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.

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