Derek Walin is a South Florida native, born and in Boca Raton. He has made his own way in the music business, creating two careers, both as a successful DJ, and as one of the founders of Super Music Group who represents some incredible talent like Amtrac, Posso, DJ Craze, Rob Banks, Mike Deuce, Sluggers, and more. Those artists regularly play at the biggest electronic music festivals and at major clubs all over the country, and share the stage with huge names like Kaskade, Mark Knight, Mad Decent, Tommy Trash, A-Trak, and the list goes on and on.
Walin has spent the last few years playing some of South Florida's biggest clubs and traveling the country as both an artist and a manager. I spoke with him to discuss his 2015 plans for his solo career and for SMG. You can see him perform live in Fort Lauderdale at Vibe Las Olas on March 21.
New Times: What was the music scene like in South Florida when you were growing up? How has it changed?
Derek Walin: Middle school was all about hip-hop for me. I remember seeing The Roots at Revolution Live when I was 14, and I was just like, "Yes, this is it." There was a really positive scene of young DJs, b-boys, MCs, in South Florida that I got to hang with at a very young age. Everyone would get together and throw b-boy Jams. A memorable one I DJed they booked KRS-One to perform, and I had to play for his performance.... I was in way over my head with that one.
In high school, I was all about electronic music. I would skip school for a week every march and just get lost around Miami Beach for WMC. Aside from March, South Beach was always close-by and a good early exposure to nightlife. By 17 and 18 my friends and I were definitely finding our way into Prive, Deck 23, Suite, Space on occasion.
Today, I think a lot more music comes to South Florida overall. Bands used to stop the routing at Orlando or Tampa. They didn't want to drive all the way down here. South Florida has become a must-stop market for big bands and small acts too.
What do you have planned for your solo DJ career this year?
My solo DJ career this year is going to be pretty chill. About a year ago, I decided to kind of relax on my personal DJ career and focus 100% on our Super Music clients. I still DJ all the time though, it's too fun to stop. You can catch me opening at LIV Fontainebleau on Fridays, as well as some nights at Hyde Beach SLS Hotel and Vibe Las Olas in Fort Lauderdale, and I always end up picking up random dates around Miami Beach. Lots of private events too. Can't lie, they're my favorite to DJ.
I know Super Music Group partnered with Poplife last year. What is that relationship like?
It is a great relationship. Poplife are our partners in the management company. We share an office and some staff. They just celebrated their 15 year anniversary throwing awesome concerts and events in Miami and its been a fun and rewarding partnership for both companies. We definitely operate as one big family.
How do you pick artists to be on the roster? It is a very diverse lineup.
We work with artists that we believe in as musicians and as people. We ask ourselves a few questions before we sign a new act: Do we love the music? Do we love the artist as a person? Can we add value to the project? Do we believe this artist can have a long and successful career? Genre is really an afterthought for us, we do have a lot of artists in the dance world but we love all music.
What are some of SMG's strategies for getting your artists attention from media and music blogs?
Having a story beyond just the music. Why should people care about and connect with this artist beyond having great music? Usually whoever answers that best wins in the world of press. Also it's about targeting the right people. We don't send Amtrac and Robb Bank$ Press Releases to the same list.
Do you guys have any events for WMC or any other local Miami events in the next couple months?
Yes. We're going to release a full WMC lineup that includes all of our artists' gigs for the week very very soon.
Any new artists you're excited about?
Yes. Our guy Wuki from Denver is doing awesome right now. So is Ape Drums from Houston. Both of them are bringing their own unique sound to a wider dance audience and it's a really exciting time for both of them, 2015 is lookin' huge for both.
Also I have to say the POSSO girls are hard at work making some super fun dance records that I cannot wait for them to release. There's a lot of great stuff ahead for them.
Do you think it's important for artists and people working in the industry in 2015 to have more than one "career" at a time? It seems like a lot of artists are also designers, or run a fashion line, or they run a label and throw their own parties.
For artists its yes and no. It's a nuanced thing. If feels forced its just whack. If it comes naturally and they do it well then it can 100% elevate your brand to the next level. Using some of our clients as examples, DZA throws the best parties (seriously, check out DZA's House Monthly on a Saturday or Peachfuzz every Friday). POSSO are incredible designers. Amtrac likes to score films.
For people in the industry that's just kind of the age we live in. Not too many years ago if you wanted to be in the music biz you'd head out to NY or LA for an internship with a major label or to be an assistant at an agency. There was a pretty clear path. You can still do that, but today, it's all about taking it into your own hands. It seems like everyone has a few jobs, a few side hustles. The next David Geffen or Jimmy Iovine is probably driving an Uber right now.