By Zach Collier
In the 90’s, Provo was a sleepier town: stores closed earlier, ska reigned supreme in the Provo music scene, and there were way more horse pastures. In the midst of all of this, a young Danny Wilson was playing Sega Genesis. A lot.
“My first exposure to electronic music was playing Sega Genesis,” he says. “I remember it was cool ’cause you could go into the options menu and just listen to the songs. I would do that over and over again.”
His father was in a band that was signed to Paramount Records back in the day, and he never stopped making music. He had a home studio – right next to the kitchen. “My dad had a few Yamaha keyboards and an old-ass DAW called Cakewalk,” says Wilson. “He was cool enough to trust me to start making beats on his computer as early as I think 5 or 6 years old. Without my parents believing in me, I know I wouldn’t be where I am today in music.” This fixation on electronic music had a profound influence on Wilson.
No longer the 90’s kid playing Sega Genesis, Wilson is a full time electronic music producer who goes by the name D9. One of my favorite things about modern Provo is that this sleepy town has remained quaint and peaceful while also becoming secretly famous. Whether you’re at the grocery store, in class, at church, or at the skatepark (as Wilson often is), you’re bound to run into someone whose art is admired by millions.
Wilson has been able to make a living in music by pure grit and determination. He combines real talent with a relentless release strategy. To date, he’s dropped 2,500 YouTube videos with a consistent proportional mix of livestreams, vlogs, and beats. What inspired him to adopt this kind of strategy? For starters, consistent releases force him to improve.
“I’ve always had this idea my whole life, and that idea is: what if I did something every single day? How good could I get at it? This is pretty much where the whole ‘beat a day’ strategy comes from,” Wilson explains. “Over a 10-year span, and making a few thousand beats, it only makes sense that I’d become a bit better at it. Plus, music is my favorite thing to do in life. I really want to come to the end of my life knowing I spent most of my time doing stuff I love rather than being stuck in an office somewhere doing crap I don’t enjoy.”
Another benefit is that a large volume of releases tips the algorithmic odds in his favor. Some of his beats have millions of views on YouTube, marketed as copyright free music. His strategy here is genius. “I let people release their songs on Spotify or Apple Music completely for free. I just ask that they don’t copyright the music as this would keep anyone else from using that beat,” Wilson explains. “I feel like there should be more access to quality beats for artists that are starting out. Something as beautiful as music shouldn’t be so overly commercialized in my opinion.”
Consistent output of high quality beats with a sincere desire to help independent artists with real needs has created a positive feedback loop. Artists will come across Wilson’s music searching for free beats, use them, share them, and then come back for more. Grateful fans and collaborators then get involved in his ecosystem of complimentary revenue streams. He makes revenue mainly from fans and artists who donate during his livestreams or randomly via PayPal, and artists who eventually reach out for exclusive beats. But Spotify, a profitable merch shop, and YouTube memberships/Patreon all contribute to passive income.
“The Patreon and YouTube memberships are always like finding 20 dollars in your coat pocket. I always forget about that money until it gets deposited. It’s an awesome feeling,” he says. “I think people really understand what I am trying to accomplish with the free music, and they are willing to get behind it with a few bucks here and there. I feel fortunate to be able to call music my full-time job, and the fans are really the ones to thank for that.”
The downside to this strategy is that not everything Wilson puts out is a hit. “Chasing the algorithm is like trying to understand the mysteries of the universe,” he says. “It’s always changing, so it’s really hard to figure it out. The ‘experts’ on YouTube have all been able to just agree that good content gets rewarded. There are hundreds of thousands of videos on YouTube about how the algorithm works, but if you go too far down that rabbit hole, it’s going to leave you feeling really frustrated when you post a song and it only gets 50 views. And I can say this speaking from experience.”
Wilson has found that simple tips like key word optimization, good thumbnails, and making your latest song your channel trailer are all helpful YouTube strategies. But his best advice is to do what you love, and to do it the best you can. “If you believe in your music, you’re bound to have a hit. Once I stopped worrying about the numbers, I started feeling so much happier and less stressed. Even the best baseball players in history don’t hit a home run every time. Don’t get bummed out if one video gets a ton of views and the other one doesn’t get very many at all. It’s just part of the game.”
Balance in life outside of music is important to Wilson. “I’ve been making music for almost 2 decades, and I’m still trying to get it all dialed in,” he says. “Adopt a schedule that isn’t going to burn you out. For most artists, it wouldn’t make sense to release a song every day. Instead set goals that work for you. Maybe 2 EPs this year. Maybe one killer album. If you are a beat producer trying to grow on YouTube, maybe a beat every Friday. However, once you make your goals, stick to them!”
Wilson writes his goals down on a piece of paper and keeps them in his wallet right next to his debit card so he is reminded of them regularly. Next steps for him include reaching 100,000 subscribers and getting a Silver Play Button from YouTube, collaborating with Lil Baby, and taking his livestream on tour.
He also takes time to remember where he’s been and the people who helped him along the way. “I remember playing a show with Neon Trees in the back of a restaurant I worked at,” he says. “This was for a Halloween party I had set up. They were just starting to get really big, so it was extremely nice of them to agree to do that show with me. I also did music videos for a bit back in the day. Working with The Aces was extremely fun. I love those girls. I did a remix for Moth & The Flame which was a lot of fun. Oh, and shout out to Corey Fox. I would never have become the musician I am without Velour and the hundreds of shows I’ve been to there. So glad he got Velour all paid off!”
At the moment, Wilson is hard at work collaborating with the likes of LDA, Byzo, and Theworldisugly. He wants everyone in the Provo music scene to stay hopeful and to keep working.
“To everyone reading, spread the love. Be positive. Be nice to yourself. If you are going through a hard time, it always gets better as long as you are willing to make a little change. If you have a goal and a dream, work hard on it until it becomes a reality. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that it can’t become a reality, even if that someone is yourself.”
Make sure to follow D9 on Instagram and check out his song “Kyiv” below!