Category Archives: Interviews

Artist Management Series: Vanessa Magos

Like almost everything in the music industry over the years, the role of artist managers has changed. As independent artists gain more traction and power, there’s more at stake and more responsibility. All of this translates to the need for business development in pushing an artist’s career forward. And that means being on-call, setting expectations, negotiating deals and contracts, and handling areas of business once typically considered foreign to a manager.

In order to take a deeper dive into the ever-changing role of the artist manager in 2015, we’ll be interviewing some of the best in the independent music world throughout the month of July! From newcomers to veterans, from pop to alternative to country, we’re digging into daily lives of those who not only manage musicians, but actually challenge, support and push them to succeed.

First up is Vanessa Magos. Vanessa has been co-managing indie pop sensations VÉRITÉ and Betty Who under New Torch Entertainment, a three-year old management company based in New York City. She’s been on the grind non-stop for two years and enlightens us with her views and experiences on the management game thus far. Enjoy!

How did the artist/manager relationships that you’re currently involved in begin? Is there any ‘typical’ way this goes down in 2015?

Vanessa Magos: I feel that things are becoming much more personalized and self-sustained, both in the sense of the relationship between artist and manager and between artist and fans. Your relationship with the artist is critical; the bigger they get, the more challenges and insecurities they naturally face, and in a way you as the manager act as the core team between all the different moving pieces involved in the development process.

One of our artists, Betty Who, was a friend of mine before anything on the business end began, which definitely instilled trust since the beginning of our working relationship together. Betty and Ethan (Vanessa’s management partner and co-founder of New Torch Entertainment) went to college together and started everything from the ground up, so they have a really special connection there. With VÉRITÉ, we were introduced by her producer who was helping her look at management companies. We fell in love with the music and wanted to get involved. At the end of the day it’s making sure everyone is on the same page and has that shared vision for the project, no matter how or where you find each other initially.

In your two years of doing this, what have been some key lessons you’ve walked away with?

As a new manager I am constantly learning new lessons every day. One of the biggest things I learned quickly was that you are solely responsible for having the bigger perspective and understanding of the vision for the project.

What are the primary areas of business development that managers focus on in the first year of this partnership?

In the first year of an artist’s career you’re building the foundation that everything else will grow upon. You are bringing in the core members of the artists team…lawyer, publicist, agent, etc. that are going to be supporting the start of the artist’s career. But first and foremost, you and the artist are establishing your relationship and a shared vision and work ethic. Without a mutual vision and dedication to growth in an authentic way that supports the way the artist wants their career to unfold, things will waver. Focus is critical.

In your experiences, what are some of the biggest misconceptions of an artist manager’s role(s)? What did you go into it thinking?

Not many people really understand what a music manager does. From an outside perspective it may seem like either the artist or the manager is doing more than the other but the reality is that it is an extremely collaborative process. Neither the artist or the manager can do their job alone, and although their roles are very different, they both carry a lot of weight and need to meet each other halfway every step of the way.

The manager is the one person on the team involved in every aspect of an artist’s career. It’s a massive commitment. It’s such a complex thing – staying on top and managing all aspects of multiple projects. I feel that I’m constantly learning from others. I think people don’t realize how all-encompassing the role is. It’s a special position to be in because you have a bond with an artist that no one else does. You get to see such a different side that not a lot of other people get to see. Every high and every low.

Explain the importance of managing an artist’s expectations when it comes to getting the desired results of any given career goal.

I think the mentality of ‘always moving’ is important. We set quarterly goals, review them, and move on. With each set of goals, even if you have or haven’t accomplished them, you keep moving. You take a second to celebrate it, or you don’t, and you keep moving forward. I believe that maintaining consistent goals, and never letting yourself hit a ceiling is important because goals will change and evolve, and you have to keep it moving along. Humor always helps too.

vanessa magos photo by kate edwards
Vanessa Magos (photo by Kate Edwards)

Did Betty and/or VÉRITÉ have the resources of a label before entering your relationship? How do you go about building a team (booking, publicity, etc.)?

