All the WMC activity can be incredibly fun. But there can be an incessant air about it too: There are countless singles, albums, DVDs, and DJs to promote, and often it's crap that might not even be available to the public for quite some time. For those who are just the least bit cynical, conference can seem like a giant, 24-hour commercial. And that's not even talking about all of those flyers littering Washington and Collins avenues in South Beach. One man's hype is another city's detritus, and that's pretty darn annoying.
"The flyers!" sighs Lauren Segal-Avenna. "The flyers, ugh, it's so hard to see all those flyers going in the trash. When it comes down to it, we have to make our events successful and there's nothing like handing out a flyer. But it's like, what if we could do a collective effort among promoters to do carbon offsets, or to find a spot of rain forest that's being replanted and dedicate funds to offset the flyer production? Wouldn't it be cool if the dance community built and reforested a whole area of Haiti or something?... Each party could sponsor a mile of street cleanup, like they do on the freeways.
"I'm kind of idealistic, I guess," she laughs, "but that's not that crazy. Right?"
Segal-Avenna is a spirited voice that's demonstrating a different way to groove. Founder of the Los Angeles-based nonprofit NextAid, which is building a sustainable child support center in South Africa for orphans of the AIDS pandemic, she involves her organization in fund-raising events within the electronic dance music world. "We've relied on the support of the community for freebies and having people, because they care, let us in through their promotions and what they're doing," she says. "It wasn't long after we started that I realized we needed to have a presence in Miami."
She's been involved in WMC-related events for five years, and this time Segal-Avenna will moderate an official conference panel, "Music, Politics, and Social Awareness," Friday, March 28. Not only that, but also — in response to a desire (and an inability) to be everywhere at once and do a lot more — she has helped devise a campaign to reduce waste and inspire support for charitable organizations during WMC. The initiative, launched in conjunction with Miami's Mobile Master List website, is called Party with a Purpose.
"I don't think people realize when they look at our organization that we're also an environmental organization in everything that we do," she explains. "All of our building in South Africa is green building, and we educate on environmental issues through our program. We wondered how we could encourage people to be more environmental in Miami in their promotions, and also kind of reward and partner up with other people that are really using music to try to make a difference and to bring them under one banner."
Party with a Purpose offers easy guidelines for how promoters might make their events serve some higher purposes. And those who pledge a minimum donation of $250 to a charity of their choice or suggested charities such as NextAid, Rainforest Action Network, and Miami's CHARLEE (Children Have All Rights: Legal, Educational, and Emotional) may become an officially affiliated event promoted on the Mobile Master List (online and through text message marketing). They may also brand their event with the clever Party with a Purpose logo, an exclamation point/hand hybrid clutching a pair of headphones.
The paperless nature of the project allows people plenty of time to hop onboard, and it should be stressed that the financial commitment on their part is rather modest. Segal-Avenna says she and her planners will be able to accept events pretty much up until the last minute, which is fantastic news for all of those notoriously last-minute event organizers. "This is our pilot year of doing it, so we'll have a clear idea of what was the most efficient way to get people involved and what worked and didn't work," she says. "And we will do it on a lot bigger scale next year."
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