TikTok has become an undeniably important tool for promoting music. For example, Lizzo’s latest hit song, “About Damn Time,” has become inescapable on the platform, thanks to its viral dance challenge. But recently, several musicians have complained about pressure from their labels to try and make viral moments on the platform.
Halsey, Charli XCX, FKA Twigs, and Florence Welch have all recently made TikTok videos about the push they’ve felt from their labels to either make music they feel will be a hit on the app or to make themselves a larger presence on the platform. In Halsey’s case, they made a TikTok claiming that they aren’t allowed to release a song because their label wants to “make a fake viral moment on TikTok” for it.
“Basically, I have a song that I love that I wanna release ASAP but my record label won’t let me,” the text reads on their video as they share a snippet of the song. “I’ve been in this industry for eight years and I’ve 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.”
The video goes on to say that “everything is marketing,” and Halsey believes they aren’t the only one this is happening to. The video, which was posted on Sunday, has already received more than 8 million views on TikTok, and the label, Astralwerks, which is distributed by Capitol Music Group, has since said very little publicly about Halsey’s allegations. In a statement to Variety, a spokesperson for Astralwerks-Capitol said, “Our belief in Halsey as a singular and important artist is total and unwavering. We can’t wait for the world to hear their brilliant new music.” The label did not immediately respond to Fast Company‘s request for comment.
After Halsey’s initial video raising the complaint, they posted another TikTok with an unseen individual—presumably from the record label—who is planning a release schedule. Halsey records themself and seems upset as the person off-camera is speaking with them. “I just hate this,” they say in the video.
Singer Jason Isbell spotted a trend among the artists feeling pressured and tweeted, “Are they doing this to guys too or just the women?” He added “Women/nonbinary people” to include Halsey, who identifies as nonbinary.
Meanwhile, some skeptics suspect this controversy might be a marketing tactic in and of itself. “I feel like ‘the label is making me’ thing is also just a format that artists trying to go viral use,” tweeted the Washington Post‘s Taylor Lorenz.