Winter Music Conference is a week-long electronic and dance music industry gathering held every year in Miami Beach, Florida. Since it started in 1985, founded by local DJs Louis Possenti and Bill Kelly, it has traditionally taken place during the last week of March. Because of scheduling conflicts, in 2011 it was held earlier, from March 8 to 12.
As the name indicates, the centerpiece of WMC, as the event is known for short, is a daytime program of conferences, workshops, and mixers for industry professionals, from DJs and artists, to label heads, to radio promoters, to journalists and other media figures. Most of these come from outside of Miami, with some 39 percent, according to conference organizers, coming from other countries. Winter Music Conference is truly an international event, part of the international dance music industry circuit and conveniently preceding the club season in Ibiza.
A main centerpiece of the conference itself is the International Dance Music Awards (or IDMA), as well as a record swap, DJ and VJ battles, and a host of panels led by electronic music stars. That’s not all though: Winter Music Conference is equally, if not more, known for what goes on after the conference closes for the day.
Official parties often start before sundown, and unofficial parties rage literally 24 hours a day, from daytime pool parties on to regular night marathons on to afterhours. In fact, Winter Music Conference is just as popular with dance music fans who come solely to party, and the week is known as something of an upscale adult spring break.
For many years, Winter Music Conference ran concurrently with Ultra Music Festival, which began in 1999. Though Ultra was not originally an official WMC event, eventually, it was made one. However, the relationship fell apart in 2011, when Winter Music Conference decided to move its dates up. Ultra Music Festival did not, and the international dance community was split.
Most DJs and party promoters still arrived the last week of March, while holdouts from the deep house community, traditionally the backbone of WMC, came during the earlier week. The result was notably smaller crowds, and it remains unclear if, during 2012, the events will again run concurrently.
If you’re planning to attend Winter Music Conference as a casual partygoer, rather than an industry networker, you should probably forego purchasing a conference badge. While you need the badge to attend the daytime panels and mixers, all evening parties, even those thrown by the conference officially, are open to the public. You’ll just need to purchase a separate ticket on your own to enter. In fact many groups of clubs, such as those owned by the massive Opium Group — a group that includes big venues like Mansion, Set, Cameo, and more — sell their own multi-party passes, mainly on the site Wantickets.