A major part of marketing yourself as a DJ is being where things happen and the annual Winter Music Conference (WMC) in South Beach, Miami is definitely one of the key events to market oneself. WMC has been running for over 25 years now and every March thousands of DJs, producers, vocalists, promoters, club owners, record company execs and music fans converge on South Beach to network, promote and of course….to party! But with over 400 events in five days, it can be quite overwhelming if you don’t know what you’re doing. This March 2011 will be my eighth consecutive conference. While I have friends who have been going since the beginning, I’ve picked up quite a few tips over the last eight years to share with you.
What, where and when is WMC 2011?
There is an actual conference that will take place from Tuesday, March 8th – Saturday, March 12th. However, there will many events that begin on Monday, March 7th and go through Sunday, March 13th. WMC is held in South Miami Beach, Florida. The actual conference will be held at the Miami Beach Convention Center where they will hold workshops, seminars and panels, networking events, the International Dance Music Awards (IDMAs), and other related events. You can register and get more information at http://www.wintermusicconference.com/.
Who should attend?
The conference itself is great for DJs, producers, promoters, and venders. There are many useful sessions and you can meet a lot of people in the industry from all over the world. However, you don’t have to attend the actual conference to go to WMC. We often use “WMC” loosely to mean we’re going to Miami during WMC to throw, attend, or perform at various events that are not directly connected to the conference…without actually going to the conference. Fans also don’t usually attend the conference. They come to Miami to experience the performances at all the amazing events. One major advantage to attending the conference is the WMC badge. With your badge, you can be admitted to several events free of charge or for a discount. This is sometimes worth the cost of the conference and can pay for itself.
Booking flights can be tricky. The airlines know about WMC and it’s also around the same time as many college spring breaks. Therefore, the fares can be high. But if you plan in advance you can secure a reasonable rate. Decide what dates you want to go but keep in mind that flying out of Miami on a Sunday can sometimes increase the rate. Many people leave on Monday because it can sometimes decrease the rate significantly enough to justify another hotel night. Also consider flying into Fort Lauderdale. It’s only a ½ hour from Miami and you can find some good deals through airlines that don’t land in Miami such as Spirit or Southwest. The best prices usually have poor flight times so you might pay a bit more to sleep in the day you’re leaving Miami. Also, when contemplating your airfare don’t forget to factor in the price of checking in baggage. The conference is a whole week and you probably won’t get away with just packing a carry-on. Be sure to look for shuttles to and from the airports. They are less expensive than cabs…unless you’re sharing a cab with a friend or two.
Where to stay
Hotels jack up their rates significantly during WMC. This year some of us got very lucky. The WMC dates were changed suddenly and the hotels hadn’t caught on right away so there were some great rates out there. Don’t expect to live in luxury in South Beach unless you’re willing to seriously pay for it. Many of the hotels are so called “boutique” hotels but they are often quite dumpy and they still can run $160/night or more. The nicer hotels will set you back at least $200/night and up! Most of the hotels charge more over the weekend too. Keep in mind that you won’t be in your hotel much so it usually isn’t worth spending the extra money.
If you’re really on a budget there are some hostels in South Beach as well but personally, I’m not up for sharing a bathroom/shower or staying with strangers. This is not a good option if you’re concerned about your valuables or your DJ bag.
If you have a good group of people to go with that you know you can count on to cover their percent of the bill, renting a condo is a great way to go. You can often get a nice condo with a kitchen and living room for about the same price as a hotel and have more people staying there to split the cost. Websites like http://www.vacationrentals.com can help you find condos or even homes to rent.
I have found that it’s best to stay in South Beach (SB) between 1st and 18th Street on Ocean Dr., Collins or Washington Ave. If you stay in this radius, you will be right in the mix of things for sure. There are some side streets like Euclid, Pennsylvania, Jefferson and Meridian where you might find rentals. Some people like to stay up North or downtown where you can definitely find nicer hotels for less money….or get a much nicer hotel for the same rate often with more amenities like a pool, workout room, dining, or it may even have its own beach. The biggest issue with these hotels will be transportation.
