Miami Music Week, The Evolution – An Insider Interview with Morgan Deane

Featured Photo by Taylor Regulski

This year I was lucky enough to meet Morgan Deane, who founded 508Operations. 508 is a full service production company offering event planning & management, technical production, operations, and skilled labor. Some of their main clients are Electric Zoo, BangOnNyc!, Brooklyn Mirage, Imagine Festival, Matte Projects, Tao Group, Madison Square Garden, and more! After meeting with Morgan, I instantly admired her more than anyone else that I have met in this business so far. She is so independently successful, knowledgeable of the business and just so real. I vibed with her instantly. I nervously asked if she would consider being my mentor, and luckily she said yes. This year, she has graciously given me the opportunity to work with her and handle artist relations at E11even during Miami Music Week. I asked her if prior to starting the crazy week if she would be open to an interview. I wanted to give Festival Squad readers an inside look at Miami Music Week from an insider, and she gave me just that!

Festival Squad: As a veteran in the business for over 15 years now, owning your own production company, building one of the most successful ongoing music festivals in NYC, and working with some of the biggest artists in the game, you have seen a lot of things change in this industry. Miami Music Week has always been a staple in dance music, from the Winter Music Conference to Ultra Music Festival, everybody is somebody in Miami for that entire week. How did you end up with the incredible gig of handling AR for E11even over the past 5 years?

Morgan Deane: I know Sol Shafer and Danny Solomon. I have a relationship with them from when I did artist relations for Tao Group in Vegas at the beginning of my career.

Festival Squad: How can you explain the changes in MMW over the past 5 years that you’ve worked it?

Morgan Deane: It was always called the Winter Music Conference and now it’s called Miami Music Week. Before it wasn’t just a conference, it was a conference with shows and Ultra. 4 years ago when Ultra and the Winter Music Conference split it really changed (for context, the conference is the Monday-Thursday, March 25 – 28th and Ultra is Friday-Sunday, March 29th – 31st). Another big change has been that parties have moved downtown. It used to just be Space downtown and a ton of underground venues. Everything used to happen on the beach, there were a lot of daytime pool or beach parties, or nighttime on the beach. The migration to all of the events being downtown started in 2010-11 and has really exploded. Now about half, if not more than half, of the parties happen downtown.

Festival Squad: Backstage, VIP, or GA? Why?

Morgan Deane: It depends on who you are and what you are trying to accomplish. The only people that belong backstage are people that are married to the artist like a working tour manager, an agent, tech person, and etc. If you are not one of those people then you do not belong backstage. VIP if you’re a friend of the DJ. GA if you want to party. If you want to schmooze go out to dinner.

Festival Squad: Is there an artist that you’re excited to work with every year?

Morgan Deane: I love working with Benny Benassi, he is such a lovely man and I am always happy to see him. I love watching the younger artists like Madeon, Porter Robinson, and Slushii a long time ago. I love being one of the first people to get my hands on the up and coming talent. I love seeing the underage people who come in and leave right away, I love making them feel comfortable and watching them come up as young artists.

Festival Squad: It’s always interesting to check out the headliners on Ultra’s lineup annually, watching some stay up as others rise and fall. Is there an artist that you are surprised to see has grown so quickly?

Morgan Deane: I’m actually going to go ahead and turn this question on its head. I reject the idea that people come up quickly. I think we become aware of them overnight, but no one rises too quickly. There is so much hard work in the studio, the marketing, branding, the stress of relationships, the endless hours of DJing in your hometown. We haven’t seen all the work they’ve done behind the scenes so no one comes up too quickly, we just become aware of them quickly.

Festival Squad: What is the best part about attending Miami Music Week as a worker rather than an attendee?

Morgan Deane: I enjoy staying in neighborhoods that are off quarters of the beach. This year me and my team are staying in Little Havana and last year we stayed in Fort Lauderdale. I like being able to come and then leave the madness. My team and I choose a calm place to stay so we can sit on the patio and drink some wine. I like to explore new neighborhoods and specifically charming little Miami spots that are the opposite of what is going on for Miami Music Week.

