TikTok Star Cooper Alan On Sharing Music And Cookies With Fans - Exclusive Interview

To say that TikTok has flipped the music industry on its head is a serious understatement. Before the hot social media platform got its footing, it would take aspiring artists months if not years to get their music to eager fans. More traditional social media apps like Facebook and Instagram simply didn't cater themselves to sound quite like TikTok does — now, a song or particular track from a movie or television show can dominate video after video on someone's For You Page. There are, of course, artists who seemed to get into the TikTok game at the right time. From the D'Amelio girls to TikTok royalty Addison Rae to more organic creators like Mikayla Nogueira, TikTok has changed the game — and their careers — seemingly overnight. One such successful musician who has ridden the TikTok wave is country crooner Cooper Alan, whose mash-ups, original songs, and engaging content reach the tune of 7.5 million followers on the app alone.

Alan is not your everyday musician — a 26-year-old who has been pursuing his career since the 8th grade, Alan has made his particular brand on TikTok incredibly viral-worthy, and his latest partnership with Dewey's proves that his social media savvy skills have plenty more to give. We sat down with Alan for an exclusive interview and chatted about his latest partnership, the direction of the music industry, his approach to social media, and more.

Cooper chats about Dewey's partnership and TikTok skills

Let's start with your partnership with Dewey's. It must be exciting to work with a company from your hometown.

It's awesome. Growing up, they were always a big part of our community. My house was a mile from Dewey's Bakery, so as soon as we could have permission to walk around the neighborhood, we would meet up with our friends and we would head down the thruway and go to Dewey's and get cake squares and cream horns and cupcakes and all the stuff that wasn't allowed at home. The cookies were always that big staple thing that they had that was always my favorite and a little more of a permissible indulgence than the big cakes and cream horns and all that stuff. I'm really, really stoked that they decided to take these awesome cookies nationwide. It's an honor to be a part of it.

What about the partnership excites you? What are you hoping your people are going to take away from it?

I hope everybody gets a chance to try these cookies. They're awesome, and I feel like they should be everywhere. Now they're starting to be everywhere. It's especially exciting for me because as they are trying to become more of a national brand, getting in grocery stores, all that stuff, that's the exact same thing that I'm trying to do with my music and with my career. It's the perfect match. I love Winston-Salem more than just about anything, so any chance to partner up with a fellow Winston-Salem-ite brand is pretty awesome. To get the word out there for a company that I love and the people that run it, I love them, and it's all good things.

I like that parallel journey that you're both on. That seems like a mutually rewarding thing to be a part of.

Exactly, and I get boxes of amazing cookies, so that's probably the best part.

In what ways did you bring your TikTok-savvy skills to this partnership?

They wanted to get the message out on TikTok about these cookies and the thin crisp cookie with a big flavor. What I do on TikTok is write my own songs. I do a bunch of different content, but I also do these mash-ups and remix things, where I take non-country songs to make a country [version]. I went in that lane of the remix thing and came up with a bunch of different ideas of, "How can we fit these cookies into a popular song?" whether it was from 20 years ago or a current-day one.

We landed on "Ride Wit Me." You can't get much better than some Nelly. That's what we ran with. The hope is that people hear this little chorus and find it fun and become aware of the cookies, but then also use that sound in their own videos — whether it's dueting me or clicking that sound and using it and blowing this thing up, because it's too good of a product not to blow up.

Cooper considers how TikTok has redefined the music industry

TikTok has redefined the music industry as we know it. The ability for people to go viral is unparalleled, it seems.

It is driving everything right now, and I'm fortunate that some people told me to put my eggs in that basket when I did. I made it my full-time job a couple years ago early on. It is literally ... it's done everything for my career that I have. Any fan base, any song stream, any purchase, any ticket purchase, whatever, has come from TikTok and I've been building that up over the past couple years. It's a pretty democratizing thing in the music business, which is amazing.

