Is TikTok Corrupting the Music Industry?
Various artists have openly expressed their complaints.
The popularity of TikTok has changed how most of this generation functions. Nowadays, if you need makeup tutorials, ideas for vacation, even dating advice, you can open the app and you’re a few clicks away from what you’re looking for. Most importantly, it’s known as the place where all trends skyrocket, especially relating to music.
The start of the pandemic became a crucial moment for dance challenges. The COVID-19 lockdown in 2020 encouraged Gen Z and millennials to explore creative ways to entertain themselves, which led to dance routines and their corresponding songs to go viral, such as Megan Thee Stallion‘s “Savage” and Doja Cat‘s “Say So” to name a few. While it’s a fun way for consumers to discover and get hooked on new music, it’s become an exhausting routine for music artists to keep up with.
A little over a week ago, Halsey broke her silence on how she’s being forced to release her forthcoming music. According to the singer-slash-songwriter, she has very little say in the process. “Basically, I have a song that I love that I want to release ASAP, but my record label won’t let me,” Halsey wrote in a TikTok video, which reportedly plays the unreleased track in the background. “I’ve been in this industry for eight years and I’ve sold over 165 million records and my record company is saying I can’t release [the song] unless they can fake a viral moment on TikTok.” She added, “Everything is marketing and they are doing this to every artist these days. I just want to release music, man, and I deserve better, TBH. I’m tired.”
Afterwards, Halsey’s clip went viral, and that still didn’t help — at least not immediately. “Talked to my label tonight after my TikTok tantrum,” she wrote. “They said, ‘Wow, the TikTok is going really strong!’ I was like, ‘OK cool, so can I release my song now?’ They said, ‘We’ll see!’ Tell me again how I’m making this up.”
On May 31, she finally revealed the upcoming song is slated to release soon. “I didn’t expect so much conversation about this record,” she tweeted. “All I know is that I wanted you guys to hear it and now you can. ‘So Good’ — song on June 9th and video the next day.”
Halsey isn’t the only artist to voice this issue. Others, including FKA twigs and Florence + the Machine, have expressed a similar problem this year. “The label [is] begging me for ‘lo-fi TikToks’ so here you go. Please send help,” Florence Welch captioned a video of her annoyingly singing “My Love.”
Then, you have other artists like Bad Bunny, who regularly make creative TikTok dance challenges to songs, which tend to always go viral. Though the Puerto Rico native hasn’t openly talked about whether he actually enjoys making the videos or not, he always delivers, which leads me to my next point. All artists are different and there isn’t only one way to do proper marketing. Rather than forcing creatives to do something that doesn’t feel natural to them, they should be allowed to explore what feels most authentic and go from there.
In reality, TikTok isn’t ruining the music industry, record labels are. In most cases, that sort of control stifles creativity. It makes musicians’ work redundant because their passion for music simply isn’t enough anymore, especially under a negative environment. It’s why so many artists like Doja Cat want to leave the music industry, because it’s not about the art anymore. It’s about marketing, money and clout with the majority of record labels.
Issa Rae said it best when describing the music industry. “It’s probably the worst industry that I have ever come across,” she told the LA Times in December 2021. “I thought Hollywood was crazy. The music industry, it needs to start over. Conflicts of interest abound. Archaic mentalities. Crooks and criminals! It’s an abusive industry, and I really feel for artists that have to come up in it.”
Something needs to change, and it isn’t TikTok.