I'm only making this TikTok because I have to
A few weeks ago, Halsey – a Grammy-nominated artist with more than 165 million records sold to date – posted a TikTok sharing an ultimatum given to them by their record label.
The video, which you can watch here, displays the words basically I have a song that I love that I want to release ASAP, but my record label won’t let me. They later go on to say my record company is saying that I can’t release it unless they can fake a viral moment on TikTok.
Halsey later took to Twitter to elaborate and answer questions:
This situation is not unique to just one artist. Recently, social media has seen a lot of shade thrown at record companies and managers for pushing their clients to increase their presence on the Gen-Z-dominated platform. Artists such as Ed Sheeran, Charli XCX, Gavin DeGraw, and Florence Welch of Florence + the Machine have all made videos stating that the only reason they’re posting it is because they’re required to.
For Halsey, it wasn’t the record company that had them join the platform in the first place; they were already creating content of their own accord before the label put a hold on their new music.
TikTok has been the fastest-growing social media in the business since the introduction of Snapchat in 2011. And with the unique algorithm of the For You Page, the possibilities for artists without a lot of following or exposure are both endless and exciting.
The platform has already launched the careers of Addison Rae, Charli and Dixie D'Amelio, and Lil Nas X – who currently holds the record for the highest certified song ever at 14-times platinum status – so it’s no wonder record companies are hoping TikTok can do the same thing for the artists they’ve signed.
But people who don’t work in social media often forget that phenomena like that don’t happen every day. Just ask any social media manager how often their boss or their boss’s boss gives them instructions to create something that will “go viral”. It’s impossible to predict what content the internet will blow up, and it’s even harder to create something for that sole purpose.
And even once Halsey’s video did go viral – with 9.1 million views and counting – a release date wasn’t immediately settled on. In fact, it wasn’t until over a week later that the song and music video were officially announced.
So the real question is, did it work? Although the TikTok in question was purely created to expose the record company’s demands, the video did go viral. And I’m sure the song’s release will have a lot more exposure than it would have otherwise.
Record labels have one job: market the music. They can hire copywriters or social media gurus to write Tweets and Instagram captions, but with TikTok purely being a video platform it’s impossible for the label to create content without the artist’s involvement. Longtime and brand-new fans alike hit the follow button in order to get a glimpse into their lives, but the advantage to artists is that they now have a direct connection to people who will listen to their music. Followers feel like that artist is their friend, and they can advertise their upcoming projects to those people for free.
Obviously the labels know what they’re doing. For artists without any presence on the social media, I could see managers asking their clients to start creating content and building a following. But requiring a certain level of viewership or interaction – metrics that are totally outside of a creator’s control – will take away the authenticity factor that viewers crave.
Audiences are able to recognize authenticity, and they appreciate the human component of content more than anything else. If an artist suddenly stops posting the content that followers have grown to love and pivots to videos that are overly promotional or – even worse – forced and staged with the sole intent to go viral, people will stop caring and ultimately unfollow.
While Halsey and other artists’ stories are just recently coming to light, social media has always been a hot topic between content creators and executives with little experience in the platforms. And as the sites and their communities continue to evolve, this is likely not the last story we’ll hear about the stipulations behind an artist’s social presence and the hoops they have to jump through to continue to release the work they were signed on to create.
is a marketer by day and writer by night, weekend, and sometimes lunch break. You can often find her with a good book or in the Taco Bell drive-thru.