Inside Track: NFT LA Brings Web3 Networking IRL; Miami Music Week’s Big Return
From March 29-31, official programming at the convention center included panels and keynotes covering music, gaming, art, fashion, cryptocurrency and more intersections of culture, commerce and emerging blockchain technology. Mark Cuban , Sandbox Chief and Baron Davis were some prominent speakers. As startups displayed their products, patrons wore shirts with their Bored Ape characters. Frames for displaying these virtual tokens in your IRL living space took up a lot of floor space.
Scott Page, Pink Floyd’s saxophonist, spoke out about his love of business and the immense potential that web3 offers. Curt Cameruci, Flosstradamus’s saxophonist, supported this sentiment and brought along an interactive smokable NFT to show the high-minded thinking that is taking place in this space. The panel was followed by a performance from crypto punk rapper Spotty WI-Fi. He performed onstage with virtual avatars behind him, encouraging blockchain enthusiasm through his rhymes. Other than that, Shara Senderoff from Raised in Space, Josh Katz from YellowHeart, and Steve Aoki all spoke during the week. A Jim Jones performance wrapped Wednesday’s events. On Thursday, Colton Underwood, Colton Underwood, Sir Mix-a-Lot and Macy Gray of The Bachelor spoke onstage alongside David Wachsman , founder and CEO of blockchain-focused communications company Wachsman. Among the happy-handing and big ideas, the common question was “What are your building ?”
The real action was at the side parties. NFT | LA played host to a number of official and non-official VIP events, including a Wednesday party for Azuki, a popular anime NFT collection launched in January by Chiru Labs; Time magazine’s TIMEPieces web3 community initiative hosted a lunch on Wednesday; a paint party (painting suit, booties and gloves provided) on Thursday hosted by FEWOCiOUS, a 19-year-old painter and NFT act repped by Andrew Gertler, Shawn Mendes’ manager; and later that night, at the James Goldstein estate in Beverly Hills — an event packed with VCs from Silicon Valley, Asia and Europe — partying and panels collided, blending margaritas with liquid nitrogen and concepts for the metaverse in areas like real estate, music festivals and fashion.
“NFT technology to music technology right now, is in diapers,” stated Jalen Jim , cofounder of World Artists United. World Artists United is a New York-based multimedia and entertainment agency. “If you get in here, I promise you, you will move the goal posts. Billions are not the future. In three to five years, we will be talking trillions of dollar and we’ll be discussing how those trillions are impacting artists worldwide .”
Overwhelmingly, the word “community”, was mentioned throughout the week as an important element of the growing web3 scene. LA bringing blockchain evangelicals together the week before the Grammys — taking place in a city other than L.A. or New York for the first time in decades — presented an ideal opportunity to take meetings and build relationships in this developing space, with the prospect of new business deals to follow. One year after the web3 boom began with eight-figure NFT sales, many music executives have been falling behind or catching up. However, those executives who are actively engaging in NFTs, the metaverse, or however you want it to be called, are setting the tone for the music industry’s position in web3. It is not clear what that will look like. But, as one major label executive said earlier this week, “If you miss NFT | LA, you have to come out for NFT | NYC.” That’ll be going on June 20-23. — Colin Stutz
Welcome to Miami
Miami Music Week has been a marathon and sprint since it was first created, until it was immobilized.
Every March since 2011, the Magic City global dance-music industry gathering has featured a dizzying whirlwind of club sets, DJ showcases, pool parties, rooftop parties, after-hours parties, lunches, brunches, interviews by the pool and other events incorporating electronic legends, up-and-coming producers and the thousands of agents, managers, label execs, publicists, developers, CEOs, interns, promoters and fans who power the global dance music industry.
But in 2020, MMW was among the first events to succumb to the pandemic, which crippled the live events industry and the world at large in early March of that year. along with Ultra Music Festival, and the Winter Music Conference, which have a series of industry panels and keynotes that coincide with MMW, were cancelled less than two weeks prior to the event.
It was a worrying moment for the dance world. This genre is more driven by live events than any other. While the always tech-forward dance scene dove headfirst into livestreaming, the pandemic was still crippling, with the valuation of the global electronic music industry sliding to a 10-year low in 2021.
But last week in Miami, during the first MMW since 2019, the dance world demonstrated that it’s back and once again ready to party. The event was a non-stop whirlwind of music, meetings, and soirees. It showcased the new music and ventures pushing the scene into the future, and helping to stabilize the industry after a period that was difficult.
Naturally, NFTs and the metaverse were key topics, with the dance scene leading this space in the music industry since the web3 explosion in 2021. Backstage at a Friday (March 25) afternoon showcase at South Beach’s Nautilus hotel, a crew of managers swapped details about a soon-to-launch NFT DJ duo that will feature digital characters, rather than flesh and blood humans. The duo’s performances will be similar to Gorillaz’s virtual concerts. However, the manager of the NFT group noted that although front-end costs are high for programming the show, the overhead in terms touring will be extremely low.
