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Disco Controversy at the Winter Music Conference
(Posted April 4, 2002)

The dance music industry recently concluded the 17th annual Winter Music Conference, a mixture of panels and parties that that draws thousands of fans, struggling artists and power brokers from around the world. While most participants came away from the conference feeling positive about the experience, one minor controversy garnered a lot of attention in the days leading to the event.

The situation centered around the Conference administration refusing to allow veteran promoter Marty Angelo to be on any panels. Their concern was that the name of Angelo's company, Disco Step by Step, was too outdated and may reflect negatively on the conference. Angelo responded by sending out press releases detailing his struggles with conference organizers, saying this was an issue of freedom of speech. The issue has been a topic of discussion on internet message boards, with people supporting both sides.

So who is right? It is true that dance music has aligned itself with trendiness, and with most people's memory of disco still linked to Saturday Night Fever, it is understandable that some would not want to be associated with disco's baggage. For some, it's simply a matter of progressing with the times.

On the other hand, it's disingenuous for people at the WMC to deny disco's contribution to today's multi-million dollar dance music industry. Samples from classic disco songs, often uncredited, constitute a major portion of "new" singles. There is even a subgenre called disco-house that unashamedly piggybacks off of disco. The industry continues to capitalize on its similarities to disco, as evidenced by the number of artists and song titles with "disco" in the title. And across the globe, DJs still play disco songs as parts of their set, often to thunderous acclaim, as seen with the popularity of Dimitry From Paris' Playboy Mansion series, which prominently features disco in its selections.

Far from being a dirty word, disco is a fundamental part of dance music's history and any supporter of dance music should recognize that disco laid the foundation for today's global dance culture. When people try to deny their history, they often end up repeating the mistakes of the past. Here's hoping a more peaceful resolution can be found for future editions of the Winter Music Conference.

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