- The Canadian rapper Tiagz (Tiago Garcia-Arenas) has built a career as a music producer by strategically uploading songs to the short-form video app TikTok.
- Tiagz achieved TikTok fame by writing songs that directly referenced the app’s popular memes and trends, effectively gaming its search and content recommendation algorithms.
- Two years after he started producing music, the 22-year-old artist is now signed by the record label Epic Records and has millions of monthly listeners on streaming apps like Spotify.
- Business Insider spoke to Tiagz to learn more about his playbook for going viral on TikTok.
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The Canadian rapper Tiagz (Tiago Garcia-Arenas) is quickly rising up in the music world and he owes it all to TikTok.
After having multiple songs go viral on the short-form video app, the 22-year-old producer landed a deal with the record label Epic Records, which represents artists like DJ Khaled, Mariah Carey, and Camila Cabello. His Spotify account now averages three million monthly listeners, and he’s generated tens of millions of streams on his top tracks.
Tiagz is certainly not the first artist to recognize TikTok’s potential for catapulting an artist or song into mainstream culture. Lil Nas X first rose to fame when his single “Old Town Road” blew up on the app and Drake recently released a sample of his new track “Toosie Slide” on TikTok so its users could learn to dance to it before it officially launched on music streaming services. TikTok’s imprint on the music industry is undeniable as the app continues to shape the Billboard’s Hot 100 singles chart each month.
But for Tiagz, TikTok has been more than just a promotional tool. TikTok trends and memes have defined the creative direction that he’s taken as a music artist.
Tiagz’s strategy for growing an audience on TikTok has been to write songs that directly reference a phrase or idea that’s become popular on the app. Since joining TikTok in August 2019, several of Tiagz’s songs have gone viral through this method, appearing in over 5 million videos to-date.
The artist’s first successful song on TikTok was “Rise and Shine,” a two-minute track that sampled a snippet of a video of Kylie Jenner singing the words “rise and shine” to her daughter. The song appeared in a few thousand videos on the app and Tiagz spent hours “dueting” and reposting the track in order to try to boost its popularity.
“I tried to understand the platform,” Tiagz told Business Insider. “I kept doing these memes because I saw that it worked.”
The producer continued to grow his TikTok audience after posting a song that sampled a popular meme in India, “Chicken Leg Bis (Chicken Leg Piece),” which was used by the former Miss India, Ruhi Singh. Tiagz’s next track, “I’m in the Ghetto (Ratatata)” (also referencing a TikTok meme), was used in over 9,000 videos, and encouraged the artist to continue leaning into trending topics.
Tiagz’s surging popularity on TikTok caught the attention of Eric Parker of EP Music Group, who reached out about becoming the artist’s manager.
“He explained a little about the music industry and the business and he was also a lawyer,” Tiagz said. “At that time, a lot of people were reaching out, so I was just really closed up. I thought that everyone just wanted to monetize stuff, or money, or this or that. But he reached out and said, ‘Hey look, I can really help you.'”
Tiagz’s popularity really exploded on TikTok once some of the app’s top influencers began using his song, “My Heart Went Oops,” which sampled an already trending 1951 jazz single “Oops!” that was first performed by the actress Doris Day.
“I told myself people aren’t really going to jam to a jazz and blues song,” Tiagz said. “I’m going to make a trap song with it. I’m going to twist it, and it’s going to be super cool. I called it ‘My Heart Went Oops’ because I knew that people when they were going to search for the sound were going to search ‘my heart went oops.’ It was a strategy so that people could find it.”
The TikTok user Troy Zarba, who has 3.2 million followers, added “My Heart Went Oops” to a video, and then TikTok’s most popular creator, Charli D’Amelio, posted a video of herself dancing to the song at Dunkin’ Donuts.
“As soon as she used the sound, all the verified creators started using it, and I was like, ‘Yo, this is crazy.’ After that the label reached out. Then all the other labels started reaching out, and I was like, ‘Whoa, I think now people are noticing.'”
After getting a manager and record deal with Epic Records, Garcia-Arenas quit his part-time job teaching kids’ gymnastics and parkour at a local center in Ottawa to focus full time on creating music. He also began to go through proper channels to get approval to use samples in his songs, running them by his record label for clearance before posting.
“I didn’t really know everything about clearance and all that stuff, so I would just release and that was it,” Tiagz said. “I saw a lot of interviews of other artists and they were explaining, ‘Don’t ever let sampling stop you from your creativity.'”
Since its release, Tiagz’s “My Heart Went Oops” has appeared in over 3 million videos on TikTok. His recent track “They Call Me Tiago (Her Name is Margo)” — which was also used in videos by Charli D’Amelio and her sister Dixie — has appeared in roughly 2 million TikTok videos. Tiagz now has 1.6 million followers on the app.
Having TikTok’s top users dance to his tracks has been the most effective way of getting noticed on the app, Tiagz said. The artist said he tried paying a creator to promote one of his songs in the past (paid song integrations are a fairly common way for TikTok influencers to earn a living), but it wasn’t nearly as effective as having his songs appear in videos from the app’s popular creators organically.
Even after signing with Epic Records, Tiagz said he’s continuing to focus on producing music about current memes and trends since that’s what’s driven his success as an artist thus far.
Tiagz recently released a track called “Bored in My House (Quarantine),” and is working on collaborations with other creators like King Bach.
“The trends work, but the quality of the music matters too because a lot of songs that I made are flops,” he said. “I think it’s important to keep that same process and maybe evolve through time, but not really change the strategy completely.”
For more stories on how artists and creators are building a business on TikTok, check out these other Business Insider Prime posts:
- How artists are using TikTok to drive thousands of dollars in sales and find new customers: With more than 1.5 billion downloads, TikTok has become a viable sales tool for artists looking to promote their art on the e-commerce platform Etsy.
- How to start making money from TikTok as a ‘nano’ influencer with fewer than 10,000 followers — and how much you can earn: The CEO of an influencer marketing startup focused on “nano influencers” shares how much it pays TikTok creators for a sponsored post.
- Inside the business of an ‘adventure cat’ TikTok influencer, who has 2 million followers and earns up to $60,000 for a sponsored video package: The travel and adventure influencer JJ Yosh and his cat Simon have millions of followers across Instagram and TikTok.
- TikTok star Charli D’Amelio gave Dunkin’ 294 million free video impressions in under 2 months and got her own cold-brew tap as a thank-you: Brands are taking over TikTok, making appearances in both organic (unpaid) videos and sponsored posts created by influencer marketers.
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