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James Blake Speaks Out on Why So Many Musicians Are Infuriated Rather Than Thrilled When Their Songs Go Viral on TikTok

'Musicians should be able to generate income via their music,' Blake wrote on Twitter. 'Do you want good music or do you want what you paid for?'

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James Blake went viral on Twitter earlier this month for speaking out about how hard it is for musicians to make a living off of royalties in today's streaming economy.

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Last month, millions of TikTok users were livid when TikTok made the announcement that all of the music by artists licensed to Universal Music Group was being removed from the social media platform.

The reason? As far as Universal is concerned, it’s because “ultimately TikTok is trying to build a music-based business, without paying fair value for the music.”

The aforementioned removal took place on February 1, but just before the deed was done, Universal Music posted “An Open Letter to the Artist and Songwriter Community: Why We Must Call Time Out on TikTok.” That’s where the above reason was cited by Universal, and you can read the letter in its entirety by clicking right here, but if you want to cut to the chase, there’s a key segment near the end that stands out:

“TikTok’s tactics are obvious: use its platform power to hurt vulnerable artists and try to intimidate us into conceding to a bad deal that undervalues music and shortchanges artists and songwriters as well as their fans.

“We will never do that.

“We will always fight for our artists and songwriters and stand up for the creative and commercial value of music.”

Strong words, to be certain, but it's one thing to hear them from a label. It's quite another to hear them from an artist, which is why it struck a major chord when singer-songwriter/producer James Blake took to Twitter in an effort to provide a personal perspective on why a song going viral on TikTok isn't always the big bump that it might appear to be from the outside.

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James Blake during the ACL Music Festival in Austin, Texas.

The conversation started in earnest when a Twitter user calling themselves tk quoted from an earlier post by Blake:

“Remember when my Godspeed cover went viral? Neither me nor Frank [Ocean] ever made a cent cause it was an ‘original sound’ in every video. Most people didn’t even know it was me because my name didn’t show up. Next time your fave goes viral, remember they aren’t making sh*t off that. The industry is beyond f***ed and musicians are getting f***ed harder than anyone.”

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Having been tagged on the post, Blake decided to tackle the matter in greater detail.

“It’s worth noting this is just an example I used in a post talking about the wider effect of TikTok on music,” Blake explained to his followers. “Just seeing this part makes it seem navel gazing but I’m speaking on a thing that’s affecting artists all over the world. Something I keep seeing is, ‘If you’re lucky enough to go viral, just use the exposure to generate income some other way.’ Musicians should be able to generate income via their music. Do you want good music or do you want what you paid for?

“If we want quality music somebody is gonna have to pay for it,” he continued. “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. The brainwashing worked and now people think music is free.”

As a parting shot, Blake added, "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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