Let's chat about that journey. You've gone from 3,000 followers to 10 million. That's a wild ride.

It is. You have to pinch yourself every now and then and take a step back and appreciate it. I was always such an anti-social media guy. I never thought anybody cared. I didn't even have an Instagram until junior year of college. But when the world shut down and I couldn't play any bar shows, a lot of people were taking breaks from writing. I needed something to do. TikTok filled that lane, and my fiancée told me to get on it. My producer told me to get on it, so I did.

One thing led to another, I had the video go viral [and] saw more followers come in in a day than I'd ever had on any social media. I still didn't really understand it, but we were like, "Let's go. Let's keep trying this because you never know what's going to happen." It's led to organic consumption of my music. Lately, the coolest part has been people showing up to shows, and ticket sales, and playing shows for people that actually want to hear my stuff instead of "Wagon Wheel” for four hours at a bar. It's pretty awesome.

There's any risk when it comes to social media. What challenges have you encountered, professionally and personally, from being a TikTok-famous creator?

It's 95% awesome. There's the stigma of being the TikTok artist. It took the industry a while to get behind this whole thing that was very different from the way music had been for such a long time. But when you look at it, it doesn't quite matter how you're reaching people and what medium or platform you're using to reach people. The goal of music is to reach people and to get people to connect with the music you're putting out, and come see shows and all that stuff. Over time that's gone away.

It's created more convenience than inconvenience with the opportunity to test stuff in such a fast manner ... You can go like this [snaps fingers]. I could write a song today. If I like it, I could tease it on TikTok. If fans don't like it, then it's probably not worth pursuing. If they do like it, then maybe we dive in a little bit more. You save a lot of months of spending money and pointless meetings and all that stuff. It's been way more good than bad.

It's a dry run that not a lot of musicians have gotten before.

It's free market research. It's lovely.

Cooper Alan reflects on his success and reveals what's next

Your songs have been streamed over a hundred million times. That's wild to think about. Could you have ever predicted this kind of success?

No. Golly, I tell this story every show we play before I play "New Normal," which was my first viral song. I've been doing this for a long time. I'm 26, but I've been doing this since 8th grade. We would write songs and we would put them out or record them, and you would beg your family and friends to listen to it. They would, because they were nice and they were cool.

But it was a big celebration when you got over that greater than a thousand streams on Spotify. I remember the first time that happened, I was like, "Oh my God, a thousand people have listened to this song." Then you multiply that by a bunch and it's surreal. I'm very fortunate that people connect in some way with the stuff I put out there. Some of it's crazy, some of it's wild, but it's all real and it's all me. I'm fortunate that people connect with that.

What's next for you? Is your partnership with Dewey's going to lead to more professional collaborations? What's on the horizon moving forward?

The horizon is a lot more music — big fall tour that runs through Thanksgiving, and then we'll do more dates next year. [I'm] trying to continue to grow this thing and grow my business. In terms of brand partnerships, we try to be selective with who we partner with, and it's got to be a perfect fit. Dewey's was that perfect fit for us from the hometown to the great flavors, to how good they are, to how much I believe in it. It was the perfect partnership. I wouldn't plan on seeing a ton of these partnerships from me because it's got to be special, and this one's special to me.

That's a nice distinction. It's important if you're going to be working with anyone to do something that feels authentic and something that you could get behind. Ad culture on TikTok is ... Followers can take it the wrong way.

It's not pickiness because I think I'm any better than anything. It really is more of a respect for the fans ... I'm already advertising so much on there, from my music to ticket sales. I'm a walking ad, trying to constantly sell myself. I have to be careful. But this is a product that if all 10 million of my social media followers went out and bought a box of Dewey's cookies, then I guarantee you every single one would be like, "Damn, these are really good." I can actually eat eight of these and not feel bad about myself, and they're not that bad for me. This is awesome.

Follow Cooper Alan on TikTok and Instagram for more information about his partnership with Dewey's, music, and more. 

This interview was edited for clarity.