Why Labels Are "Forcing" Artists To Make TikToks
Halsey is amongst the latest roster of artists to lament the purported viral TikToks required to release music in the modern music landscape. While art and commerce have always been intertwined, something feels particularly sinister about this new music conundrum.
Below, we’ll dive into why labels and artists alike are seemingly dependent on viral moments and discuss possible solutions for a more sustainable future in music.
Why Are So Many Artists Upset On TikTok?
Halsey, Florence Welch, FKA Twigs, Ed Sheeran, Betty Who, Maggie Rogers, and Gavin Degraw may not have that much in common artistically, but they’ve all publicly lamented the practice of TikToking for the purpose of promoting their art.
As outlined by Halsey, record labels may push for a viral moment predicating a set release date to ensure that there are enough ears to initially listen to the track. This could conceivably water down certain types of music to make them more accessible to a larger audience and redirect some of the artist’s attention from their music to becoming a stronger presence on social media.
On the other hand, artists have always had to do certain things outside of making music to promote their art. Whether it's making music videos or hopping from one interview to the next, the music isn’t necessarily separated from the musician.
It’s important to note that the new addition of short-form video requires a lot more consistent content from participating artists, which could presumably breed burnout faster. In an age of adaptation, there will always be some form of resistance.
Could This Be A Marketing Ploy?
Some skeptics on TikTok have pointed out that Halsey or any of the other speculated artists could be using this prompt as a meta-marketing opportunity. It’s easy to rally against a major label– these faceless corporations have a well-documented history of internal struggles with artists.
At the same time, sympathy can lead to results. In Halsey’s case, her song in limbo, So Good, was released with a push of engagement from empathetic fans. While these fans might be virtue signaling more than they are organically flocking to a piece of art, metrics are metrics.
It’s not inconceivable that artists could use this narrative to help push their music to new ears.
Why Do Labels Need Artists To Make TikToks?
Like other forms of social media, TikTok presents artists with a direct link to fans for promoting and piloting music. Unlike other forms of social media, TikTok has been able to produce hundreds of breakout hits, along with propelling older music like Kate Bush’s Running Up That Hill to the top of the charts, even though it was released in 1985.
The effect of TikTok on the music industry is unprecedented. It’s no wonder why labels are pushing for TikToks– these small but mighty videos are actively shaping the industry as we know it.
So, What’s The Solution?
Marketing your own music will never go away completely. Most art needs some sort of personalized touch or face to connect with listeners, especially when your audience is just getting to know you.
In some ways, it makes sense that a record label would ask artists to produce some value-driven metrics via the popular medium of the time. After all, these corporations are working to recoup funding and make money to support the rest of their catalog– they won’t bet on a release without project return on investment.
The choice for artists then is to select a career that aligns with their preferred model of content and exposure. Independent artists or musicians with needle-in-the-haystack deals might have more say over how and when they’re represented online. Thankfully, Web3 is poised to make it easier for artists to profit directly from their fanbases and connect without needing the infrastructure of a traditional label.
For an artist looking to craft more music and less content, it might be worth positioning for a smaller, though more dedicated fanbase.
There’s no denying that TikTok is an incredibly powerful tool for artists. It will continue to shape the music landscape as we know it, and it’s up to musicians to decide whether or not it will be a part of their presentation.
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