In The Game: How d4vd Went From Fortnite To A Billion Streams & A Meteoric Touring Career

ON THE COVER: d4vd performs at Bridgestone Arena on Sept. 24, 2023.

In late 2021, David Burke was a homeschooled teenager in Houston obsessed with video games, posting video montages that were being demonetized because of copyright strikes on the hip-hop songs he’d included with the clips. What a difference a few years make.

A year-and-a-half after he started recording his own music for his montages with the song-making app BandLab, the rising artist, now known as d4vd (pronounced David), found himself performing at the June 2023 Valentino fashion show in Milan, Italy, as his single “Romantic Homicide” was racking up over 1 billion streams. Within that time, he signed to Darkroom/Interscope (Billie Eilish’s label) and opened for SZA on her “S.O.S. Tour.” Now, newly signed to Wasserman Music, he’s gearing up to headline his own “My House Is Not A Home Tour,” which includes three sold-out shows at L.A.’s Fonda Theatre as well as festival plays at Lollapalooza and Bonnaroo.

“With d4vd, his music always has a message and it resonates with a lot of people across the world,” says manager Josh Marshall, founder of Mogul Vision. “It’s always really special to have these conversations with fans that we meet in person, where they tell us ‘Your music saved me’ … I think that’s really what our focus is … How can we amplify that message and impact as many people as possible in a positive way? Everything else is gonna fall in place. I don’t want to be ‘Oh yeah, it’s arenas.’ It’s like all that will come if we focus on the bigger picture and the vision of everything.”

d4vd performs during Valentino’s spring 2024 menswear collection show in Milan, Italy, on June 16, 2023.

The 19-year-old d4vd’s journey began with the video game Fortnite and led to him signing a major label record deal before graduating high school and building a live reputation. When his gaming channel, which had more than 50,000 subscribers, kept getting copyright strikes — from artists including SZA (whom he would eventually support on tour in a full-circle moment), Lil Uzi Vert and Playboi Carti — his mother encouraged d4vd to start creating his own music. He began recording on his iPhone in his sister’s closet with the help of BandLab, which features the ability to use your voice to create virtual instruments.

Homeschooled since eighth grade, d4vd explains that he had the drive to continue because video games were so important to him — being his only way to socialize and find like-minded people he could share experiences with. He adds, “And music, now, the same thing — with the community and the fans and going on tour and seeing them in person, they’re just two special, special things to me.”

Songwriting was instinctive to d4vd, as he’s “always been drawn to poetry and writing,” including keeping a poetry journal in the fifth grade that he’d “write in all the time.” His musical background includes singing in his church choir as a kid and his “mom forcing me to get piano lessons.”

He was only allowed to listen to gospel and jazz until age 13, but in middle school he got into “Lil Pump, XXXTentacion, Ski Mask the Slump God and all these underground SoundCloud rappers.”

Once he started playing Fortnite and making the montage videos, d4vd discovered alternative rock bands like Wallows and The Neighbourhood, as well as indie singer/songwriter Clairo and R&B artists like SZA and Chris Brown.

His varied influences can be heard in the range of styles in his catalog including dreamy pop, alternative R&B, emo and indie rock. He draws inspiration from television and movies such as anime and Disney’s “Up,” as he maneuvers his voice from sweet and crooning to a falsetto.

A portrait of d4vd, whose team includes Mogul Vision, Wasserman Music and Darkroom/Interscope records.
Photo by Nick Walker

A few months after d4vd started making music, posting his songs on SoundCloud and TikTok, Marshall stumbled across his song “Never Again” and was drawn in by d4vd’s sound, which he found “very refreshing. The sense that it was eclectic, experimental.”
Marshall called d4vd and then flew out to Houston the next day, meeting with him and his parents at a place where so many important meetings transpire: Panera Bread. d4vd recalls how Marshall explained “the entire music industry to us … It was an instant click.”

Later that year, Justin Lubliner, founder/CEO of Darkroom, also came out to Houston. d4vd praises both executives for “the initiative and the willingness to educate me on how it all works rather than just saying ‘you’re going to be a star,’ all the cliche things people say to artists. They actually meant what they said and kept their word.”

d4vd spoke to Pollstar in March, a few days after an underplay at Houston’s Upstairs at White Oak Music Hall, which sold out in minutes. The same week, he was confirmed to play Lollapalooza and announced dates for his summer headline trek, “My House Is Not A Home Tour,” that starts in early June.

