How WMC Helped Create the Grammy Dance Music Category

Thursday, November 8th, 2018 |

Ellyn Harris talks about the important role The Winter Music Conference played in helping her create the Dance Music Grammy(R) category…

Since 1991 the Winter Music Conference has had a great impact on my various careers.

After a successful career as a singer, touring with my rock band, performing with star Dan Hartman, singing the Alka Selter “Plop plop fizz fizz” commercial, singing at the Emmy Awards Dinner and much more, I fell in love with dance music.

My very first dance music recording, in 1991, was the remake of “I Specialize In Love” featuring Ernest Kohl, on Megatone Records. It was also my first year at WMC. I asked Bill Kelly if I could perform at their New Artist Showcase. He didn’t know who I was but he said yes—which was the beginning of my dance music career.

In every phase of my careers, Bill Kelly, Lou Possenti and the Winter Music Conference have played an important role in my successes.

I went on to record, write and perform more dance music songs, such as “Gotta A Green Light” and others, in clubs nationally. I started my own label called Unity Records. I got to know all the dance music promoters, club owners, the labels, artists, DJs, remixers and everyone who was part of the dance music scene; many of whom I met at WMC. I really fell in love with the people in this world; it was a community. I would attend WMC every year after that.

As a longtime member of the Recording Academy®/NARAS®/The Grammys®, I wanted dance music to have its own category. So I took it upon myself, with great passion, to create a category for dance music at the Grammys.

The first thing I did was ask the Executive Director my New York Chapter if I could create a panel discussion about dance music—for all of its members. I invited high profile people to be on my panel because they would have the most intelligent answers and the biggest draw.

I worked hard to generate an attendance of hundreds of people in all the areas of dance music—some of whom came from around the country to attend.

After educating the audience about the advantages of having a Grammy category and joining The Recording Academy/NARAS, to an enthusiastic group—Curtis Urbina, record label owner and Wallace Collins, music attorney, came over to me and said that they wanted to be part of my efforts and help me see it through. Later Ted Weis was added to this core group.

From 1995 to 1997 the four of us had many meetings to strategize and find out what was needed to get a category. At this time I also organized meetings with dance music pros and there were so many  enthusiastic people who were helpful. We formed CADM—Committee for the Advancement of Dance Music.

I am grateful to everyone who gave the Committee their time and passion.

The proposal needed lots of information—detailed descriptions of what makes dance music different from pop, sales statistics, examples of the music, etc. Friends of mine at Billboard Magazine were kind enough to go back in years to get chart positions. There were many people who helped with many parts of the package’s presentation.

The WMC gave me a platform to speak about the possibility of a category during the Conferences at the well-attended International Dance Music Awards shows.

We finally got the proposal voted on and “Best Dance Recording” debuted at The Grammy Awards in 1998.

Curtis Urbina, Wallace Collins, Ted Weis and I were given “A Special Recognition Award” for CADM at the WMC in 1998.  I’m so very proud of that.

Because of the success of “The Best Dance Recording” category, which is for singles and tracks—with a record number of entries—we were eventually able to have our own dance music field. Thus, later, an album category was established called “Best Dance/Electronic Album.”

In addition, the Grammy Award for Remixer of the Year, Non-Classical was also established in 1998.

Because I reached out to the media about the new categories, I was interviewed in all the music magazines, including People Magazine, GQ and many other consumer magazines and newspapers nationwide. I was on several TV shows, including MTV and Good Day New York.

It was then that I was asked to do publicity for several artists and labels. Thus, I formed Buzz Publicity in 1996.

I was a singer and songwriter, but I knew I had a business mind.

Because of the success of my music PR Company, the WMC asked me to curate and moderate panels educating audiences about publicity, which I did for a number of years.

Right now, in addition to PR consulting, I’ve started to perform in NY again. When you’re a singer it’s eternally inside of you. And I have a fanbase looking forward to my next shows.

In every phase of my careers, Bill Kelly, Lou Possenti and the Winter Music Conference have played an important role in my successes. From being a recording artist, giving me a platform to discuss a dance music Grammy category—to generating visibility for my PR company.

Thank you to WMC. I will always love you and the great work you have done for the music business on so many levels for so many years.

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I’m so glad to see WMC rebooted with such thoughtful content and first-class curation. It’s been a long time since the industry had a must-do American event and this is it. The reborn WMC!

Patrick Moxey

Ultra Music

If you want to know about our industry from the people that make it happen then go to WMC. It’s an accelerated masterclass in all things dance music.

Carl Cox

DJ/Intec Records

WMC is and has always been the lifeblood of the dance music scene. Never missed a year since ’96, I can’t imagine Amsterdam Dance Event or Ibiza Music Summit existing without the blueprint that WMC originated. Seeing this revived is absolutely essential to reunifying the North American scene surrounding electronic music and its fringes.

Tommie Sunshine

Producer/DJ/Activist/Netflix Host

Winter Music Conference was the cream of the crop of conferences. Every label owner, label A&R, DJ and artist knew they had to go network at the Fontainebleau where the conference was hosted. The conference was not only one of the most important time of the year as it relates to dance music but it was also a place where records were broken and became summer hits. Some of my best DJ memories are from the events I played during WMC in the last 20 years.

Erick Morillo

DJ / Producer / Label Boss - Subliminal Records

Having only missed the very first year of WMC in 1985, it was 1986-1990 that initially placed me on the map globally due to the international attendance of the entire dance music community. All throughout the 90s I was often getting written about by various high profile mags and websites for having contributed to help break many artists, DJs, producers and remixers. WMC enabled me to bring many top industry people together all under one roof, especially at Groove Jet, where house music officially met Techno in my sets and it’s all been uphill since…TBC

Danny Tenaglia

DJ, Producer