Brothers Osborne stood in a black and white portrait photo.

Exclusive: Brothers Osborne Wade In On TikTok vs. Universal Battle; "Hopefully It All Works Out In The Artists And Writers Best Interests"

March 7, 2024 10:23 am GMT

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Ahead of the 2024 C2C Festival in the UK this upcoming weekend, beloved country-rock duo Brothers Osborne touched down in England this week for an intimate acoustic session in the centre of London before their huge set at The O2 Arena on Sunday.

Sitting down with TJ and John following their performance, the pair shared with Holler their thoughts on the current battle between their label, Universal Music Group, and TikTok.

In an open letter shared on January 30, titled Why We Must Call Time Out On TikTok, UMG explained that the two parties were unable to agree on a variety of key issues, including the threat of AI, online safety and - most importantly - the payment of royalties.

"Personally, I actually like that Universal is bucking up to them," T.J. Osborne explained, "What I don't think people realise is, [TikTok] are not paying a little, they're paying literally zero".

While agreeing with the label's decision to pull the music until terms are negotiated, T.J. went on to express how harmful the battle could prove for up-and-coming musicians; "It's detrimental to the new artists that are using these free platforms to market their music and get out there and get discovered. It is really challenging".

"It's not as crucial for us as it is for newer artists," Osborne continues, "Especially now that everyone's geared most of their music specifically for that. In music, we're [so prepared] to market ourselves and get out there, that you start to give away all your rights and eventually, there's just nothing left - no one's getting paid anything and everyone's just so starved. But everyone's also just like 'Well, if I don't do it, someone else is going to', so there's a lot of sacrifice there. Hopefully, all that shakes out and it works out in the writers’ and artists' best interests".

In an enlightening and open conversation, the brothers discussed the new approach they're taking to releasing music, how to find a balance between the business and creative sides of being a band, as well as the impact they think popstars deciding to make country records will have on the landscape of the genre:

On New Release Strategies in an Ever Changing Landscape:

John Osborne: "It's odd when you grow up with this notion that you're supposed to record an album, put it out, and then what happens happens - that's how it was done for so, so long. At one point, you used to tour to promote an album - now you put out albums to promote a tour, the things do get flipped.

We live in an age where people's attention spans are very short. To give someone 10, 11, 12 songs is fine and all, but it's a lot to ask sometimes to listen to all these songs and digest it. So going about it this new way gives people just enough to sink their teeth into. We're hoping that it keeps the fans engaged at the end of the day. We just want to keep it coming."

On the Challenges of Keeping a Band Running:

TJ Osborne: "I remember thinking, ‘If I make this much money, I won't even care’. Then you make that much money and you're like, 'Yeah, wow, it's very expensive, I'm ending up with way less than I thought I was going to'. At first, you just don't really pay attention to it.

Speaking of the music business evolving - we're about to go out and release some EPs, and it's like, 'What counts as an album?' At the time we signed our record deal, EPs weren't even a thing anyone was doing. There weren't digital streaming platforms. So that's constantly evolving and it's been really challenging to keep up with. If you aren't savvy, you can really get screwed. Don't get me wrong, we've been very successful and we've done very well for ourselves, but you do have to really pay attention to that kind of stuff because it goes away quick."

On Being Open With Both Their Artistry and Themselves:

TJ: "I've shared about myself publicly, John has as well, and there were things that maybe felt scary to share originally. It's not that we weren't ourselves, we just maybe filtered ourselves a bit. So to be able to be completely wide open with how we created music and how we approached it, or even just in approaching interviews or public performances, we really felt like we were completely in our own skin for the first time".

"There was probably a tinge of resentment towards my career, because it was the thing that prevented me from being able to be completely happy and have an open life. Whether that was true or not, in my head, that's how it felt. So to be at a place now where I am having a career that I can just have freely, it's just all come into focus. For me, any resentment has now turned into a purpose or a calling, if you will. It just seems more fulfilling, grand and above the fame and fortune."

On How Art is Changing:

JO: "Art is a reflection of how things are going at the time, and art follows culture, and culturally, we're very homogenised. There was a time where Country Radio had their country listeners in this area, and there was the Pop Top 40 Radio and there was Rock Radio, it was very fractured. Now, there are no walls or borders. It's just kind of all mixed together.

"In some ways, you do miss some of the things that made country country. I do miss hearing triple fiddles. Will we ever hear that again? I don't know, probably not. But on the other hand, it's just part of it. Music evolves, art evolves, you can't expect it to stay the same forever. Art is a living thing. It doesn't work like that. It's always changing. It's always evolving, and you have to either accept it or you will go crazy.

“We're lucky that, on our phones, we can listen to the new Zach Bryan song with the new Beyonce song right after that, and then I can listen to Bob Wills directly after it - and we could be in a toilet the whole time we're doing this, right? So it's kind of great that there are no borders, it allows you to have freedom.

"I guess where it gets frustrating at times is when you could tell people are just trying to capitalise on something, and they don't want to partake in it. It seems like they're doing it for the wrong reasons. But that's all part of business, right?”

On Giving Chances to New Country Artists like Zach Top:

TJ: “Sometimes there are these artists that would pick on country, but then they suddenly have a vanity project and they want to come over and capitalise on it. For those of us who've been here the whole time and grew up with it and have worked really hard to to perfect it, it's frustrating. A lot of the time, when these big artists come in and want to have this vanity project, they're taking up all the space for the new artists, so there's no room and it can literally crush some people's entire careers.

“So, when you have an artist like Zach Top coming in, you're like 'Okay, this guy has grown up studying this stuff'. He's the real deal and he's so good. So when we were putting this tour package together, we really wanted to have people that we felt were different representations of country.

“With him, I would be very confident to put him out there and say, 'I don't care what you think about country or what you've heard, there's no way you can watch this guy and not think he's awesome.'”

Brothers Osborne release their new EP, ‘Break Mine’, on March 22nd, 2024.

For more on Brothers Osborne, see below:

Written by Ross Jones
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