Neither Betty or VÉRITÉ had a label deal before working with New Torch. Ethan and Betty began working together in college and would brainstorm the project from its first days on their campus coffee shop between classes. VÉRITÉ was a waitress at Applebees who would record demos in her apartment at night after a 12 hour shift. Betty is now signed, and VÉRITÉ remains happily unsigned. Both projects are exciting and challenging in their own ways. As you build your team, things change and adjust, but at the end of the day, the manager is by the artist’s side first and foremost steering the ship.

We’ve been very fortunate with both of these projects to have amazing teams of dedicated and passionate people supporting each of them every step of the way.

When it comes to being presented with a label deal for an artist in 2015, what factors do the artist/manager team have to take into consideration?

I think what it comes down to is making sure that the label is on the same page as the artist. You don’t want to get into a deal simply for the sake of feeling cool and having a record deal and then a year into that relationship find out that you’re not on the same page with the artist’s overall vision. That’s hard and tricky to navigate, but it’s the artist and manager’s job to consistently be in communication with the label and make sure everyone is constantly aligned. It’s very easy for things to shift off-course if communication isn’t strong. Early on is the most important time to have those conversations and ensure everything is working as it should internally.

How important is music publishing to the artist manager in maximizing the artist’s catalog? What kind of role do they play in staying on top of it?

I think publishing is a huge and important thing, and it’s something I’m constantly focused on for our artists. For us, we want to keep an open dialogue with the artists’ publisher; whether that be sending them new music, pitching new collaboration ideas, pushing their synch department, etc. We do whatever it takes to make sure our artists are at the forefront of peoples’ minds.

Interview: Emily Fullerton on Balancing College & a Career in Music

TuneCore Artists come in all shapes and sizes: from hobbyists to full-time touring musicians, singer/songwriters and MCs to indie rockers and classical pianists. No matter how they differ, each is leading their own unique musical journey with ups and downs, struggles and opportunities. We do our best to offer a platform for different TuneCore Artists to share their stories, as we know without a doubt others in the community will relate!

Enter pop artist/songwriter Emily Fullerton. Balancing a music-focused college career and a budding music career, Emily attends Belmont University and lives in Nashville. Both the city and the school are destinations for aspiring artists, so she is not alone! Like other independent artists in her position, Emily must both complete a four-year education while building a network within a crowded music scene. She’s released her debut EP Daylight and her latest single “Take Off” via TuneCore. Emily has also been invited to be on a web series called Road To Nashville. We wanted to know how one works to use all of these experiences to complement each other, (while also maintaining some level of sanity), so we invited her to discuss it! Read more below.

Deciding to go to school for music requires commitment. When did you know for sure you wanted to pursue a career in songwriting?

Emily Fullerton: I took group guitar lessons after school when I was 10. The first songs I learned were by The Beatles. I loved it and knew I wanted to make music.

What kinds of efforts have you made during your schooling to better prepare yourself as a businessperson?

I’ve been networking like crazy. I go to Belmont University in Nashville and while you don’t have to do the academic thing to be in music, being here has really helped me make connections with people. The professors and mentors want to be there for you as a person, artist, and songwriter. They want to see you do well and they are always willing to help you out.

I’ve had some pretty cool opportunities come my way while living in Nashville and every single one was sparked by a connection from Belmont, whether it be a professor, classmate, or a friend. I don’t really like using the term ‘networking’ but that’s what it is. I believe that I’ll get to where I need to be in the business through the relationships I have with people.   

How would you compare those efforts to the experience of getting out there and gaining real life music business experience?

So far, I think it has been a balance between the classroom and ‘getting out there’. I have classes that teach me about publishers, PROs, and labels. There is a lot to learn about the business side and I want to learn as much as I can. But I also get out there and perform as much as I can. I do writers rounds at different venues in Nashville, and I have had a few opportunities to play in DC and some other events as well.

On that same note, what kind of network have you started to building in Nashville and on campus?

