Halsey recently called out her record label, Capitol Music, on TikTok for apparently refusing to release her new song until she faked a viral moment on the app. Pointing out her eight years in the music industry, the 165 million records she’s sold and multiple Grammy nominations, Halsey captioned the video “I’m tired.”
“Everything is marketing,” Halsey wrote as the new track played. “I just want to release music, man. And I deserve better tbh.”
Halsey clarified in tweets and comments that being asked to make TikToks wasn’t the problem: “the vague instructions to post six videos that needed to hit an ‘imaginary goalpost of views’ before the label would decide on a release date,” were, according to Rolling Stone. “They just said I have to post tiktoks; they didn’t specifically say ‘about what’ so here I am,” Halsey wrote.
Ironically, the video went viral with nine million views. Was that intended? Was it a stunt? Did the record label encourage the call-out? Even if they didn’t, did the controversy do what they instructed Halsey to create, anyway?
Halsey claims it wasn’t made up, but that the nine million views made the record label happy – despite it not leading to the song’s launch date. “Talked to my label tonight after my tiktok tantrum,” the singer wrote on Twitter on May 23. “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.”
Denying many requests for comment, it wasn’t until June 1 that Capital Music reached out to Halsey (and the public) in a tweet: “- @halsey, we love you and are here to support you. We are committing to a release of “So Good” on June 9th, 2022.” Along with a picture of a statement that read: “We are an artist first company that encourages open dialogue. 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.”
What’s the critical conversation? There’s a difference between ‘marketing’ and holding an artist’s music at ransom until they fake a viral tweet, potentially ruining trust with fans in the process.
Halsey speaking up has been important for lesser-known artists: “Halsey’s transparency about their frustrations was a relief to smaller, independent artists who feel crushed by the newfound focus labels are putting on TikTok.”
“It’s definitely a privileged problem to have,” says singer-songwriter Kailee Morgue. “But if it’s happening at that level, where those artists technically need to earn their releases, that it’s trickling down to people that are at the bottom of the totem pole.”
Bronze Avery, a singer who won Billboard’s 2021 NXT competition, said about the matter, “All independent artists hear is ‘Put your songs on TikTok, do the snippets, do this over and over, and one day you’ll be big like Halsey’. But if Halsey has to do it too, then what’s really the goal and is that cycle ever going to break?”
FKA Twigs claimed it was true that “all record labels ask for are TikToks,” in a since-deleted post.
Ed Sheeran posted a video of himself eating potato chips, counting it as an obligatory promotion for his new song “2step,” with the caption, “Tag someone that likes snacks.”
Florence Welch sighs in a TikTok before performing an acapella version of “My Love,” with the caption: “The label are begging me for ‘low fi tik toks’ so here you go. Pls send help [skull/bones emoji] x”
Halsey’s label refusing to release her music until she makes fake viral TikToks is a special case, it’s wrong on so many levels. It’s absolutely inauthentic. But, with regards to other musicians becoming visibly annoyed with making TikToks, isn’t promoting on social media part of the music industry’s terrain? Can rich musicians really complain about posting a promotional TikTok here and there?
Marketing is annoying, consumerism is annoying, capitalism? Don’t get me started. But isn’t it a tad entitled for rich musicians to huff and puff because they have to act excited about their music on social media? If you love how consumerist capitalism has made you so much money, then can you really complain about making a promotional TikTok?
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