Daniel van Veelen’s new album Centrifuge starts with an unusual track – one with the only words to be heard on the recent release.
“Prologue” features his side of a phone conversation, scripted but revealing, set against the sounds of a coffee shop. Speaking as Danny Pines, his musical persona, he tries to answer the question of a friend who, after listening to the mostly electronic instrumental album, pointedly asks, “What’s the point?”
The response is half artist statement and half pitch – a mix of creative philosophy and salesmanship.
These 10 tracks, made over a year in the basement of his parents’ south Edmonton home, are meant to be “the atmosphere to whatever we’re experiencing,” explains the first-year JR Shaw School of Business student. In a way, he hopes the memories, feelings or musings the music inspires stand in for lyrics.
His success so far suggests it works. The songs, which range from ambient and dreamy to vibrant and driving, earned roughly 5,500 listens on Soundcloud (one, “Friday Night,” accounts for more than 5,500, thanks largely to being shared by electronic dance music giant, Ephixa) in their first 3 weeks online.
Here, van Veelen adds to his prologue, explaining what went into the making (and marketing) of Centrifuge, why listeners are allowed to name its price, and what it may mean to his future as a businessperson.
The art of marketing art
Centrifuge doubled as a marketing project for van Veelen and his classmates. The group promoted the album with a Snapchat campaign.
He learned a hard truth as a result. “People don’t care. You’ve got to find a way to make them care.”
“People don’t care. You’ve got to find a way to make them care.”
For him, the way was to build a mystery. The social campaign involved 1,000 cards featuring the Danny Pines logo of an upside-down evergreen tree and a snapcode linked to a 3-week countdown to the album’s release, which he kept secret. He stuffed the cards into lockers around campus.
“Everybody’s so used to getting information now,” says van Veelen. “Just don’t give it to them and tease their curiosity.”
The group passed with flying colours and about 150 followers – a response rate of 15%. In comparison, a typical direct mail campaign can expect 0.5% to 2%.
Pay what you may
You won’t find Centrifuge on CD or vinyl. Thinking his Gen Y to Gen X target market was less likely to buy a physical product, van Veelen decided not to make the investment. “I’d love to hand somebody a CD,” he says, “but if there isn’t a demand for it, don’t make it.”
What’s more, he didn’t set a price for the digital download. Instead, the Danny Pines Bandcamp page asks listeners to name their price.
“That business model is interesting because it creates a moral obligation with people,” says van Veelen. At the site, he reminds listeners that they can have a positive and direct impact on an artist’s ability to create. The result in one case, says the 21-year-old musician, was a $50 purchase.
Time well spent
Van Veelen squeezed creativity into his spare time, which was rare, so his studies wouldn’t suffer. He trained himself to get coursework done during the week to free up weekends. He also made the most of holidays.
“With school and whatnot you get pockets of time. I was approaching Christmas break and I was like, ‘OK, I’ve got about 280 hours to work on this. I’m gonna allot it day by day,’ and I just worked like an animal to get it done.”
"I just worked like an animal to get it done.”
Going lyrics-free contributed to van Veelen’s artistic intention on Centrifuge, letting listeners connect with the songs at personal levels not always possible when a singer is telling them what to feel. But it was also a product of practicality.
Van Veelen’s EDM (electronic dance music) influences such as Deadmau5, Skrillex and Ephixa have budgets to bring in almost any big-name vocalist they like. Van Veelen, who’s sung on past recordings, is limited to the voice of Danny Pines.
“I didn’t want to sing because I have 2 octaves I can sing in,” he admits. “For such a dynamic album I felt that my voice wouldn’t fit.”
Future hit maker
His album may be gaining traction on social media, but van Veelen knows it’s not likely to turn into a suitable replacement for a business education. In fact, it may have made his time at NAIT even more important. He’d like to start a record label to support smaller acts that get overlooked by the majors.
As good as he is with time management, that’s a project he’s happy to put off for now.
“That would be a great meet: [doing] what I love plus employability,” he says. “That would be the goal. I’m just trying to get a job for the summer right now. You know, student life.”