Like I said before, Belmont is a great school for making connections; the relationships I have made there with the professors, mentors and my friends have opened up a bunch of opportunities for me. When I was in high school, I hosted a benefit concert at the Hard Rock in DC for a school project. One of my mentors connected me with Richard On of O.A.R., and he has helped me a lot through encouragement and advice throughout this whole process. I guess I have been building the network since I really started getting serious, and Belmont and Nashville have been huge catalysts. But I got started on the right path with help from Richard and a few others.

Emily & Richard On of O.A.R.

What were your expectations of a city like Nashville? Were there any misconceptions?

Coming from Washington, DC, my definition of a city is very different from Nashville. I didn’t quite understand how different life would be like without a major metro system or a lot of diversity, (whether that’s ethnically, economically, or politically). I knew that Nashville was going to be an amazing place for me to grow as an artist and songwriter. I wasn’t wrong about that. I was wrong about how different life in Nashville would be compared to DC. I’m a city girl at heart: I love walking everywhere, dealing with the crazies on the street, and that fast paced environment you feel when you’re in a city like DC.

Nashville is a great place, it’s the pace that’s different. I have to say I am still learning how to adjust to these things. There is something very magical about the “laid back-ness” of the south. People are so nice to you. That “southern hospitality” is real. They claim that DC is still the south but people aren’t as nice there as they are in Nashville. I’m glad that I have had the chance to make Nashville a part of my journey. It’s such a vibrant and cool place for an artist and songwriter to learn and grow.

Have you found mentors and resources for inspiration in a city buzzing with likeminded musicians? Or is there a competitive nature to the scene?

I think going after a career in music puts you in a lot of sink-or-swim situations. You’re either going to crumble under the pressure to be different and talented, or you’re going to hustle and be yourself throughout the entire process. Yes, there is a competitive nature in Nashville and at Belmont, but it’s nothing compared to what I’ve heard about L.A. or New York.

One of the most inspiring parts of my Nashville experience has been going to songwriting class at school. I’m not sure why, but there is something that seems so powerful to me about a group of young aspiring songwriters who are all committed to helping each other grow. It’s magical, heartbreaking, and encouraging all at the same time.

How did you discover TuneCore, and how has it played into your overall musical journey?

I discovered TuneCore during the summer of 2013. One of my favorite producers from the D.M.V. area, Mark Williams at Sucker Punch Recording Co., told me about TuneCore. A lot of artists and bands he had worked with used it, so I checked it out. It has been a great and easy way to get my music out there. As an independent artist, the process of creating and sharing one’s music can be very intimidating, but TuneCore helps simplify the process.

Tell us about Road To Nashville and your experience on the web series.

Road To Nashville is a reality web series on AwesomenessTV based on the lives of five singer/songwriters in Nashville. I was one of the five featured cast members and let me tell you, it was a blast. The entire process of being on a web show was incredible. From the audition to the last episode, I feel like I learned so much from the experience. I learned how to be comfortable in front of the camera, how I wanted to be perceived as an artist on camera (including how I did my makeup, hair, wardrobe etc.), and I also got to meet some pretty cool people along the way.

During the entire filming of the show, we had a vocal coach, live performances, studio time, and interview sessions. This is one of those opportunities that I came across through a connection with a former Belmont student. I didn’t even know exactly what I was auditioning for when I got there because it was such a last minute thing, but it ended up working out in a pretty cool way.

What advice would you offer to a high school or college aged songwriter considering enrolling in a program like the one you’re in?

I would say make sure that music is your ultimate passion. Music programs are competitive and the business is even more competitive. If you feel like this is what you’re meant to do, no one can stop you, but many will try to. Work hard, don’t get discouraged, and be ready for the challenges and rejection. This sounds pretty harsh but it’s true. College is an investment no matter what, it’s a student’s responsibility to get as much out of it personally, artistically, and socially as possible.

