Atmosphere

Rockin' the Network

How a local musician is going global by being social—online.
March 2011

Like many twentysomethings, Aurora’s Tyler Ward lives in his parents’ basement. Unlike many of his peers, he’s using that basement to launch a suddenly promising recording career. ¶ In the past year, Ward has morphed into a musical sensation by capitalizing on the trend that’s transforming everything from entertainment to dating to politics: social media. The singer-songwriter—whose sound resides in the heartfelt sweet spot of earnest pop rock—releases one or two videos per week via YouTube and Facebook, a 60/40 mix of covers and originals that’s garnered him a stunning following. His YouTube videos tout more than 94 million upload visits, and his channel carries more than 370,000 subscribers. ¶ Ward’s cyber savvy has landed him as high as number 23 on Billboard’s Social Top 50 chart, meaning he’s rubbing virtual elbows with names like Bieber and Gaga. “I saw some artists doing covers on YouTube, and I thought I could do it just as well,” he says. One of his first releases was a cover of “We Are the World” that, in a strategic move, coincided with the reissued celebrity version that went out during the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. People searching that version online also saw the link to Ward’s, and his profile soared from there, netting him nearly 1.5 million hits in a month. ¶ Given his enormous—and global—fan base, it’s no surprise that major record labels have been courting Ward. When he signs, he plans to further renovate his basement studio. “My dad charges me rent right now,” he says, “but I’m planning to buy the house from my parents within the next year so I can turn it into a place where musicians can just fly in and record.”