INTERVIEW: Bill Kelly – Winter Music Conference (2013)

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James Brown was known as the “hardest-working man in show business,” and I would dub the title of “hardest working man in EDM” on Bill Kelly. The DJ/Record Pool Owner cofounded the Winter Music Conference in 1986 with Louis Possenti.  Nearly thirty years later, the annual pilgrimage to Miami Beach continues to be an essential stop for everyone in the dance music world, be they industry or punter.  Even with so many events going on concurrently, you will see Bill making the rounds everywhere  when he isn’t working diligently behind the scenes.

DJ Ron Slomowicz:  What was the inspiration to start WMC back in 1986?
Bill Kelly:  WMC was formed out of the need for a separate forum that would address the particular issues surrounding Dance Music. Up until that point there was only the NMS which had only one panel about dance music.

RS:  What keeps you motivated to do it each year?
Bill Kelly:  I meet so many young and aspiring talented individuals with a real passion for this type of music. My dedication to the success of dance music far exceeds any other motivation for doing WMC each year. You have to love this business to understand why after 28 years someone would continue to reinvent themselves.

RS:  How much time during the year does it take to put the event together?
Bill Kelly:  We spend most of the year planning, setting up venues and networking within the music industry. I go to other music events during the year to talk with people and develop pertinent topics of discussion to include in the following years program.

RS:  ??What’s new for 2013?
Bill Kelly:  Well, first off we are hosting the IDMA’s right on Lincoln Road in a beautiful Art Deco-Style Colony Theatre, opened January 25, 1935 as part of Paramount Pictures’ movie theater chain. This year’s IDMA’s promises to be a star-studded, celebrity-packed house! Q&As with R3hab and some surprise guests are in store for this year’s attendees.

RS:  ?What are some of your favorite events during WMC this year?
Bill Kelly:  ELECTRO SWING at Segafredo. Electric Beach is the Biggest WMC Opening Beach Party at World Famous Nikki Beach. Project: Assembly at The Vagabond presents Todd Terry,  Ultra Nate, Hector Romero, DJ Ted Patterson, plus many more. MIXOLOGY 13TH ANNUAL CLOSING PARTY at Mekka offers up Paul Oakenfold,  Mark Lewis, Verdugo Brothers, and several SURPRISE GUEST DJs always drop in!

RS:  How does Ultra Music Festival going for two weekends affect the conference this year?
Bill Kelly:   Some participants that come in the first weekend can stay over during the week to get involved with our program. Plus, those coming in for the second weekend will be in during the week; so overall the involvement within our program becomes more inclusive than in the past.

RS:  Which panel are you most looking forward to?
Bill Kelly:  The DJ Spin-Off: Presented with Smirnoff’s Master of the Mix is going to be stellar. Living For This! LGBT Artists In EDM is a new discussion aimed at the LGBT community. Every year The Recording Academy & WMC Present – The Producers Forum with The Recording Academy of Florida Chapter. This year we’ll have Greg “Stryke” Chin, Sander van Doorn, and Laidback Luke with us.

RS:  How has moving WMC further down on South Beach affected the conference?
Bill Kelly:   Well, most of our delegates are within 2-6 blocks of the Convention Center, so its easier access makes attending several of our workshops, demonstrations, exhibits, and panel discussions a breeze!

RS:  What about moving the conference to the Conference Center?
Bill Kelly:  Mixing the beach, bikinis, and business makes for a better conference, no? I think we will see a much bigger turnout than previous WMCs.

RS:  What advice would you give someone attending WMC for the first time?
Bill Kelly:   Pace yourself. Make sure you plan an itinerary that allows you to meet your target goals, reach your contacts, and discuss business within the scheduled times. Of course there will always be a beach, cocktail, pool, nightclub, or hotel party to go too. With over 400 soirees to choose from, it’s probably a good idea to get some rest too!

RS:  What is the biggest challenge of planning WMC each year?
Bill Kelly:    Making sure we lock down the proper venues, researching the latest trends and music formats. Expanding our target audiences can be challenging too. The most challenging thing is getting people to respond sooner. People always wait till the last minute because of the holidays, so it’s always crunch time around the first of the year.

RS:  How do you respond to criticism that WMC has become more of a party for spring breakers and less of an industry conference?
Bill Kelly:  That just isn’t the truth, period. The nucleus of the conference is power-packed with real business opportunities, key players and discussions, networking forums, demonstrations, and workshops. Spring breakers have chosen Miami because this is the three weeks they are off. You are mixing apples and oranges, period; however, what a better way to address both audiences! It’s whatever you want to make of it. Business and pleasure? What a concept!

RS:  Where do you see the role of WMC as compared to other EDM industry events like the Vegas EDM Biz Conference during Electric Daisy Conference, International Music Summit, Amsterdam Dance Event, and Promo Only Summer Sessions?
Bill Kelly:   They are all good industry events; however those organizers and participants all come to the foundational origin of the EDM culture which has always been the Winter Music Conference. I don’t see that role as the industry pioneer and leader ever changing as long as we continue to up our game as we do each year!

RS:  With the 30th anniversary coming in 2016, any ideas or dreams of what you would like to see happen?
Bill Kelly:  I’m always looking forward to the next genesis of the “DJ,” hopefully as a musician to include live instrumentation with singers and full productions. Of course my biggest dream is that all factions of the EDM movement come together to bridge conflict, heal hunger and despair, and spread peace and happiness around the world.

RS:  During the week of WMC, how many hours of sleep do you get on an average night?
Bill Kelly:  Well I always burn the candle at both ends every WMC; but after 28 years of doing this I always still manage to get at least 4-5 hours of down time a day. True statement!!

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