Take advantage of the programs your school has but also take advantage of the city that you’re living in. I still have to tell myself over and over again that every song I write will not be good. Every live performance will not be flawless. It’s okay. These opportunities are designed to build and nurture you. I’ve had an amazing experience so far; attending a music school is a great place to start if you’re looking to become an artist, songwriter, or any part of the music industry.

Statik Selektah Talks SiriusXM Radio

Statik Selektah is more than just the host of ShowOff Radio (which he shares a name with his label) on Eminem’s Shade 45 SiriusXM station each Thursday night. He’s an accomplished producer and DJ, bringing back the classic boom-bap sounds of iconic 90s hip hop and providing beats for up-and-coming and veteran artists alike. His ability to release albums packed to the brim with hard hitting feature artists coupled with his skills to help break new MCs has made Statik a sought after producer.

Prior to his time at SiriusXM, his terrestrial radio career includes DJing at seven different stations, from around his native New England over to the west coast and even down to Alabama. Collaborative efforts with the likes of Termanology, Action Bronson, Freeway, Freddie Gibbs and others have only bolstered Statik’s resume further, making him an ideal radio host to introduce thirsty ears to new sounds in hip hop.

To get a better understanding of what it’s like to produce and host on SiriusXM, we asked Statik Selektah about the benefits of satellite radio, advice for getting heard as an independent artist, and more:

Aside from releasing albums and producing tracks for some of todays hottest and rising MC’s, you’ve been in the radio game since the 90s. How has your time at SiriusXM/Shade 45 differed from the various terrestrial stations you’ve spun at?
Statik Selektah: It’s been great because I have millions of listeners, and no rules! I take pride in a lot of the artists I’ve broke there, such as Joey Bada$$, Action Bronson, Mack Miller, Freddie Gibbs, Chance The Rapper, etc. The list goes on. They trust my ear.


Growing up around Boston, what fascinated you about radio? Who were your terrestrial DJ idols and how did they impact your music discovery?
Funk Flex was definitely #1 for radio, but as far as local in Boston, Geespin, Clinton Sparks, and Chubby Chub taught me a lot and gave me a shot. It taught me the industry at an early age.


For those who don’t know, can you explain the music programming process that stations and DJs go through at SiriusXM?
If you have your own show at Sirius in the first place, that means they respect your ear and what your brand is. So Paul and Reef at Shade 45 just let me do me. In the last 9 years, they have only stepped in once or twice telling me to tone it down, haha.


What do you feel are the major benefits and disadvantages of satellite radio as a whole?
There are no disadvantages. The benefits are that all of North America is listening. You never know who and where!


Has hosting ShowOff Radio been a vehicle for promoting artists you’ve worked with/your own releases?
Of course. I break all my label’s new stuff on our show, as well as through other DJs up there like Tony Touch, Revolution, Premier, Eclipse, Lord Sear & Scram Jones.


Do you feel you’ve been able to get greater exposure for hip hop artists you respect and listen to versus the reach of terrestrial radio?
No question. I get to bring up a lot of 90s artists as well as break new talent no one has ever heard. Where else does that happen?


You’re likely used to receiving unsolicited music from indie artists. How do you separate your efforts of reviewing music as a producer versus as a DJ? Or are they one and the same?
They are one in the same, but the difference is, my production and time isn’t free. But if I love a new record from an artist I’ve never heard that I come across, I’ll give them a look on the show. I also have the Showoff Casino on ShowOff Hip Hop’s website for new artists to kinda cut the line of getting heard!


What are some of the most common mistakes you see from independent artists looking to get their tracks spun on ShowOff Radio?
Being too aggressive, or acting like I owe them something. Don’t burn a bridge you haven’t crossed. There is protocol.


What’s the craziest thing an artist has done to get your ears, both during your time on terrestrial radio and on Shade 45?
Haha! Where do I start? I’ve seen it all. The smartest thing to do is to buy a beat off me and make something dope! That will get my attention, haha. Sending me 100 emails about how some internet station played your song doesn’t help. If I don’t like it, that’s it.


