their choice, who then receives 100% of the money. According to Blake, this means: "nobody can gate keep what I release to you or delay my releases... I'm going to be able to drop way more music than I've ever been able to before.

"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," he explained. “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." 

Blake then went on to share figures from existing streaming payment models, which offer between $0.003 and $0.005 per stream, depending on the platform. "One million plays equals $3,000. If you’re signed to a label, then imagine that number's cut at least 50 percent. And after [the] 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."

Streaming payments for musicians continue to prove highly controversial. Last year, industry giant Spotify announced that royalties would only be triggered at 1,000 plays and above. This is despite a 2024 report suggesting 86% of all music on such platforms failed to achieve that. This was followed by news of a new Living Wage for Musicians bill being introduced to US Congress, in a bid to force a fairer deal.

Nevertheless, online responses to Blake's announced have been mixed. Some commentators celebrated the prospect of a direct-to-artist payment system. Others criticised the platform for doing little to help smaller acts, suggesting only those who already have significant followings stand to gain. Several noted that various other 'solutions' to the decline of music revenue had been and gone. 

Announced the same day, Universal Music Group — one of many major companies to remove its entire catalogue from TikTok due to low royalty payments — and instrument maker Roland have published a joint manifesto on artificial intelligence in music. 'The Principles of Music Creation with AI' aims to help preserve human creativity, protect copyright and continue to explore the technology's application within music. Among other things, a new R&D hub will be established by the two companies, and a collaborative project working to improve methods for identification of ownership and origin will also be launched.