Ultra Music Festival (UMF) is an annual outdoor electronic music festival that occurs in March in the city of Miami, Florida, United States. The festival, which was founded in 1999 by Russell Faibisch and Alex Omes, is named after the 1997 Depeche Mode album, Ultra. Ultra Music Festival coincides with the annual Winter Music Conference, which is also held in Miami.
Ultra is held in Downtown Miami in Bayfront Park. It was a one-day festival from 1999 to 2006, a two-day festival from 2007 to 2010, and was a three-day festival in 2011 and 2012. In 2012, a record 155,000 people attended the festival. In 2013, for the first time in festival history, UMF took place across two consecutive weekends. In 2014, the festival returned to a one-weekend format, taking place on Friday, March 28 through Sunday March 30th. Presale Tickets went on sale online May 21, 2013 selling out in a matter of seconds; standard priced tickets sold out on the last day before the event.
Other Ultra festivals are held in Ibiza, Spain; Buenos Aires, Argentina; São Paulo, Brazil; Santiago, Chile; Seoul, South Korea; Cape Town and Johannesburg, South Africa; Split and Hvar, Croatia; and Tokyo, Japan. In December, 2013 Ultra Worldwide announced to first edition of the festival in Bogotá, Colombia to be held on February 20 & 21 2014. Most recently Ultra announced Road to Ultra Thailand and will be Held at Bitec Bangna convention center on September 26, 2014.
Although they share names, UMF was not directly tied to Ultra Records, an electronic music record label. However, the two entities did announce a "global alliance" in August 2012, which would allow them to collaborate on marketing and cross-promotion.
Ultra Music Festival was founded and produced in 1999 by business partners Russell Faibisch and Alex Omes. Faibisch, who had attended Depeche Mode's Devotional Tour at the Miami Arena in 1993, named the music festival in honor of Depeche Mode's 1997 album, Ultra. The first festival was held as a one-day event on March 13, 1999, coinciding with the end of the Winter Music Conference. Inaugural artists at the 1999 fest included Paul van Dyk, Rabbit in the Moon, Josh Wink, and DJ Baby Anne. The first Ultra Music Festival, which was held in Collins Park in Miami Beach's South Beach, proved popular, with an estimated ten thousand concertgoers in attendance. However, Faibisch and Omes still saw a financial loss of between $10,000 to $20,000 during the festival's inaugural year.
In March 2000, the festival returned to South Beach's Collins Park as a one-day event and partnering with Coolworld Entertainment; the festival was met with even more success and was renewed immediately for a third year.
Because of the massive rise in attendance between 1999 and 2000, festival organizers decided to relocate to Bayfront Park in Downtown Miami for the third annual event. UMF continued to bring the biggest names in electronic dance music to Miami with performances by Robin Fox Tiësto, EC Twins, Paul van Dyk, Paul Oakenfold, Sander Kleinenberg, Photek, Josh Wink, p.a.w.n. LASERS, DJ Craze, and Rabbit in the Moon from 2001 to 2005. With the record-breaking attendance of the seventh annual UMF in 2005, the festival was again relocated to a smaller (by area) venue, Bicentennial Park, for 2006. In 2007, with Winter Music Conference in full swing, Ultra Music Festival held its first two–day event at Bicentennial Park with a record breaking 50,000+ concert goers in attendance. Ultra Music Festival celebrated its 10th anniversary March 28–29, 2008 with performances by Tiësto, Underworld, Justice, Paul van Dyk, Carl Cox, Armin van Buuren, MSTRKRFT, deadmau5, Annie Mac, Eric Prydz, Ferry Corsten, Calvin Harris, Moby, The Crystal Method, Boys Noize, Benny Benassi, Armand van Helden, Duck Sauce, David Guetta, Jes, Enur, Pete Tong, Jackal & Hyde, Dj MYREN from Iran and Rabbit in the Moon.
With estimated attendance over 70,000, the festival set a new City of Miami record for number of tickets sold at a single event. The 11th annual UMF occurred March 27–28, 2009; the lineup including more crossover acts and live bands like The Black Eyed Peas, The Prodigy, The Ting Tings, Santigold, Crystal Castles, The Whip, and Perry Farrell. The 12th annual UMF took place March 26–27, 2010, with headlining performances again by Tiësto and deadmau5, as well as performances by David Guetta, Orbital, Little Boots, Sasha & Digweed, Above & Beyond, and The Bloody Beetroots. Each stage was accompanied with visual arts provided by VJs Vello Virkhaus, Psyberpixie, and Cozer. The festival sold out for the first time with over 100,000 attendees, where it was announced that the 13th annual event would take place over the course of three days in March 2011.
Ultra Music Festival 2012 was held from March 23–25. Due to the construction of the Miami Art Museum and Miami Science Museum at Bicentennial Park, the event was once again held at Bayfront Park for the first time since 2005.
Early bird pre-sale tickets for Ultra Music Festival 2012 sold out within 20 minutes (seconds according to the Ultra Music Festival Facebook Page). Shortly after, pre-sale tickets increased from $149 to $229. This is also the second year that tickets for individual days did not become available for sale. A special appearance by Madonna the day after the international release of her twelfth studio album MDNA was held at the second day of the festival. Thereafter tickets for the 14th anniversary of the Festival quickly rose from $229 to $299 just one week after going on sale.
