I He started doing music full time at the age of 18. Arctic Monkeys had just exploded and the idea that you could come from Sheffield and become a world star was up in the air. I used to think that if I worked hard enough I could become a star too: it was just a matter of time. But this was also the birth of MySpace. Suddenly years of playing, writing and recording are no longer what broke you; This can happen overnight if you are playing a group out of your bedroom and you have a song about being punk rock with flowers in your hair. I remember seeing an article on Look North about how Lily Allen was signed after she was spotted on it. I realized I had put my energy in the wrong place, and the nagging feeling began that I might miss the boat.
After 17 years, being able to understand and work with social media is the best way to expand your reach as an artist. Every record company has this idea, and to be fair to them, the numbers speak for themselves. However, it can be argued that numbers mean more than the creativity that generated them in the first place. Many artists, mostly women, are frustrated when asked to put together content for platforms like TikTok, in addition to their own personal music: just in the past few weeks, affiliates FKA, Halsey, Charli XCX, and Florence have sprouted over protest insistence that their labels are making up a viral moment.
I have always used social media as an extra arm for my art. I feel the need to be fully seen and understood because it is the gray areas in life that have always caused me the most trouble. Being able to tweet and Instagram the realities it feels to be me is just a great companion to my creative agenda. I’ll do it on my own terms if you like, as a woman in her thirties with a strong sense of self. I fear for artists without it, it might feel insulting – not to mention psychologically dangerous – to associate your only chance of success with your ability to show the type of character that plays well online, rather than your work.
I think it’s no coincidence that recent examples of artists who say their posters forced them to go to TikTok are all women. My theory in pub psychology is that the music industry sees social media as something inherently feminine – it’s just another paternalistic notion that gay women and men care about knowing other women while men are just too busy and important to care about these things. Much like how male artists are so important and so busy. I’m generalizing – Ed Sheeran has also expressed his ambivalence about TikTok – but there is something much darker and more pervasive about the way women are encouraged to use it. It only reinforces the nagging feeling that as an artist you don’t take your music and your art seriously.
But what do you do when sharing parts of yourself doesn’t suit you? In my twenties, I would blindly believe in the power of tags and management, and I would do anything to get the ticket to success without thinking about the consequences down the road. Artists who condemn TikTok (and many fans who also tweet their displeasure with it) seem to be considered too valuable or old-fashioned in the industry. But in the end, the artists who put up a good party on TikTok will triumph in the always-hungry Infinite Machine, at least for the time being. It’s moving without you. So you have no choice.
Despite the industry’s overall focus on TikTok, it’s still too early to tell if throwing shit at the wall and hoping something viral will actually stick to a permanent and engaged following; As a result, a space for the artist to create and experiment. (By the way, that’s the dream we all seek, not fame.) The Arctic Monkeys and Lily Allen built jobs on the foundation of early forms of diffusion, though their grassroots success in 2005 was nothing to ignore; At present, there does not seem to be a real success or a long career that gives the artist a free pass to break out of the ditch of diffusion.
All creative industries must be able to adapt. In my opinion, they are great songs that truly resonate with consumers across a wide demographic, and artists should be given space to write them and then share them in a way that matches their art.
Most importantly, the fan can trust the artist. As the tag “made me do it” TikToks became a hideous metaart to go viral, we ended up farther from the art’s originality than ever before.