Spencer Hatcher is a young bluegrass and country music artist trying to build a music career. At 23, he is a 2019 graduate of East Tennessee State University living in central Virginia, writing songs and looking for that big break that could catapult him into the big leagues.
In that, there is nothing remarkable about him. Thousands of talented, similarly-situated young folks are likewise dreaming of a life on stage. Spencer picked up touring experience working with Nick Chandler & Delivered, but he has a secret weapon in his arsenal, having built a sizable social media following
At ETSU, Hatcher studied in the Bluegrass, Old Time & Country Music Studies program, but took his degree in Business Management. A serious student, he graduated a semester early, but feels that his business background has been helpful taking advantage of what social media is offering him.
But let’s back up and let him explain a bit about how he became a social media phenomenon.
“I was the first one to bring bluegrass to TikTok. I’m doing it as an entertainer, but I want people to develop an appreciation for the music.
When I moved back home, I had 24 followers. I put up a video of me playing Whoa Mule on the banjo, using a silly character I created as a joke, and it blew up. After the first week it had 2 million views on TikTok. My goal had been 1,000 views in 24 hours.”
Even those of us unaware of online virality can appreciate that those are big numbers.
And for those unfamiliar with the app… TikTok is a relatively new player in social media. Developed by Chinese firm ByteDance in 2016, it uses a format allowing user-created videos to be uploaded of 59 seconds or less. It has been mildly controversial among security activists, who note that ByteDance collects a great deal of data from its users’ phones, a large percentage of whom are teenagers. But since merging with Chinese social media app Musical.ly in 2018, it has become a major international player, with an estimated 680 millions users, and 2 billion downloads of the app.
Since this start, filming with his brother, Connor, on bass, Spencer has posted dozens of other videos. Some are more serious, showcasing either his original songs or traditional country favorites, but the most popular have featured the cornball bluegrass humor.
“Before Whoa Mule I had posted a video that told a little bit about me, and my life. It had banjos in the background, and I mentioned that I played. People asked in the comments for me to play some banjo in a video.
I started getting tons of requests for other tunes, and one very large influencer asked me to post Foggy Mountain Breakdown, and it got over 1 million views. Rocky Top got 1.2 million views, and hundreds of thousands of likes and comments. It kind of brought bluegrass to TikTok, which mostly has pop and dance music, and a little country.
Now I have people all over the world commenting on my videos, thanking me for sharing bluegrass music, and saying how much they like it.”
Hatcher says that the attention online is gratifying, but he stills hopes to turn it into a stage career.
“My goal is to be a performer. Social media is cool, but singing on stage is what I want to do. I like to make people smile.
People have contacted me from TikTok saying that they would like me to come and play. My focus has been on country with my band – mostly the songs I’ve written plus classic covers – but I always pull out the banjo and do a bluegrass set.
I even heard from a New York modeling agency that wanted me to come model, and a Nashville record company wanting me to sign, plus people wanting to manage me. I want my music to be serious, and for people to appreciate the music I create. When the right offer comes along, I’ll take it, but I’m managing myself at this point.”
Many social media icons have found ways to capitalize on their popularity outside the app, as TikTok doesn’t monetize content the way YouTube does. They do offer payments to content creators through their Creator’s Fund, but Spencer says that it doesn’t amount to much.
“When the quarantine hit, I left Tennessee and came back to Virginia to switch over to country music. I made a good name for myself on TikTok, gaining 100,000 followers for my country stuff. Now I make videos of both older country and bluegrass, and take requests from followers. So far, I’ve reached about 9,000,000 people, and my page has more than 3 million likes. It now has 326,000 followers.”
Here’s one of his more serious bluegrass videos with Connor on an old Jimmy Martin song.
And a country classic.
We say, well done Spencer! There are many perks to being the first bluegrass influencer on TikTok.