“The brainwashing worked and now people think music is free”: James Blake on TikTok’s impact on the music industry

“Labels want a bigger cut than ever and just sit and wait for you to go viral.”

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James Blake playing a keyboard on stage

Credit: Jack Hall/Getty Images

James Blake has spoken out on TikTok’s impact on the music industry and the financial difficulties facing artists.

Although TikTok has become a platform where many new artists are discovered, Blake argues that labels are now waiting for their artists to get lucky and land on a viral hit, and even then those artists are not always fully compensated for their virality.

On his X (Twitter) account, alongside a repost where Blake is quoted saying that neither himself nor Frank Ocean made any money from his viral Godspeed cover, Blake adds further context to his concerns over fair royalty payouts for artists in the TikTok era.

“It’s worth noting this is just an example I used in a post talking about the wider effect of TikTok on music,” he says. “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?”

Blake further adds, “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. The brainwashing worked and now people think music is free.”

Also via X and his Instagram account, Blake comments on the impact of both AI and sped up/slowed down versions of tracks being used online:

Despite his concerns over AI, Blake has previously made music integrating the tech. In 2022, he released an ambient album called Wind Down, made to help its listeners have a better night’s sleep. The music was originally made for Endel, an app that uses AI technology to provide personalised soundscapes.

The record became the first-ever full-length LP made using AI technology to be released on a major record label. Asked about this contradiction online, Blake explains how Endel takes what is considered an ethical approach to artificial intelligence:

View James Blake’s upcoming live dates via his website.


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