The basement is still in the process of being finished, but Dan Tedesco has made sure the acoustics are good for the microphones, shelves of guitars and keyboard he’s compiled as part of his home studio there.
“Any kind of equipment that was around, I always found a way to use it and make something up,” said Tedesco as he sat on a couch in the studio, strumming a guitar and recalling his early days of music making before he followed his wife to Iowa and they moved into their Norwalk home.
A decade or so back, the singer-songwriter thought physical music releases were declining. He released his last CD in 2011 before deciding to focus on streaming his folk-rock music, but in the usual way.
It wasn’t long after streaming services like Pandora and Spotify launched in 2005 and 2008 respectively that Tedesco noted this wind change, and a few years later heavy hitters like Apple and Amazon would adjust and launch similar services in 2015 and 2016.
While still providing some of his music through those platforms, Tedesco went to work on a model he could hope to make a living off of that didn’t rely on Spotify or CDs. His latest album began coming out on July 4 and will conclude its release early next year through the Dan Tedesco Music Channel (DTMC).
The venture — which bears some resemblance to a Patreon account — has allowed Tedesco to put out what he describes as “the album reimagined” for this latest project, titled “Days of Rock N’ Roll.” Patreon enables artists, writers, singers and more to connect with their fans through a membership system. Fans pay a monthly fee to receive anything from newsletters to merchandise.
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The first draft wasn’t quite right.
“It was not nearly as disciplined or consistent as what I have going now,” Tedesco said, recalling his 2011 iteration of DTMC. “It wasn’t something that ran every week. It was much more open-ended in terms of the way that it was organized and communicated, but the various pieces were there.”
Rather than having everything linked to in a weekly newsletter — as he does in the current format — this early version of DTMC was just behind a password-protected portion of his website.
Tedesco found this format more cumbersome than he liked. Yet the idea continued to percolate over the years.
“It feels like I thought about it almost every day,” he reflected.
But the demands of performing and writing music to maintain a living meant that he never had the time he’d need to dedicate to relaunching a better version of the service.
When March 2020 arrived, Tedesco found himself with much more time on his hands to upgrade his service. Users pay a monthly fee — in this case, a recurring $10 — to get access to all of Tedesco’s body of work.
The form of DTMC is perhaps what primarily sets it apart from a standard Patreon account. By not relying on a single third-party platform, he theoretically has more control over the visual design and fiscal parameters of DTMC than he would otherwise.
Subscribers receive a weekly e-mail that informs them what’s new from Tedesco. That newsletter might include notes from Tedesco on his creation process, details on how audio is layered in the final edit or why certain instruments were selected in a song.
Mixed in with those notes are private links to websites like SoundCloud and YouTube, which houses mixed and mastered music, song demos, interviews with fellow musicians and other material.
While DTMC relies on using websites like SoundCloud and YouTube to house some of the content, Tedesco is able to use those sites as tools to help house his music rather than be beholden to them for income.
Right now, Tedesco tends to average around 80 members in a given month and hopes to continue to grow that number.
“In past eras, physical music has sold, but oftentimes the flip there is that the musicians were not the ones that owned that, so they got some small percentage of it because the label… owned the actual master right to the music,” Tedesco said. “Now it’s sort of the same thing. You’re putting music out on streaming sites and you’re only getting a small percentage of it.”
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“When (COVID-19) hit and things shut down, I went into live streaming,” Tedesco said. “I was just going to do a couple of them but it went so well that I kept it going for about two months pretty much every week.”
When the pandemic first struck, Tedesco was among the millions around the world making a living on live performances who suddenly found it impossible to access his source of income.
He, and many others, took to a virtual stage while struggling to navigate a new world.
“At one point, I think I put all of my albums together as sort of one product… So on a lot of the live streams, people would do that, they would just go to my website afterward and then buy all the albums for whatever they want to spend,” he said. “Some people spent $10 some people spent $100. It was whatever they wanted to do.”
It was over the course of figuring out how to stay solvent during the early days of the pandemic that Tedesco began to figure out the shape his music channel has now taken.
“I started thinking, if I was going to do this music channel, this might be the window to do it in.”
As someone who recorded in a studio for the first time at age 13, he was comfortable in setting up a home studio and knowing what he’d need in that space to produce the kind of sound he wants.
“When I started playing music in the ’90s you had to have a sizable amount of music to go into a studio and get things done the traditional way,” he said. “Now, there are so many other ways to get those things accomplished.”
Tedesco had come into the music industry inspired by artists like Bob Dylan and Tom Petty, who not only influenced his music but his methods.
He noted his “old school” approach to touring and that he pursued the notion that you played every gig you could get, especially early in one’s career. In doing this, Tedesco has done everything from opening for Blues Traveler to performing at a rubber duck race in Wisconsin.
Since COVID-19 caused the cancelation of both rubber duck races and Blues Traveler performances for a time, a degree of change was necessitated.
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This latest iteration of the Dan Tedesco Music Channel is a one-man endeavor that launched on July 4, 2020 — Tedesco’s solution to the turbulent nature of music-making in modern times.
Tedesco’s latest album, “Days of Rock n’ Roll,” is a 10-track release that isn’t coming out all at once. Rather, he’s been putting out one song a month since mid-summer alongside notes that explain his songwriting process.
“I’m trying to go more after the boutique sort of cottage industry mentality of curating an audience that’s really dedicated,” he said. “That’s probably going to be much, much smaller audience.”
But with that smaller audience comes a more direct line to his fans who do want to support his work and flexibility in how he handles his music.
In a world where Tedesco hadn’t launched this platform and achieved a somewhat steady drip of income with his work, he says he would have felt pressured to return to touring much sooner and more extensively than he has.
As it stands, he’s been able to take his time in getting back to performing and is feeling, for the first time, free to walk away from potential engagements.
“At my level, it’s not like I can go out, do a month-and-a-half on tour and make even half a year’s income like some bigger artists can do,” he said. “(DTMC) is also just sort of hedging some of the risk. It’s taking a little bit of the weight off of having to play all the time, which then frees me up to be more creative and focus on other writing.”
When asked how much he’d be making, by contrast, if he was putting all of his music on Spotify, rather than just select tracks, and relying on that platform for his non-touring income, Tedesco didn’t have to think long on it.
“Oh, I wouldn’t be making anything,” he said. “I’d be making dollars a year — I shouldn’t say dollars a year but — just on Spotify? Yeah, maybe dollars a year.”
His plan in the coming years is to continue to find a balance with his creative work and grow DTMC to a place where he can be a bit more comfortable month to month in his music-making.
As of right now, he’s considering how other artists might be brought on, but notes that the way DTMC is set up makes that tricky to navigate even just in terms of inviting people in as guests.
Right now his focus is on finishing the release of his current album and continuing to grow the channel.
“I could run this thing for the next five or 10 years and maybe it’ll run out on people at some point, maybe people will get tired of it. I don’t know, no one’s really doing anything like this, so every day is sort of a new look on it.”
Tedesco’s next local live show is scheduled to play xBk Live, 1159 24th St., at 7 p.m. on Oct. 8 with a full band.
Isaac Hamlet covers arts, entertainment and culture at the Des Moines Register. Reach him at email@example.com or 319-600-2124, follow him on Twitter @IsaacHamlet.