Thursday, May 26, 2022

Artists Growing Tired Of Music's Promo Push On Tik Tok

More than two years after TikTok became pop music’s most efficient new hit-making platform — thanks in part to a user base that exploded amid the early stuck-at-home days of the COVID-19 pandemic — a growing number of musicians are voicing concerns about the record industry’s reliance on the short-form video-sharing app, which has helped make smashes of songs such as Lizzo’s “About Damn Time,” Harry Styles’ “As It Was” and “We Don’t Talk About Bruno,” from the chart-topping soundtrack of Disney’s “Encanto,” according to The L-A Times.

Last week, FKA twigs posted a video in which she said she was “told off today for not making enough effort” on TikTok, while Charli XCX recently filmed herself looking comically exhausted — the effect, she said, of her label having asked her “to make my 8th tiktok of the week.” (“i was just lying for fun,” Charli later wrote on Twitter.)

Maren Morris lamented the “one-size-fits-all grip on our art” she says is exerted by record companies’ “algorithm ‘virality’ data.”

The complaints are part of a larger critique of the draining effect that social media has come to play in artists’ lives at a moment when they’re expected to be creating content at all times.

Despite the outcry, there’s no denying the promotional muscle at work when hundreds of thousands of TikTok users — the company says it has 1 billion around the world — make videos using a given song to soundtrack a trendy dance or some other activity.

Take any track near the top of a streaming chart or Billboard’s Hot 100, and it’s almost certain to have a significant presence on TikTok, whether that presence was sparked by the artist themselves or by some random kid with a quirky idea that ended up catching fire.

It’s not hard to look at Halsey’s video, which has racked up more than 8 million views, as a form of promo itself — and not long after she made a TikTok advertising her line of cosmetics.

“It’s amazing how powerful it is for music,” says veteran talent manager Jonathan Daniel, co-founder of Crush Music, which oversees the careers of stars such as Lorde, Green Day, Miley Cyrus, Sia and Fall Out Boy. “Right now we have a Sia song and a Panic! at the Disco song in the top 100 on Spotify essentially because of TikTok.” As the importance of terrestrial radio has faded (at least among younger listeners), the internet has democratized the hit-making process, Daniel explains; hits are no longer decided by industry gatekeepers but by the masses on their iPhones, which has left labels desperate to repeat a trick when it happens.

“They’re like, ‘We’re not sure what to do, but this is working for some people, so you should do it too,’ ” he says.

Daniel recalls being bummed out not long ago when he came across Tori Amos’ first crack at the platform, in which the beloved singer-songwriter greets the audience with a kind of get-me-out-of-here expression. “It just felt like somebody had told her, ‘You need to get on TikTok,’ ” the manager says of Amos, who broke out in the early 1990s, long before the age of social media. “And she’s like, ‘Why are you making me do this?’ ”

Some music insiders view TikTok — and the burgeoning resistance to it — as merely the latest evolution in a business that’s always prized visual presentation. “In the MTV era you had to be good at making videos,” said one longtime industry figure who requested anonymity to speak freely. “And believe me — some acts didn’t want to do them. But as with MTV back then, this is where the audience is now.”

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