Many MMW attendees agreed that the metaverse is a powerful marketing tool, especially considering how close digital spaces like Roblox are to video games. These streaming platforms are especially useful in marketing dance music for young audiences who enjoy video games but can’t get to clubs and festivals. This priming them to be part of the scene and spending money on it once they’re older.
“The kids are choosing it for themselves, and we can meet them where they are,” Stephanie LaFera, head of electronic music at WME, told Billboard.
The crossover between electronic music and web3 was demonstrated later (like, much later) on Friday night at Miami mega-club E11even. Last December the venue purchased the #11 edition of the Bored Ape Yacht Club NFT and had the image of this Ape projected on the LED screen behind the DJ booth, where Major Lazer arrived at 3: 30 a.m. on Saturday morning for a set that included remixes of tracks like the Backstreet Boys’ “I Want It That Way” and the 1989 Technotronic classic “Pump Up the Jam.” It’s unclear if patrons of the packed club were more focused on this $400,000 NFT or the vastly more IRL burlesque dancers in various states of undress on poles and platforms through the venue, which was littered with hundreds of dollar bills when the crowd began thinning around 5 a.m.
The vibe was a bit less hyphy and a lot more clothed on Thursday (March 24) during a sunset mixer hosted by Big Beat Records on the roof of South Beach’s Soho Beach House. There was some confusion amongst the attendees (this included) about the talent listed in the flyer. It was called “Major League .”
While some expected a crew of marquee-label stars, the party featured music from twin brothers Bandile Mbere and Banele Mbere who are Major League DJz. Hailing from Johannesburg, South Africa, the duo delivered a genuinely captivating set of amapiano — a strain of house music exploding out of South Africa — while the sun set behind them and a crowd, including fellow South African producer Black Coffee, watched. A publicist from Big Beat reported that they’d been out with the duo the night prior during a pop-up set at Wynwood’s 100-capacity Coyo Taco that was followed by a surprise appearance from Diplo and the Major Lazer crew. (This fivesome would also show up on Saturday during Damian Lazarus’ 24-hour dance marathon Get Lost, which featured a who’s who of the dance world playing from before sunrise on Saturday to after sunrise on Sunday, by which point many attendees couldn’t accurately tell you which day it actually was. )
An artist manager from Denver was also part of this Soho Beach House crowd. He noted that when dance events began returning last fall, many artists and their bands were struggling to make ends meet. There were too many events on sale simultaneously, and fans, especially the younger ones, weren’t able afford them all. “It was like this for seven months,” said the manager. “But things have leveled off .”
Having overcome this hump, he pointed out that artists like the ones he works with still earn the same fees as they did pre-pandemic. They have not had the chance to rise over the past few decades, making for an act whose potential earning potential was at best temporarily stalled.
A Womxn In Dance Music Miami Brunch was held earlier in the day at the Standard Hotel by Meta Music Partnerships, She Is The Music, and SheSaidSo. The event featured female and male-identifying managers, agents, and execs, as well as a few dudes, who mingled over champagne and discussed the state of dance music within the larger music industry.
“The industry is bigger than it’s ever been,” noted LaFera, citing a statistic that dance music composes 34% of all festival programming in the United States. “It’s just that the scene has diversified again [after the EDM explosion], so people can’t point to a top 10 highest-paid DJ list anymore. The dance industry is much more diverse than that, which is less interesting for the wider industry.
“But we get less attention,” LaFera said. “The better the music is .”
Indeed. While dance music may have become less interesting to the general public in the post-EDM era of dance music, Ultra Music Festival proved that it is still a very popular and viable music festival. Taking place March 25-27, the 55,000 person-per-day gathering serves as a sort of pyro-blasting exclamation point to MMW. Hardwell, Alison Wonderland and David Guetta were among the stars of this year’s lineup.
This year, Ultra returned to its original home at downtown Miami’s Bayfront Park after a fairly disastrous move to Miami’s Virginia Key in 2019. Industry folks mingled on the massive yacht that serves as a backstage hangout area, where an individual close to the fest noted that, with Miami police declaring a state of emergency in South Beach the week before after a pair of shootings during spring break, law enforcement was less focused on Ultra over the weekend. That said, the festival didn’t seem to even warrant the attention, with local police reporting just 18 arrests over three days, according to CBS Miami.
Ultra was also sold-out, according to a long-standing music publicist. This was in line with many of the ticket sales trends. “Dance shows are selling really well right now,” this publicist told Billboard. “Ticket prices for other genres are rising, but dance tickets have remained the same.” This is because many clubs can make a profit through bottle service .”
Prior to MMW 2022, it was unclear whether things would feel the same in Miami this year. They felt better during this period of reemergence and reconnection.
Certainly, dance music isn’t the most recognized genre in the global music industry, trailing hip-hop, Latin and pop in terms of visibility and streaming; many dance music professionals proudly call it the industry’s “bastard child.” But MMW 2022 proved that the dance industry remains strong, and that after a quiet few years, a huge amount of artistry, energy, enthusiasm and earning potential is pushing this space into the future. – Katie Bain
I have been writing professionally for over 20 years and have a deep understanding of the psychological and emotional elements that affect people. I’m an experienced ghostwriter and editor, as well as an award-winning author of five novels.