He Makes Justin Bieber and the Bee Gees Go Viral on TikTok
Name: Griffin Haddrill
Hometown: Bozeman, Mont.
Currently Lives: In a four-bedroom house in Las Vegas with walls covered in street art.
Claim to Fame: Mr. Haddrill is a co-founder of VRTCL, an agency hired by major record labels to make songs go viral on TikTok through remixes, mash-ups, meme-able chorus snippets, creator partnerships and other algorithmic alchemy. “I usually start with the lyric sheet to see if there is maybe a trend we can capitalize on or maybe a creative idea around the beat,” he said. For Lil Nas X’s “Montero,” that meant devil-themed makeup tutorials and interpretive dance routines set to the track. He also works with vintage hits like the Bee Gees’ “More Than a Woman,” which thanks to his efforts, has been featured in more than 279,000 TikTok videos including sunset selfies, boba tea tutorials and cyst removals. The right music “makes influencers feel part of a cool and cultured moment, and they like showing that off to fans,” he said.
Big Break: Mr. Haddrill has always had an ear for music and business. At 12, he handed his father a business plan for high-tech earbuds. At 16, he was a music manager for Gregory Lake, an underground hip-hop artist, and 100Tribn, a D.J. act, while he was completing rehab in Salt Lake City for cocaine addiction. At 20, he dropped out of San Jose State to pursue music management full-time in Las Vegas. In 2019, he and Sean Young, a former influencer on Vine, saw how social media algorithms were starting to mold the habits of young listeners, and founded VRTCL.
Latest Project: VRTCL, which Mr. Haddrill said brings in $1 million in monthly revenue and employs 18 people, was acquired in July by Create Music Group, a data-driven music company in Los Angeles. Mr. Haddrill, who is staying on as chief executive, is guarded about the terms of the deal. “With earning potential, the acquisition is in the eight figures,” he said.
Next Thing: Mr. Haddrill helped turn “Stay” by Kid Laroi and Justin Bieber and “Best Friend” by Saweetie and Doja Cat into TikTok earworms last year. But his dream client list skews older: Duran Duran, Billy Joel and other cassette-era acts. “One song that I always thought could really blow up again is Cher’s ‘Believe,’” he said.
Unlimited Data: He recently hired Conover Wang, a former roommate and software engineer at Reddit, to develop a program to analyze TikTok song data, including views, comments and shares. “The software is really a core part of our business, although it doesn’t have a name yet,” he said. “We should probably call it something cool.”