Big Machine topper Scott Borchetta isn’t convinced that TikTok is a good place to find new talent. So why is he hiring TikTok specialists?
If you know the inner workings of TikTok, you might want to send Big Machine Label Group CEO Scott Borchetta an email. “We’ve got to be where people expect us to be,” Borchetta declared at the Country Radio Seminar in Nashville on Friday. “If you’re on TikTok, we need to be there. My last three hires for our label are people who are working TikTok.”
Borchetta’s staff-up isn’t entirely surprising given the hyper-growth of TikTok and its sudden importance within the music industry. But Borchetta is actually skeptical of the platform’s ability to find serious talent.
That skepticism is reflected in who Borchetta isn’t hiring. After hearing urgent pitches from Big Machine staffers to sign TikTok artists who were blowing up, Borchetta said that he let them get signed elsewhere. “Not any of those that got signed to big deals have worked,” Borchetta said. “Not one of them, not yet. I’m not saying it won’t, but not one of them yet.”
“And I’m not including ‘Fancy Like,’ that was a huge moment, Walker [Hayes] God bless him, he’s been doing this for a long time, everyone’s very excited about that. But he had been working on that. I’m talking about a brand-new artist who got a big record deal because of TikTok in that moment.”
Perhaps Borchetta’s words are landing with a thud. Soberingly, it remains to be seen if a bonafide superstar emanates from Tiktok. In the country world, Priscilla Block is the TikTok-sensation du jour, though there’s a huge difference between getting signed to a major label and actually building a successful career.
All of which introduces the real game being played here. Instead of scouting TikTok for viral blowups, Big Machine is taking a push approach. “We’re used to wagging the dog. The dog is wagging us,” Borchetta said while describing a new internal ‘Start Team’ within Big Machine. Ostensibly, the focus of this team is to push and grow content, not to find it.
So what’s the takeaway on TikTok in early 2022? Despite the heavy hype, it’s difficult to call this a real A&R vehicle — at least not yet. It’s just too early to tell.
But a serious promotional platform? That’s obviously being recognized by Borchetta, who’s tripling down on promoting and growing content on TikTok. Just not so much on sourcing it.