What kind of tips can you offer artists (hip hop and otherwise) that want to get heard by DJs that host shows on satellite radio?
Create a buzz online first. Or on the popular blogs or in your city. Don’t spam on Twitter or Instagram. That’s the worst.


What are your thoughts on the future of satellite, Internet and terrestrial radio formats?
It’s gonna get interesting. Digital has definitely taken over. All the stuck up rules of FM commercial radio is for the birds!

Be sure to tune into Statik Selektah’s ShowOff Radio on Shade45, Thursday nights 8pm-midnight, and check his website for new singles and mix tapes.

Interview: Charlie Peacock Talks Music Career & The Overdub Hub

Charlie Peacock has had a busy career in music. As an artist, songwriter and producer, he began in the 1980s aligned with A&M, Island and Sparrow/EMI. Charlie was named by Billboard’s Encyclopedia of Record Producers as on the 500 most important producers in music history, and for a good reason: he’s played a role in the careers of hit-making artists such as Amy Grant, Switchfoot, and The Civil Wars. In fact, Charlie earned Grammys for Best Folk Album and Country Duo Performance (twice) thanks to his work with the Civil Wars!

Charlie has continued to push the barriers of his own song and music writing – his most recent recordings have jumped between the jazz/improvisational and folk/Americana genres, displaying Peacock’s diverse range of musical talent. On top of all of this, Charlie is also an A&R consultant for Downtown Music Publishing, the Director of Contemporary Music and Industry Outreach at Lipscomb University, and the Founder/President of The Overdub Hub – a new, innovative service that provides access to reputable producers, engineers and session musicians to artists of all genres looking to complete their projects.

We got the chance to interview Charlie Peacock about his musical career, partnering with TuneCore and his latest venture, The Overdub Hub:

Music runs in your family. When did you first know you wanted to pursue a life in music?

My father was a musician and a huge inspiration to me, so it’s difficult to locate a time when I wasn’t pursuing a life in music. I suppose freshman year of high school was the year of ‘never turning back’. I recorded my first songs and while on vacation in southern California that summer, my dad took me to David Geffen’s office on Sunset Blvd. so I could drop my songs off in person. I received my cassettes back with a wonderfully positive rejection letter a month or so later.

How has your experience playing in instrumental ensembles impacted your style of production?

It embedded within me musical values that I still pursue today – passionate playing, dynamics, careful listening, only playing just a little bit louder than the person to your left or right, timing and tuning – fundamental things like that. When looked after in a natural non-dogmatic way, your productions are hopefully, dare I say, more musical.

What inspires you to write these days?

Everything! It could be a story from half-way around the world, a new Pro Tools plug-in, a writing assignment from my publisher, or something very personal to me that needs to become a song. I keep my satellite scanning the earth and skies for inspiration. It never lets me down.

Tell us about going from being in the crowd during The Civil Wars’ first concert to producing two of their smash albums!

Anyone who was there that first night won’t forget the feeling of witnessing a little pop music history. Seamless, winsome, essential, breathtaking are a few words that come to mind. And then we literally went right into the studio creating the first EP. It was an amazing five year ride. Hate that it ended so abruptly as it did, but groups, even duos, can be a very temporary thing. I’m grateful I got to produce the majority of the catalog, no matter how short-lived it was.

Having a career that spans several decades in a drastically changing music industry, what are some major challenges you see for indie artists these days? Conversely, what kind of advantages for artists do you think lie in today’s market?

Well, we know there has never been a more empowering time for indies than today. The tools for self-promotion and distribution are phenomenal – TuneCore being a major piece of this infrastructure – so that’s the advantage. As you know, The Civil Wars’ Barton Hollow was independent with digital distribution via TuneCore and it was a Gold album. This was and still is, exceptional. So big success is available to the indie artist.
But, you can’t chase exceptions. In the normal course of events for indies it’s one very small victory at a time, hopefully by year’s end, adding up to making a living at what you love. But, it’s very, very hard work. I think it’s becoming apparent that there’s a ceiling on what the average indie can achieve – simply because you’re usually just one small person against the world. Not everyone is Amanda Palmer or The Civil Wars. All that said, it’s exhilarating to control your own destiny and actually succeed at it. Ups and downs aside, I would never discourage anyone from that experience.