His first-ever performance – which also marked the first-ever concert he ever attended – also took place at Upstairs on Feb. 17, 2023, selling 250 tickets and grossing $6,400. Four months later, he returned to headline the larger venue at White Oak Music Hall on June 25, 2023, selling 1,400 tickets and grossing $31,500. And, in September, d4vd got the chance to take the stage in arenas with SZA as support on her “S.O.S. Tour,” including two shows at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center Oct. 6-7, 2023 (selling 27,673 tickets and grossing $4.3 million).

“Being on stage is very natural to him, no matter what stage, whether it was that first 200-cap room, his first festival or his first arena show,” Marshall says. “What amazes me and the entire team is just how much of a natural he is. And it even surprises his family because he never grew up on secular music … and he’d never seen a show. … a testament that this is what he’s supposed to be doing with his life, sharing his music with the world.”
Wasserman Music agent Lauren Marker, who represents d4vd with Brent Smith and Len Chenfeld, adds, “It’s rare to see an artist have the confidence and stage presence that d4vd does this early on. Not only does he sound incredible live but his ability to draw fans in with his energy and storytelling is impressive.”

The “My House Is Not A Home Tour” features gigs in North America and Europe including Toronto’s 1,500-cap Danforth Music Hall, the aforementioned three Fondas and London’s 1,500 KOKO – all of which are already sold out. Additional 2024 festival appearances include Boston Calling and Governors Ball.

Asked his favorite set in his short but already impressive live career, d4vd is quick to reference “The Valentino performance,” with a giant grin, while chatting with Pollstar over a video call. “I still can’t believe I did that,” he says of the June 16, 2023, set that featured three of his own songs and closed with a rendition of The Smiths’ “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out.”

He adds, “Shout out to [former Valentino creative director] Pierpaolo Piccioli … I still think about that performance every day. It was flawless. I usually have something to say about everything I do when I perform – I had no qualms about that performance.”
d4vd notes that Piccioli’s daughter, a fan of his music, showed her dad “Romantic Homicide” and suggested Piccioli book him for the Milan event.

Though the success of “Romantic Homicide” has been a highlight of d4vd’s career, The Darkroom General Manager Layne Cooperstein notes that the label has “worked really hard from the beginning to make sure that he didn’t come across as just a viral moment because he’s so much more than that.”

She adds that similar to his catalog of music, his live show “has a little bit of something for everybody” – including d4vd showing off his parkour skills with a backflip.
“His two biggest songs are ‘Romantic Homicide’ and ‘Here With Me,’ which are a little bit more chill and down tempo,” Cooperstein says.

“Maybe the expectation would be that that’s what the show feels like, but in reality a lot of it feels like a rock show. It’s super high energy, with the perfect balance of those down tempo intimate moments.”

d4vd shows off his parkour skills during a festival appearance at Laneway Australia in February 2024.

Last year d4vd released two EPs, Petals to Thorns and The Lost Petals, including a few collaborations released as singles including “Call Me Revenge” (with 21 Savage) and “This Is How It Feels” (with Laufey).

His latest single, “Feel It,” is an upbeat, high energy tune that his team notes has been getting 1 million streams a day on Spotify.

The track is featured in the Amazon Prime animated superhero series “Invincible,” with d4vd explaining in a statement that he wrote the funk-leaning song to feel “weightless — as if you were flying around” with the characters.

With all that he’s already accomplished in his burgeoning career, the 19-year-old artist remains full of enthusiasm for his future. He’s eager to continue exploring his new found love for fashion, expanding his live show with LED screens and additional backing musicians, and working on his debut album, due out later this year.

“Three songs into it; I want it to be 10 songs,” d4vd says. “Coming soon, this year. I’m excited. The last two projects I dropped, I had every song made already and we just put together the tracklist. So I’m starting from scratch this time. … I’m working with different producers and different studios but still coming back to making everything on my phone to keep it grounded and DIY. [I’m] just exploring different ways to make music, different sounds, learning to produce a little myself. Learning instruments as well.”
He adds, “I’m excited to grow as an artist this year.”