Name: Griffin Haddrill
Residence: Bozeman, Mont.
Currently lives: In a four-bedroom house in Las Vegas with walls full of street art.
Claim to fame: mr. Haddrill is the co-founder of VRTCL, an agency hired by major record labels to make songs go viral on TikTok through remixes, mashups, meme-able chorus snippets, creator collaborations, and other algorithmic alchemy. “I usually start with the lyric sheet to see if there might be 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 put on the track. He also works with vintage hits such as “More Than a Woman” by the Bee Gees, which has been featured in more than 279,000 TikTok videos thanks to his efforts, including sunset selfies, boba tea tutorials, and cyst removal. The right music “makes influencers feel like they’re part of a cool and cultured moment, and they love to show that to fans,” he said.
Breakthrough: Mr. Haddrill has always had an ear for music and business. At the age of 12, he handed his father a business plan for high-tech earplugs. At 16, he was music manager for Gregory Lake, an underground hip-hop artist, and 100Tribn, a DJ act, while completing cocaine rehab in Salt Lake City. At age 20, he left the state of San Jose 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 began to shape the habits of young listeners, and founded VRTCL.
Latest project: VRTCL, which Mr. Haddrill said generates $1 million in monthly revenue and employs 18 people, was acquired in July by Create Music Group, a data-driven music company based in Los Angeles. Mr Haddrill, who will remain as chief executive, is wary of the terms of the deal. “With earning potential, the acquisition is in the eight figures,” he said.
Next thing: Mr. Haddrill helped turn Kid Laroi and Justin Bieber’s “Stay” and Saweetie and Doja Cat’s “Best Friend” into TikTok earwigs last year. But his list of dream clients is older: Duran Duran, Billy Joel, and other cassette-era acts. “One song that I always thought could really blossom 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 shared posts. “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.”