Lyn Lapid, a 17-year-old singer-songwriter-multi-instrumentalist, has been posting cover videos on TikTok since October 2019. Early this year, she had a moment that countless cover-singers pray for: A producer in the music industry reached out to compliment her work and explore the possibility of collaboration.
But any elation proved to be short-lived. “He told me how a bunch of people in the industry start out by putting out stuff they might hate if it means they’ll get popular first,” Lapid recalls. “I didn’t want to enter the music industry that way.”
Rankled by the interaction, Lapid started writing a scathing original titled “Producer Man.” She unveiled it verse by verse on TikTok, singing a capella, accompanied only by her thumping fists and snapping fingers. The lyrics sketched a tale of exploitation as old as the music industry: “She was only 17 when producer man came offering that all her dreams would come true/He said, ‘come here sweetie, I could make you a star/I just wanna see you flourish, and I know you’ll make it far’/What she couldn’t see was, he was in it for the money.”
Lapid enlivened the short clip with pointed eye rolls, casual bursts of melisma, and a biting caption decrying “Barbie doll pop star[s] controlled by the industry.” In a Netflix-ready twist, “Producer Man” became a hit before it was even a finished song: A video of Lapid singing and thumping out the first verse has been viewed more than 50 million times on TikTok.
A complete version of “Producer Man” — fleshed out with help from a presumably non-exploitative producer named Dan Nigro, who has credits on streaming hits like Conan Gray’s “Maniac” — arrived on streaming services at midnight. It’s Lapid’s first official release as an artist, meaning that she enjoys the rare privilege of entering the music industry while simultaneously blasting its practices.
The unnamed producer “said, in a nicer way, that my music wouldn’t sell because it was too original — too different,” Lapid explains. “I was not very happy to hear about that.”
Lapid’s story is all the more remarkable considering that she only started writing original songs in February. But she has been involved in music for most of her life, starting on piano in first or second grade before taking up the violin and joining the school orchestra for nine years. Lapid started posting covers on YouTube (297,000 subscribers) at the end of 2018, playing along to Daniel Caesar’s “Best Part” on ukulele. She added Instagram (265,000 followers) to her portfolio later that year.
It was only a matter of time, then, before she moved to TikTok, which was picking up users by the millions throughout 2019. “TikTok was rising in popularity, so I thought I’d have a better chance of getting exposed there,” Lapid says. She posted her first TikTok cover roughly a year ago with a self-deprecating caption: “This’ll flop but I don’t care.” Roughly a dozen videos later, Lapid’s cover of “Remember Me” from the film Coco earned over two million views, and she now has nearly three million followers.
Still, that didn’t quite prepare her for the success of “Producer Man.” “I posted it to remind myself what I value,” Lapid says, “but I didn’t expect it to blow up as much as it did.” Some of her followers, who also make music and post it on TikTok, messaged her saying they had similarly unpleasant interactions with members of the music industry.
Despite Lapid’s initial distaste for the record business, she has since found partners she considers allies. She signed a deal with Republic Records, and she is co-managed by Alex Bender (Anson Seabra) and Jesse Coren (Chelsea Cutler, Jeremy Zucker). “Her voice is unbelievable,” Bender says. “And she only just started writing songs, but there’s something so special about the way she writes.”
Lapid waited a couple of months before finishing “Producer Man,” overwhelmed by the rapturous response on TikTok. The fully produced version, which clocks in at a tight 2:21, evokes early Nineties coffee-house soul gussied up with modern drum programming and ghostly electronic harmonies. Lapid also added another verse from the perspective of the ruthless producer, who speaks like a mob boss: “I am your only chance/And you know you want it bad/I’ll make you a deal you can’t refuse.”
Labels often try to translate traction on TikTok into momentum on streaming services as quickly as possible. It’s taken six months for the final version of “Producer Man” to materialize, so the song has lost some heat. But not that many TikTok clips even gain 50 million views in the first place — this one had heat to burn.