James Blunt says more should be done to moderate online hate, gives tips on dealing with trolls

James Blunt performs at the American Airlines Arena on August 30, 2017 in Miami, Florida.

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U.K. singer-songwriter and “reluctant” Twitter sensation, James Blunt, told CNBC that social media platforms should do more to moderate online hate.

The superstar behind global hits such as “You’re Beautiful” and “Goodbye My Lover” has been heralded for his acerbic put-downs of trolls on his Twitter feed, leading to the 2020 publication of a book of his tweets, titled “How To Be A Complete And Utter Blunt: Diary of a Reluctant Social Media Sensation.”

Blunt was speaking in Dubai in late January, ahead of his greatest hits album tour, “The Stars Beneath My Feet (2004-2021).”

“I do think the social media platforms should moderate. You know I have a website and we moderate that website so that people aren’t just mean and nasty to other people who come on there to try to learn, you know, or speak or discuss about what it is that that platform’s about, my music,” Blunt told the latest episode of “The CNBC Conversation.”

“Twitter have got their own platform so people can discuss all kinds of things, but I think perhaps it would be worth moderating that, and I know that they do to a certain degree.”

Online pressures

Blunt told CNBC that “it must be incredibly hard” for young people and parents to navigate the pressures of being on social media today.

He said his own response is not to take it seriously.

“I don’t reply in the heat of the moment. I reply with no emotion, with a smile, not caring about it. And so, if you’re ever upset, you know, take a moment and step back before you get yourself in some kind of meaningless argument with a complete stranger,” he said.

The singer also told CNBC that the pandemic had been a time for musicians to take a back seat and for essential workers to be celebrated.

“The pandemic was quite healthy in many ways because where we celebrated musicians and actors for so long, called us celebrities, we got designated as non-essential through a pandemic and more important people, doctors, nurses, teachers, supermarket workers, lorry drivers and farmers were designated as essential, and so we were put out to pasture for a couple of years,” he said.

Before releasing his debut single “High” in 2004, Blunt served as a reconnaissance soldier in the British Army’s Household Cavalry Life Guards regiment, and was deployed with NATO during the Kosovo War in 1999.

“It was a real moment in my life that changed the way I looked at humans to realize how unpleasant we can be as groups. But I took some heart in meeting individuals on both sides who were incredibly wonderful human beings,” Blunt said.

“And it kind of taught me that no matter what side of an argument you are on, the other person on the other side probably has a good reason for their argument too, and the truth and the answer is probably somewhere in the middle.”

Changes in music industry

He told CNBC he had been “incredibly lucky” at the beginning of his career to sign to a record label that gave him space and time to create “the album of my dreams.”

Blunt’s 2004 Back to Bedlam debut album has continued to be listed among the U.K.’s top 20 bestselling albums of all time.

When asked how he had navigated disruptions in the music industry, ranging from streaming to social media, Blunt said he saw them as opportunities.

“To begin with, when streaming came out I think the record labels saw it as something to fight against and that was completely wrong of them to do, it was something to be excited about,” he said.

“I can get my songs out so incredibly easily now and that’s really exciting. You know, with other social media platforms, I can get my voice out without having to go through a publicist or a record label. I can get my voice heard through Twitter, I can just, you know, hold up my phone and sing down it on Tik Tok. And weirdly, you know, there seems to be an audience out there.”

Blunt, who is also owner of The Fox & Pheasant pub in London and recently hosted the Beer Masters series on Amazon Prime Video, told CNBC he had learned not to chase a hit.

“When you’re in the business it’s something that we get lost in sometimes, you know, you’re often thinking about how to get a song on to radio, what’s a single, what’s my record label going to choose as a single and what are the radio reps going to like the most,” he said.

“And actually, I’ve realized that that’s not the route to go, the audience don’t care about that. The audience want to just hear songs from your heart that are genuine, that really mean something. So rather than trying to chase a hit, you need to just, you know, find it deep in yourself.”

When asked for advice, Blunt said, “I feel pretty strongly that you must chase that dream and you must go for it, because it’d be terrible to reach old age and say I had a dream, but I didn’t have the courage to follow it.”

“But that dream also must be put into … a realistic view of what that dream is, and I think the pursuit shouldn’t be fame and fortune, the pursuit should be happiness,” he said.



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