What advice do you have for independent artists who are looking to further their career but cannot afford to hire a producer?

One of the remedies that I’ve looked at is to give independent artists access to great engineers and musicians. This can go a long ways in improving the music when a major producer is not an option – most major engineers and studio musicians are able to use their huge diversity of experience to make great contributions to songs, with or without a formal producer. It’s one of the reasons why I started something called The Overdub Hub.

Tell us more about The Overdub Hub and how it can help indie artists of varying genres.

The Overdub Hub is an exclusive aggregator website that I curate. It’s a very simple way for artists, songwriters, and producers to get direct and easy access to the same musicians and engineers I use every day on my own productions (The Civil Wars, Chris Cornell, The Lone Bellow, Joy Williams). It’s a pretty exclusive, limited stable of players who share me in common. It’s Nashville-centric and represents some of the very best of the ‘New Nashville Sound’ – whether it’s country, rock, pop, singer-songwriter, folk-Americana or beyond.

I think The Overdub Hub’s number one source of help for indie creatives is to put them with the very best when they are ready for it – and to do it an affordable way. Another upside to a curated access site like this, is that I make my production notes, signal chains, and stories on the players available to the Premium Members – this is like getting several hours of direct consultation with me – basically telling you: ‘Here’s how we do it.’

Screen Shot 2015-04-06 at 12.55.32 PM

What inspired you to address the issue of booking session musicians and create the Overdub Hub?

It’s all about access. I want people to have access to great talent and to grow as artistic people. I get asked to produce so many artists that I simply don’t have the time to – it’s not lack of interest, it’s time. But as a session player, I might have time to create a Wurli piano part for them or recommend a great guitar player – the same player I just used on a hit record, or a critically acclaimed indie release. So, it seemed to me that putting great engineers, background vocalists, and session players in front of the indie community was a solid way of contributing without having to be in a hundred places at once – which I understand is still impossible.

At what career levels do you anticipate artists will find a solution in The Overdub Hub?

The primary level is the talented, forward-thinking indie songwriter, artist and producer. I think they will get the most out of the experience. It requires that they have a little funding for their music, but not as much as some might think. Most, if not all of, The Overdub Hub players have agreed to work at a scale of $100-200 an hour. And there’s not one of them that can’t get a whole lot of music done in an hour. But it’s democratic and egalitarian – come one, come all.

Given your career and various roles in other artists’ careers, how do you view TuneCore in the grand scheme of an ever-evolving music industry?

I hope it’s not too much of a suck-up to say essential! I use TuneCore exclusively for my own music and all my artist development projects. My Top 5 Billboard Jazz recording Lemonade went through TuneCore as did Lenachka, and the recent Kris Allen record I produced. The more TuneCore can effectively be a comprehensive one-stop shop for distribution and administration, the more it becomes invaluable. Personally, I see it making all the right moves for this time in music business history.

Tell us about some other projects you’ve been involved with, recent past and right now. Any cool TuneCore Artists?

In addition to The Overdub Hub, three very major and important projects for me are: my alignment with Downtown Music Publishing as a writer/publisher and Sr. A&R consultant, my appointment as Director of Contemporary Music & Industry Outreach at Lipscomb University here in Nashville, and my role as curator/co-director for this summer’s Ottaquechee Farm Songwriters Festival in Bridgewater, Vermont. Production-wise, the new Joy Williams record for Columbia will come out this year, as will Angelica Garcia for Warner Brothers. My production and co-write with Joy and Matt Berninger of The National was renewed this year as the title theme for the AMC drama, TURN: Washington’s Spies. Also watch for ChessBoxer, Peyton Parker, Shawn Conerton, Gracie Schram, and the Tiny Fire Collective. Every year I launch several artists via TuneCore. 2015 and beyond won’t be any different!

