In Defense of Ultra Music Festival

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Photo by George Martinez

The fact is, the festival has operated with a mostly clean record -- not counting drugs and overdoses, because there's only so much that can be done when it comes to personal responsibility.

It still amazes that Ultra can have that many people party relatively safely in a space as small as Bayfront Park. It should be considered the gold standard of large-scale events in Miami. There are less traffic problems going to Ultra than around the automobile clusterfuck known as the Sony Open or along the streets of Wynwood and Design District during Art Basel Miami Beach.

Another thing that should be addressed is Ultra's all-ages policy. It's time to end it. Make the festival 18 and over. Or even better, make it 21 and over. (Tomorrowworld held a successful inaugural U.S. event with only 21-and-over attendess.) Ultra would probably win back some fans who have written the festival off as a kiddie rave. Perception is paramount, and having underage kids attend the festival isn't helping.

"I don't know if that's the answer," says Diego Martinelli, local nightclub promoter and founder of Safe, when asked about putting an age restriction on Ultra. "But in order to get themselves out of hot water, that might have to be compromise they may have to make."

And let's talk about that ticket price: I've defended the festival's right -- and still do -- to charge $399 plus fees for a general admission ticket. Space at Bayfront is tight and the amount of people that the park can hold is a lot less than other music festival grounds. Production and artists costs are much higher today than when Ultra started. However, had organizers introduced the ticket layaway plan from the very beginning, more people might have felt like they could manage the bill -- instead of resorting to jumping the fences. (Not that I'm saying that's the reason why the security breach occurred, but I'm sure some of the gatecrashers felt like they couldn't afford to go.)

Still, Ultra organizers may decide it's time to move from downtown Miami and I wouldn't blame them. At this point, it makes sense. Far from the reach of the city of Miami, they could expand again to two weekends. If they had to move somewhere else in Florida, Big Cypress Indian Reservation seems like the logical choice. Langerado's 2008 edition already proved it could handle a music festival. It has 360 acres of land available, compared to Bayfront Park's 32. That's more than enough room to put on a massive festival and include on-site camping. The move might also bring down ticket prices and the cost of accommodations for festival-goers. (Have you tried booking a room during Ultra weekend? My advice, don't, unless you are ready to take out a bank loan.)

The only downside? It's located about 79 miles and over an hour's drive away from Miami, on the northwestern fringes of what's barely Broward County. You can forget about tourists staying in our hotels or partying at our nightclubs. The move would hurt those in the service industry who rely on the amount of people that Ultra and WMC bring into the city. Also, Ultra's relocation would hurt the conference, turning it into a much more muted experience that could fall into irrelevancy.

"I think if Ultra didn't coincide with WMC, it would definitely hurt [the conference]," asserts Martinelli. "It might affect the corporate clubs that rely on the David Guettas and Hardwells more than it would the [underground] stuff. I can see why [the city] wants to do away with it, but I don't think it's a good thing."

But if we are also going to spread the blame, some responsibly must fall on the City of Miami's shoulders, because it has failed time and time again to provide residents with a sizable park space comparable to New York's Central Park, Chicago's Grant Park, or San Francisco's Golden Gate Park. (I love the new Perez Art Museum Miami, but it cost us a park that should have been renovated and opened to the community.)

It's embarrassing that Miami continues to tout itself as a metropolitan city, but puts so little value on green space. If Miami had a signature park, Ultra and other events like it would have an adequate space where they could be staged. Instead of turning city- and county-owned land over to developers, politicians should consider creating a proper "backyard" for residents and visitors.

Miami is in no position to shoo away Ultra just yet, and Regalado and Sarnoff should consider the downsides. Ultra exposed not only its own shortcomings, but those of the city as well. Miami needs to work better with the festival, instead of acting like the hostile landlord that it's been the past few years.

(And dammit, never again do I want to have to take issue with something and have to be on same fighting side as the Herald's Fabiola Santiago.)

