Rotto is on the rise. While the sentiment can be overused these days, in Rotto’s case, it speaks perfectly to where the American music executive is on in his journey; from building strong relationships to harnessing a strong musical foundation, this artist and label CEO has been undergoing tremendous growth this year, and the future looks bright.
In this interview, Rotto shares a bit more about his musical progress and journey to running his own music label.
WHERE ARE YOU FROM ORIGINALLY?
Born in Ohio, but my grandparents immigrated from Sicily. My last name (David “Casalinova”) means loving or big home, which is supposed to represent a collective unified people supporting each other.
WHEN DID THE IDEA TO BE AN ARTIST/PRODUCER BEGIN?
While finishing my graduate program at The Ohio State University, I re-evaluated what I wanted to do with my life. At the time, I was with my girlfriend of five years, who suffered from childhood trauma. Through dealing with her hardships, I began to attend therapy for my anxiety and depression.
Once the relationship ended, I found myself enjoying finding small independent artists and using headphones to block out the world. My therapy intensified, and songs by artists such as; Lund, Call Me Karizma, NF, Ryan Caraveo, and DYSN got me through some of my lowest points. I had purchased FL studio, more as a joke, and decided to play around a bit. I reached out to a producer on Fiverr and worked on my first song (Rainy Days).
I realized that I didn’t sound half bad and started to obsess over Youtube tutorials (I have severe OCD, which allows me to hyper-focus at times). I began to get the hang of music theory and vocal production and then began mixing and mastering lessons online.
Having been in graduate school for two years, I was already pretty used to learning, so I just dedicated about 20 hours per week to studying music (I had to forgo a lot of sleep, as I was also working full-time). Before I knew it, people were asking me to mix their music; I gained more experience, began to improve to a more professional level, and now here I am.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE PROJECT YOU’VE WORKED ON TO DATE?
The first album I ever produced, mixed, and mastered was called “Static” by Internet Playdate. Internet Playdate is a band formed between myself and a buddy of mine, who lives in Boston. He flew down to Ohio, and we wrote and produced the entire album in eight days, and I mixed and mastered the project the following two days.
That was my favourite project to date because it was the first time I collaborated with someone in real time. I was able to experiment with my voice and push the limits of what I knew how to do, and because of that, I was able to get out of my comfort zone and truly learn. I’m currently working on a new album, “Busy SZN,” which tells the story of my excessive working from home (80-100 hours per week for almost five months straight) while under a strict contract that I couldn’t escape.
The significant financial firm I worked for had paid for my second master’s degree, and because of that, I was forced to work for them for three years, on salary, with no employee rights. If I were to leave the company or get fired, I would owe them over $100,000. The excessive stress caused panic attacks, and the isolation from the outside world messed with my head. I think it was the lowest point I’ve ever found myself at in my life, but it inspired me to keep writing about my experiences. I’m excited to share it with the world asap
CAN YOU ROUGHLY OUTLINE YOUR CREATIVE PROCESS – FROM THE BEGINNING OF AN IDEA FOR A PROJECT OR A COLLABORATION TO THE POINT OF COMPLETION?
I take a unique approach to write my music. I usually start with a straightforward idea, maybe a chord progression or simple sound. I loop this, then build out a drum grove. From there, I’ll usually create the main vocal melody and write lyrics.
The lyrics need to mean something to me, so I prefer this approach of a simple starting point so that the vocal melody and lyrics and be the foundation of the song. I create different instrumental melodies, drums, effects, pads, etc. AROUND my vocal. This way, the music is truly my style—no online beats or forcing myself to sing over a completed instrumental. The beat works around ME.
HOW IS THE REALITY OF BEING AN INDEPENDENT ARTIST/PRODUCER COMPARED TO YOUR EXPECTATIONS OF IT?
I never thought I’d end up showing anyone my music; I intended to stay anonymous forever. I was embarrassed by my music, so very few people close to me even know I create music. Most know me as a business consultant or accountant. Because I was so secretive, I struggled at first. I’m amazed at how many little scam businesses are out there that are solely profiting off of the dreams of independent artists.
These services sell fake bot streams, playlist placements, and fake followers under the pretense that they’re the only ones who aren’t scamming people. Worst of all, a lot of the artists they service don’t even know it’s fake. I thought this was crazy, and having a Masters’s degree in data analytics, I began to do my marketing. For some reason, small artists feel that $20-50 can support a marketing campaign that these scammers offer.
Instead, I decided to use the skills I had learned to promote my music to help small artists who want to grow their music. I take a few hundred dollars and turn it into actual value for my clients, which keeps them coming back when they see themselves hitting Spotify algorithm playlists instead of just getting fake numbers. Until an artist sees success, I take less than 10% of paid funds for my work.
Every other penny goes to the artist’s promo. Since starting Rotto Records, more are beginning to learn what I’ve been up to, and I hope to come out to those close to me with a BANG.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES AND DIFFICULTIES YOU FACE WHEN STARTING NEW PROJECTS?
Time was the biggest challenge. Working full-time while trying to be creative can be challenging because it can feel so forced. Since finally quitting my jobs and doing music full time, my creative process has improved ten-fold.
WHAT DO YOU DO TO STAY CALM WHEN A PROJECT IS NOT GOING AS PLANNED?
I take lots of breaks. I feel like the less pressure you put on yourself to be creative, the easier it is. I will say that that isn’t the same as playing on your phone all day. Thirty minutes to take a walk a few times can make a huge difference, but time traps like YouTube, Facebook, or Instagram can eat away your time.
DO YOU HAVE ANY INSIGHTS, TIPS, OR ADVICE FOR SOMEONE LOOKING TO START THEIR MUSIC CAREER AND GET INTO THE MUSIC INDUSTRY?
There are no shortcuts. The problem is that nobody wants to hear that, so everyone gravitates to people/videos who tell them they know an “algorithm hack” or “secret.” The secret is that if you make good music, people (real people) will listen to the whole song. They’ll “like” it, they’ll add it to their playlists, they’ll view your profile, and Spotify will align those persons’ likes with your music to determine the quality and type of music you’re making.
The hardest thing about getting started is getting the funds to get your music in front of quality listeners truly. The problem with bot streams is that people think it’ll make them look more successful than they are. All it’s doing is grouping your music with the music of other people who paid for streams, which takes your music into the abyss. Spotify makes money by keeping people on its platform.
If your music isn’t keeping real paying customers on Spotify, they have no reason to push your songs out to a broader audience. There’s no hack; it’s as simple as that. Take it from the guy who went to school for it and has helped countless businesses. IT’S AS SIMPLE AS THAT.
WHAT ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF IN YOUR CAREER SO FAR?
Leaping and quitting the job that was making me miserable to make music full time. I never take advantage of others, and I think because of that, either God, Karma, or something out there is giving me these great opportunities to succeed,
WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN YOU’RE NOT WORKING?
I do a lot of pro-bono consulting for small businesses. I enjoy the excitement in people’s voices when their business dreams are coming true, and because of this, I’ve made tons of friends who pay back the favor when I need it. Sometimes, it is tough to balance my pro-bono work with my paying clients, as I always pay clients first (I have to eat), but I enjoy doing the best I can for every budget.
WHERE CAN PEOPLE FIND OUT MORE ABOUT YOUR WORK?
You can find me on Instagram @RottoOffical, RottoRecords.com, or Rotto on Spotify!