This story is part of Billboard’s third annual package spotlighting the trends defining the independent business.
When independent singer-songwriter Jake Scott started releasing music in 2018, he knew he’d need a strategy that would help him stand out. He ended up finding a method that simply never let people forget him.
The 29-year-old Fayetteville, Ark., native released one song each month through Distrokid from the beginning of 2018 to the end of 2020, writing and producing most of the tracks on his own. His persistence paid off: In those three years, Scott took his Spotify monthly listener count from 50,000 to nearly 3 million, signed a worldwide contract with CAA and landed an opening slot on LANY’s sold-out tour. Up next, he’s kicking off 2022 with a 21-date North American headlining trek — his first one ever — that will see his career come full-circle when he heads home to Fayetteville in January to perform at George’s Majestic Lounge, the first venue he ever played as a solo artist in 2013.
“I committed to the long game,” Scott says. “The quicker the rise, the quicker the fall sometimes. My music is just not that kind of music. I pride myself in being a singer-songwriter — I’m not necessarily trying to chase TikTok trends.”
Scott’s gradual rise matches his no-frills sound. With a knack for catchy melodies, his songs make for easy listening supported by buoyant pop production, heartfelt narratives, and a buttery voice to boot. Judging by some comments left on his Instagram, his music is making an impact: “Jake Scott is like the Zeus of music. Every word in all his lyrics is a lightning bolt to the heart,” one fan wrote. Another said, “I’ve never related this much to an artist before.”
Growing up in Arkansas, Scott says music “always felt like a pipe dream.” Still, he bought a guitar after falling in love with John Mayer’s music in high school and began regularly writing songs after attending Austin City Limits festival in college. He released the first five tracks he wrote as an EP under the pseudonym Tossing Copper (mostly because, as he admits, “I didn’t think I was good enough to be a solo artist”) that ended up on Billboard’s Heatseekers Albums chart and the top five of the iTunes Singer/Songwriter tally. It eventually caught the attention of former Evanescence keyboardist-turned-superproducer David Hodges, who offered Scott a publishing deal in 2015 that led him to co-writing for Aloe Blacc, Jason Mraz and Carrie Underwood, among others.
Scott’s vulnerable lyrics are a big piece of his appeal, as is the real-life love story that inspires nearly every one of his songs. His wife Rachel helped take his music from, as he puts it, “super angsty and pining for love” to completely lovestruck — as evidenced by two of his most-streamed songs, the heart-melting ballad “Tuesdays” and the bouncy “Favorite T-Shirt.”
The latter is the tune Scott attributes to taking his growth from gradual to exponential. The 20th release in his song-a-month pattern, the 2019 track was his first to be featured on Spotify’s New Music Friday playlist. It was the first to be placed on any Spotify playlist, for that matter — but at that point, Scott had already grown his monthly listener count to 1 million.
With a new song out each month, Scott “inadvertently discovered the best possible way to release music independently,” says Anthony Manker, co-founder of Scott’s management company, Group Projects. “A lot of artists who are just starting out would get, like, six months into that process and be like, ‘Nothing’s happening, what’s going on?’ and then start grabbing at different things. Like, ‘We need to sign to a label, we need to go on tour.’ Jake was very patient and disciplined.” (As Scott says himself, that discipline came from watching others make mistakes, like prematurely investing time and money into touring or music videos.)
Manker and his business partner, Cooper Anstett (both former employees of Nashville management venture Starstruck Entertainment), were introduced to Scott in 2018. The pair signed the singer to Group Projects in 2019 after seeing steady growth as a result of his release strategy.
“From a cost perspective, Jake being able to write and produce — not having to bring in all of these other partners and spend a ton of money — allows him to execute the independent strategy so much more effectively,” Anstett says. He adds with a laugh, “Then, of course, Jake’s a beautiful dude. That doesn’t hurt.”
But, as Scott believes: “The thing that’s helped me the most is just accepting the reality of where I am. I want to be a superstar playing football stadiums, but I’m just not there yet. I’m still building an audience. I want to keep putting out as much music as possible so that the audience that’s there will be activated to share it, tell their friends about it, and come to a show.”
Just before the pandemic hit in March 2020, Scott was ready to start growing that live audience with a string of six sold-out shows in February. In the absence of live music, he picked up right where he left off, resuming his song-a-month method for an unexpected third year and spawning his biggest streaming hit to date, a swirling ode to his wife titled “Like No One Does.”
By the beginning of 2021, Scott shared in an Instagram post that “something started brewing in me that felt different, like a longer story.” The result was his debut EP Goldenboy that arrived in June. The eight-song project features some of his most introspective music to date — specifically the title track, which details his struggle with the need to please (“Always been who I should be for the sake of somebody else/ And I can’t carry all of this weight,” he sings in the chorus).
To promote the project, Scott landed a partnership with GrubHub, who launched virtual donut shops fittingly called Jake Scott’s Goldenboy Donuts. The initiative supported local mom-and-pop donut shops in 25+ cities around the U.S., with all proceeds going to the stores. GrubHub also invited Scott to perform alongside Ashe and The Kid LAROI for its Soundbites virtual concert series in July.
Scott’s continued growth has attracted interest from “every label under the sun,” according to Manker, but he has opted to remain independent. And even if that changes, Scott promises it won’t stunt his steady release pattern.
“I don’t ever want to lose the mentality of wanting to very frequently release music,” he says. “Even if I become some superstar, I don’t want to make people wait two or three years for my album. I want to be like, ‘Hey, I’ve got a great song that I wrote last week. I’m going to put it out in a month because I think you need to hear this.’”
Tickets for Scott’s 2022 tour will be available Friday (Oct. 29) on the singer’s website. Spotify Fans First presale begins today (Oct. 25), and a Fan Club presale launches at 9 am ET on Wednesday (Oct. 27).