Crossfade's Top Blogs
-50 Things You See at Ultra Music Festival
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132 comments
Jorge Rojas
Jorge Rojas

Who cares if they move it the 1st 2 were at the beach on the sand

Jorge Rojas
Jorge Rojas

Couldn't care less went to the 1st few when I was a teen its wack to each his own I guess

TDoubleD
TDoubleD

The only way I'll accept Ultra is if all entrants sign a contract that states that they will never procreate... ever. We don't need to bring into this world that many more people with horrible taste. This music is seriously trash, people. What's the deal? 

Jimbo99
Jimbo99

To me, the timing of Ultra is a spring break college thing. You are going to get folks that simply want to be around the energy of the free to air music in the surrounding area. The old addage is that it only takes a few to ruin it for the many applies here. As much as it's made out that a mob stormed the fence and tried to get in for free, there were just enough of that criminal element to do that and it's such a smal sampling of the crowd that is generally there with tickets to enjoy an event they paid for. That said, not sure what the solution is, but South Beach would be an equal mess with a smaller events during Spring Break festivities that they hold. The problem is the one's that did not have tickets and crashed the event. The 2 biggest incidents were the security guard that didn't have enough support to deter the crowd. The other being the kid that died in his car because he overdosed ? This is like bike weeks in Daytona Beach only concentrated. The event isn't the problem, it's the one's that come around that really have little business being there. How is the city of Miami going to handle it in the future ? Personaly I don't go around crowds like this anymore, grew out of that phase maybe some of these folks will too. I can have a great time elsewhere, it's not the only place to gravitate/migrate to, even on those particular weekend dates.

Dave Basora
Dave Basora

Don't you mean "let's talk about Ultra again...and again...and again..."

JJ Chapa
JJ Chapa

It won't be the same if they move it

jdomar
jdomar

New Times has its lips firmly planted up Ultra's a**. Let's list other major downtowns around the country that have massive music festivals. Gee, none come to mind. I wonder why?

makes_sense
makes_sense

They should be in pairs also, If she had someone with her he could of told her they could of told her to get away from the fence its not holding !

Kim Elliott
Kim Elliott

Ben Flanagan there was a trampling at ultra!

Sabattus O'Connell
Sabattus O'Connell

Make Ultra a 21+ event, hire professional security, and watch the difference unfold. Simple.

RB RB
RB RB

Dude its fun lots of ppl from all over the world its good from a networking point of view don't hate on Miami & the festival!

Brad MacGillivray
Brad MacGillivray

Ultra is lame!!! Over paid djs in a competition to see who can play the worst tracks and see who can be the biggest douche bag on the mic.

Rachel Marie Balas
Rachel Marie Balas

Of course only the ignorant people talk bad about this article, it has valid points and isn't completely glorifying UMF either. Mind you Miami has ALWAYS had a huge problem with drugs, and they still do! Remember the 80s? (i wasn't alive but I know my damn history.) Drug trafficking, Drug wars, the mass shooting at Dadeland mall? All because if DRUGS. Taking drugs is a personal choice. And living in Miami, not even the ADULTS are mature. Most of the night clubs are 21+ (the really good ones at least) what do you think goes on there? People drinking a lot, and then driving afterwards, which most adults in Miami do. I believe that's irresponsible, but they made that choice. Don't bash on the Festival itself when it's the persons choice to do it. If they make bad decisions and end up hurt, or hospitalized, or worse.. They had the choice to say no or not do it. So don't punish EVERYONE for the stupid ones. Some people DO know how to go have fun without touching a drug or alcoholic beverage. It's not just the kids doing drugs. The adults do it too.

Haven Vrai Soi
Haven Vrai Soi

I remember when you could by a ticket for Ultra at the gate for $87. Now you have to save up for a year in order to buy those tickets. That's the only thing I hate about Ultra, but then again all live events are starting to be like that.

Tyler M Foxx
Tyler M Foxx

Yet a shooting happens at the fucking Urban festival weekend on Miami Beach, and they don't say shit of banning that.

