James Blake joins $5-per-month ‘artist subscription’ platform

Credit: Christian Bertrand/Shutterstock

The monetization of superfans is high up on the agenda of music business leaders right now.

Warner Music Group is building its own superfan app, and Universal Music Group‘s investment in the superfan category recently led it to the acquisition of a stake in Complex – via a takeover focused on ‘superfans’ and e-commerce.

In January, UMG Chairman and CEO Sir Lucian Grainge told staff in a New Year’s note: “The next focus of our strategy will be to grow the pie for all artists, by strengthening the artist-fan relationship through superfan experiences and products.”

But in amongst all the talk of superfans, what if artists target them WITHOUT including their record labels?

That’s what a new startup called Vault.fm appears to be trying to facilitate.

According to the ‘about’ page on the site for the platform, which launched today (March 20), “artists can share their unreleased tracks directly from their vault to their fans and tap into a new recurring revenue stream”.

The first artist to sign up for the service at launch is artist and songwriter James Blake, who, according to the startup’s social media posts will offer his fans unreleased music from his “vault” as well as the opportunity to chat with him about the music.

The mockups of the service’s interface show the ability for fans to chat and post comments about tracks.

James Blake’s latest album Playing Robots In Heaven was released through  Republic/Polydor (Universal).

Blake explained in a video posted to social media on Wednesday (March 20) how he came to be involved with Vault.

He said that the makers of the platform contacted him after his recent comments about “the effects of streaming and TikTok on artists’ abilities to support themselves” went viral.

“It made sense that we joined forces to find a fair way for artists,” he said, in the video on Wednesday, adding that the platform was “built fairly quickly after [his] outburst on social media”.

“The concept of subscribing to an artist directly can change the game.”

James Blake

Blake added: “I’m going to start the experiment off by releasing from my vault of unreleased [music] for a subscription of $5 a month. It’s music direct from me to you, where no one can gatekeep what I release or delay my releases.

“For context, I’ve had to wait sometimes six months to be given the green light to release music. This cuts the middleman out completely. I’m gonna be able to drop way more music than I’ve ever been able to before.”

The artist also suggested on Wednesday that “the concept of subscribing to an artist directly” can “change the game and release artists from the relentless merry-go-round of the current state of things”.

News of James Blake’s direct-to-fan venture with Vault comes a few days after the arrival of new stats that shed light on the opportunity presented by the superfan and D2C sectors.

In a presentation delivered at the SXSW festival in Austin, Texas, on Friday (March 15), Luminate CEO Rob Jonas revealed that 18% of US music listeners are superfans and that superfans spend 68% more money on music each month than the average US music listener.

Jonas’ presentation also revealed that total Direct-to-Consumer sales reached 12.7 million in the US last year, while Physical D2C was up 27.8% in 2023.

The superfan opportunity was also highlighted by MIDiA this week, in its Recorded Music Market 2023 report, in which it estimated that global recorded music revenues grew by 9.8% YoY to $35.1 billion last year.

MIDiA cited “a strategic shift towards superfan engagement” in 2023. This trend, it said, is “evidenced by the growth in expanded rights and a rebound for physical” in 2023 and that “the changing mix of revenues points to an industry on the cusp of transformational change”.

MIDiA suggested that “the rise of the fan economy” is central to this change.Music Business Worldwide

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