The term ‘industry plant’ has been thrown around a lot lately, sometimes rightfully so but often not. They are constantly talked about within the world of music, but what actually are they?
An industry plant is someone who has been pushed forward by their record label in an attempt to make lots of money by perhaps getting a top ten single, or their song blowing up on social media. Sometimes the artist feels less ‘authentic’ to listeners because their music is heavily controlled by their label and they have a whole marketing team behind them helping them along the way. The artist is unlikely to do many interviews talking about their music, because how can they talk about their music if they aren’t the ones in charge of it?
One example of a supposed industry plant is Gayle. You may have heard of her hit abcdefu which became a TikTok sensation, eventually landing the singer a number one hit. The reason people have labelled her as this pretty unflattering musical term is due to her quite spontaneous career so far, having not released an album and us knowing little about her background. Gayle responded to these rumours in an interview with NME, saying “The thing is, I know the time I spent working on my craft, my songwriting and my voice. I also know exactly what part my label had in ‘abcdefu’, but none of this would be happening if people didn’t like the song. You can’t put all the money and resources behind a song if nobody likes it. When people say that I’m an industry plant, it’s like, ‘You think you’re right, but you’re not – and that’s funny!”
But how exactly do you become an industry plant? Surely anyone could just start making music and get signed to a record label who wants to make you famous, which takes quite a lot of hard work from the musician anyway. Well, what makes someone an industry plant is their connections to the music industry. For example their parents might know people in high places of the music industry, and may be able to land their music-obsessed kid a record deal. Some artists who have been accused of becoming a music artist this way are Taylor Swift, Clairo, Billie Eilish, Lana Del Rey and Dua Lipa.
But wait one moment, read that list again. I have not mentioned a single male artist that has been accused of being an industry plant, and that’s because there practically is none. One of the very few I can find on the internet is Pop singer Khalid, since he randomly appeared in 2017 and fizzled out in 2019. But mainly it is just women who have an inability to be authentic or a dad who paid for their career. It’s also widely known that these female artists I mentioned above are quite involved in the making of their music. Taylor Swift writes her songs with her co-writer Jack Antonoff, Clairo writes pretty much all of her music, Billie Eilish writes her songs with her brother, Lana Del Rey had a previous musical project as Lizzy Grant before her past was rewritten and Dua Lipa has claimed to be very involved in the production of her songs, especially for her more recent album Future Nostalgia.
So why are these female artists still seen as industry plants, but male artists like The Jonas Brothers, Post Malone and Lil Nas X are not – when they all got famous pretty much in the same way. The Jonas Brothers were signed to Columbia Records at a very young age, and their image was very much manufactured by them. Post Malone was discovered by a production team who managed to get his song White Iversion a viral hit, on top of his parents mass buying 50,000 of his songs on Itunes. Lil Nas X’s image was also very manufactured after he was discovered on sound cloud by Columbia Records.
In the end it turns out that almost everyone is an industry plant, so the term just becomes aimless and misogynistic. It’s true that everyone needs a push in the industry to kickstart their career, and it’s hard to do that without the help of other people. You can’t deny that there are some artists who have been heavily pushed in terms of marketing by their parents (Post Malone) or their label (Rita Ora), but it’s not often you find an artist that’s career has been manufactured to the point that they have no control over their music whatsoever. I think instead of focusing on whether someone and their mother is an industry plant, we should enjoy chart music regardless, since it’s nothing we should be afraid or ashamed of.