Photo by Joshua Valle
How Jake Miller Mastered TikTok To Connect With Fans During Lockdown
With nearly half a million followers, the Florida-born recording artist has created an endearing set of short-form music videos utilizing everyday household objects—and his entire family
If you had asked recording artist Jake Miller a few months ago if he thought he’d be a huge hit on TikTok, he probably would have laughed at you. The singer, whose hit "Wait For You" blew up streaming playlists and radio in 2019, was not a fan of TikTok at all until COVID-19 forced him into lockdown with his family in Florida where he grew up.
"It was honestly the first day I got home, my sister was just nonstop dancing on TikTok, and it was really annoying," he says during a lockdown-friendly Zoom chat. "I’m like, 'What are you doing; what is this app?' She kept asking me to do dances with her, and I told her, 'I do not dance. This isn’t happening.'"
However, while tucked away in quarantine, Miller realized pretty quickly that TikTok might be the key to connecting with his fans, especially considering he has no idea when he’ll be able to get on the road again. That was when he made his first TikTok of a song he wrote and filmed in his house. He titled the March 22 video "How Long Will This Last" and recruited his parents and his sister to join him. In the song, he laments about the virus canceling all his plans and having to ration food.
"I would use household items to make the beats, and we would write funny lyrics about what we're doing at home," he says. In the first video, Miller turned to the sound of paper towels ripping and hand soap dispensing as just a couple of the unique sound effects that fit the theme of COVID-19. And though making light of a seriously heavy global crisis could be taken the wrong way by some, for Miller, it’s been a coping mechanism and a way to create content for his fans—not to mention a way to connect with his family.
"It was just a way for me and my family to do something creative together," Miller says. "I think when this is all over, we'll have those videos to kind of watch and look back on. We'll always remember this time as just being weird but fun for us."
Since that first video, Miller has created seven more original songs for TikTok, which he’s now dubbed his Quarantunes EP. His whole family—and even his girlfriend—have appeared in the videos, seemingly enjoying the spotlight as much Miller. "We all write; we all sing," he says. Interspersed with his Quarantunes songs are various other TikTok videos so Miller can keep his profile up and continue to connect with users.
And the videos are working incredibly well to not just engage with Miller’s current fans but to bring new ones in as well. "So many new people are seeing my stuff who have never heard of me. I'm getting Instagram DMs saying, ‘I saw your TikTok video on my phone. I went and looked up your music, and now I'm a huge fan,’ so that's why I do it."
His TikTok account since then has gained over 400K new followers, more than 25 million views, and three million likes. But the growth isn’t contained to TikTok: he’s also gained thousands of new fans on Instagram as well. "Anything you can do on a daily basis as an artist to keep being creative, keep gaining followers, and keep getting new eyes on you," he said. "Because ultimately it all leads back to my music."
27-year-old Miller, who has been making beats and writing music since he was in high school, has always kept his fans at the forefront of his career, so it’s no surprise that he’s used this time to find new ways to interact with them. After years of cranking out songs, in a variety of themes—from suicide awareness to heartbreak—his dedicated fans, dubbed the "Millertary," have been along for the whole ride. "As an artist, I understand how valuable that is and how rare that is," he says. "I feel like as long as I have them, I'll be fine no matter what." They camp out for shows all over the country, get tattoos of his lyrics, and bond over social media even if they’re miles apart. And now with Miller’s TikTok spree, his fans have a whole new place to hang out.
"They all seem to be loving [the TikTok videos]," Miller says. "I don't know how long this whole TikTok phase will last, but right now I'm just doing what I can to stay productive, creative, and not lose my mind in boredom." And the beauty of TikTok is that once someone has uploaded a sound to the social media platform, it’s there for more people to use in their own videos, which can make it spread rapidly. "I definitely encourage people to make their own TikToks to [my music]," he says. "Because I want the music to just spread and spread and spread. TikTok is a really great place to spread your videos to people who have never heard of you."
Other artists have leveraged TikTok in similar ways, including Drake, who utilized the video-sharing platform to blow up "Toosie Slide" as a dance trend before the song and video were actually released a few days later. On the flip side, artists who didn’t yet have record deals have been able to jump-start their careers thanks to TikTok’s algorithm helping their music reach millions of new people. Arizona Zervas, the rapper behind the popular TikTok song "Roxanne," had previously been releasing his music independently, but after "Roxanne" charted in late 2019, Columbia Records snatched him up and signed him to its label.