In January, tickets for three-day general admission sold out.
The 2013 edition of the festival was held over two weekends, March 15 to 17, and March 22 to 24, in honor of its fifteenth anniversary. Both of these weekends coincided with the beginning and end of Miami Music Week and the Winter Music Conference. Phase one of the festival lineup was officially revealed in January 2013, confirming appearances by David Guetta, deadmau5, and Tiësto on both weekends, along with Swedish House Mafia, who used the finale of the festival on Weekend 2 to serve as the finale of their farewell tour "One Last Tour". Pretty Lights would also perform at the festival accompanied by bass-Beat DJ Futtize for the latter's birthday (b. March 26).
On January 7, 2013, after organizers requested additional road closures for the event, Miami Commissioner Marc Sarnoff introduced a resolution calling for disapproval of the second weekend, believing that allowing the event to be held across two weekends would be "disruptive to the local business community and area residents due to noise, nuisance behavior of festival goers, and grid lock traffic," also alleging that "about 70 to 80 percent of these kids are on some sort of mind—altering drug." The city council voted in favor of continuing with the second weekend on January 10, 2013, charging the organizers $500,000 for police and fire services.
For 2014, the festival returned to a single weekend, March 28 through the 30th. Phase one of the festival lineup was unveiled in December 2013, confirming headline appearances by major acts such as Armin van Buuren, Afrojack, Carl Cox, David Guetta, Hardwell, Fedde Le Grand, Krewella, Martin Garrix, New World Punx (Markus Schulz and Ferry Corsten), Nicky Romero, Tiësto, and Zedd. After being diagnosed with a blocked gallbladder and going back to Sweden for surgery, Avicii was replaced by Deadmau5 as the final act on the main stage for Saturday.
Notable performances during the festival included the premiere of Eric Prydz's new live show "Holo", the debut of Diplo and Skrillex's new side project Jack Ü, Above & Beyond's set being interrupted by a rainstorm, requiring them and their equipment to be moved backstage and facing away from the audience, and Deadmau5 "trolling" the audience during his set with a remix of Martin Garrix's "Animals" set to the children's song "Old McDonald Had a Farm".
On the opening Friday, a security guard was diagnosed with a brain hemorrhage and left in "extremely critical" condition after being trampled by a crowd of people attempting to gate crash the festival by breaking down a chain-link fence. Miami mayor Tomás Pedro Regalado condemned the organizers of Ultra for being "irresponsible" by failing to increase the amount of fencing and police presence in the affected area, as requested by inspectors.
Despite uncertainties over whether the festival would still be held in Miami after the trampling incident, organizers announced that the 2015 edition would be held from March 27 to 29, 2015. Organizers also announced plans for a comprehensive review of the festival's security arrangements with the involvement of the Miami Police Department, which assessed how security could be improved to "prevent a criminal incident of this nature from happening again." It was also emphasized that the 2014 festival had stronger security measures than in past years, with a larger police and undercover presence, and collaboration with the Bayfront Park Management Trust and the city's Department of Risk Management.
In a meeting on April 24, 2014, Miami commissioners voted 4 to 1 against banning the festival, allowing Ultra to remain in downtown Miami for 2015. Marc Sarnoff, the lone commissioner to vote in favor of banning Ultra, presented footage of lewd behavior by attendees at previous editions, and contended that the event affected the quality of life for downtown residents because they were being harassed by visitors. The remaining commissioners supported the festival's presence because of the exposure and positive economic effects it brings to Miami, and Keon Hardemon disputed the argument that it affected downtown residents, as they, in his opinion, chose to live downtown so they could be a part of such special events. However, the approval was made on the condition that organizers introduce facilities and policies for addressing security, drug usage and lewd behavior by attendees. On September 2, 2014, it was announced that as of 2015, Ultra would no longer admit minors; security head Raymond Martinez explained that the decision was made primarily to improve the overall safety and experience of attendees.
On January 12, 2015, Ultra co-founder Alex Omes, who had left the organization in 2010, was found dead at the age of 43. No cause of death was released.
The 2015 edition was closed by dubstep producer Skrillex, later joined by Diplo as Jack Ü. The final segment of the set featured live appearances by multiple guest vocalists, including CL ("Dirty Vibe", "MTBD"), Kiesza ("Take Ü There"), Sean Combs (who joined CL with a rendition of "It's All About the Benjamins"), and Justin Bieber for their new single "Where Are Ü Now". Video game streaming website Twitch took over as the host of the festival's official webcast.
In 2014, the Ultra Music Festival made its debut on the African continent with an inaugural 2 day event in Cape Town and Johannesburg on February 14 and 15 respectively. An entry into the emerging South African dance music market had been anticipated for some time, but it was not until October 29, 2013 when the rumours were put to rest with the announcement. The Cape Town show took place at Ostrich Ranch, while the Johannesburg show took place at the Nasrec Expo Centre. Tiesto headlined the festival, along with Afrojack, Alesso, Nicky Romero, Krewella, and W&W along with local rising duo Goldfish, Micasa Music and Black Coffee. The 2016, Ultra Music Festival will return to South Africa with a 1–day event in Cape Town on February 26 and a 2–day event in Johannesburg in February 27–28.