‘There’s So Many People Wanting To Support the Underdogs’: Songwriter Francis Karel Talks About Going Viral on TikTok

Courtesy of Francis Karel remix by Cole Mitchell

We’re reaching out to some popular creators to get their best tips and tricks for success and better understand the ups and downs of life as a trailblazer on the internet.

This week, we caught up with Francis Karel, a singer-songwriter who has seen viral success on TikTok. Karel’s most popular videos include reactions to his powerful singing voice from unsuspecting viewers on the video chat roulette site Omegle. Karel’s Omegle videos, alongside other songwriting content, have attracted over 2.3 million followers on TikTok, 800,000 followers on Instagram, and 162,000 followers on YouTube

Karel said he fell in love with pop music and started writing music as a child growing up in Jakarta, Indonesia. Karel said after making a connection with a record executive at an Indonesian music festival, he decided to take a leap of faith and move to the United States.

Now 23 years old and based in Los Angeles, Karel has pursued a career in songwriting, citing musical influences from artists like Bruno Mars, Ed Sheeren, and BTS. 

Karel recently released a music video for his new single, an emotional piano and orchestral ballad titled “Like All My Friends.” The video depicts Karel in his bedroom after a party, confessing the loneliness he feels watching all his friends fall in love. 

How would you describe your musical style? 

I’d describe it as pretty much pop; I do like to have different elements occasionally, for example “You’re Too Close” had a funk essence to it and “Like All My Friends” has a big power ballad type of feel to it. I like messing around and exploring pop music.

What style of video do you see the most success with online? 

Currently, aside from the Omegle videos, I do a lot of songwriting content or original songs. I also like to post sneak [peeks] of songs and do writing challenges to other people’s empty verses. Those tend to do well for me. 

What do you think makes a song go viral on TikTok? 

I personally do not know. I think it’s interesting, because everyone’s bringing something to the table when it comes to TikTok. I think the timing of your creation can also influence how well it does. I don’t think there is a right or wrong way to do TikTok (aside from having fun and exploring new things), but if someone does happen to know how to make a song go viral, I’d  love to know the secret. 

What advice would you give to a musician who wants to use TikTok to market their music?

Do it because there is nothing to lose. It’s a way that you can really channel your creativity without having to jump through any hoops. Figure things out at your own pace, and if you get lucky, you might happen to get an audience that fully supports what you do. I think that is what’s fun about TikTok. There’s so many people wanting to support the underdogs. It’s such a nice environment to see.

How do you stay in touch with your fans? 

I try to go live as much as possible. I would like to say that I respond to DMs [direct messages], but it’s been harder lately, so usually going live and responding to everybody on there is one way I stay in touch. I try to remember their names, as well as remember who they are in my life currently. I want to say that there is effort on my end and it is not just a one-sided thing, and I hope they feel the same way!

What’s the best thing anyone has ever said to you on Omegle? 

One time, someone said I really made their day and that they were thankful for passing by me on Omegle. Omegle is not the nicest environment, so I really appreciated that because I get it. Making content can be stressful—there are a lot of trolls, regardless of what website or app you’re on. It’s inevitable to come across them. I was very grateful that I was able to make someone’s day, and it’s nice to have an intimate one on one with somebody on a website like that. 

What is your least favorite thing about social media? 

Consistency. I completely understand where everyone is coming from when they say, “Oh I wanna see more content” or, “We need newer things.” It’s not that I don’t enjoy delivering, because I do! But sometimes, the lines between enjoying it and it feeling like work get blurred. Sometimes there are other things going on in life, and it’s hard to find a balance between creating content, figuring out my own life, and figuring out my career. The only thing that gets to me is feeling like you have to be on it 24/7, so I hope that people understand when I’m not posting 24/7 on social media platforms. 

What is your favorite thing about your new music video for “Like All My Friends?” 

I personally love the simplicity of it while it’s still packed with emotion. It’s very clear and direct, and I like how the video translates to the idea of “I’m sitting in my own room talking about my own feelings” because that’s my reality. For the most part, I don’t really like expressing myself to anybody I know, and music serves as my outlet for doing so. I tend to keep things to myself,  so I wanted the video to showcase that.

Thank you, Francis, for chatting with us! 

Are you a musician who has gone viral online? Email [email protected] for a chance to get featured in an upcoming newsletter.

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