An image of TikTok on a record
Illustration by Olivia Woolfrey, Ringling College of Art and Design

Record Labels’ New Fixation on TikTok Is Prompting Backlash From Artists

To the dismay of some musicians, recording companies are increasingly demanding that they regularly post on the platform to boost sales.

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An image of TikTok on a record
Illustration by Olivia Woolfrey, Ringling College of Art and Design

To the dismay of some musicians, recording companies are increasingly demanding that they regularly post on the platform to boost sales.

In May, singer-songwriter Halsey (who uses she/they pronouns) released a TikTok video explaining how their record label, Capitol Music, would not let her release her music until she goes viral on TikTok.

Record labels have recently started to use TikTok as a marketing tool for artists and their new music. They want the artist to have a viral moment on the app so that more people will listen to their new song or album. Some of Halsey’s fans commented on the TikTok video in which they talked about their record label, and wondered if it was a marketing strategy. In the comments, Halsey addressed the speculation, responding: “Bruh, I wish it was. They just said I have to post tiktoks; they didn’t specifically say ‘about what’ so here I am.” Apparently, Capitol Music wanted Halsey to release at least six posts on TikTok.

“It’s not about making the tiktoks I already make tiktoks!” Halsey later posted on Twitter. “They are saying if I don’t reach some imaginary goalpost of views or virality than they won’t give me a release date at all. I’m not claiming to be oppressed! Just saying not all marketing methods are universal.” Halsey’s fans asked her to release the song anyway, but the label owns the master recording, meaning that she can’t release the song without their explicit approval.

“Talked to my label tonight after my tiktok tantrum,” Halsey wrote on Twitter. “They said ‘wow the tiktok is going really strong!’ I was like ok cool so I can release my song now? They said ‘we’ll see!’ tell me again how I’m making this up.”

Halsey isn’t the only artist who is expressing these concerns, but rather “the latest in a growing collection of artists who have increased their transparency about the heightened role of virality in dictating music releases.”

FKA Twigs, Charli XCX, Florence Welch and Ed Sheeran also shared their concerns on social media. FKA Twigs recently posted that she had been “told off for not making enough effort” on TikTok, but the post has since been deleted. Charli XCX, who has been promoting her latest album, “Crash,” mentioned her label, jokingly claiming that they asked her to post her eighth TikTok of the week. On a similar note, Florence Welch captioned a video: “the label are begging me for ‘lo fi tik toks’ so here you go. pls send help.” Ed Sheeran poked fun at the concept in a video of himself eating chips for 15 seconds, adding in an overlay of text: “When you are supposed to be making promos for your song, but you just really want a snack and you decide that eating a snack can be a promo for a song because everyone loves snacks.”

Ultimately, record labels should not have this much power over an artist’s music. Since the artist is the one making the music, they should have the final say over when it will be released. They also shouldn’t be forced to make promotional TikTok videos or to be on social media at all.

Halsey is trying to be optimistic even though their music is still being withheld by their record label; the artist is focusing on their Love and Power tour at the moment. They later wrote, “I forgot Twitter was stan wars so I’m tryna keep it positive while I’m here. Thank you guys for asking questions I’ll keep you updated. In the meantime gonna enjoy my tour because I’ve waited years to do it and I’m having a blast.”

Halsey’s record label, Capitol Music, shared its support for the singer and their new album, “Manic,” when it announced the release date of their song “So Good” on June 9. “We have nothing but a desire to help each one of our artists succeed, and hope that we can continue to have these critical conversations.”

Writer Profile

Morgan Thomas

Wayne State University
Print and Online Journalism

My name is Morgan Thomas and I am a senior at Wayne State University. I am majoring in print and online journalism and I have a minor in film.

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