If you stay in SB, you don’t need to rent a car. Just about everything is within walking distance and many events are right next to each other. Local cab rides within SB run $5-10. The traffic is pretty congested and the parking can be tough. You’re also limited to two hour metered parking most of the time and most hotels or parking lots/garages will charge you $20/day and up to park your car. If you really need a ride the bus goes everywhere and is very cheap.
If you stay up North you will find it difficult to get around without a car. The bus is very inexpensive but at night it doesn’t run very frequently. After a long night you may really want to just jump in a cab which will cost $20-$30/one way, depending on how far north you’re staying. When staying up north, having a car means convenience and access.
When staying downtown, you will face similar challenges but without the beach and often more traffic driving into SB. However, you may get better rates for very nice hotels. You’ll also have close access to downtown events.
What to bring….be prepared
If you’re coming from the Midwest or the East Coast, you’ll probably have a coat with you that you won’t need once you land in Miami. However, that doesn’t mean the weather in Miami is perfect. The truth is you never know what to expect. It could be chilly or it could rain all week. I suggest having enough clothes for warm weather such as sorts or dresses and for cool weather such as jeans/pants and sweaters/hoodies. You may also want more formal outfits for going out at night. So be prepared for warm and cool weather and outfits for day and evening. Also, don’t forget your swim suit.
Some of the dumpy SB hotels don’t have things in the room that you may expect like a hair drier or an iron and ironing board. They usually have them at the front desk but you’ll have to run around to get them. They don’t always give enough towels and wash cloths either so a beach towel may be useful to bring as well as sun tan lotion and sun glasses!
Let’s not forget this is a DJ marketing blog and not a travel guide. Bring your promotional materials!
If you’re giving out mix CDs bring at least 400-500 copies. You will go through them all. You should make sure that you do not bring any of these back home with you. Put them in the hands of other DJs, promoters, producers, vocalists and fans. Don’t discriminate and please make sure your name and contact info is on the CD on a label of some kind and not hand written. I’ve gotten great mix CDs and I have no idea who made them. By giving out good mix CDs you will develop a new fan base, some of which will be in the industry. This is a great way to earn the respect of your fellow DJs as well. Believe me that can go a long way. For advice on preparing a great mix CD see “The Anatomy of a Mix CD”: https://djmarketing101.com/2010/03/04/the-anatomy-of-a-mix-cd/
If you’re a producer, you want to get you new hot joints into the hands of DJs in hopes that they will play them at WMC. If time permits, e-mail them the track a week before WMC so they have time to evaluate it and can plan to use it in advance. This is a CD you may want to be a bit more stingy with and only give it to DJs that you think will play it right away. It’s hard to take a new track/song from someone you don’t know and just play It so don’t expect that to happen. Only those with a solid production reputation or those with a personal relationship with that DJ are likely to play it right away. But, if one well known DJ plays it to a big crowd and it rocks, all the other DJs will line up to drop your track during WMC.
Bring your CDs, headphones, laptop, Serato boxes, MP3 recorders, etc. Don’t expect others to have that for you. If you plan to play records make sure there will be turntables at the venue. Always bring a few blank CDs or a jump drive. Some DJs may give you new material but will have to e-mail it to you or burn it for you on the fly. A lot of venues don’t have mics so if you’re throwing an event you may want to bring one.
If you’re throwing an event be sure to bring banners, and other promotional materials like t-shirts you might give away or sell. If you’re printing flyers to promote I suggest you have them printed in SB in advance and pick them up when you get there. I’ve used this service in the past: http://pkgraphics.com/
So here is the straight deal….they won’t just land in your lap. You have to approach those you know are throwing events and let them know you’ll be at WMC and you would really like to be involved in their event. But don’t beg or bug anyone and if you don’t get the gig don’t complain or hate. WMC is a big deal. Promoters are trying to attract people to their event and will be seeking well known talent first. They may add a few others if there’s room. It may take a couple of trips to WMC where you network and give out promos before someone puts you on. Once you’ve been in the game for awhile, gigs will come to you. Until then and even after, you have to keep hustling.
Should you get a gig keep in mind that for DJs, WMC is about setting up the year to come. It’s about breaking music, being innovative and creative, marketing and promoting your production and style. While dropping a classic is certainly welcomed, think about doing something different and unexpected.