TuneCore Artist Silento’s “Watch Me” Goes Viral

If you’re a regular reader you know that the TuneCore Blog is here to offer news, advice and tips for independent artists looking to advance their musical careers. If “going viral” were something we could simply and practically suggest to every artist, we would! But anyone using platforms like YouTube and Vine, whether to promote themselves or entertain themselves, knows that the ‘viral phenomenon’ is just that – a phenomenon.

A couple of months back, little-known Atlanta hip hop artist Silento released his track, “Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae)“, produced and co-written by Bolo Da Producer and distributed to online stores via TuneCore. By early March, “Watch Me” had broke into Billboard’s March Hot 100, climbing to #69. Not a bad jump for an unsigned, 17-year old with no prior recordings released, right?

The reason “Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae)” has seen such success isn’t just thanks to its contagious beat and catchy hook – it’s the dance that the chorus instructs listeners to break into that really helped this song explode. Or should we say, two dances:

“The Whip and the Nae Nae were two different dances. I just got tired of seeing people do them so I started doing my own rendition where I was doing them both!” Silento says.

Now watch me Whip / Now watchme Nae Nae“, the song goes. Well, thousands of listeners decided to follow those instructions and take to Vine and YouTube to show off their dance skills to the soundtrack of “Watch Me”, resulting in nearly 21 million views and a total of 35 million minutes watched. Silento and his producer, Bolo Da Producer, are working with TuneCore to collect all their eligible revenue from multiple channels. That means getting 100% of iTunes download revenue and money from the sound recordings on YouTube when ads have been placed on videos using their music. Adding to the revenue stream are the worldwide songwriter royalties TuneCore Music Publishing Administration will find and collect for them from 60 countries.

Everyone from toddlers and parents to costumed individuals and street dance crews has contributed a rendition of the dance-craze, and it’s tough not to crack a smile while watching them!

Much like dance sensations such as the ‘Harlem Shake‘ and the ‘Dougie‘, “Watch Me” began as a regional phenomenon. Silento achieved some local support with his song before he even recorded it. He tells us, “I had been singing it and dancing to it in school already. People were always asking me to do it, they already knew it.” So when the song began to go viral, it was no surprise to the young artist: “When people are asking you do something repeatedly, it’s like, you just know. People liked it, so I kept doing my dances!”

In 2015, this kind of attention can make you an instant star – especially among a younger, plugged-in demographic. When asked how the success of “Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae)” has affected him as a high school kid, he modestly answered, “It hasn’t, really. I’m still the same – I’m still me, you know? I guess now some people, they look at me like, “You’re famous.” But you know, it hasn’t really changed me at all.”

Of all the thousands of Vines and YouTube videos using his song, Silento says that some of his favorites were those that incorporated children and their parents dancing. One awesome element of viral hits like “Watch Me” is that they sometimes get picked up and used in videos by celebrities and athletes. When we asked him who he’d love to see whipping it/doing the Nae Nae, Silento gave us an answer many artists would support: “Obama!”

When discussing the future, he sounds optimistic and confident, and why shouldn’t he? In terms of riding this momentum and where he sees himself in 5 years, Silento says, “I already am, you know? I got remixes, a dance album [to come] – I’m already doing it. I see myself on a stage…and definitely bigger [as an artist] than I am right now!”

TuneCore is excited to be apart of Silento’s and Bolo Da Producer’s musical journey – collecting their download/streaming sales, worldwide songwriter royalties, and YouTube Sound Recording revenue as they ride the wave of this fun, viral dance craze. We’re getting the feeling that 2015 will be the year of “Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae)“!

SXSW Interview: Derek Minor

Derek Minor has been having a great year: extensive U.S. touring, his latest release, Empire, debuted at 54 on the Billboard Top 200 charts, ranking even higher on the iTunes Hip Hop and Christian/Gospel charts, and now he returns to SXSW with his label, Reflection Music Group, to keep the momentum going!

