Each year, March brings industry folk from their winter hibernation in music studios and conference rooms to the bright lights and white sands of South Beach. For over 20 years, Miami’s Winter Music Conference (WMC) has been providing a way to justify ditching the three-piece suit for swim shorts and moving the meeting from the boardroom to a VIP booth poolside.
Welcome to Miami’s Winter Music Conference
WMC originated in 1985 as a way to organize meetings, panels, demonstrations and more so that everyone in the industry could benefit their networking agendas. Concluding with the monstrous event that is Ultra Music Festival, WMC provides over a week of schmoozing, boozing, dancing and banging (not even kidding).
This is the dream ‘business trip’ for any dreary label executive or contract lawyer looking to escape the 9-5 and let loose for 10 days.
Unlike most conferences where you’re shuffled from a shitty Holiday Inn to a boxed-in conference centre, you’re instead talking shop over mojitos and champagne as you walk from your boutique hotel. While not necessarily the mission statement outlined on the Winter Music Conference website, they are true words spoken from experience.
WMC hosts over 3,500 industry professionals from over 70 countries each year. This group consists of DJs, producers, remixers, label heads, managers, promoters, lawyers, journalists, media experts, club owners, and many more. The group flocks to South Beach to attend any of the 500 parties, seminars and workshops spread across 130 venues.
The events include DJ and VJ competitions, workshops, exhibits, product demonstrations and trade shows and informative panels and discussions covering a wide array of topics. Panels include: teaching the industries business basics, showcases of the recent technological innovations in the world of DJing and producing, debates on distributing music through media and radio, as well as panels discussing the details of copyright and contract law.
Boardshorts not Boardrooms
It’s always easy to spot someone who is attending WMC for the first time. The pale kid in their early twenties with the lanyard around his neck and pen in hand standing in line for day one of the conference should really have ‘WMC Virgin’ stitched onto his JanSport bag.
As much as the conference offers enlightening panels and discussions, anyone who's been in the industry for more than a minute knows the most important aspect is networking. This isn’t done sitting and listening to someone in a suit explain how to get your music played on the radio. It's done by getting the dude who picks the music that is played on the radio drunk at the SLS Pool and handing him your talents' most recent track over shots of Petron.
By registering with WMC you get access to any of its sanctioned parties (multiple ones to choose from each day) as well as discounted tickets to a lot of the other parties happening in the city. This is a great perk if you’re a mere mortal like myself and not on every party's guest list.
There is no place in the world that compares to the scene of Miami pool parties during WMC.
Las Vegas day parties are too crowded and the ravers in Ibiza are way too mangled to even understand what’s happening around them. The venues that host the pool parties in Miami are not too small that you’re falling into the pool while trying to sign a deal but they're also not too big that you cant find that guy that “you’re supposed to sit and talk with about booking you next month.”
The Vagabond, SLS, Delano, Raleigh, and Finnegan’s River are just a few of the amazing pool venues that host WMC events. Artists such as Steve Aoki, Dirtyphonics, Datsik, Dieselboy, Thomas Gold, Boris, Mat Zo, Andrew Bayer, Seven Lions, Frankie Knuckles, Paul Oakenfold and Dennis Ferrer have all played these events in the past. What this means is that you can enjoy dirty bass beats poolside before moving over to another venue to grab a tan and exchange contact info. The options are truly endless and attending up to five different events in one day isn’t only easy but it’s expected.
Eat, Sleep, Tan and Schmooze.
Since WMC’s inception 29 years ago, Miami has grown accustomed to the influx of travel in the month of March and has embraced the crowd that descends onto its beaches each year. For that reason, WMC teams up with various sponsors to provide discounted travel and hotel options to make the trip as easy as possible.
The Grand Beach, Essex House, Palms, Deauville and Clevelander have all partnered with WMC and offer exclusive promo codes through the WMC website. I highly recommend staying at Clevelander if you can. Not only is Ocean Drive prime real estate but also there are always parties happening at this chic location set amongst the art deco vibes of South Beach.
WMC has also partnered with Avis car rentals, which is a bonus for you to get from the airport to accommodations. However, after that, many of the hotels and pools are within walking distance and cabs aren’t too pricey if you’re staying on South Beach. If you do decide to attend some of the formal panels, the convention centre is located within a ten-minute drive of all major hotels. Getting to Miami is also easy regardless of where you’re travelling from with the airport being about 20 minutes from South Beach and offers flights to and from anywhere around the world.
South Beach is also famous for flashy cars so if you want to look like a local, skip renting the Honda from Avis and instead get one of thousands of Ferraris, Bentleys and Lambos that are offered from other rental services.
Trust me when I say that half the industry big shots are doing this when they arrive to South Beach.
I wasn’t kidding – this conference is outrageous.
Miami has long been the hub of the electronic music industry with music, festivals and many tenured artists emerging from its sunny beaches and world-renowned clubs. So it doesn’t matter if you’re a veteran in the industry looking to deepen your contact list or an up-and-comer trying to make it in this overwhelming scene – you need to attend WMC.
There’s no other industry event like it. And besides, by the end of 10 days you’ll have perfected the art of selling yourself/artist/label with a buzz on and drink in hand. If you know anyone that’s on the fence about attending the party of the year, share this with them and get ready to ditch the desk and we’ll see you poolside.