Winter Music Conference over the past few decades has struggled to live up to its historical significance as the original place where dance music professionals gathered each year to discuss industry topics and come up with ways to push the genre forward for the next year. It became less organized compared to the slick machine of Ultra Music festival, sometimes occurring after the big event as Miami Music Week parties started to overtake the business in importance. What was once a massive week for the industry had been overshadowed by consumer-facing events and Ultra.
The event was all but left for dead last year, but after being bought by Ultra, given adequate resources and time to organize the conference, WMC came roaring back to life in 2019 with praise from both the industry at large and attendees, a good chunk of which had never attended the conference before.
WMC took place March 25-28 at the Faena District on Miami Beach. Over the four days, there were parties, industry panels, networking events, tech demonstrations, education sessions and much more. Over 1,200 attendees attended from around the world hoping this new iteration would live up to the hype. Though WMC is an obvious destination for US dance music industry and fans, English was often not the first language you would hear walking around the hallways - the international set is back in a big way once again.
The panels got underway on Tuesday, March 26 with a hectic day across five rooms. There was the main hall with an impressive giant speaker art installation provided via Faena Arts and created by Brazilian artist Vivian Caccuri (who also had a performance Tuesday night). Along with the main hall, there was a full exhibitors hall featuring various DJ brands (Denon DJ, Akai Professional, Rane, Pioneer DJ, Native Instruments, IK Multimedia, and Amped Studios), Fire Side Chats in the Amphitheater, an Industry panel room and two intimate education classrooms.
There was even a WMC Campground display in the Exhbitor Hall featuring some cool tents from Shiftpod and other camping gear that might prove useful in your festival camping adventures.
WMC Exhibitor Hall
The amphitheater could get a little noisy as people also used the space to have conversations and demo meetings during panel discussions, and it was a little confusing at first to make your way around the actual Faena District - a better map next year would be very helpful.
WMC's Fire Side Chat Series
WMC Education Sessions
WMC Main Stage Panels
WMC Industry Panels
Magnetic's Panel Standouts
Here are some of the panels, discussions and events that caught our eye as we tried to be everywhere in between our own panels, meetings and more. There was so much good programming that it was almost impossible to catch all of it - can't wait to see what next year brings.
WMC Day 1
Keynote: Douglas Rushkoff
It was a bit unexpected for WMC to have a thought leadership type of speaker open up the conference, but the risk paid off with media theorist and author Douglas Rushkoff. The topic of the keynote revolved around his new book Team Human, in which he dove into the notion that we might just be losing our humanity to technology. Rushkoff meandered through the early days of rave culture, weaponized algorithms and what all this means to our culture and our future as a species. Heavy stuff with an often whimsical and light- hearted delivery in spots seemed to resonate strongly with the audience and set the tone for this triumphant comeback of WMC.
You can check our recent podcast interview with Rushkoff HERE.
I AM POP Panel:
Head of partnerships Harry Willis gave a presentation on how the platform and the usefulness that Facebook messenger can have for artists and other content platforms. While it can feel like a bot, open rates are drastically higher than the interaction or reach on a regular post. This approach is useful for ticket sales and even songs for streaming services and beyond. If done right, a song pushed on a streaming service can get a spike in traffic and then get promoted to algorithmic playlists and then create its own buzz, numbers and then money.
More on IAMPOP Here
Getting In Gear: Getting Your First Studio Started:
Our very own Assistant GM Kane Michael lead a round table discussion with product specialists from Nick Trikakis of Akai Professional, Gabriel 'Gato' Ferrer of Native Instruments, and Andy Caldwell of IO Music Academy in LA. In this panel, they discussed the misconceptions, dos and don'ts and general advice of starting your first studio.
Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop: The Originators Still Originating:
Famed DJ/Producer Erick Morillo, Maykel Piron, CEO Armada Music, Pete Kalamoutsos and Heather Church, both of Glow DC talked about the need to innovate in the music business. You have to keep on fighting through the no's because eventually a yes will come. You have to earn it in this business. A great lesson for anyone starting their journey in the this very small and competitive industry - never quit.
We Built This House Panel:
Music and house OG's Oscar G, Michael Weiss, founder of Nervous Records, Ralph Falcon, and Teddy Douglas talked about the state of house music in the US. They all believe the scene is still quite healthy and preached that you need to be able to understand local scenes to be successful. The moral of the story, act locally but think globally.
The House That Acid Built: A Conversation With DJ Pierre and Irvine Welsh:
Two pioneers in their respective fields, Irvine Welsh and DJ Pierre sat down with Mixmag global editorial director Nick DeCosemo to talk about the impact of acid house on both sides of the pond. DJ Pierre talked about making acid house for the first time and then finding out it was becoming very popular in the UK, noting that he learned his records were selling, but he wasn't making any money... Welsh spoke about the acid house revolution in the UK and how he lived through it, going out to clubs. He even credited the musical movement with helping to bring peace in Ireland because young men didn't want to kill each other after embracing the acid house spirit.
WMC Day 2
Information Wars – Music Media and Public Relations In the Era of Internet Manipulation:
Our own Managing Editor Ryan Middleton spoke on this ominous sounding panel about the relationship between media and PR. They focused on how media decides to cover artists and how publicists try and cut through and get their clients coverage. Establishing relationships is vital and making good music is always important, though it was acknowledged that numbers do sometimes matter.
