Seth Vangeldren: How the 12-Year-Old Landed a Six-Figure Record Deal for Dancing

Apps that allow people to make short-form videos with audio clips have helped artists get their songs on the charts. Lil Nas X used the power of TikTok to get his song, Old Town Road, to number one on Billboard Hot 100.

Record labels have noticed how music can gain popularity by being distributed through apps such as TikTok, Dubsmash, and Thriller. Label executives believe in the power of these apps so much that they are cutting deals with social media influencers to push their artists’ music. For example, 12-year-old Seth Vangeldren is allegedly making six figures to post videos of himself dancing to songs.

TikTok
TikTok app | Avishek Das/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The power of Tik Tok and other apps

TikTok is a social media app that allows users to post 14-second videos. TikTok merged with musical.ly, another well-known app with similar features. Within a month, TikTok passed Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube, and Facebook in monthly downloads.

Lil Nas X, real name Montero Hill, understood TikTok and leveraged the influence to make his song a number one hit. First, he enlisted on the help of several influencers to do the dance challenge and upload it. He knew their followers would participate, and ultimately it sent Old Town Road to the top. Nas X even got country heavyweight Billy Ray Cyrus to remix the song with him, giving the song a stamp of approval.

The user base of Dubsmash, another popular lip-syncing app, consists of 95% of people of color. 25% of black American teenagers are regular users. Envy Me by Chicago rapper, Calboy went viral after a Dubsmash user, Nayah, made it a dance challenge. Nayah says she was looking through her Instagram feed when she heard the song. She hashtagged the challenge #NayahXTwerking to her over 650,000 followers. Thousands of her fans uploaded videos of themselves doing the dance challenge, and currently Envy Me has more than 45 million Spotify plays.

Who is Seth Vangeldren?

Seth Vangeldren initially got started in the social media arena after a video of him dancing at a basketball game surfaced. The clip went viral in February 2017 when he was 10-years-old. He continued to grow his following by using musical.ly, now TikTok. He then began posting videos on Dubsmash and Thriller. These apps are all lip-syncing apps where the user can make videos of themselves dancing while pretending to sing the lyrics of the song playing. Vangeldren became so well-known on Thriller that rappers began asking him to dance to their music. So, Vangeldren charged them $1,000 per song.

Soon after, Vangeldren caught the attention of Chris Brown, A Boogie w da Hoodie, and Lil Yachty. Record labels including Def Jam, Atlantic, and Alamo also began to notice the 12-year-old, too. Vangeldren’s manager, Tcal Watson, reported the dancing sensation has received six-figure-deals from labels to promote new songs using creative videos. Watson will not disclose the names of the labels.

Using social media influencers to promote music is one part of the industry’s viral marketing campaign. According to Vulture, industry insiders are turning local rappers into viral hits by using influencers, lip-syncing app placements, promotions on WorldStarHipHop, and manufactured drama between rappers.

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