In an extremely meta viral marketing moment, Halsey went viral on TikTok accusing their label, Astralwerks/Capitol, of trying to “fake a viral moment on TikTok.” The controversy surrounds a new single that the artist claims she hasn’t been allowed to release without a social media campaign.
In the TikTok, posted on Sunday, Halsey teased the new song, overlaying a video of her face with the caption: “basically, I have a song that I love that I want to release ASAP but my record label won’t let me.”
“I’ve been in this industry for eight years and I’ve sold over 165 million records and my record company is saying I can’t release it unless they can fake a viral moment on TikTok,” they continued, later adding, “I just wanna release music, man. And I deserve better tbh … i’m tired.”
What does a “viral moment” mean for an artist these days? According to Halsey’s comment replies to fans, “It’s like if it doesn’t get a certain amount of views or likes or w.e. They will just keep making me make videos and push it back until they’re happy” and apparently, they’d been asked for six such videos.
As the musician herself warned that “everything is marketing,” some followers were reasonably suspicious that the accusation was, in and of itself, a “fake viral moment on TikTok.” However, she followed it up with audio of a conversation with someone from her team, writing, “I wish I was kidding lol.”
Over on Twitter, they doubled down, revealing: “Talked to my label tonight after my tiktok tantrum. They said ‘wow the tiktok is going really strong!’ I was like ok cool so can I release my song now? They said ‘we’ll see!’ … tell me again how I’m making this up.”
Halsey—who has never been shy about calling out the industry—went on to say she couldn’t leak the song because the label owns the master, as well as the music video which has already been filmed (by her partner, Alev Aydin). “I’ve been minding my own business on tour taking care of my baby. Four albums deep. Coasting,” she wrote. “I’m way too established to stir something like this up for no reason or resort to this as a marketing tactic but now I’m in too deep so there’s no going back.”
As Halsey noted, “they are doing this to basically every artist these days.” Many other industry vets have spoken up about the business’ thirst for TikTok success; Adele notably shut down her own team’s request to get her on the app, saying she preferred to make music for her own generation. Unfortunately, not many have the power Adele has to dismiss TikTok entirely.