Fatboy Slim, Moby, Carl Cox and Armand Van Helden headline the 15th annual Miami Beach, Fla., Winter Music Conference of electronic music, to be held Friday (March 24) through Wednesday.
Equal parts artist showcase, poolside schmoozefest and late-night revelry, the five days and, more important, six nights of the event are the most significant on the electronic-music industry's calendar.
As in past years, the conference will encompass the spectrum of dance music, from Fatboy Slim's good-time big beats to Roni Size's raw drum & bass to Tony Humphries' classic New York garage house. Also appearing are such up-and-coming artists as England's Groove Armada and Brooklyn's Space Girl.
"It's quite a fun place to be," said French house DJ/producer Dimitri From Paris. "You get to meet all the people in the industry you like but that you don't see very often because they're scattered in different countries."
The pursuit of the perfect beat is the main attraction for most attendees, but a close second is the pool at the Radisson Deauville Resort, the beachfront headquarters of this year's conference. A relentless meet-and-greet marathon of record-pool DJs, marketing and promotions managers, and A&R representatives hungry for the sound of the future, "the pool" is the site of deals that will shape the upcoming year in the dance-music industry.
"The sheer amount of people that hang out and schmooze by the pool can be a little bit frightening," said Tamara Palmer, editor at large of Urb, the leading U.S. electronic-music magazine. "But I always meet a lot of label people and either get turned on to some new sounds, or make that vital in-person link with a company whose work I admire. Fortunately, I have never been thrown in the pool, so that's a good sign."
Reaching Into Mainstream
Often viewed as a barometer of the state of electronic music, each successive year of the conference has marked an extension of the subculture's reach into the mainstream. Last year's conference witnessed a bidding war at the two outstanding performances by the South London house-music duo Basement Jaxx. At the time, they were only known to trainspotters and club DJs, but in part because of those performances, Astralwerks signed them. This year the Jaxx return as one of the conference's superstars, riding on the success of their hit singles "Rendez-Vu" and "Red Alert"(RealAudio excerpt).
Many attendees head to the city's South Beach to let off steam and celebrate the culture they work so hard to support. "It's a place where you hang out; I wouldn't do much business there," Dimitri from Paris said. "It's under the sun, and there's amazing parties every night."
But Palmer said she managed to get some work done. "I definitely go to the conference to check out up-and-coming talent that I might have heard about but not yet had a chance to see live or in person."
Accordingly, the more than 100 parties at this year's event are the choice spot to launch a dance-music venture, whether it's a new magazine, record label, or inevitably, Web site or Internet startup. Close to a quarter of the conference's events are sponsored by a dot com, including Ministry of Sound, a London-based megaclub, print magazine and dance-music Web site, whose launch party Monday night will be headlined by Moby and Los Angeles trance DJ Sandra Collins.
Veteran DJ Pete Tong also has chosen the conference as the place to introduce to the U.S. his popular UK Essential Selections mix CDs. The series has featured mixes by Tong, Paul Oakenfold, Sasha and John Digweed. Its first U.S. release combines mixes by Oakenfold and Fatboy Slim and is set for an April release through London-Sire.
Iconic techno DJ Carl Cox will be promoting his new label, In-tec. "I just really like the idea that dance music celebrates," Cox said. "Everybody that's into creating music connecting with other people. This is one special week, which I think really warrants the underground and overground coming together because of the music."
(Contributing Editor Corey Moss contributed to this report.)