Record labels are demanding artists make more TikTok videos

A few days ago, Halsey posted on TikTok about wanting to release new music, but her label only allowing her to do so if she faked a viral moment on the platform with six videos. Aside from generating some buzz as a roundabout way of fulfilling the label’s requirement, they resurfaced a conversation about viral moments and marketing that other artists have also commented on in the past. The Washington Post talked to some music industry types about the TikTok trend, what labels are hoping to achieve, and who it works for.

Halsey posted a TikTok this week with the effect of a hostage video. In it, she gazes blankly toward the camera as words appear on-screen: “basically i have a song that i love that i wanna release ASAP but my record label won’t let me. ive been in this industry for 8 years and ive sold over 165 million records and my record company is saying that i can’t release it unless they can fake a viral moment on tiktok.”

But Halsey’s complaints shone a light on the specific strain some artists experience when expected to produce additional content for TikTok, a platform that tends to reject artificiality. Teams of people contribute to marketing campaigns, but viral TikTok moments often hinge upon the authenticity of the artists themselves creating the videos. It works for artists such as Doja Cat, who is particularly adept at performing for an online audience, while others find it a more unnatural task.

“When music is finished and you’re a major label artist, it’s traditionally quite a while before it comes out,” said Marc Plotkin, a music business professor at New York University who has run marketing campaigns for both independent and major labels. “They’re not waiting so long because they have to manufacture CDs, like in the ’90s. They want to tee up enough attention. The shortcut to that is if you have millions of followers on TikTok.”

After Halsey’s TikTok, social media users began to circulate other instances of major artists speaking out against similar expectations. Months ago, Charli XCX mentioned her label asking her “to make my 8th tiktok of the week.” In March, Florence Welch of Florence and the Machine posted a video singing a cappella because “the labels are begging me for ‘low fi tik toks.’” In a since-deleted post, FKA twigs said she “got told off today for not making enough effort.”

According to Plotkin, TikTok dominates marketing conversations more than other platforms did in the past, whether Facebook or Instagram. But the attention can be a little misleading, he said, adding that he is “entirely concerned with conversion to platforms like Spotify or Apple Music. We could have a TikTok video that gets 4 million plays, and 15 of those people want to go listen.”

Brandon Stosuy, a music manager who co-founded the company Zone 6, found the intense focus on TikTok to be a natural extension of how labels have always operated. “That’s the trend you see with major and independent labels over the years, where something works for one person so they want to re-create that success for another person. You can’t predict TikTok, if something is going to go viral or not. It’s hard to re-create that.”

[From The Washington Post]

It does make sense that TikTok is now used as a free marketing tool. Things like Twitter and Instagram started out as pure social media and then evolved into a way for celebrities to grow/enhance their brand and followings. Social media is an extremely effective promotional tool and it’s now written into contracts for movies, music, etc. Pretty much everyone can see that, especially with all the sponsored content and ads that now appear on platforms like Instagram. It’s a well-known fact that a lot of celebrities have their own social media managers/teams that craft their social media voice/aesthetic and do the posting for them a lot of the time. Some are so good you can’t even tell that it’s not the celeb personally writing all the captions. So why do celebrities have to create (and therefore complain about having to create) their own TikTok content when for other social its likely that they have someone else do it for them? The article hits the nail on the head — TikTok has a different vibe that rightly or wrongly appears more authentic and eschews artificiality. It would probably sound too much like an ad or reading off a script for an Instagram post/story if celebrities completely relied on their teams to create their TikTok content as well.


Stream good ones tho !

♬ didnt want to be here – TheBaldestBitch


The label are begging me for ‘low fi tik toks’ so here you go. pls send help ☠️ x

♬ original sound – Florence

photos credit:

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

14 Responses to “Record labels are demanding artists make more TikTok videos”

Comments are Closed

We close comments on older posts to fight comment spam.

  1. Lou says:

    Why are only the female artists speaking out? Do the male artists not have to undergo being content generator machines for the labels?

  2. Dandun says:

    i would listen to florence sing anything. her voice is hauntingly beautiful

  3. Ellie says:

    Honestly I feel like social media is making everybody absolutely exhausted.

    I hope things will change in the next 10 years and we can somehow reverse this nightmare.

    • BothSidesNow says:

      We don’t have to wait 10 years. We can do that now.

      I don’t think this is fair. They are their to get the albums out and the artists to create the material. If artists are being forced to create free publicity, will it interfere with their own creativity or their ability to put out more music?

    • Luna17 says:

      Agree! It’s too much. I think it is it’s place but it’s clearly so fake at this point. I hope it gets reigned in.

  4. Mabs A'Mabbin says:

    You mean labels are asking their clients to do some hustling? I’m shocked. The funny thing about all this is ownership.

  5. Christine says:

    I saw a tiktok yesterday of someone making fun of Dove Cameron watching videos of people reacting to her song so I checked it out. You can tell it’s something that Dove’s label forced her do because she seems100% over it. Little emotion, a slight smile here and there but in some she actually looks pained to have to watch.

  6. Kirsten says:

    This is different than asking artists to do press for upcoming albums. Creating original content like this means taking on a whole new type of job. To have to do this + have the expectation that it needs to go viral + that they still need to do all of their other work responsibilities is A LOT.

    • tealilly says:

      Yes, and I think we should recognize that social media (and really each individual platform) is its own art form. Not everyone who is good at singing is good at social media, and YouTube or TikTok sensations don’t necessarily translate into pop stardom. It’s kind of a weird ask from the labels.

  7. Div says:

    Saw a couple of interesting points on this, but the main one I thought was very valid was that artists who have been in the game for a while (at least 5 years) are probably angry because Billboard keeps fiddling with the system so that songs that go viral on tik tok, etc. have an easier time topping the charts. I don’t think all these artists care about the charts that much, but it absolutely impacts (their charting power) how the label treats them overall. And I do feel like for the music industry, tik tok is not a great metric to judge songs by (a much younger demographic, it favors very short snippets, etc.).

    So I imagine it seems wildly unfair to artists who are used to traditional methods (radio, streaming, youtube, digital downloads, physical copies) to be encouraged to make shorter songs because shorter songs have a better chance of going viral on tik tok and helping their sales/charting power.

    Add on to the charting issue, Tik Tok is owned by a incredibly shitty Chinese govt. that has collaborated with the CCP to cover up the genocide of Uighurs in China AND some artists are being asked to, for free, try and create viral social content when that probably wasn’t in their contract.

  8. Twin Falls says:

    I spent a large part of yesterday watching tik toks of Harry Styles. It was very soothing with everything else going on.

    It’s a form of promotion and I’m not surprised it’s being pushed in a corrosive way. I think the structure of the music industry is toxic and unconscionable especially for female artists.

  9. Michael says:

    I could see some of the smaller artists being pushed for this but I do not understand why somebody like Halsey would be required to do it. She has a lot of huge hits and should have a waiting audience for her new music. Also, I do not know if male musicians are required to do this as much either. I do not really see it with Drake or Justin or The Weeknd but maybe I am wrong