David Dann has a DIY approach to making a hit dance album. No band? No problem — just fire up the midi keyboard. No label or studio support? No problem — create your own mini-studio in your parent's guest house. No marketing or promotional support? No problem — work your social media networks and start spreading the news.
Everything came together in April, when Dann's debut album To Each His Own leapfrogged Skrillex, Tiesto and Kaskade to open at number 7 on the iTunes top 10 dance albums chart.
“Every single PR and marketing company we approached said it wasn't commercial enough,” he tells us, “that there wasn't a hit on the album.”
Faced with rejection from all those geniuses, Dann — who is 22 and a UCLA senior — made what he now calls an easy decision, releasing the work on his own. “I finally decided I'm just going to put it out by myself and see what happens,” he says.
Before long, three of songs were attracting attention: “Last Time,” with vocalist Julia Price, “Follow Me” with vocalist Tamara Keenan, and an instrumental called “Solitude.”
Dann believes his DIY approach is the wave of the future in house and dance music, with more and more artists realizing that digital technology has advanced to the point where they don't need a label's support — or even an actual band — to penetrate the marketplace.
“The label system is deteriorating because everyone wants music for free. It's not about album sales anymore, it's all about streaming music,” he says. “But most labels are not ready to adapt to the new technology.”
The temptation is to call the young man an overnight success, but he's been working on his craft for a full decade, says Dann, who is the son of Iranian immigrants who left after the 1979 Revolution.
It all started with piano lessons a decade ago. After being trained in classical music and composing, he began DJing first for his friends at Beverly Hills High School and later at underground dance clubs around LA.
“I loved the feeling of controlling the energy in the room,” he says. “That was when I fell in love with the art of turntables.”
During his senior year of high school he put together a series of monthly podcasts featuring some of his favorite tunes, with themes his friends could relate to: family problems, school problems, relationship problems, etc.
“Those podcasts got taken all over the country when my friends went off to college,” he says. “That really helped build my brand.”
After graduating high school in 2007, he spent the next few years honing his DJ skills and building a devoted local following. Before long he started on To Each His Own.
“The only way to get where I wanted to go was by making music,” he says. “You can DJ all your life, but I wanted to make music myself because I have feelings I wanted to convey.”