TikTok, which used to be Musical.ly, only launched in the U.S. in 2019 under that name through Chinese company ByteDance. Since its makeover, the video-sharing platform has grown exponentially and has become the place to discover new things as a consumer and get your talent out there as a performer. The app already has over 800 million users and counting with the number of videos multiplying every single day. What’s unique about TikTok compared to other social media platforms is that it doesn’t necessarily matter if you have any followers to start. Because of the way TikTok adds videos to its For You page—a unique mixture of content provided to users to scroll through—someone with zero followers could end up having a video that quickly goes viral. One viral video or sound that gets picked up by a larger account can catapult a TikToker into an elite level where they suddenly have a huge audience, a fact Miller is aware of and appreciates as an artist continuing to try to gain new fans and share his music. "This is a really great opportunity for if I'm an artist, I'm just starting out, and I have nobody who follows me, but I want people to listen to my music. This is the best way to do it right now."
Miller’s still not sure what the next step is for his TikTok account, whether he’ll continue to make fun little songs or pivot to more serious promo, but for now, he’s enjoying the bit of quirky fun he’s having. He’s still keeping his fans in mind, though, when he creates new music-related videos: "I put some of my unreleased music behind these videos," he says. "Obviously these songs aren't out. They're just kind of little teasers to show people what's to come." And a fact like that just goes to show how much he cares about making his fans happy, especially right now when the world can feel so bleak at times. “In a time like this where I'm not on the road and I can't see them face-to-face, it's super important to just stay in touch with the fans."
One thing Miller knows for certain is that he won’t be writing any real songs about quarantine or COVID-19. He's currently working on new music for a new project due out later this year. The first single from the upcoming EP or album (Miller hasn’t decided yet) is called "Saved Me" and lands May 15. He calls the song his favorite he’s ever written—and from a pool of hundreds of songs, those are big words. "It's always a really exciting time as an artist when you know that you're about to enter a new chapter in a new era," he says. "Musically, ['Saved Me'] sounds different." He plans to head into his new era in what he calls "a good place" because he’s happy in his relationship with his girlfriend and excited about the future of his career. And thanks to TikTok, he’s headed into his new era with a swath of new fans ready to buy and stream his music and buy tickets to shows. "As long as I keep making music that's true to me and they stick with me, I feel like I'll be good forever."
Rotimi On Performing At ESSENCE Fest, Growing Up African-American & More
The Nigerian-American singer and actor sat down with the Recording Academy to talk about what inspired his latest album, 'Walk With Me'
In 2015, Rotimi stepped into the New Orleans Superdome for the first time to experience the magic of ESSENCE Fest. Four years later, in 2019, the "Love Riddim" singer returned to the celebration as a performer, something he said was spoken into existence.
"Last year me and my manager had a conversation and I said, 'Listen, I'm going to be on the [ESSENCE] mainstage this year. 365 days later, we did it," Rotimi told the Recording Academy at the 25th annual ESSENCE Fest.
Rotimi, also an actor on Starz' "Power," has evolved since his last album, 2017's Jeep Music, Vol.1. The singer said he really hit home with its follow-up, the recently released Walk With Me, a project he worked hard for, putting in hours in the studio after filming on set.
"Walk With Me is the first time I actually felt like I was giving myself as an artist, and personally I feel like with everything else I have going on I wanted to show people that this is really what I do," he said. "I wanted people to understand who Rotimi is, who Rotimi was before, who I want to be and just understand my growth and the journey and my passion for what I do."
Part of why the album felt like such a representation of him is because it embodies beats of his African roots, something he said was very present growing up Nigerian-American.
"I grew up with a lot of Fela Kuti and I grew up with Bob Marley," he said of his musical roots. "But I also grew up with Carl Thomas and Genuine and Usher, so there was a genuine mixture of who I am and what I've grown up to listen to. The actual Walk With Me project was a mixture of influences of Akon and Craig David."
Fleetwood Mac in 1975
Photo: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Poll: From "Dreams" To "The Chain," Which Fleetwood Mac Song Is Your Favorite?
