It’s the year 2019, and the music industry ain’t what it used to be. CDs are long gone, vinyl has a niche fanbase, but for the most part is long gone, and Spotify rules all. But it’s not just the way we consume music that’s changed – it’s the way the music is found. Bridesburg native Dylan Hartman, 14, may not be a household name in the world of pop stars, but he thinks he’s on his way. Several years ago, he started making videos of himself lip syncing to popular music and posting them on YouTube and an up-and-coming social media medium called TikTok. He gained traction, mostly in the form of views and followers, and people noticed. Last year, he was invited to be a part of the Boys of Summer Tour, which, according to a press release, “features some of the world’s biggest teen social media influencers and artists, and features a meet-and-greet as well as performances and photo ops.” This year, he was invited to come back. On Friday the tour stopped in Hartman’s native Philadelphia at Underground Arts in Callowhill. The Star got a chance to catch up with Hartman before the show and asked him about the unique way his music career got started, how he balances school and touring and his future in the music industry.
Can you tell me a little bit about how your career got off the ground?
Basically, it’s a funny story, actually. I started just by doing it for fun. I was just sitting in my basement just making fun videos and I really enjoyed it. Then I started seeing it pick up a little bit and I saw things start to change and happen. That’s when I realized it was going to turn into something.
So when you say things were starting to pick up, do you just mean they were getting a lot of views?
Yeah. I noticed I was getting more views, more followers, more engagement in a way.
What were some of the first videos you made like? Was it just you singing? Were you playing instruments? Were they songs you wrote?
I did two things – I did YouTube and I did Musically, which is a popular app that’s now called TikTok. Basically, I started doing videos on Musically first. It was basically like lip syncing almost. You’re kind of making a mini music video in a way, and I thought that was a lot of fun. I also did YouTube videos. I’d do whatever I felt like doing. Just random – literally anything I felt like doing, [and] they did well.
So were they songs you wrote or were they covers?
No, Musically was before I actually started doing music. Musically is just lip syncing to popular songs that are already out. Just making a video of yourself.
Ah, OK. So when did you actually learn how to sing?
It was January in 2018 when I put out my very first song. So it was about six months before that. I’d say I probably started getting into it around February 2017 – something like that. That’s when I kind of got interest. And I didn’t start moving on music for a couple months, but then I decided I wanted to do something with it. I’ve always really enjoyed music. I grew up with music my whole life playing drums, guitar, piano – all that stuff, so I decided to merge into singing a little bit. I tried it out when I went to a studio around my house and gave it a shot and ended up loving it and ever since then I’ve been doing a bunch of music and just been strictly focused on music.
So did somebody hear about your videos and find you? Is that how you got into the music industry?
So this is my second time doing this tour so, obviously, from last year they asked me if I wanted to come back. But before then, they had reached out to me wondering if I wanted to be on the tour. I’m most likely positive that they found me from Instagram or one of my social media [accounts] because I was starting to trend on social media in a way. So they probably saw my account and asked me if I wanted to be on the tour.
How would you describe your music?
With everything I do – especially music – I like to be unique in some way. Even if it’s the tiniest little difference that I can put into my music, I would definitely do that. Also I like to write about only truthful things. I don’t like to write about something that’s not true that hasn’t happened to me or just something that I’m making up just for lyrics. That’s another key in my music is that I really love to express my feelings and write about true things.
Who were some artists that you idolized growing up?
Justin Bieber. One-hundred percent. Justin Bieber was a big one for me. Also Jake Miller, a good buddy of mine. Pretty much just those two, actually.
Do you think using social media is the future of finding artists?
I definitely think it can be because social media nowadays is so powerful. It’s more powerful than it was five years ago, but it’s just crazy. A lot of artists are actually getting discovered on social media so I would say it can definitely be the future of discovering artists.
When you were posting these TikTok videos, did you actively promote them? Were you sharing them around? Or did people just sort of find it.
So TikTok is very algorithm-based on the app, so the way to grow is a lot easier than any other social media platform so your videos can be found a lot easier. Once you get started and you’re building your fanbase, then it starts to get easier to be picked up even more and noticed even more. But that’s the main thing with that app is that’s how it sort of picks up so fast is the algorithm.
Is there an album on the way at some point in the future for you?
I’m definitely looking to release some new music soon. I have a bunch stocked up right now that I’m getting ready to go out to L.A., actually, in probably like a month and re-cut vocals, but I’m definitely looking forward to releasing some new music. An album? I’m not sure about. It could happen sooner or later, I know it’s going to happen eventually. I’m not totally positive then, but definitely some more music coming soon.
How far do you plan on taking this? Do you plan on doing music for the rest of your life?
Yeah, I mean, that would be amazing, of course, if that could happen. Long-term, I would love to if it’s just within the next five years I would just like to build my music fanbase up and keep climbing with a music fanbase and also social media fanbase. And just be able to play shows all around the world – that would be pretty amazing.
You’re 14 right?
I realize it’s summer now, but how do you manage school with all the traveling and touring you do?
I do a lot of traveling when it’s school time. I actually went to a charter school until seventh grade and halfway through seventh grade I did leave the charter school and I started to do online school. It was best for me in a lot of ways and one of the main reasons why is because of all the traveling I do. So I did end up switching to online school, which requires the same amount of school work, but you can do it on your own time and get it done quicker sometimes, so it gives me a lot more free time for traveling.
What’s it like coming home to your home city?
It’s honestly amazing because I realized after traveling all these places, nothing feels right. Nothing feels like home. But when I’m finally home, it does feel pretty great because I get to see all my cousins and stuff like that because I really do have a good relationship with them, too. After being away for so long, it’s definitely good to just come home and be in my own city.