My Winter Music Conference Report; Vol. 1

You might be asking, where have I been these past few weeks? Well, things have been just so hectic with work and school I just haven’t found the right time to blog. Finally, I’ve just now gotten the chance to kick back and write about my WMC experience.

This year, my girlfriend Missy and I hit the Winter Music Conference in South Beach, Miami. Her first time, I think she was a little confused at first about the purpose of it all, but as she got into it and even attended a panel, she began to realize there is much more to the dance music industry than meets the eye. The stereotype about dance music and DJ culture can be a negative one, associated with drugs, alchohol and a carefree attitude of excess. When the reality is–like in any industry–there are your bad apples and then there’s a lot of hard working and positive people for who this is their career, just like someone would choose accounting or being a car mechanic. Worldwide, there are three or four very important conferences where DJs and record labels congregate to do business: the Winter Music Conference, Amsterdam Dance Event, Popkomm, DJ Times Expo, and the M3 Summit among others. For Missy, who doesn’t have much experience with DJ culture, it was definitely an eye-opening experience.

My goal this year was to keep things low key this year, as it was my first year back to the conference since the dotcom crash in 2000/2001. I wanted to get a lay of the land and see what’s changed about the conference and what hasn’t since I’d been gone. My first impression was that its location at the Wyndham Hotel and Resort–where it has resided the past few years–isn’t as bad as when it took place way uptown at the Radisson Deauville, after moving from its long-time home, the Fountainbleau Hilton. It’s not as far from the Ocean Drive, but I still wish one day the conference would move to a hotel closer to Ocean Drive to be more integrated with the parties and bar events that labels and promoters throw during conference hours. But there just isn’t a hotel in that area that have conference rooms that can accomodate the panels or have reasonably priced rooms for conference attendees to afford. With hotels hiking up the price of rooms during the WMC, it’s not likely to happen soon.

Flying Jet Blue into Ft. Lauderdale, Missy and i picked up a car from Enterprise and headed south to Miami. We arrived at the Wyndham the 2nd day of the conference, Saturday, and just a few hours before I was to participate on the Music Marketing panel. After checking in with DJ Sufi, the conference panel coordinator, I bumped into Broken Record’s founder, Jesse Saunders. Credited with the first ever house music recording, Saunder’s has been travelling the world spreading the gospel of house for many, many years. While we waited for our conference badges in the registration area, we got to talking and I learned that he now resides in Las Vegas, where he’s not only running Broken Records, the label, but he’s also invested in a few parcels of real estate as well. Very smart of him to do so, I told him! DJs do need to think about other sources of income, because as high profile as DJing is, income at times can be inconsistent. It takes discipline with your money to plan for the future after the last record stops spinning.

I received my panel pass and was ready to mingle, but first Missy and I headed poolside for a quick bite. As I headed for the door, I bumped into mix-show DJ and record producer, Chris “The Greek” Panaghi, John Parker from Robbins Entertainment and Carey Vance from Promo Only. They were discussing servicing records to Internet mix-show DJs and Carey went one to say that even though he realizes the importance of breaking records via the web, the tracking mechanisms and mass-listenership just isn’t there yet to justify the costs or the time invested into servicing online DJs with product.

As an internet mix-show DJ myself, even though I’d love to say that he’s wrong, I can’t because i do believe he’s right. Although there are a ton of Internet mix-shows online, there’s little in terms of organization. Featured DJs are mainly local talent who don’t, through a confulence of circumstances, have large enough a profile or make an impact on the market; enough so to justify the time and attetion that it would take for a promotions person like Carey to talk with on a weekly basis.

The single most pressing problem is tracking online mix-show spins. Radio has BDS (Broadcast Data Systems), and until that changes for the web, we are stuck in a reporting rut with no clear solution in sight. Many Internet music-tracking experts claim dance music is too hard to track, because of pitching and mixing tracks over one another, but I think there’s got to be someone smart enough to figure put their mind to it and figure it out, because once that happens, the door opens in a variety of different ways to generate revenues and provide the necessary information to the people who will support the model financially.

Breaking away from the conversation, we enjoyed lunch before the Music Marketing panel, which was moderated by Dan Miller from the Dixie Dance Kings. The panel was more of an open forum where we took questions from the audience of how to market dance music both online and off with small budgets vs. the budgets of major and large independent labels. Suggestions included a lot of grass roots suggestions, like working with art galleries or restaurants to either DJ or feature your singers. Going out to a mall, a time honored tradition, to perorm was also suggested. Of course, then there’s MySpace, which was mentioned over and over again. But, I warned the audience not to soley be reliant on MySpace as the only place to market your artists online. Although it is a very powerful tool, once everyone else focuses their attention on MySpace, it’s over 70 Million members will be bombarded with messages and promotions that may backfire. It’s always good to spread out your promotions among many sites, including Friendster, Facebook, Bebo, PureVolume, and Mercora and others who are also growing powerful music communities.

After the Marketing Panel, we headed back to our hotel to get ready for dinner on Lincoln Road with some friends. Then, it would be on to the X-Mix part at Shine at the Shelborne Hotel, which was off the hook. To follow are photos from the party where Madsol Desar, Stretch Armstong, Lenny B., DJ Sneak, Todd Terry, Mark Farina, Armand Van Helden, and Junior Sanchez took over the decks for the night.

Lenny B spins at X-Mix
Lenny B on the decks!
Party People at X-Mix Party
Party people at the X-Mix event!
Madsol Desar
Madsol Desar works the decks in the Lounge!
DJ Sneak in the light!
DJ Sneak making it happen!
Liquid Music Crew
Liquid Music in the hizz-ouse!
MySpace girl sticks around!
MySpace girl gets stuck!
Looking good, feeling good!
Does it get any better than this?
Stacey from LA in the house at X-Mix
Yes, it does! Stacey from LA having a fantastic time!
Todd Terry mixes it up at X-Mix party
Todd Terry, one of my all time favorite’s, in the mix!
Armand Van Helden at X-Mix Party
Van Helden’s set was so deep, it was almost ghostly!
Mark Farina at X-Mix at Shine at the Shelborne Hotel
Mark Farina
The party happening in the DJ booth
The party went from the floor and infiltrated the DJ booth!
It's all about the creative lighting
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