Music Technology

CDM on James Blake's new subscription download service, “Vault”

What’s in your vault?

For CDM, Peter Kirn looked at Vault, James Blake’s new subscription download service. Kirn pointed out that while noble, it isn’t new and not necessarily guaranteed to work, starting with a tweet from Blake about how “the brainwashing worked and now people think music is free“:

There’s a lot to unpack there – like what we mean by music (recorded music?), what we mean by free/paid (buying the recorded music?), and what we mean by brainwashing (the way value is marketed by streaming services?). Plus there’s the fact that the before/after narrative here requires that you were an artist that had access to money from the music industry in the past. But I think it’s fair to say that this is a criticism of all-you-can-eat streaming platforms, and that’s very fair.

I had to laugh a little because the unpacking part reminded me of this infamous Jordan Peterson moment (no shade!!!) but I think it’s valid here because Blake’s statement wasn’t that specific and nuance is always lacking on social media, by design. He then followed up with his announcement of Vault and Kirn recalled a slew of other services that have offered similar features (some you made of heard of like Bandcamp, Discord, Patreon, and Substack) and reminding us that there were many more who didn’t survive:

Direct-to-fan downloads were a great idea, are a great idea, and will continue to be a great idea. You make a track, you give it to someone, and they listen to it. But if you’re going to try to build a platform around that, you are marching into a haunted graveyard, a haunted graveyard full of zombies, and even the zombies have grown listless and bored. You’ve got to give us something.

It’s all very easy to say “you guys are brainwashed, but I have the solution” when you’re rich and privileged enough to try this out and not have your career ruined if it fails. And, as Kirn pointed out, James Blake is a Universal artist who likely had to get some kind of backing to do it as not to breach whatever contract he has so how indie is Vault? And aren’t Universal one of those brainwashers?

Time will tell on this one.

Hi, it's Luke, the editor of Sampleface! Why not subscribe to my Patreon and support the blog?

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