Liam Dryden: Big Man Off Campus

Liam Dryden is an Edinburgh student pulling double duty as a vlogger with over six million views on YouTube. We find out how does it, surprise him with numbers, and learn the importance of time management...

Feature by Peter Simpson | 03 Sep 2012
  • Big Man Off Campus

Many students have summer jobs. Some go off to toil in shops, others wind up propping up the other side of a bar in penance for their sins, and the really unlucky ones end up working for their parents. Liam Dryden, on the other hand, is off around America after appearing on a panel on international video-making at the world's biggest Youtube conference, Vidcon. You see, the Napier University student is kind of a big deal in the world of online video. With over 90,000 subscribers and counting, this unassuming student has more fans than... well, than us lot, anyway. Intrigued and enraged, and in the wake of several near-misses and a West Coast power cut, we caught up with him via the thoroughly modern medium of instant messaging to find out how he does it.

So, how does a twenty-something student from Edinburgh end up in America talking at an online video conference with thousands of attendees?
Haha, well... Online video is having a bit of an insurgence right now. Web series are becoming more popular and 'next big artists' are being discovered based on the things they post online. I'm lucky enough that I've been a part of this world for the past few years, to the point where I've accumulated enough of a following that at least a few people care about the things I have to say!

So how was it you got started then?
Well when I was in high school, I was a part of a lot of music and drama productions, etc. But when starting uni, I found I didn't really have a lot of time to be a part of the same sort of things. So I guess I started video-blogging as a kind of creative outlet, after I saw a few people doing the same sort of thing on YouTube.

Did anyone inspire you to get into vlogging in particular? Or was it more that it was a good fit for the spare time you had?
The specific video I saw was featured on the front page. It was 'Vlog Tag Game' by Alex Day (nerimon), a vlogger who is now one of my really good friends and a bandmate. The video was the start of a chain where the person states five facts about themselves and tags five other users to do the same thing. It showed me that there was this whole community side to YouTube that I hadn't been exposed to before, and I was inspired to join in!

So for new people getting into Youtube, is the community side of things one of the more important elements to get involved in?
Well it's hard to say, because that was four years ago and YouTube and all the people who are a part of it have come a long way. There are a lot of 'big-name' YouTubers who are earning millions of views and can live comfortably on their ad revenue. A lot more people who join in these days seem to be in pursuit of that dream rather than much else. But that's not to say the community aspect isn't still important; events like VidCon and all the other meet-ups and gatherings amongst users of the site are evidence of this.

The recognition online personalities get now, and some of the numbers they draw, seem a bit daunting. We worked out that if all your subscribers got together, they'd be the 5th biggest city in Scotland.
WOW. Geez. I've never thought of doing the math! Really the number is definitely an exciting thing, but I for one appreciate the quality of my subscribers over quantity. A lot of great people follow my online stuff and are always quick to give me good feedback, and I definitely value that over a big number of people who stay silent.

Do you get the whole 'people noticing you in the street' thing happening?
Oddly, quite a bit. Definitely more than I ever expect from Edinburgh! I love meeting the faces behind the usernames. One of the most recent encounters was a girl sitting in front of me on the bus. We had a great conversation, and she was really excited and I think everyone surrounding us was really confused. I like when that happens.

So how does the vlogging life fit in with student life? It seems a little like vlogging would be a... what's the word... solitary thing to do?
For the most part it is. I know a few people who include their university friends in their videos, and I've done it once or twice as well (for example when we all went to the All Night Horror Madness at the Cameo), but predominantly it's something I do in my alone time. It's important to keep a balance though; there's too many times I've turned down a night out because I was busy editing and then suddenly whoops, you haven't left the house in three days. Like everything else in student life, it's all about time management.

Is it a bit like everything internet-based seems to be, in that you'll start something and just get sucked in?
In a way! YouTube is more or less my life now, but that's okay. It's my career, it's been my friendships, relationships, teacher, student... so many different things, and so many opportunities have come from it. Years of practice mean I haven't completely lost touch with reality, and keeping everything in perspective means I know it probably won't be forever, but at the end of the day I'm just happy and doing something I love.

That's lovely. See, and they say the internet's full of cynical troll people...
Yeah! The thing to remember about trolls is no matter how difficult they might try to make your life, at least you're not the one living under a bridge. Feel free to pretend that statement has some more transcendent meaning.

Ah the joys of the internet, where the subtext is right there on the page. So what tips would you say to any students who want to try Youtube instead of student radio, or student papers etc?
The key point and the one we all ignore (myself included) is time management. Don't let it overtake your studies unless you're really really good at all-nighters. Also if it's something you want to pursue a bit further, either professionally or otherwise, it might be worth investing in some decent filming/editing equipment. You don't have to max out your overdraft on the latest Canon DSLR but at the same time you don't have to sell yourself short with a cheap webcam!

So the most important thing is to manage your time right?
That's pretty important, but I think THE most important thing is to love what you're doing. If you have fun with it, it will show, but if you struggle with it and force it out, it will also show, but in a less positive way. Just have fun and don't let it stress you out!