Record labels are addicted to TikTok. Halsey just said no

Florence Welch calls it the “heard sigh ’round the world”.

Tasked with creating an online buzz ahead of the release of her band’s latest album Florence + the Machine, the 35-year-old British singer recently pointed a camera at herself to record a short video for TikTok – a video that begins with her exhaling theatrically before singing a cappella bars of his song “My Love”.

“The label begs me for ‘low fi tik toks’ so here goes,” she wrote in the clip’s caption. “please send help.” To emphasize, she signed off with a skull emoji, as if to tell her fans that this cutting-edge digital marketing effort was slowly killing her.

“I was really frustrated,” Welch tells The Times of her TikTok mood, which went viral this week following a similar statement from Halsey, who posted a video on Sunday accusing her record label. to hold a new song hostage until “they can fake a viral moment on tiktok.”

“I’ve been in this industry for 8 years and have sold over 165 million records,” Halsey (who uses the pronouns “she” and “they”) wrote in text that appears on wearable images of her listening to the song in question. “It’s all marketing and they do that for pretty much every artist these days.”

“I just wanna release music, man,” they add. “and I deserve better tbh.”

More than two years after TikTok became pop music’s most successful new hitmaking platform — thanks in part to a user base that exploded at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic — a growing number of musicians are raising concerns about the recording industry’s reliance on the short-form video-sharing app, which has helped create hits for songs like Lizzo’s “About Damn Time,” “As It Was,” and “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” by Harry Styles, from the chart-topping soundtrack to Disney’s “Encanto.”

FKA twigs posted a video last week in which she said she was ‘reprimanded today for not trying hard enough’ on TikTok, while Charli XCX recently filmed herself with a comically exhausted tune – the effect, she said, of her label having asked her “to do my 8th tiktok of the week. (“I was just lying for fun,” Charli later wrote on Twitter.) In response to Halsey’s post on Monday, Maren Morris lamented “the unique hold on our art” that she says is wielded by the houses records’ algorithm ‘virality’ data.” The complaints are part of a broader critique of the draining effect that social media has come to play in the lives of artists at a time when we are expects them to create content at all times.

In a statement, Halsey’s label, Capitol Records, said, “Our belief in Halsey as a singular and important artist is unwavering and unwavering. We can’t wait for the world to hear their brilliant new music. The singer could not be reached for comment.

Despite the outcry, there’s no denying the promotional muscle at work when hundreds of thousands of TikTok users – the company claims to have 1 billion worldwide – make videos using a given song to liven up a dance at fashion or another activity. Take any track near the top of a streaming chart or Billboard’s Hot 100 and it’s almost certain to have a significant presence on TikTok, whether that presence was sparked by the artist themselves or by a random child with an original idea that ended up catching fire.

It’s not hard to watch Halsey’s video, which has racked up over 8 million views, as a form of promotion itself – and soon after, she went on a TikTok announcing her cosmetics line. Going viral on the app is no guarantee of a long career; he doesn’t even promise that a band’s next single will take off, as seen in the cases of hit wonders like Arizona Zervas (“Roxanne”), Ritt Momney (“Put Your Records On”) and WhoHeem (“Lets Link”) But right now, nothing else can match TikTok’s reach.

“It’s amazing how powerful it is for music,” says veteran talent manager Jonathan Daniel, co-founder of Crush Music, who oversees the careers of stars like Lorde, Green Day, Miley Cyrus , Sia and Fall Out Boy. “Right now we have a Sia song and a Panic! to the song Disco in the top 100 on Spotify basically because of TikTok. As the importance of terrestrial radio has faded (at least among young listeners), the internet has democratized the process of creating hits, Daniel explains; hits are no longer decided by industry gatekeepers but by the masses on their iPhones, which has left labels desperate to repeat a trick when it happens.

“They’re like, ‘We’re not sure What to do, but it works for some people, so you should do it too,” he says.

Daniel recalls being disappointed not too long ago when he came across Tori Amos’ first crack on the platform, in which the beloved singer-songwriter greets the audience with some sort of output expression from here. “It was like someone told him, ‘You need to log into TikTok,'” the manager said of Amos, who broke out in the early 1990s, long before the era of social media. . “And she’s like, ‘Why are you making me do this?'”

Some music insiders view TikTok — and the growing resistance to it — as simply the latest evolution in a company that has always prized visual presentation. “In the era of MTV, you had to be good at making videos,” said a longtime industry personality who requested anonymity to speak freely. “And believe me – some acts didn’t want to do them. But like with MTV back then, that’s where the audience is now.

Welch, whose new album, ‘Dance Fever,’ entered Billboard’s Alternative Albums chart this week at No. 1, admits she’s backtracked on that fact in the weeks since she aired her deep sigh of resignation.

“The fan community on TikTok was so funny and cute that I started liking it,” Welch said. (Highest rated comment on her original video: “Florence, I’m sorry the label got it right, we love them.”) in a week and it still makes creative sense,” she adds, referencing to the videos she posted while rolling out “Dance Fever.”

Indeed, finding their unique voice on the platform, rather than using it purely for promotional purposes, is key to an artist’s long-term success on TikTok, according to Daniel. “People want to be entertained, so you have to do something entertaining,” he says. “Go on TikTok and read your tour dates? People are going to jump on it.

There are a handful of superstars whose status has largely allowed them to avoid engaging with TikTok: Kendrick Lamar, whose “Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers” just recorded the biggest opening week of them all albums in 2022, for example, and Adele, who told Apple Music’s Zane Lowe last year that she’s happy to target older listeners — and isn’t worried that young people won’t are. t aware of it.

“They say, ‘We really need to make sure these 14-year-olds know who you are,'” Adele said, paraphrasing her label executives. “And I’m like, ‘But they all have moms.

Lorde, who at 25 is nearly a decade younger than Adele, is also not on TikTok, although Daniel occasionally sends her videos he sees on the app. “I sent her the Florence one – she’s a huge Florence fan – and I sent her the Haim one which was pretty good,” he says.

“But that’s all I do. She can make up her own mind about what she wants to do. Or don’t.

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