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Lorenzo Mitchell, an electronic music producer, dropped out of college a few years ago to try his luck on social media. He’s only earned around $70 so far.

Mr. Mitchell, who is 21 years old and lives with his family in San Antonio, said, “I was a touch overambitious.”

His TikTok account, @OPRMusic, has 52,000 followers. It’s still difficult to get people’s attention. According to Tensor Social, a social-media analytics business, more than a million additional TikTok accounts have about the same amount.

According to Sarah Peretz, who coordinates social-media strategy for clients at a Los Angeles marketing business, less than 100 accounts will provide a social-media job wealthy enough to sustain someone for more than five years.

Bloggers, dancers, singers, comedians, and gamer streamers from all over the globe flock to the opportunity to become social media celebrities. According to SignalFire, a venture capital business, more than 50 million individuals identify as independent content makers. Millions of cash are set aside by Facebook Inc., TikTok, Snap Inc., and YouTube to compensate producers.

However, social media success is similar to that of professional sports: Many individuals want to play in the major leagues. Only a few do.

Mr. Mitchell and many others have persevered despite this. “I have a fan base. I am unable to do so due to a lack of funds. “That’s OK,” he responded. “It’ll happen.”


Every day, Lorenzo Mitchell works on his laptop to make music and videos for internet distribution.


At home in San Antonio, Lorenzo Mitchell.

It might take some time. A video with 100,000 views might earn about $2 based on TikTok’s compensation rate for those on the platform’s exclusive Creator Fund. TikTok, which refused to comment, provides artists with guidance and recommendations on how to grow an online following. To generate money on Instagram, content producers have traditionally depended on sponsorship partnerships with brands and corporations. Advertisements that run during creators’ videos are how they make money on YouTube.

Mr. Mitchell began composing electronic music as a child, but it was not until later that he saw it as a vocation. He drew out what he named “The Plan” during his first year of computer science at California State University, Northridge in Los Angeles. By the age of 22, he had amassed 50,000 Instagram followers and 200,000 YouTube subscribers. He wanted to make $50,000 a year selling beats (musical tracks for songs or other commercial purposes) and via sponsorship arrangements related to his YouTube videos.

He began uploading videos in the spring of 2019, but it was only this year, on TikTok, that he achieved his biggest popularity. On Instagram, he has a little more than 1,250 followers, while his YouTube channel has less than 600 subscribers.

Mr. Mitchell now spends hours at a time creating sounds and rhythms for electronic music songs on his laptop. He logs into TikTok and devises strategies for making his videos enticing to his audience.

He jumps over piles of plastic cups and rolls of toilet paper in one, which become taller with each successful leap. A computer-generated rotisserie chicken dances as he tosses dollar dollars at it in another, a pun on the phrases “chicken strips” and “strip clubs.” His music is played in the background in both.

“I’m simply utilizing TikTok to go from producing videos in my home to performing on stages and having my songs played on the radio,” he said.


In San Antonio, Lorenzo Mitchell’s bedroom.

The Plan is progressing slowly. Mr. Mitchell has made a few hundred dollars on the internet by selling electronic beats. It’s not much, but it’s more than he’s earned from internet postings. He earns the most of his income as a part-time busboy at a local Italian restaurant.

Earlier this year, he came close to having a breakout hit. He began publishing “duets” on TikTok, in which he appeared in front of a video that had been uploaded by someone else. Consider a split-screen mode. Mr. Mitchell whistled over a video of someone playing an acoustic guitar in one duet. It was seen 340,000 times.

He shared a duet in June in which he played a rhythm as a frog croaked in the background. Based on the amount of views, it was seen about 2 million times and earned him roughly $25. Mr. Mitchell’s fans requested that the musical excerpt be turned into a song.

He turned the rhythm into a whole song, “Frog,” and promoted it for days before it was released in July. Fans couldn’t locate it on Spotify or Apple Music on the big day. He stated he didn’t understand the song required to be posted to DistroKid, a music distribution platform, about a week ahead of time.

“I’m a bit disappointed about that,” he stated at the time, “but it’s just an amateur error that I’ll remedy on my next drop.” The song was finally published to Spotify, where it has been listened over 90,000 times.

Mr. Mitchell remains undeterred in his pursuit of his ambition, he added.


Before recording his TikTok videos, Lorenzo Mitchell utilizes the social media app Snapchat to storyboard them.


Lorenzo Mitchell composes music in his room for internet distribution.

Mr. Mitchell’s father, Joseph Mitchell, is a former Navy veteran and amateur musician. He remarked of his kid, “I never got down on him for not finishing college.” “If music is what you want to do, then go all in.”

Corina Camacho, Mr. Mitchell’s mother, died of Covid-19 last month at the age of 52. She had been one of his most ardent supporters. She was unable to be interviewed for this piece since she was in the hospital in August on a breathing machine.

“I’m devastated that I won’t be able to do this for my kid right now,” she texted.

Mr. Mitchell remarked after her death, “I want to prove her right and do all I promised her I would do and more.”

Mr. Mitchell fell out of favor following the publication of the frog song, but he has since recovered. Nearly 200,000 people have seen one of his most recent duets.

He now aims to release three duets every week, as well as new songs and daily video blogging, in the hopes of becoming viral.

Mr. Mitchell’s short-term objective is straightforward: earn enough money to leave his restaurant employment. What about in the long run? He said that his goal was to win a Grammy. It’s for Mom.


In his room, Lorenzo Mitchell is making a TikTok video.

Meghan Bobrowsky can be reached at [email protected]

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