There are many ways for an artist to get their name out there in the modern-day world. However, American singer-songwriter Drew Ryn took a rather unorthodox route. Having featured on a reality TV show as a teenager, the artist has since rose through the ranks of TikTok where her impressive vocal ability impressed the world. Now, with over 1.8 million followers on the platform and a single in ‘Orchestra’ with 1.2 million streams on Spotify, Drew is well and truly in the mainstream. We spoke to the artist about her journey and the power that social media holds for artists.
Drew was thrown into the music world at the age of 14 when she appeared on the X-Factor USA, a competition that she went on to finish in the top-6. A totally surreal experience for a teenager but it laid the foundations for her future career. “Being on a reality TV show before ever having met a soul from the music industry taught me some of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned to date.” The artist explains, “reality TV is very much about playing the game and navigating the character that you sort of become on the show. I was taught to never say something I wouldn’t want to be chopped up or taken out of context, and I was taught to decide instantly the way I’d want to be perceived and to not let drama or the industry budge that!” For someone in the limelight, having PR skills is an essential part of your career, luckily for the artist it was almost the first thing she learnt.
The artist has since seen her career take flight thanks to TikTok. Having joined the video sharing network in 2019, Drew has become popular for her original content; on a network where covers are the norm, Drew stood out for her immense song writing abilities. “I was encouraged by my friends and team to post a video of myself singing, and I honestly thought it wouldn’t take off.” Drew states, “a year ago, the platform was very different and I wasn’t certain how the TikTok world would embrace me. It was focused less on “original audio” and more on trends to music that were already popular. That being said, it was totally instant! I posted my first viral video and started gaining hundreds of thousands of new followers. I now have 1.8 million followers and it’s been an incredible journey!”
This song writing ability has particularly stood out when Drew has been undertaking three-word challenges. A phenomenon that involves a random word generator picking three words to which she writes original content. Versatility and an ability to think outside of the box has been key. “I started the “random word challenge” on TikTok as something fun where I could showcase my songwriting.” She states, “it became so easy to get my voice out there, but I felt like it wasn’t converting into streams with the music I was pouring my heart into making. One of the songs I wrote with three random words went viral to the point that even other creators were telling me to make it into an actual song. The song is called Orchestra and it’s nearing 2 million streams on platforms already!”
‘Orchestra’ is Drew’s most popular release to date, a pop song that see’s the artist’s vocal prowess take reign. It was also the first single that saw the artist release a music video for. With imagery of Drew singing in lockdown, displayed on a laptop and it commented perfectly on the world we were living in during 2020, and still are. “Being in a global pandemic really pushed the music industry to get creative and be resourceful with what you can do without a giant production around you.” Drew proclaims, “I was able to do a fun little lyric/music video from the safety and comfort of my own home. I’m pretty proud of the amount of creativity I’ve found in myself during these hard times. What a reset!!! I also shot a fun music video to my single “Old School,” which you can find on Vevo and YouTube. We shot it at a vintage motel with just three of us, again pushing our creative boundaries without a giant production, and it’s some of my favourite work I’ve been a part of!”
Of course, at the heart of this success was Drew’s smart decision to put herself out there on TikTok. But what exactly is it about the platform that’s seen so many personalities come through? Well it’s the way it allows you to show your personality in its truest form. In Drew’s eyes, more people should be using it, as she explains, “I definitely think small businesses and musicians should be utilizing the platform. The best thing you can do is to find what sets you apart, or create a brand around the parts of you that you’re most confident in. Most importantly, make authentic content. Authenticity, humour, and raw videos perform so well on the app. People want a glimpse into who you are.”
TikTok did however run into a bit of controversy thanks to a rather controversial US President. In August 2020, Trump announced he would be banning the app, although nothing ever came of it. But the prospect did show the knock-on effect it could have on artists that have grown their careers via the platform. But for Drew it simply reinstated a vision she already had, “my biggest goal is to maintain my artistry. I try not to rely on any social media presence more than I rely on my original music, and more importantly my voice.” She explains, “these apps are meant to be tools, not your sole reason for success. My goal is to continue to transfer my biggest following of almost 2 million followers over to all of my other platforms including Spotify, iTunes and other streaming platforms.”
2020 represented Drew’s most successful year and it also coincided with a year where social media was consumed more than ever before. 2020 was the year that TikTok rivalled Instagram as the most important platforms for music artists. Whether it’s breaking out or refining your brand, social media is more important than ever before. With its rise came a redistribution of power, something the internet isn’t given credit for enough. “The best lesson I think the entire music industry has learned is humility in the way we’ve always done things.” Drew comments, “social media, especially TikTok, has transitioned so much of the power to the listeners and artists. Our social platforms are acting as our own small labels. After a decade of wondering where the control would end up, I’m pretty grateful that it’s mostly ended up in the hands of my awesome followers and myself.”
Drew is an artist with endless potential. Having used social media to get her name out there, the artist has since honed her craft and the last two singles – ‘Orchestra’ and ‘Old School’ – shows an artist ready to take on the world. “My dream is for music to have the loudest voice through me.” Drew states, “it’s the universal language, the thing that connects people from all walks of life. I want my music to be the safe place for connection, and for everyone to have the freedom to be who they are.” With ambitions to match her trajectory, the sky’s really the limit for Drew.