"Dreams" experienced a charming viral moment on TikTok after a man posted a video skateboarding to the classic track, and now it's back on the charts, 43 years later
In honor of Fleetwood Mac's ethereal '70s rock classic "Dreams," which recently returned to the Billboard Hot 100 thanks to a viral TikTok skateboard video from Nathan Apodaca, we want to know which of the legendary group's songs is your favorite!
Beyond their ubiquitous 1977 No. 1 hit "Dreams," there are so many other gems from the iconic GRAMMY-winning album Rumours, as well as across their entire catalog. There's the oft-covered sentimental ballad "Landslide" from their 1975 self-titled album, the jubilant, sparkling Tango in the Night cut "Everywhere" and Stevie Nicks' triumphant anthem for the people "Gypsy," from 1982's Mirage, among many others.
Vote below in our latest GRAMMY.com poll to let us know which you love most.
Joan as Police Woman
Quarantine Diaries: Joan As Police Woman Is Bike Riding, Book Reading & Strumming D'Angelo
As the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic continues to rock the music industry, the Recording Academy reached out to a few musicians to see how they were spending their days indoors
As the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic continues to rock the music industry, the Recording Academy reached out to a few musicians to see how they were spending their days indoors. Today, singer/songwriter Joan Wasser of Joan as Police Woman, whose forthcoming covers album, COVER TWO, includes tracks by The Strokes, Prince, Talk Talk, and more, shares her Quarantine Diary.
Thursday, April 2
[10 a.m.-12 p.m.] Went to bed at 4 a.m. last night after getting drawn into working on a song. Put on the kettle to make hot coffee while enjoying an iced coffee I made the day before. Double coffee is my jam. Read the news, which does not do much for my mood. Catch up with a few friends, which does a lot of good for my mood. Glad it goes in this order.
[12 p.m.-2 p.m.] Make steel cut oats with blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, fresh ginger, fresh turmeric, a sprinkling of cinnamon and cardamom, and of course, coconut butter to melt on top. If you’re not into coconut butter (sometimes marketed as coconut "manna"), I’d suggest just going for it and getting it (or ordering it) and putting it on your sweet potatoes, your oats, anywhere you’d put butter. I’m not vegan but I do enjoy hearing the tiny scream uttered by a strawberry as I cut into it.
Contemplate some yoga. Contamplate meditating. Do neither. Resume work on the song I want to finish and send today. I have a home studio and I spend a lot of my time working on music here. The song is a collboration sent to me from Rodrigo D’Erasmo in Milano that will benefit the folks who work behind the scenes in the music touring system in Italy.
[2 p.m.-4 p.m.] I traded in a guitar for a baritone guitar right before all this craziness hit but hadn’t had the time to get it out until now. I put on some D’Angelo, plugged into my amp and played along as if I were in his band. Micahel Archer, If you’re reading this, I hope you are safe and sound and thank you immensely for all the music you've given us always.
[4 p.m.-6 p.m.] Bike repair shops have been deemed "necessary," thank goodness, because biking is the primary way I get around and I need a small repair. I hit up my neighborhood shop and they get my bike in and out in 10 minutes, enough time to feel the sun for a moment.
I ride fast and hard down to the water's edge and take in a view of the East River from Brooklyn. There are a few people out getting their de-stress walks but it is mostly deserted on the usually packed streets.
[6 p.m.-8 p.m.] Practice Bach piano invention no. 4 in Dm very, very, very slowly. I never studied piano but I’m trying to hone some skills. Realize I’m ravenous. Eat chicken stew with wild mushrooms I made in the slow cooker yesterday. It’s always better the second day.
[8 p.m.-10 p.m.] Get on a zoom chat with a bunch of women friends on both coasts. We basically shoot the sh*t and make each other laugh.
Afterwards I still feel like I ate a school bus so I give into yoga. I feel great afterwards. This photo proves I have a foot.
[10 p.m.-12 a.m.] Record a podcast for Stereo Embers in anticipation of my new release on May 1, a second record of covers, inventively named COVER TWO. Continue to work on music (it’s a theme).
[12 a.m.-2 p.m.] Tell myself I should think about bed. Ignore myself and confinue to work on music.
[2 a.m.-4 a.m.] Force myself into bed where I have many books to choose from. This is what I’m reading presently, depending on my mood. Finally I listen to Nick Hakim’s new song, "Qadir," and am taken by its beauty and grace. Good night.
