Olivia Rodrigo: Is she an industry plant and does it matter?

The 18-year-old is smashing the billboard charts only six months into her career.
The 18-year-old is smashing the billboard charts only six months into her career.

Olivia Rodrigo has been almost inescapable lately - and if you haven't heard the 18-year-old's name, you've almost definitely heard one of her songs. 

The singer-songwriter has made an atmospheric splash on the music scene during the first couple of months of 2021, with her debut single 'Drivers License' reaching number one in multiple countries across the world.

Rodrigo released her first album, Sour, last month with seven of the album's songs appearing in the first 20 places of the Hot 100 Billboard Charts

On Sunday, Bloomberg Businessweek declared Rodrigo "the biggest musician in the world" with 544 million Spotify streams and 295,000 album sales, as claimed by the organisation's 'Pop Star Power Rankings'. 

It's not just music charts that Rodrigo is smashing - she has gained an incredible amount of followers across her social media platforms.

According to social media tracker Social Blade, Rodrigo has been gaining an average of over 1 million followers per month on Instagram since her first single dropped in January, compared to her monthly average of 64,000 in the last three months of 2020.   

The almost unbelievable amount of success the young star has had in a few short months has music critics and pop culture journalists scratching their heads - could the 18-year-old be an industry plant?

What is an industry plant? 

According to Pop Inquirer, the term emerged in online hip-hop community forums, over ten years ago. 

It originally referred to artists who presented themselves as 'self/home-made', but unbeknownst to fans, were actually being supported by major record companies. The artists in question seemed to have come from nowhere and were suddenly hitting the top of the charts. 

The definition of an industry plant has broadened over the last decade and now is accepted to be an artist who gained musical success through hidden connections within the music industry.

However, if you have a younger sibling or a child under 14, they would tell you that Olivia Rodrigo didn't come from obscurity- her target audience just shifted. 

The 18-year-old is mostly known by tweenagers for her Disney's High School Musical: The Musical: The Series, and the television show Bizaardvark. 

Not only is Rodrigo backed by Disney, but she is also represented by some huge record companies, signing label deals with both Interscope and Geffen Records. With these three companies backing her, there's no denying she's had a little help with her rise to fame. 

Olivia Rodrigo and TikTok 

The huge success of Rodrigo's first hit, 'Driver's Licence', owes some of its popularity to the video-sharing app TikTok. 

The audio between the song quickly became the backdrop of many short clips, with users creating meme-like videos to show themselves in the middle of heartbreak, or using it to admit how many times they had listened to the bop that day. 

At the time of writing, the song has been used on the app 1.8 million times and counting. 

Does it matter if Rodrigo is an industry plant? 

This question was recently posed on Reddit on the subreddit r/popheads, where a user asked: "Does it really matter if someone is an industry plant?"

"I feel like if their music is still good and it resonates with people does it really matter? Presumably, the plant still wants a music career so at least we can be happy they got what they wanted," the user said. 

One user pointed out that the term has become "so diluted" it could mean any artist who is remotely connected to the music industry. 

"Being connected to these things alone does not bother me because what can artists do to help that? They had no say in being born into those families," the user said. 

"However, when an artist outright lies and constructs a public identity where they act as though they came from nothing and built themselves up 100% organically, then I do have a problem," the user went on. 

This seemed to be a common theme throughout the Reddit thread, which garnered almost 100 comments on the industry plant debate. 

Pop culture fans may have to let Rodrigo's music speak for itself - because industry plant or not, her success doesn't appear to be slowing down anytime soon.