The relationship between artist and label is often perceived as being between art and commerce, but it’s rarely that simple — and that ongoing push-pull has broken into the open with Halsey’s recent social media posts about her label apparently declining to release a new song until there was a viral TikTok “moment” to help promote it.
No question: It’s crass when an artist’s creation is reduced to being marketed like a soft drink. On the other hand, the label’s job is to promote the music in the most effective and creative way they can — and in subsequent posts and replies, Halsey wrote, “I value the expertise and work of all the amazing people at my label. There are so many talented professionals there,” before taking exception to the manner in which the message was apparently delivered. “But surely we can have an opinion on the entry point of consumption they’re trying to enforce?! A suggestion is great, an ultimatum?”
While there’s been an enormous amount of support for Halsey online, there’s been no shortage of detractors either. “Everyone has to do things they hate at their jobs,” one wrote, “your job is to sell music and your boss is telling you to make videos on the biggest music promotion platform. I don’t see that as some terrible dystopian oppression lol.” That received a strong and evenhanded response from the singer: “it’s not about making the tiktoks I already make tiktoks! They are saying if they don’t reach some imaginary goalpost of views or virality than they won’t give me a release date at all. I’m not claiming to be oppressed! just saying that all not all marketing methods are universal.”
Yet it’s a situation that many artists, particularly female artists, find themselves in, as evidenced by the wellspring of support Halsey has received on social media in recent days. An incomplete list includes Maren Morris, Charli XCX, FKA Twigs, Lauren Jauregui, Florence Welch of Florence & the Machine and many others.
Baby, you have nothing to prove to these weird ass miserable twitter ppl talking from their own insecurity. You’re an icon, have done and will continue to do legendary shit. You deserve to express that artist self always, that shit pours out of you & ur consist. https://t.co/izO9TZPYSg
— PRELUDE (@LaurenJauregui) May 23, 2022
Jauregui wrote: “You’re an icon, have done and will continue to do legendary shit,” Jauregui wrote on Twitter. “Fuck the noise, and fuck anyone trying to limit you & put a metric on your value.”
Former Dirty Projectors singer Amber Coffman placed several — which were collected on Instagram by la_meme_young, and may not be directly related to Halsey’s posts — in an Instagram story, writing “Examples of why I’m hesitant to enter another traditional style relationship with a record label”:
FKA Twigs posted a photo over herself facepalming and wrote, “It’s true all record labels ask for are tiktoks and I got told off toda for not making enough effort.”
Charli XCX, who recently completed her major-label contract, posted a TikTok of herself rolling her eyes with the caption, “When the label asks me to make my 8 th TikTok of the week…”
And Florence wrote in March, “The label are begging my for ‘low-fi tik toks so here you go. Pls send help,” posting a photo of her midsection.
What is different about Halsey’s posts and comments is how reasonably they have engaged with the debate and showed that they understand both sides of it.
“At this point i don’t know what to do because I told the truth about what’s happening and now I STILL don’t have a release date AND some of you think I’m lying about this whole fiasco. so I’m double fucked lol,” they wrote on Monday. “if you have questions, I have answers. I have nothing to hide.”
I feel the relevancy is the same either way: artists in a “partnership” with a label can listen to algorithm “virality” data, look at their charts, BUT we get to criticize its one-size-fits-all grip on our art . Also, we created the “sound” their trying to make go viral, soooooo
— MAREN MORRIS (@MarenMorris) May 23, 2022
Maren Morris responded: “I feel the relevancy is the same either way: artists in a “partnership” with a label can listen to algorithm “virality” data, look at their charts, BUT we get to criticize its one-size-fits- all grip on our art. Also, we created the “sound” their trying to make go viral, soooooo…”
The debate goes on. Will it make a difference? Time will tell…
halsey’s tik tok only scratches the surface of what’s happening in music right now.
every major label in this industry has called me to write for their viral artists but won’t touch my project bc “my numbers aren’t high enough” 🙄 that’s why I started my own label…
— Sizzy Rocket (@sizzyrocket) May 22, 2022