If you wish to support our efforts to assist music professionals in need, learn more about the Recording Academy's and MusiCares COVID-19 Relief Fund.
If you are a member of the music industry in need of assistance, visit the MusiCares website.
Hero The Band perform at the Recording Academy Atlanta Chapter Annual Membership Celebration
Photo: Marcus Ingram/WireImage
Report: Music & Culture Infrastructure Can Create Better "Future Cities"
How sound planning for a creative future in our urban areas makes all the difference for artists and musicians
The future, as they say, is now. And for music makers around the world, building a future for themselves often starts at home, in their local creative community and in the city where they live. While technology has expanded communication and made the world smaller, cities continue to grow, making planning for the future a critical cultural mission of the present.
To that end, a new report by global organization Sound Diplomacy titled "This Must Be The Place" examines, "The role of music and cultural infrastructure in creating better future cities for all of us." The 37-page deep dive into community planning and development highlights the importance of creative culture in what it calls "Future Cities."
"The government defines ‘Future Cities’ as 'a term used to imagine what cities themselves will be like," the report states, "how they will operate, what systems will orchestrate them and how they will relate to their stakeholders (citizens, governments, businesses, investors, and others),'"
According to the report, only three global cities or states currently have cultural infrastructure plans: London, Amsterdam and New South Wales. This fact may be surprising considering how city planning and sustainability have become part of the discussion on development of urban areas, where the UN estimates 68 percent of people will live by 2050.
"Our future places must look at music and culture ecologically. Much like the way a building is an ecosystem, so is a community of creators, makers, consumers and disseminators," the report says. "The manner in which we understand how to maintain a building is not translated to protecting, preserving and promoting music and culture in communities."
The comparison and interaction between the intangibility of culture and the presence of physical space is an ongoing theme throughout the report. For instance, one section of the report outlines how buildings can and should be designed to fit the cultural needs of the neighborhoods they populate, as too often, use of a commercial space is considered during the leasing process, not the construction process, leading to costly renovations.
"All future cities are creative cities. All future cities are music cities."
On the residential side, as cities grow denser, the need increases for thoughtful acoustic design and sufficient sound isolation. Future cities can and should be places where people congregate
"If we don’t design and build our future cities to facilitate and welcome music and experience, we lose what makes them worth living in."
For musicians and artists of all mediums, the answer to making—and keeping—their cities worth living in boils down to considering their needs, impact and value more carefully and sooner in the planning process.
"The report argues that property is no longer an asset business, but one built on facilitating platforms for congregation, community and cohesion," it says. "By using music and culture at the beginning of the development process and incorporating it across the value chain from bid to design, meanwhile to construction, activation to commercialisation, this thinking and practice will result in better places."
The report offers examples of how planners and leaders are handling this from around the world. For instance, the Mayor Of London Night Czar, who helps ensure safety and nighttime infrastructure for venues toward the Mayor's Vision for London as a 24-hour city. Stateside, Pittsburgh, Penn., also has a Night Mayor in place to support and inform the growth of its creative class.
What is a music ecosystem? We believe the music influences and interacts with various sectors in a city. We have designed this infographic to show how music ecosystems work and impact cities, towns and places: https://t.co/0DIUpN1Dll— Sound Diplomacy (@SoundDiplomacy) August 14, 2019
Diversity, inclusion, health and well-being also factor into the reports comprehensive look at how music and culture are every bit as important as conventional business, ergonomic and environmental considerations in Future Cites. Using the Queensland Chamber of Arts and Culture as a reference, it declared, "A Chamber of Culture is as important as a Chamber of Commerce."
In the end, the report serves as a beacon of light for governments, organizations, businesses and individuals involved in planning and developing future cities. Its core principals lay out guideposts for building friendly places to music and culture and are backed with case studies and recommendations. But perhaps the key to this progress is in changing how we approach the use of space itself, as the answer to supporting music may be found in how we look at the spaces we inhabit.
"To develop better cities, towns and places, we must alter the way we think about development, and place music and culture alongside design, viability, construction and customer experience," it says. "Buildings must be treated as platforms, not assets. We must explore mixed‑use within mixed‑use, so a floor of a building, or a lesser‑value ground floor unit can have multiple solutions for multiple communities."