DAVENPORT, Iowa (AP) - When approaching it in the daylight, Daytrotter sits inconspicuously in downtown Davenport. It’s next to the city’s public library and close to a handful of bars. A single red sign with the word “daytrotter” in lowercase cursive script hangs above the door.
The inside of the Brady Street building tells an entirely different story. Large pillars line a high-ceiling room. A short, but fitting stage can be found at the far end, facing the street. A tall, slick bar lines one of the walls. Hardwood covers the floors. The room vibrates with warmth and welcome. It’s a room that feels like a one-of-a-kind music venue.
Behind the stage and through the venue’s green room is the new Daytrotter recording studio. Once located in Rock Island, Illinois, the Midwest music staple has brought its unprecedented recording style across the Mississippi River to a polished, new venue and studio in Davenport. The relocation brings with it the opportunity for Daytrotter to host promising musical talent of all genres on its stage in eastern Iowa.
During peak touring season, the Daytrotter studio hosts multiple recording sessions with artists daily. The four-song, two-hour sessions are tracked live - giving each session its own unique sound -and later posted to the Daytrotter website and mobile app. Three sessions are released for streaming every Monday through Friday (subscribers who pay the monthly $2.99 subscription fee get unlimited streaming access).
The site has carved out a name for itself as a destination music lovers frequent when wanting to find new artists.
“I pride ourselves on posting a ton of things that nobody’s ever heard of,” said Sean Moeller, the 37-year-old founder of Daytrotter.
Moeller has been coordinating and posting sessions from the Quad Cities for 10 years. The old location, which sat above a pizza shop in an old radio station, played host to thousands of sessions, including cuts with astonishing artists such as Carly Simon, Tori Amos and Cold War Kids. But, the old studio wasn’t without its flaws. The Rock Island studio didn’t have air conditioning or heating and was far smaller than the new location in Davenport.
The Des Moines Register (https://dmreg.co/1nNJPGi ) reports that along with moving into a studio Moeller described as one of the best in the world, the new location offers a 400-person capacity live music venue. The venue hosted its first show, featuring Hamilton Leithauser and Paul Maroon of The Walkmen and other acts, on Jan. 18.
Daytrotter’s relocation was made possible with the help of Kyle Carter, executive director of the downtown Davenport partnership. Carter said Daytrotter puts Davenport ‘on the cultural map.’ Moeller and co. are doing so by capturing the musical history of modern artists with each session recorded, Carter said.
“They were the first to take this approach online in 2006,” Carter said. “And between this history and the live shows they’ve produced, the Quad Cities has something truly unique as its calling card to the world.”
A company called Restoration St. Louis led the two-year renovation of the venue and studio, which resides at the bottom floor of the Renwick Building. The building, which was once a furniture store and now includes apartments above Daytrotter, underwent a multi-million dollar renovation, partly funded by state and federal historic tax credits, in 2012.
Amy Gill, chief executive officer of Restoration St. Louis, said a lot of the venue’s ceiling remains original and the buildings storefront contains its original design. The company, which also renovated Hotel Blackhawk in downtown Davenport, designed and implemented the venue’s fine details, like the hardwood floors and pillars.
“We tried to put our own flair on it, like the mason jar lighting,” Gill said.
Moeller ran Daytrotter out of its Rock Island location for about 9 years, but he’s an Iowan who was born and raised in the state. He said he never thought of leaving.
“I was born in Davenport and went to Bettendorf High School and grew up on a farm and I never wanted to leave, really,” Moeller said. “I like it here. I’ve always kind-of looked around at this place as being a really nice place. I never felt like I was missing out on something.”
The University of Iowa graduate worked at the Quad City Times after college, before he became ‘restless’ and created his ideal job, Daytrotter.
It was about two years into the project that he quit his day job and began running the company as a full-time occupation. He said making that transition wasn’t stressful. Daytrotter’s now home to three full-time employees
“It’s just been a really cool experience . to create my dream job, accidentally,” Moeller said.
Moeller said he receives ‘hundreds and hundreds’ of submissions from artists every day.
“It’s not hard to get a Daytrotter session . but it’s not easy,” Moeller said. “I like giving a lot of people chances.”
How does he choose which acts to bring in for a session?
“I try to listen to as much as I can,” he said. “I can usually tell within the first 20 seconds if I wanna keep listening. I want to hear some words … I want to hear (the) general feel.”
Over the site’s decade-long existence, Moeller’s coordinated sessions with numerous household names before they were ever known as such. In August 2012, Daytrotter posted a session with Seattle-based rapper Macklemore - weeks before he released the “Thrift Shop” music video that propelled him to multiple Grammy Awards in 2014. In October 2011, Daytrotter posted a session with alternative band The Lumineers, months before the band’s single “Ho Hey” began charting on Billboard. The list could go on.
Moeller described hearing an artist he worked with on the radio for the first time as ‘emotional’ and ‘amazing.’ He said the first time he heard Nathaniel Rateliff, an artist he’s worked with for years, on the radio, he pulled his car over and turned the music up to listen.
“To hear somebody who you feel is truly putting in the work, and is great, succeed like that,” Moeller said. “It’s an amazing feeling.”
Zeena Koda, a music industry veteran who’s a digital marketing director for Motown Records, said one way Daytrotter stands out above other music content sites is because of its ability to blend a multitude of genres.
“They’re one of the few (platforms) to be able to translate every genre and make it something people can view and see in a stylized and interesting way,” Koda said.
Dustin Smith, frontman of Des Moines-based group The Maytags, said being asked to do a Daytrotter session is a big stepping stone for an independent artist. Smith’s recorded two Daytrotter sessions in his career, the most recent taking place with The Maytags in early 2015.
“Daytrotter is a representation of who you are,” Smith said. “If Sean asks you to come to his studio, he has faith that you’ll rise to the occasion.”
Koda said she views the platform as an entry way for artists to reach the next stage of their career.
“Something like Daytrotter definitely brings you to that next level,” Koda said. “(It’s) one of those pieces to the puzzle that shows you’re getting recognition for the work you’re getting in.”
Daytrotter’s growth doesn’t stop with a new studio and live venue. The brand’s hosting its first music festival, Daytrotter Downs, in three venues across downtown Davenport next month.
The festival’s scheduled to feature Iowa native William Elliott Whitmore, Minneapolis-based rapper P.O.S, New Mexico’s indie pop group Poema and numerous others.
Around 25 to 30 acts are scheduled to appear throughout the three-day event, running Feb. 18-20 at the Adler Theatre, Daytrotter venue and Village Theatre.
It’s a festival built on the idea of discovering new music and trusting Daytrotter’s name for finding talent early on. Three-day passes to the event sold out before a lineup was officially announced.
“I want people to see these really amazing (and) — for the most part — unknown bands in intimate settings,” Moeller said. “I will be absolutely disappointed if in one year at least five of these people, if not more, aren’t huge.”
Will there be more events like Daytrotter Downs in the future? Moeller doesn’t see why not.
“If this thing goes off without a hitch, or with only a few hitches . I don’t see why we don’t do another one in the fall,” Moeller said.
Information from: The Des Moines Register, https://www.desmoinesregister.com
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