Digital burnout: MMF says ‘labels and platforms must break the cycle’


Musicians feeling pressured to go viral on TikTok continue to make headlines: most recently with i-D’s ‘How virality is choking the music industry‘ piece. But this isn’t just about one platform. It’s a wider issue of musicians feeling overwhelmed by the full gamut of digital platforms they need to serve, from social media apps to music streaming services.

At least this challenge is being talked about openly. Music Ally’s ‘digital burnout’ piece in January “struck a chord with music managers” according to management body the MMF, which proceeded to hold several roundtables with its membership to canvass their views on the pressures facing artists.

The result is ‘The MMF Digital Burnout Report‘ which was published this morning. It’s a good summary of what managers see as the key pressure points for artists. Those include labels demanding a “continuous stream of content’; artists’ value being judged too much on social media numbers; and “an overwhelming consensus that the digital teams hired at labels are under-resourced, overworked, and in some cases junior in experience”.

However, streaming services were also highlighted in the MMF’s roundtables. “The sheer volume of release and content demands on artists can be overwhelmingly crippling, especially in an overcrowded marketplace,” suggests the report. “This is further complicated by the expectation that artists require a significant social following to even receive playlist and marketing support.”

The report also says managers are “exhausted from constant demands to publicly thank DSPs whenever a new streaming landmark is reached” – and not even sure that such shoutouts have a positive impact in terms of that relationship.

The MMF’s report offers some suggested solutions, including planned social media breaks for artists; more transparency from streaming services about their algorithms’ “inner workings”; building a 15-25% ‘social media management budget’ into advances from labels. Oh, and a pointed “A&Rs should go back to listening to music, not looking at stats” comment.

“To preserve manager and artist relations, labels and platforms must break the cycle of demanding continuous content creation. Managers must also learn to ‘say no’. There should be an understanding that not every artist feels comfortable on social media or in the role of an ‘influencer’,” adds the report.

“The world has changed and we need to relook at everything we are doing in 2022 and beyond for the sake of the artist and music. Digital burnout can be managed with digital wellness strategies and constant monitoring, discussions for understanding and continuous evaluation for the preservation and protection of the artist, the manager and the music.”

And, let’s be clear, also the people working in those “under-resourced, overworked” label teams, who may feel just as exhausted by the digital hamster-wheel. It’s an important time for the music industry to be talking about how these issues affect artists and the teams around them – be they management or label-side – alike.

The MMF’s report is a useful contribution to that process, as would be corresponding research from label bodies. We – not even just artists and the music industry, but humans generally – are all in this social-media hole together. But it’s by working together that we’ll dig our way out of it to a healthier future.

Written by: Stuart Dredge