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Winter Music Conference warms Miami Beach

Paul Oakenfold played at the Ultra Electronic Music Festival, a side event to the conference.  

By Cynthia Salinas

MIAMI BEACH, Florida (CNN) -- "Scene, not herd."

That's a Winter Music Conference participant's phrase for the 17th annual convention and International Dance Music Awards show in Miami Beach, Florida.

And those with music to sell were quick to promote the event, which clearly can mean valuable market exposure to them: "Every kid in America now knows that if they want to see the biggest DJs in the world they can come to South Beach for this five-day to six-day period," said British artist John Digweed.

Conference organizers estimated the week drew 5,000 to 6,000 registered delegates. The event typically has attracted fans and fledgling artists to its performances, chances to meet record-label representatives, chats with manufacturers about the latest gear and equipment, and unofficial events scheduled around the convention.

UK DJs Sasha and Digweed chip at America's rock 
Gallery: Scenes from the Winter Music Conference 
Check out this year's International Dance Music Award winners 

Official conference appearances this year featured Grammy-nominated Daft Punk and Grammy winner Fatboy Slim; DJ Skribble; Johnny Vicious; DJ Dan; Nigel Richards; and Colette. Others in attendance included DJ Roger Sanchez, Taylor and Christopher Lawrence -- who's featured on the April cover of Remix magazine along with fast-rising star D:Fuse.

'All about big names'

The Winter Music Conference -- which ran this year March 23 to 27 -- bills itself as a place to make connections in the industry. This time, the agenda included more than 30 panel discussions on topics ranging from ways to attract media attention to one called "Remixing and Editing Introduction 101."

DJ Space, 23, traveled from Switzerland, having heard about the conference for the first time this year. A rookie in the DJ ranks, he said he had no regrets about spending several thousand dollars to attend the event. But he said he was skeptical about whether the conference could further his career.

"If you don't have a name already," he said, "it's really tough to get a step further at the convention because it's all about the big names and not really about newcomers."

Among those bigger names, Madonna was a winner at the awards show, with an International Dance Music Award for best solo dance artist in "Maverick." She wasn't there to accept the award.

Danny Tenaglia, who has high visibility in the industry, won the award for best international DJ. Otown won the award for best new dance-artist group.

'When they become "pop" artists'

Taylor was one of the DJs working poolside during the five-day Winter Music Conference.
Taylor was one of the DJs working poolside during the five-day Winter Music Conference.  

Awards show organizer Kirk Paskal says, "Major artists have developed out of dance music. Madonna certainly started in dance music. Cher has been doing dance music for years. I guess once they attain notoriety that's when they become 'pop' artists."

The notoriety may cause some to forget their roots -- awards producers again this year found that winners didn't show up to collect their prizes. Awards co-host Daniel Glass said he doesn't think that's a big deal: "Nobody is bent out of shape that they don't show up. Eventually they come back."

And promoters lose no chances to take advantage of the week.

  • DJ duo Sasha and Digweed used the event to kick off their first North American arena tour.
  • Stuff magazine took over the Nash Hotel for the duration of the conference to feature DJ acts Derrick Carter and Bad Boy Bill.
  • Famous faces at Stuff parties included Johnny Knoxville from MTV's "Jackass" and actor Gary Dourdan from CBS' "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation."
  • A sideline, the annual Ultra Electronic Music Festival, this year featured Paul Oakenfold, Carl Cox, Crystal Method, DJ Rap, Empress, Roni Size and more than 100 other DJs.


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