How Sustainable Are TikTok Stars?
Red flags have started to rise when it comes to the practice of signing the latest TikTok viral star to a label deal. Last month, Big Machine Label Group head Scott Borchetta threw some cold water on the industry’s unhealthy relationship with TikTok offering this very bleak assessment, “Not any of those [TikTok artists] that got signed to big deals have worked”.
The problem he and others are finding is that A&R’s are handing out contracts like candy at Halloween, based solely on one viral song. This knee-jerk reaction is bypassing the previous due diligence labels would commonly perform giving them a proper evaluation of whether an artist has the potential.
Island Boyz = Poster Boyz
Take, for instance, the “Island Boyz” Frankie and Alex Verengas who shot to stardom by recording themselves freestyling a melody on TikTok while lounging in their backyard swimming pool. Sure, they created something very catchy but if you listen to any of the other material, it’s really eye-opening and not in a good way. These two are the “Poster Boyz” as to why labels shouldn’t go out and sign the next TikTok star after just their first viral post. This is something that has now become the sentiment being echoed more and more by label heads every day, “There are so many moments in which my staff will come to me and say, ‘this person’s having this incredible streaming spike,’” said Disney Music Group A&R exec Mio Vukovic. “Then I’ll meet them, and I’ll hear the other songs and think, ‘What happens next? After this wave is done, none of the other material even comes close.’”
The System Is Broken
The current recruiting process completely ignores critical aspects when assessing whether an artist has that “sticky” factor. In an age that seems so long ago, A&R’s would look for indie acts with a proven track record of drawing crowds locally/regionally and have done so for a good amount of time. Guns N Roses were the stars of L.A. before becoming the stars of the world. In Canada, The Weeknd put out mixtape after mixtape and proved he could draw a crowd in Toronto before any major label approached him.
Knee-Jerk Reactions Never work
I remember a time when a bunch of my friends and I got together over a few beers and some of the guys started freestyling. Out of nowhere and to everyone’s surprise, one of them just started killing it. The result was him getting invited to record at a recording studio a couple of weeks later. Needless to say, nothing came out of that recording session which proved to be an exercise in patience more than anything else. In a basic sense, this is exactly what is happening today in the industry. It’s time for labels to stop living in the moment and get back to doing their due diligence.
West’s Cries For Help Go Unheard
The Grammys have now banned Kanye West from performing at their show due to his reckless actions and statements online. West has publicly criticized his former wife, Kim Kardashian, via his social media accounts, for allowing their 8yr old daughter North to post videos on TikTok. This, in turn, incensed her current boyfriend, SNL actor Pete Davidson, who personally text messaged West defending Kardashian’s parenting style. That message prompted West to ask Davidson for a face-to-face confrontation.
Preceding that feud; West slammed The Daily Show’s Trevor Noah with racial slurs after the host also called out West’s negative attitude towards his former wife. Coincidentally, Noah is this year’s emcee for the Grammy awards which some speculate is the main reason for the ban.
West Getting No Support
The problem with West’s situation is that he is surrounded by a bunch of yes men who will never take their concerns about his conduct to him personally. Yeezy is a person who suffers from delusions of grandeur, stands on a big soapbox, and has a ton of money. This of course is never a good combination unless you’re a dictator of a third-world country.
The signs are there and have always been there. He’s worn the confederate flag and used it on the touring merch he sells. He has publicly stated that slavery was a choice and at one point supported ultra-right former U.S. President Donald Trump. Again, the signs have been there and before it gets to the point where he is about to cut off his ear, I’ll reiterate what Trevor Noah said in a tweet after finding out the Grammy’s banned West, “I said counsel Kayne, not cancel Kayne.”
In the world of litigation, Lizzo has won her copyright infringement case after a lengthy two-year battle. It all started back in 2019 when the “Good As Hell” rapper submitted a complaint against three former collaborators (beware of Justin & Jeremiah Raisen, Justin “Yves” Rothman) stating that the three, contrary to what they are claiming, did not help her write her hit single “Truth Hurts”.
The two brothers and Rothman allege the opening line “I just took a DNA test, turns out I’m 100% that bitch” was in an unreleased song named “Healthy” which was a writing collaboration between the four previously. Lizzo, on the other hand, has stated that the lyric in question was inspired by a meme from singer Mina Lioness, who she has since added to the songwriting credits.
After the three former collaborators went public with their allegations, Lizzo fired off a lawsuit and took to her Instagram, “Hey y’all…as I’ve shared before, in 2017, while working on a demo, I saw a meme that resonated with me, a meme that made me feel like 100% that bitch,” she started her post on the platform. “The men who now claim a piece of Truth Hurts did not help me write any part of the song. They had nothing to do with the line or how I chose to sing it. There was no one in the room when I wrote Truth Hurts, except me, Ricky Reed, and my tears.”
Lizzo got her first taste of victory in April of 2021 when the presiding judge dismissed 4 of the 5 counterclaims. The entirety of the case has now been put to rest with prejudice. The corresponding terms of settlement details have not been disclosed but it has been reported that each party is responsible for their own legal fees.
Kaskade Awarded Nearly $8 Million
Back in December of 2019, DJ Kaskade sued Red Rock Resorts’ FP Holdings for breach of contract after they canceled his residency at the KAOS nightclub. A court has now ruled in his favour awarding him nearly $8 million dollars.
Kaskade submitted a claim to a Nevada federal court, disclosing that he and FP Holdings signed a residency deal in January of 2018. The contract stated that Kaskade, real name Ryan Raddon, was to DJ 30 shows yearly in 2019 and 2020 at the aforementioned KAOS nightclub.
In November of 2019, the 7-time Grammy nominee claims FP Holdings unilaterally made cancellations and then shut down KAOS nightclub shortly thereafter citing high costs associated with booking talent for live performances. As a result, FP Holdings wasn’t able to provide Raddon with an alternative suitable venue thus breaching the contract.
New legal documents have revealed Kaskade was awarded $7,950,000.00 and has still to comment publicly on the outcome.