This article is my report on WMC Vs. Ultra Week in Miami 2011. When I went to Ultra week it was obvious that it was 50-60% of last years WMC numbers. Which makes sense cause they split the crowd in two. So who won? In short WMC won, because all their events were full, the promoters made money and they brought back the old school house vibe. Ultra won, because they sold out. The city of Miami and the clubs won cause they had two festivals. But many promoters, DJs and labels lost due to low attendance on Ultra week with the similar number of events as last year.
I have been going to WMC (Winter Music Conference) in Miami for the last 8 years. I have hosted and promoted multiple events there and spun some memorable sets with some of our favortie artists. In the last few years WMC and the Ultra music festival have been on the same week in Miami which created one week of crazy parties with the "Who's Who" of the electronic music industry. If you didn't hear the story you can read about the split here on Resident Adisor's "WMC 2011: A Tale of Two Festivals".
This year all the talks were about how the split of WMC being on the 2nd week of March and Ultra Festival and all the parties surrounding it on the 4th week of March. There was a ton of drama between the WMC and Ultra organizers. WMC moved their dates without trying to accommodate Ultra and Ultra had already booked all their artists in advance and could not change the dates. So what happened? Who won? Well in short WMC won because it seemed like they wanted to separate themselves from Ultra. They won't admit to this but it was pretty obvious since all they had to do was look for another venue to host their event at on the 4th week of March. It seemed like they did not try hard enough. The outcome was great, there weren't too many WMC 2011 parties but from my sources every party was full with a great vibe. The DJs and the music in WMC 2011 was mostly house music and US artists... all the Detroit techno crew (Jeff Mills, Derrick May, Kevin Suanderson, Stacey Pullen,... ) to all the NYC DJs (Danny Tenaglia, Danny Krivit, Francois K, ...) to all the funky house Don's (Derrick Carter, Sneak, Mark Farina, Miguel Migs, Marquez Wyatt, ...). There were some European's in the mix but a small amount like the Cadenza crew. Not anything like previous WMC's which were packed with European electronic music lovers. Instead this year all the European artists came to Ultra Week. Makes sense cause they have less flexibility with their tour schedules vs. the local US DJs. After speaking to many regular clubbers who didn't have the industry insight, they said many were pissed off at WMC. They expected the big lineups and crazy madness of previous years but no one explained to them that the there was a "split". Cause just by looking at the lineups of the events on WMC week and Ultra week you could see a major differenfce, Ultra week lineups were way more packed with big name artists.
I spoke with Stacey Pullen, a friend and a globe trotting DJ who regularly plays at WMC. This year Stacey spun at both WMC and Ultra week. Stacey stated that WMC week was strong in attendance but with less events. Stacey spun at the "We Love ..." party at the Shelbourne along with Derrick May, Jeff Mills, and Kevin Suanderson, Dessyn Masielo ... said "it was full". Another friend of mine who also spun at both weeks, DJ Behrouz who plays within the international club circuit and who also lives in Miami refered to WMC week evets by saying, "every party was a party". I ran into Behrouz numerous times as we both were club hopping to all the top events of Ultra week. Behrouz hosted and spun at multiple events on both weeks so he what was up. Behrouz continued to say that all the parties that he went to were full, not packed, but full with a great vibe. By great vibe meaning the area in front of the DJ booth was packed. Where as there were many parties in Ultra week with HUGE multiheadliner lineups that were slow. I won't name, names as many of but the reality was that you would expect these parties to be sold out on a normal WMC year. I first noticed it where on Thursday during Ultra Week at around 2pm I did my routine walk on Ocean from 5-15th. Every year when I make that walk I run into multiple DJs and promoters that I know. You can catch all the industry regulars heading to Ocean for a bite to eat and its great to see familiar faces. This year however, I did not see a single person I knew. It was very odd, cause that is something I always look forward to. That's how we network in WMC; we don't head to the workshops we hang out back stage and get introduced to the movers and shakers of the industry. By 5pm on Thursday we arrived to Shelbourne to see Luciano and Carl Craig. Luciano's party that last few years has been insaaane. I imagined there would be a HUGE line but there wasn't. Then I knew that the numbers were definitely lower than last year. Don't get me wrong Luciano's party was a packed house and huge success. But last year it was un-comfortably packed. I'm not complaining as it was a better experience, but just pointing out the difference in attendance.
I spoke to my friend, Miguel Migs who hosted his Deep gets Salted party in WMC, who said that their party had 1000+. Which is more than they had previous years at WMC. So less parties definitely benefited the promoters and record labels who stuck with the WMC week.
How about the Ultra Music Festival? Well the Ultra music festival won because their event was sold out, ove 110,000 attendees at an average of $50 tickets (you do the math). They didn't care much about the other promoters and labels who hosted their events on that week. They probably looked at them like competitors. Many events on Ultra week were super slow, even ones with big names DJs where the promoters must have paid top dollar. Mostly because Ultra had signed most of the commercial big name djs in exclusive contracts. Because of this the beach and down town were full of underground house and techno events. A ton of those events too, all attracting the same crowd. There was just not enough underground house and techno lovers to go around.
So what will happen next year? There has to be less parties. The promoters and labels who lost will think twice about investing in big budget events on Ultra week. It needs to qualize and create a new balance. Many might join WMC as there is less competition there. All in all many did not come to Miami this year and many won't next year unless Ultra and WMC re-join. Lets see what happens in 2012.
What were the highlights of Ultra Week 2011? Well I would definitely say Wednesday night at the Red Room at Shoreclub with Carl Craig, Loco Dice, Martin Buttrich and Stacey Pullen was a highlight. Everyone was there from the whole Desolat crew, Marco Carola, Sharam, Behrouz, Yousef, Luciano and the Vagabundus crew, Jamie Jones and Art Department, Coyu and Edu Imbernon, ... in a intimate comfortable place with sick sound system. Maybe it was because it was the first night and I got to talk to people.
Other highlights were The People like Us pool party at Surfcomber where I got to hang out with Dice and his Desolat crew. A great bunch of people with a 20 person entourage that we happened to join with. The best way to describe them; warm hearted trouble makers who love underground house and techno. Which lead to the funniest part of the trip; Loco Dice and Marko Carola walking us all in with them to Space. About 30 of us too! It's funny because its so hard to get into Space during WMC week comped (for free). Now getting comped with a +1 is even harder, forget about + 2 or +3. Now how about +30? I had experienced it once before when Dubfire walked 15 of us into Space on a Saturday night during WMC of 2009, straight to the backstage vip too. And the ratio was super fucked up: 14 guys and ONE girl, lol. But we were all industry heads, Dubfires tour manager, Nic Fanciulli, Endo, Owner of RubySkye, ... But nothing like Dice and +30! Then Marco Carola and Dice served up a nice 12 HOUR set on the Space Terrace. I stayed through 9 hours of it but couldnt manage the last 3.
Carl Craig and Luciano's back 2 back set at the Shelbourne on Thursday was amazing. From observing closesly over their shoulders from the jammed packed stage it seemed Luciano was serving most of the beats and latin vocals while Carl Craig was adding the detroit style synths and percussions...WOW. Creating music on the fly! A 5 hour set too. Backstage was packed with Luciano's entourage of trendy Spaniards and a lot of cute European girls. We stood in Carl Craig's corner along with the Detroit crew and Matt Edwards (Radio Slave) and James.