In a 2021 TikTok study, 75% of users reported that they discover new artists through the app. But not only is TikTok used to promote new music, it also brings classic hits back to virality—we all remember the nationwide renaissance enjoyed by the likes of Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams.” In fact, more than 80% of users on the platform reported thinking that nostalgic sounds enhance their TikTok experience.
This week, the Daily Dot spoke with Griffin Haddrill, the 24-year-old CEO and Founder of VRTCL, a viral TikTok marketing and content agency. Haddrill works with high-profile brands, record labels, and celebrities, and has propelled the success behind top TikTok singles including “Montero” by Lil Nas X and “Stay” by Kid Laroi and Justin Bieber. He has also worked on campaigns to revive old hits like “Heat Waves” by Glass Animals, “More Than A Woman” by the Bee Gees, and “Somebody I Used to Know” by Gotye.
Haddrill shared why he started his own agency, how he harnesses moments of virality to create a FOMO effect, what he looks for in creators to partner with, what makes a good TikTok audio and more in an exclusive interview with the Daily Dot.
Haddrill has always had his eye on how social media intersects with music. He said that he noticed early on in his career that no platform had seamlessly integrated music and video with social usership. But with the advent of Musical.ly, the lip-sync video platform which preceded TikTok, Haddrill began to conceive of starting his own music marketing agency to harness the power of social media. After the explosion of TikTok, business began to really take off.
“For a lot of people, the app was new and sort of unproven at that time… We definitely struggled in that sense. People had a tough time really understanding exactly what success they could potentially see out of TikTok and how marketing could help,” he said.
Now, a few years later, Haddrill’s agency has over 20 employees. He also works with a large network of musicians and TikTokers, with audiences of varying sizes: “Anyone is a creator on TikTok, whether it be small with 10,000 followers, or massive with 100 million followers. As long as they feel like whatever is being marketed aligns with their brand and messaging, then we typically work with them.”
When setting out to make a song go viral, Haddrill starts off by brainstorming with creators, record labels, celebrities, and brands to come up with creative ideas and trends surrounding the music.
“From that point on, we’re working in a very condensed period of time to create this FOMO effect on the internet. A lot of the time we’re not in a heavy impact mode for longer than two weeks,” Haddrill continued, “So we need to have enough influencers post in a short amount of time on the same trend, so that it feels like organically the platform is rallying behind it.”
Haddrill said it can be difficult to rally influencers to move in that small window of time: “Sometimes we experience creators or influencers sending us a draft of a video they want to post that doesn’t align with the creative or trend we asked them to participate in. And in those cases, we have to ask them to redraft or come up with a new video.”
Haddrill continued, “We’re obviously paying them for their service and creativity. So we’re always looking for creators that are willing to honor their commitments, understand timelines and deadlines, and also simultaneously have this creative side of them and know their self worth. Those are the kinds of creators that we lean into the most.”
Haddrill said that he most likes to partner with TikTok creators who are willing to go the extra mile to create “authentic” content: “We look for creators that tend to have a unique niche of their own. Simultaneously, we’re looking for creators that are going to put in the effort to make an interesting video. I think far too often creators that are marketing a song or product can make a video that feels lazily done.”
In terms of audio, Haddrill said that in reality, there is no perfect sound for TikTok: “There’s great music and I think good music wins—no matter the genre, no matter the style. I think a lot of it comes down to how people feel about the song.”
He continued, “I’m seeing a lot of text-to-speech trends, funny couple narratives, funny one-liners. People have to feel like they relate to the audio. Whether that’s music, speech, dialogue or monologue, anything that exists on TikTok from an audio standpoint has to have a relatability aspect.”
Haddrill shared his advice for smaller musicians who want to use TikTok to market their music: “Being on the platform and participating on the platform is everything. We’ve worked with so many smaller artists, especially in the early days of VRTCL. We saw a lot of them go super viral and grow their following literally overnight. All it was was consistent participation on the platform.”
Haddrill continued, “If you’re spending time on the platform, learning its new capabilities, seeing what’s trending and what’s not, and you’re able to adapt to those things, TikTok is the best platform to launch any brand-new artist in the world right now. The struggling independent artist can have a real voice on TikTok as long as they’re willing to participate.”
Haddrill warned about a common trap he often sees with early career creators that go viral: “A lot of times they go viral because of something that was authentic and genuine to them. That’s what TikTok gravitates towards the most. Then I see creators feel like they have to be an actor in a movie, and all of a sudden their content becomes dissociated from who they actually are.”
He continued, “Remain authentic in your content, and I think your fans will grow onto that. The ones that really do care about you and will ride with you until the end—those are the ones that matter. Everyone else is just there for noise, or clicks, or a shitty comment section, and they’re going to dissipate.”
Do you market music on TikTok? Reach out to [email protected] for a chance to get featured in an upcoming newsletter.