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October 02, 2017

YouTube made us famous! How Jake Miller and Jacob Sartorius got their start

These YouTube sensations are on a roll, and savvy, amateur recording artists might follow in their footsteps

The music industry has been crumbling since the turn of the century. Sales are down, artist development is scant and record companies are folding. However, fledgling musicians have hope thanks to YouTube, which has propelled a number of young recording artists from obscurity to stardom, rapidly.

Recently, Jake Miller delivered his pop/hip-hop at the Foundry and Jacob Sartorius showcased his pop at Punch Line Philly. They wouldn’t be where they are without YouTube. Miller, 24, waxes enthusiastically when he speaks of YouTube.

“I didn’t know what was going to happen when I started putting a few songs up on YouTube,” Miller said while calling from New York. 

“You don’t know if you have anything good going until you try and you hear what people think. The feedback I got was amazing. It gave me the confidence to actually try to have a career in music. Without YouTube, I don’t know if I would have got have gotten to this point.”

The same goes for Sartorius, 14, who launched his enviable career courtesy of YouTube. 

“I owe so much to YouTube,” Sartorius said while calling from his suburban Washington, D.C. home. 

“It helped me get started and now I’m in a really good place.”

Sartorius has some staggering numbers. He has 14 million followers on the app, 7 million followers on Instagram and more than 2 million subscribers to his YouTube channel. 

But the byproduct of fame for Sartorius was bullying. After he became a YouTube star, Sartorius was bullied in school. The abuse was so bad that he had to leave his public school in Reston, Va. 

“But then I went to a private school, it was even worse,” Sartorius said. “I had nowhere to turn.”

Sartorius is taking high school classes online. It’s best, he said, considering that he is making music and touring. Sartorius is out behind his debut EP, “The Last Text.” Sartorius understands that he doesn’t have to sign with a big label. He can do it on his own, thanks to the Internet, but he’s keeping his options open and will only sign with a monolith if he is granted autonomy.

“I like doing things independently, but I’m listening to offers [from corporate entities],” Sartorius said. “I”m not interested in just signing with a label. I want to set it up as a partnership.”

A generation ago, none of this would have been possible. 

“But times change,” Miller said. “You have to roll with the times. But you also have to make good music.”

Miller’s “2:00am in LA,” much like Sartorius’ “The Last Text” is comprised of innocuous pop. The material connected with fans, thanks to the Internet.

“It’s about getting the music out there,” Miller said. “It doesn’t matter how it gets out there. YouTube is a great way for anything to get out there. Anyone can use YouTube and that’s a great thing.”