Festival Squad: It’s incredible all of the success you’ve had in this business. What were some of the biggest challenges that you faced when first starting off?

Morgan Deane: I was really fortunate that I came in a period of time before EDM was EDM. You know, I came up in the scene where people weren’t a big deal yet. It was really about the music. I had the good fortune of industry veterans like Laura DePalma, Steve Dash, Matt Rodriguez, Paul Morris, Mike Bindra, Benny Soto and Emma Hoser who were really around to help me find my feet and my voice and were patient with me and showed me the ropes. The early part of my career wasn’t as challenging. In 2010 there was an EDM moment and prior to that we were just grimy club kids in it for the love of the music. Beginning to encounter people that weren’t in dance music for the love and only for the clout made me feel sad and not knowing what dance music was anymore or if I wanted to do it anymore. I would also say interestingly enough the first time I really encountered a significant amount of sexism was deep into my career in corporate structured dance music. I had people doubting my expertise and my abilities, it was the first time that I had people cutting me off in meetings and asking if I was sure, etc. That was really surprising especially because I hadn’t experienced it earlier in my career.

Festival Squad: That’s really interesting about the sexism but not surprising since so many men are involved in dance now. I didn’t realize how dance music changed so much and all of the history behind it until just recently I went to an outdoor house music event in Brooklyn and it was all African people. I’m so used to EDM events being mostly White but I learned recently that house music’s history is much more culturally diverse.

Morgan Deane: Yes dance used to be super egalitarian and very ethnically diverse and about fun and love and helping each other out and making space for each other. There used to be a lot more female GM’s, more gender friendly venues, etc. House music was made for people of color by people of color and that was the energy, then it became this corporate animal. When it became what it is now everything changed. 

Festival Squad: What advice would you give a young person attending Miami Music Week for the first time in order to gain connections and break into the field?

Morgan Deane: I would say approach with earnestness DJs that you love as you see them around town. Talk to them! Don’t bother if they’re with their kids but it is completely appropriate to ask them things if they’re by themselves. Ask people things! Ask them how the door works, ask to help with load in, ask to help lay down a booth. Always be around and available, and ask a ton of questions. It’s important to stay humble and remember you’re not the show yet. Lay in the cut and observe the answers.

Festival Squad: What advice would you give someone attending Miami Music Week for the first time?

Morgan Deane: Eat food, drink liquid, don’t forget your ID, buy your drugs from people you know, get tickets for things it will save you so much time and just go and be a person. Sleep. Don’t overdo it, know your limits. Spend time with people you love and trust.

Festival Squad: Would you compare SXSW to Miami Music Week at all? Or would you compare Miami Music Week to any other conference or festival in the US/the world?

Morgan Deane: So I have never been to SXSW because I am always preparing for Miami. I have been doing Miami Music Week for 14 years. I would say the major difference is that there is a lot less lifestyle stuff at Miami Music Week and less live music, less tech, less culture around the music, but more stuff that focuses on the music itself. SXSW is more brands and music, etc. Miami doesn’t really have that and it highlights EDM. I would say there isn’t anything like Miami Music Week in the US. The time in Vegas around EDC is similar and there was EDMbiz for a while there so there was a conference component with the same vibe. Every agent and everyone’s taking meetings and partying, and there are things happening in the week around it.

Festival Squad: What about ADE (Amsterdam Dance Event)?

Morgan Deane: ADE is in many ways still a pretty business driven conference. Yes there are parties but it’s more for business, they’re going there to get business done and they do get business done whereas the business done in MMW is more incidental.

Festival Squad: What do you think Miami Music Week will be like in 5 years? In 10 years?

Morgan Deane: I mean I think at this point it will be what will Ultra be? It completely revolves around Ultra. It used to be there was a conference and since everyone was there we would throw parties too. The new model revolves around Ultra and only the gods can answer that question!

There you have it, from someone who has been doing Miami Music Week for 14 years and has really seen it all. Speaking with her, I really learned a lot not only about the evolution of Miami Music Week but about dance music and its evolution in general. If you haven’t yet, I suggest everyone attend the Winter Music Conference and Ultra if you are into dance music! Keep an eye out for a piece all about  my amazing E11even experience.

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