So this may be how WMC ends; not with a bang but with a dormant website. It seems that after 32 years, the annual and formerly-iconic Winter Music Conference in Miami has called it quits, overshadowed by Ultra Music Festival and its branded Miami Music Week.
The conference has not updated its website and still bears the message “Thank you for making WMC 2017 a huge success,” while it hasn’t sent a tweet since August of last year. Miami New Times reports that co-founder Bill Kelly commented only that WMC has a “major announcement” coming, but would give no further details. Billboard Dance has reached out to Kelly for comment.
If you’ve ever enjoyed Ultra Music Festival or the so-called Miami Music Week celebrations, you should know that everything it can all be traced back to Winter Music Conference. The annual celebration and industry conference helped put south Florida on the international map. Founded in 1985 by Bill Kelly and Louis Possenti, WMC was one of the first industry gatherings in the dance music scene, luring DJs, agents, label executives, managers, tech developers and partiers to the warm, sandy beaches of Fort Lauderdale, and soon Miami, during a time when most of them were stuck in snow.
There were keynote lectures, product demos, record swaps and networking opportunities galore. Soon, WMC started organizing parties for DJs to share their new music and break new sounds. Eventually, those parties began to overshadow the conference itself, and third-party promoters started scheduling their own functions and label showcases during WMC week in March. In 1999, Ultra Music Festival used WMC as the perfect excuse to throw a dance music festival on the beach.
UMF grew in the shadow of its parent celebration, and always coincided with the end of the Conference week, but in 2011, WMC announced its dates in mid March, while Ultra Festival kept its previously announced dates at the end of the month. It rebranded the week full of UMF and outsider parties as “Miami Music Week,” and there the divide grew.
While WMC always retained the respect of scene veterans, younger attendees no longer know what “WMC” even is. Attendance diminished with each year as the parties of UMF and MMW continued to take center stage, and now, we’re left potentially without a WMC at all. Meanwhile, Ultra Festival prepares to celebrate its 20th anniversary in downtown Miami, Friday to Sunday, March 23 to 25.
It’s likely the end of an era no matter what the case. Stay tuned to Billboard Dance as the story progresses.