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All of the Winter Music Conference activity over the next two weeks can be fun, but there's an annoyingly incessant air about it, too. There are countless singles, albums, and DVDs to promote, and often it's crap that won't even be attainable for a while by the plebeian public. At times, WMC can feel like a giant 24-hour commercial, and that's not even mentioning all of those fliers littered up and down Washington and Collins avenues in South Beach. One person's way of promoting himself quickly turns into another city's litter problem. Can we safely call it darn irritating?
"The fliers!" sighs Lauren Segal-Avenna. "The fliers, ugh, it's so hard to see all those fliers 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 flier. But it's like, what if we could do a collective effort among promoters to do carbon offsets, or to find a spot of rainforest that's being replanted and dedicate funds to offset the flier 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 now in her fifth year of being involved with events during WMC. This year she moderates an official conference panel called "Music, Politics and Social Awareness" on Friday, March 28. But responding to a frustrated desire to be everywhere at once and to be doing a lot more, Segal-Avenna has helped to devise a campaign to both reduce waste and inspire an outpouring of 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 could we encourage people to be more environmental in Miami in their promotions, and also to 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 will be offering easy guidelines for local promoters on how they might make their events serve some higher purposes this year. And those that pledge a minimum donation of $250 to a charity of their own choice, or suggested charities such as NextAid, Rainforest Action Network, or Miami's CHARLEE (Children Have All Rights: Legal, Educational, and Emotional), can become an officially affiliated event promoted on the Mobile Master List (online and through text message marketing only). They can 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 extra time to hop on board, and financial commitments are pretty modest, Segal-Avenna says. She adds that the organization will accept events pretty much up until the last minute — fantastic news for all the 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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