The Winter Music Conference provides us with the most useful website called “The List” outlining all of the events for the week including the events that are separate from the conference. Sign up for e-mail updates from The List and be sure to add your own events if you’re throwing one. It all happens here: http://www.wintermusicconference.com/thelist/. They also create a printed guide found all over SB. Look for a copy while you’re there.
Many events require you to RSVP in advance. Be sure to do this for events you really want to go to. While many of them are just using an RSVP to get your e-mail address, you may find some that take it very seriously and will not let you in if you haven’t done so.
There will be some very big events downtown that you’ll be interested in attending. If you’re staying in SB or even in North Miami Beach, you will have to drive or take a cab. This will be an expensive night if you don’t have friends to split the cab fare with. Also, these large venues will have heavy cover charges and pricy drinks.
Many events during the day are free. If the DJ line-up is solid you may run into a cover charge here and there. Seeing how most of the people there are in the industry, there will be huge guest lists. However, I would budget yourself with a daily cover charge allowance. At night, there will be at least four events that you will be considering to attend, all with cover charges of $10-$30. For a great event, $10-20 is reasonable. Anthing over that I wouldn’t bother unless I was on a guest list. The issue here is that you may very well want to attend more than one event. The best straegy is to hop around during the day to all the free events and pick one or two events that you’re willing to pay a cover charge for a night and enjoy yourself for the evening. Always remember, if you’re having a good time, don’t worry about what you’re missing elsewhere.
Planning you day
I plan out each day as best I can. This is usually based on where I’m staying. Most people will study The List and figure out what events they plan to hit each day based on who’s playing, time, location, and cover charge. SB is very easy to navigate. Create a route for the day based on these factors. However, if you stumble on a very hot event you may not leave….and there’s nothing wrong with that. However, I plan my route with the intention of meeting people and giving out promos. So if you’re trying to promote yourself you want to get to as many events as you can.
I try to give out 75-100 CDs a day…but that’s just me. I think it’s best to use the day time events to network and pass out materials and evening events to socialize and let loose a bit. Also, at night, people are more in party mode and aren’t as prepared to carry CDs around with them. Now if you’re passing on a hot track to the DJ playing there, that is entirely different.
Every year we joke about trying to get through the week without eating pizza. There are pizza joints everywhere in SB and it’s one of the cheapest ways to eat there. If your room has a fridge or a kitchen, take advantage of it and buy food to keep in the room. There are a couple of grocery stores/bodegas in SB where you can get everything you need. The cost to eat out in SB is ridiculous. I once ate at a well know deli with a friend and we had a total of two sandwiches and two sodas for $40! Now it is nice to treat yourself to a couple of good meals in SB like dinner on Ocean Dr. overlooking the beach or maybe brunch on Lincoln Ave.
If you’re not used to paying $12 for a rum and coke, $15 for a Red Bull and vodka or $12 for a shot, then you’ll be in for a shock in SB. If getting a little buzz is part of your agenda then I suggest you buy a few bottles and mixers on the day you land and have a couple of pre-party drinks in your room before you go out every night. You’ll save hundreds of dollars! Last year a group of us were out and one of the DJs picked up a bottle of vodka and some juice and literally mixed drinks for us all at the bus stop….it was hilarious!
If Internet access is important to you (of course it is) then it is best to have a laptop with you. Check to make sure your hotel provides access to its guests. Some only have access in the lobby and not in the rooms. Some charge for access. If you don’t want to lug a laptop to SB or you’re concerned about theft, there are a few internet cafes around where you can pay to use their computers. It’s not that expensive but can add up if you need to be on often.
There are a few useful apps out there for WMC and Miami available for the iphone, ipod touch or ipad:
- WMC Unofficial & Uncensored Mobile Guide (FREE)
- WMC 2010 ($2.99)
- Music Conference 2010 ($2.99)
- Miami at a Glance City Guide (FREE)
- Kayak (FREE) (Great travel app)
- GPS Apps – Will help you find events “off the beaten path”
Make time for yourself
The most important is important thing is to enjoy yourself and make the most of your time. You can easily go to WMC and spend the entire week one block from the beach and never set one foot on sand. While it’s great to network with other DJs and meet all your favorite producers, be sure to spend time with those you consider to be your actual friends, especially the ones who live in other cities that you don’t get to see often. Enjoy!
Feel free to comment with your additional WMC tips!