Entertainment, Music

Artists vs. Record Labels in the case of TikTok

Don’t even ask Doja Cat about the Taco Bell jingle.

words by: Kayla Carmicheal
May 30, 2022

TikTok might have more power over the music we listen to than we think. It’s no secret how much the app and music are intertwined. After all, an app called Music.ly merged into TikTok when it was created. Users used it to make lip-syncing videos from 15 seconds up to 1 minute. Sound familiar?


Not only that, but some musicians have gone from indie artist to sensations overnight thanks to the app, like Doja Cat and Beach Bunny. In addition, TikTok has probably become the premiere music discovery vehicle among Gen Z. But recently, some of the country’s biggest pop artists have spoken out about how their record labels aren’t letting them release music unless they go viral on TikTok.


Alright, so what’s actually happening?


Why artists are speaking out against their labels

Basically, Halsey is really fed up. She made a TikTok with a new single as the sound about how her label is withholding the song because she needs to go viral first. Halsey, who, if you don’t know, has sold over 160 million records. Before the app.


Well, it went viral. And she still doesn’t have a release date yet, according to her Twitter. Others either followed suit, or have already been speaking up in a way that doesn’t put their contract in jeopardy. (And if you think the marketing ploy is artists speaking out against their labels, Halsey wants to assure you that is not the case).


@edsheeranTag someone that likes snacks♬ 2step (feat. Lil Baby) – Ed Sheeran


Ed Sheeran and Halsey are just a few examples. Doja Cat, FKA Twigs, and Charli XCX have also been frank about the control lately. King Princess and Florence + The Machine are, too. Which, if you’ve heard Florence’s music (“Dog Days Are Over,” “Shake It Out,” and “Spectrum” are big hits—I recommend her sophomore album, Ceremonials), it makes you think which of her fans are heading to her TikTok account for new music or news.


Even Adele, Adele, was asked to make TikToks. Like Florence, who does Adele need to make TikToks for? She doesn’t even know what it is—and she’s clear about making music for people her age. That is, people in their mid-30s who aren’t using TikTok to learn about Adele.


Yet, when major labels are involved, they’re going to do what they do: Look at where the market is, and make their artists appeal to them by any means necessary. This proves to be a strain for musicians who just want to release their music. Not to mention, kind of hopeless for smaller and independent artists. This whole situation proves that much of the industry, especially the large portion owned by labels, is based off of pure consumerism.


So if independents don’t have a social media or TikTok presence, does that mean they’re doomed to fail? The past year and a half might show that that’s true. I have many friends in small indie bands who are trying their best to keep up and have a TikTok presence in the hope of gaining more traction. The algorithm is challenging, though, and you have to post every day to even make a dent. What’s more, what if you get lost in the sea of other musicians with the same game plan?


Defend your scene, y’all. It’s bleak out here for everyone.


In case you didn’t know how TikTok’s algo really works, we broke it down.