Bring The Bass: NGHTMRE, SLANDER, Kayzo & Whipped Cream:
Sitting in front of a massive speaker set, some of bass music's brightest young stars spoke about their careers and how they have been so successful. The group of producers offered differing perspectives on what has made them successful, Kayzo standing out saying he has largely drawn on dance music and relied on those influences. They all agree you need to find ways to differentiate yourselves. UTA agent Ben Hogan spoke about the power of bass music right now where acts can book a tour on the back of two songs and get on a festival lineup. It is doing the most hard-tickets in the US right now.
WMC Day 3
Unlock the Value of Sync:
A group of music supervisors at sync companies, ad agencies and brands spoke about the power of music when it comes to building ad campaigns. Music can make or break an ad campaign and they spoke about what you need as an artist to best market yourself, including having good numbers, legal protection and a team around you. When everyone has access to great gear and tech, it comes down to how creative you are.
The Future Of Turntablism:
A-Trak & DJ Craze, moderated by DJ Immortal had a fascinating discussion about Djing and the future of turntablism. The pair have their eyes set squarely on the future, but also acknowledge those who paved the way for them. They tell everyone to embrace technology and not just be stuck on one piece of hardware or software. Vinyl is cool, but they don't miss touring with it. Creativity is also how a turntablist stands out now because the barrier to entry has fallen, so it forces DJs to get better. A-Trak also acknowledges that since he plays a lot of house shows, he has to dial back some of the scratching sometimes if the crowd just wants to vibe and that would break things up. Since they both play house shows sometimes, they acknowledge that scratching and turntablism can be a bit showoffy, so they have to feel the crowd and use it sparsely or wait until the right moment even if it is at the end.
Techno Evolution: Some Of Today’s Most Influential Artists Discuss The Future Of One of Electronic Music’s Most Beloved Genres
WMC really pulled out all of the stops getting to this point with a superstar panel of Carl Cox, Richie Hawtin, Christian Smith and Nicole Moudaber that discussed the state of techno and the future of the genre. They lamented the rise of "functional techno" and had differing levels of optimism for the genre as technology pushes change and tracks are released faster and faster. Phones are hurting the dancefloor, they agreed where people turn away during a long break to check their phones. Moudaber joked that wearing black and saying you listen to techno doesn't make you cool either.
Louie Vega and MK in conversation with Danny Howard
Louie Vega and MK sat down for a conversation with Danny Howard to delve into their long careers making hit records across genres. MK only started DJing in 2011, but before was producing all sorts of songs for pop, dance and hip-hop acts since the 90s. Now his DJing is helping take his music to audiences all over the world with a dynamic new chapter in his career. Louie Vega spoke about who has worked with in the past and how he feels his world of music has evolved over the years. He gave advice on getting a good agent, taking them on for a trial run first and then making sure they align with your interests, noting he is getting tons of gigs now and continues to be a headlining act across the world.
Keynote – SHAQ Presents: Becoming Diesel
Shaq and his team talked about how Shaq became the DJ brand he is today. Shaq talked about his love for music, especially bass music, where the harder the songs are the better. Shaq wanted a red bull at the beginning of the talk and the small refrigerator door wouldn't open, so he broke the door. He wanted the feeling of a game 7 and DJing gives him that. He is an entertainer. He used to DJ in the 80s and 90s, but then stopped, but now is back at it post-retirement.
WMC x Faena Arts x Virgin Voyages - TobomBass
Vivian Caccuri's TabomBass Event at Faena Forum
WMC, Virgin Voyages and Faena Art brought in an extraordinary installation/event - TabomBass by Brazilian artist Vivian Caccuri, a sound installation, and performance. The incredible speaker stack in the main hall of WMC was, in fact, an art installation and the backdrop for the TabomBass ‘anti-concert’– not your standard musical presentation but a contemporary ritual. Existing somewhere between altarpiece and stage set, Caccuri created a gathering place for the different sounds and traditions that make up the Miami experience and identity.
The work is a sound system composed of stacked speakers, similar to those used at street parties in cultures around the world –from Brazil to Jamaica to Little Havana. Lit candles were placed in front of the speakers much like an altar to show the pulsating bassline physically. The flames move with the displaced air and dance to the rhythm of the deep sounds –basslines composed by artists from the city of Accra, Ghana who collaborated with Caccuri during her research there.
Invited Miami-based and international musicians and performers improvised for 20-30 minutes each in the creation of new polyphonic layering over the African basslines, creating a new hybrid work of art in a constant state of transformation.
“I am proud that the Faena Forum can exist as a space for relevant and experimental multidisciplinary cultural programming that is free and open to the public. My vision has always been to create a democratic gathering space for the creation of new communities to explore new ideas and cultural practices. During Music Week, the Forum exists as an accessible alternative for the experience of new sounds, new movements, and new voices in contemporary art and music.” - Alan Faena
Mixmag x WMC Lab Event
Mixmag x WMC Lab Event @ Faena Bazaar Rooftop
One of the stand out events at WMC was by far and away the Mixmag Lab x WMC event on the rooftop of the Faena Bazaar with DJs Anna and Pierre. The venue was rammed with fans of techno and acid house with both DJs delivering incredible sets. Watch them below and start figuring out how you can get your ass there next year...