For YouTube musicians it can sometimes feel impossible to stand out in the online world. With every opera singer, drummer and banjo player rushing to make a channel, it is important to set yourself apart in ways that utilize your talent and personality.
Now I’m sure if I asked you how to do this, your first suggestions would be: I could play in the nude or invite the lovely ladies of “Captain’s Cabaret” to dance back up (hint: they’re strippers). And while I do applaud your generosity in giving those exotic dancers more employment opportunities — even stripping has been hit by this economy — instead I called upon YouTube musician Tyler Ward to share with you his successes and mishaps in the online world.
Tyler uploaded his first YouTube video in 2008 and has since started his own production company, toured internationally and collaborated with some of the biggest names in YouTube. Just this week he signed a recording contract with Sony Germany, and he credits YouTube as a crucial stepping stone in his musical career. Taking the time to talk with NMR, Tyler shared his five golden pieces of advice for all aspiring YouTube musicians.
1. Want to make good music? Read the user’s manual and record in the closet!
Tyler Ward: When I first started recording, I recorded all my vocals in my closet. I put the mic up in front of my clothes and it would dampen the sound, so it was really close and crisp and there was no room echo.
And oh my gosh, there is so much to avoid! I think avoiding your lessons in the software program is the worst thing for you, so you shouldn’t avoid the user’s manual or online tutorials. You should always learn your software the best you can — that way it can help you become more efficient. I would avoid working with people who are not musical and they think they can record [laughs]. I would avoid that.
2. Build traffic for your channel by recording up-and-coming covers.
I think the best thing that people can do is find an up-and-coming popular song and try to record that before anybody else does because you’re going to get more traffic and more exposure. But if anything, always set yourself apart and record your original music. In the beginning, covers are fine, but as you go forward you have to balance your originals and covers. I began uploading my originals because I learned a skill that was enough to produce my own sounds, my own records, and my whole life’s goal was pretty much to record myself.
3. Don’t underestimate YouTube as a major stepping stone in your musical career.
Oh my gosh you can make such a living off of YouTube if you do it right! For example I just today signed with Sony Germany — that’s crazy! I signed with Germany, Austria and Switzerland and with Sony, which is crazy! It’s so funny because I can still do what I’ve been doing here in my studio for my YouTube channel and completely professional stuff with Sony, so that’s pretty awesome.
4. Let your personality show in your video.
When I’m looking at artists for Tyler Ward Music, one thing that stands out is the way an artist carries themselves. If I turn on something, I then turn the audio off and watch this person without even listening to them. If they are appealing with no sound then you know you have something. Now if they have a great voice on top of that then you have something really special, so I think just the way they interact and present themselves is huge. Huge!
5. Take every opportunity, and I mean everything!
Especially at the beginning, take every opportunity. Regardless if that’s playing at a retirement home or at a bar for five people, the more and more you do it, the more you’ll understand what you’re good at and what you’re not good at and the more opportunities you’ll create by taking chances. For that first two years I always did every single opportunity [laughs]. Everything that came out I was like, “Yes, yes, yes,” and now I’m glad I don’t have to do that anymore, but it was the only way that I got to where I am.
I used to have this gig at a bar to play covers for like four hours a night every weekend, and so I was like, “Yes, I’ll do that,” ‘cause I could make tips. And the next day this lady was like, “I really like what you do. Can you come play at my retirement home?” I was like, “Sure, I’ll totally do that!” And so I went there and just learned how to interact with people who were way older and learned how to communicate with people and entertain them, and it was such a crazy learning experience. I did that four or five times, and then I’d play at a retirement community, and then I used to play at the local pool party. Every random place you can think of, I’d say yes to it.