We interviewed Derek about his career – past, present and future – last year, and we’re psyched to chat with him after the release of Empire as he prepares to join TuneCore, Swisher SweetsMirrored MediaCraveOnline and DropKloud for our TuneCore Live Austin party this Friday, March 20th during SXSW!

A lot has happened since the last time we chatted! How does it feel to have had Empire charting on Billboard, and what kind of role did TuneCore play for you in the past year?

Derek Minor: If feels really good to be able to chart on Billboard! Billboard is one of those staples for every artist as a barometer as to what’s happening in your music career and how to feel about what you’re doing, so I’m super honored to be able to be recognized by Billboard. The thing I love about Tune Core is it gives the artist the ability to take their career in their own hands. We’ve been using Tune Core for a long, long time – since we first started putting stuff out digitally. They’ve always been user friendly, they’ve always been indie artist friendly, and that’s beautiful because oftentimes people try to take advantage of indie artists, or they over-tax, but I think Tune Core just wants us to put out amazing music, and they want to be a part of it. And that’s awesome! I love that about it.

Tell us a little bit about your past SXSW experience. Are there any key takeaways you’re keeping in mind this year?

One of my highlights of my SXSW experience was when I got to see Nas. It was awesome hearing him walk through his career and talk about how Steve Stoute played a major role in that. I also got to see Kendrick Lamar before Good Kid M.a.a.d. City came out – he was a very humble person. What I love about SXSW is you really get a chance to meet artists and they’re very down to earth.

The TuneCore showcase. That’s something I’m looking forward to and the thing I love about this time is that I get the chance to actually meet the people in person that have had such an instrumental role in my career building Reflection Music Group. TuneCore has been for us from day one.

What do you feel are some the challenges facing unsigned artists at a massive event like SXSW?

Well, there are so many signed and unsigned artists. I think oftentimes artists come in with the perspective of ‘I-wanna-take-over-the-world!’ and there’s so many things to do. But I think for an artist that comes in with a very specific plan there are tons of opportunities. Even if you just go to the classes and don’t network you learn so much. So going in with a plan is the biggest challenge, because SXSW is so huge now.

What are some moves you think indie MC’s & producers can make to truly capitalize on their trip to SXSW?

I think you should go to as many showcases and classes as you can because I’ve met a ton of producers and other artists, and you never know – there’s so many networking opportunities! There are many vendors and all of that, so if you’re into DJing or producing there are vendors that do that stuff and make the equipment and walk you through some of the tools and add to your knowledge.

Will you be touring before and/or after your time in Austin?

Yes, the Now Until Forever Tour with Propaganda and KJ52 starts right after SXSW. It’s just exciting to go to SXSW in the first place, so it’s awesome to have that energy and hopefully carry it into the tour, so I’m super excited for that.

As a music fan, are there any acts or events you’re looking forward to (if you actually get some downtime to enjoy them!)?

For me – I really want to go and discover new bands. I remember when I found out about The Neighbourhood at SXSW. I’d never heard of them, and for me its being able to say, “Hey, I’ve never heard of this band before. Lets go check them out”. That’s what I most look forward to – seeing people I’ve never heard of.

As the co-founder of a label, would you say that you approach a music business hotbed like SXSW differently than your average artist may?

Definitely. I’m always looking for new talent and I’m always looking for producers and DJs to help enhance what my artists are doing, as well as my own music. My business partner Doc Watson, he meets with the people who are in suits every day – so that’s the thing I love. We get the opportunity to meet everyone while we’re there. I definitely think I approach it a little differently.

Will you be on the outlook for new artists to sign at the various shows you perform and attend?

Yeah, always!

Aside from performing and networking, what do you personally enjoy about/looking forward to most about SXSW?

My whole record label and all of my artists are going to be there, so I’m really looking forward to connecting with them. We kind of look at it as a retreat. We get to enrich our brains and see some cool bands, and we’re also going to have a little RMG barbecue while we’re out there, so it’s going to be pretty sweet.