How TikTok marketing is changing in the music industry and beyond

In a TikTok post last month, singer Halsey shared a message with fans: “I basically have a song I love that I want to release first,” the musician wrote, “but my record label won’t let me.” Despite spending eight years in the music industry and selling more than 165 million records, Halsey said: “My record label says I can’t release a fake moment of tiktok unless they fake it.”

Recently, several other artists expressed similar frustration with the label following the next “Old Town Road” or “Drivers License” – a single that came out on TikTok and went up on the Billboard charts. “All the record labels they ask for are TikTok,” FKA twigs wrote in a message that has since been deleted from the platform. Florence Welch, Doja Cat and Charli XCX also mentioned the fixes on their TikTok labels. (One week after Halsey released his TikTok video, it became his “viral moment” on Capitol Records He announced in a Twitter post He was committing to releasing the album “So Good” on June 9, directing the artist. “We are the first company to encourage open dialogue,” the label said in a statement. “We’re just looking forward to helping each of our artists succeed, and we look forward to continuing these critical conversations.”

The complaints of artists who record promotional requests are as old as the music industry itself, and have often been in public strife. But these latest complaints are not aimed at the label itself. These are direct appeals to fans (in Halsey’s case, 4.6 million of them on TikTok). And while they describe very specific scenarios (world-renowned artists clashing with marketing labels about their marketing strategies), they have a familiar experience with almost anyone with a presence on social media, where aspects of the celebrity experience have been formalized and performed. available to all.

All of this means that telling yourself how to market yourself is not just a matter of celebrities. It is a basic requirement of being online.

One way of thinking about contemporary pop stars is as an agent of social media. Some like to communicate with fans on the net, and many find their first reputation there (including Halsey). Others are less enthusiastic, but understand that their fans — or their labels — appreciate their true online presence. All of this puts complaints about TikTok in a newer tradition: calling on social platforms.

Like musicians, social media professionals sometimes find themselves at odds with their business partners. They are also under contract with large companies that have a lifestyle and a sense of self-worth, and are not shy about making demands.

YouTube creators, for example, depend on the publishing platform to stay in touch with their audience, pay and distribute. Except for the top creators, YouTube’s management style is indirect. His suggestions and requests, on the other hand, are provided through guidelines that provide extensive and frequently updated guidelines for creators and direct alerts on their interfaces. Another way for YouTube to reach its creators is through its analytics panel, which provides ongoing feedback from Google to find out how Google’s ecosystem is performing.

Popular art has often referred to the conditions under which it was produced, and most dedicated music fans have always gotten the picture one way or another: whether their favorite artists are stressed about sales, or unsure of opinions, or unhappy with the situation. crazy about their industry, or their label. On YouTube, however, fans don’t have to look for clues. On the broad spectrum of YouTube content types, creators often talk about being creative on the platform. Subscription milestones are clearly sought and marked, and fans are thanked, directly and personally, for their support.

Up-and-coming YouTubers, be they makeup tutors, comedians, product reviewers, or political essayists, speak directly to their audience about their goals and progress: how many subscriptions they would need to quit their daily work; how it would help them if they bought the goods; and to subscribe, comment, and activate new video notifications. They talk about how much they work, what the job requires, what the platform wants, and what it returns. YouTube viewers are also finally familiar with growth-related language: CPM, copyright warnings, viewing speed, monetization. In the long run, every YouTube channel is about YouTube, at least for a while.

The closest comparison to what recording artists can talk about their labels is how a YouTuber can refer to the “algorithm” – a shortcut to talking about the unspoken instructions provided by the platform. Often, YouTube’s official guidelines include the theories of creators that combine them with models of individual success.

YouTubers share and criticize the demands they make on YouTube: posting too often; maximizing “viewing time” at all costs; to participate in new features, such as YouTube Shorts, whether they are attracted to creators or their fans. The company has been criticized for offering advice on smoking cessation, questioning the material consequences of taking a break from publication. While some of these videos are streamed live on YouTube, it seems that most of them are looking for an appeal to fans, which, by watching more collectively or participating in different ways, can materially change the status of a YouTuber. The message is familiar but changed: we are together in this application.

TikTok, which has become a major cultural influence, is also strong by industry standards. It is an environment where the user receives constant encouragement and suggestions on how to get involved and what to post, where the complaints of famous artists are so untouched or unreasonable about ongoing marketing interventions.

It’s also an environment where algorithm theories abound, especially about what it takes to appear in other users ’feeds, known as“ for you ”pages. In a forthcoming paper, researchers Elena Maris, Hibby Thach, and Robyn Caplan suggest that TikTok users are organized to attract and influence attention, not just attention in the opaque ways of distributing current money on the platform. . (In December, TikTok introduced new money-making tools for creators, including a tipping feature).

“With TikTok, we see a shift from folk theories of algorithms to folk theories of compensation,” she said. Caplan, a senior researcher at Data & Society, at a nonprofit research organization. Awareness of TikTok’s priorities – what it demands and how it assigns value – “is something that is being seen in the general user population,” he said.

Maybe it’s been a while. Millions of people can understand the stress of using Instagram in terms of different potential audiences (such as friends and family) or a sense of professional responsibility (e.g., self-employed people or industries related to professional reputation). network presence). Realizing that your numbers are lower than usual and asking what other people are doing is not sharing a lot of experiences, as if ignoring or ignoring a recommendation for a new feature or trend on a platform: Instagram Reels or Close Friends; Twitter Spaces; YouTube shorts; TikTok avatars. Haven’t you posted in a long time? Expect a notification about this, or 20.

In 2022, you don’t have to be a famous musician to receive inappropriate recommendations from audience research, unsolicited instructions to promote your brand, or how many people are in your latest version. Access to a social network for personal reasons is the only standard experience for finding material use. Bringing that up, despite being a world-renowned recording artist, is not just a sympathy for fans of social media; in a small way, it is an attempt to denounce.


For Context is a pillar that explores the edges of digital culture.

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