PaulaandPeter Gutzkow
PaulaandPeter Gutzkow

Who ever wrote this article should be taken in to the edm hall of fame! And what he says is so true sind I do think ultra should move just for safety and make it 21 and up ! And all those edm is Satan bashers like Miami's mayor SHUT THE F.... UP!!!! Good job new Miami times

Ayush Bansal
Ayush Bansal

because ultra is life...whosever has a problem with it just ignore it instead of accusing it for rave culture.

Lu Lu DasClown
Lu Lu DasClown

You hear that Miami New Times? Nobody gives a fuck what you think. ;)

Andy Van Den Bos
Andy Van Den Bos

"Another thing that should be addressed is Ultra's all-ages policy. It's time to end it. Make the festival 18 and over. Or even better, make it 21 and over. (Tomorrowworld held a successful inaugural U.S. event with only 21-and-over attendess.) Ultra would probably win back some fans who have written the festival off as a kiddie rave. Perception is paramount, and having underage kids attend the festival isn't helping.". I am on board.

Daniel Sanchez
Daniel Sanchez

SO TRUE!!! ULTRA belongs in MIAMI, It always has!

Dana Hatred
Dana Hatred

He admits to never attending the festival. But he says politicians like Regalado and Sarnoff are "out of touch with the new voting bloc." What voting bloc? Most of the Miami kids (or all?) most likely aren't ever going to vote or know what the hell is going on with politics except what maybe their parents tell them. You are giving the children of Miami way too much credit. As well as the fact that CHILDREN should have no reason to be in a festival like that. Whatever terrible parents let their kids into that place should be publicly shamed.

glowboy1024
glowboy1024

so stupid there are other festivals in miami with hiphop and raggaeton where people are shot and raped..wow at ultra people get happy and maybe hump a tree..if ultra wasent so much to get into they wouldent have these problems.make it affordable sell single day tickets so its not such a struggle for everyone to go. its cool it get lots of foreigners but they already get spoiled with great festivals.

davidtriana911
davidtriana911

Can't they just wait till about The first weekend in april,(After the Fair is over) and use the Dade County Fairgrounds for the concert? That lot of land looks much bigger than bayfront park, and has lots of space for parking. Just a thought.  

Jennifer Fuentes
Jennifer Fuentes

Miami should be lucky that they decide to have that festival there. Florida has turned into a huge crime state, most of the money is from tourist and snowbirds during the winter season. The few jobs there are, pay minimum wage. There are an overabundance of immigrants, legal and illegal. I know so many dirtbags that moved there to 'start over'. They were in jail, drug addicts, or both.some parts are better than other, but it's a cheap place to visit, if never live there again.

Ivan Kuzmin
Ivan Kuzmin

UMF don't deserve,what really deserves it's the price for the tickets...

Vanessa Rodriguez
Vanessa Rodriguez

Yanet Carrillo hell, yes. Lol they're right. It was pretty bad. I'm done with ultra.

Lux Christian
Lux Christian

1: the visitors are to young! 18 +. Mainstage artists played alle the same way. I'm with Deadmaus on his critics. Best stage in terms of quality: Carl Cox Arena and the livestage. The place is superrb. Fantastic mainstage. Great show! Go on with this!

Cindy S. Blandon
Cindy S. Blandon

Ultra❤️ make it 21+ for next year and see how it goes

Chris Elizalde
Chris Elizalde

Ultra is amazing. Been 4 years in a row and so far at 31 total music festivals. This is by far the best! Truly the one place where I feel at home. I hope people see how amazing Ultra is and stops bringing negativity. I just wish the world could actually see it for themselves.. maybe then it would change their minds.

longdongsilver15
longdongsilver15

Miami has no signature park to hold large events like this. I think thats an excellent point!


However, it's also obvious they need to invest in better security. 

Juan Carlos Campos
Juan Carlos Campos

it is the best festival I have ever been to. I went for the first time ever and it was the best concert. Better than the rock and pop concerts I went to. Now, for the kids, I didn't see any kids there when I went. Yes, I saw 18 and 21 year old. Of course, they were some immature but most behaved lol. Now, if you don't want to have kids there, then parents should do a better job parenting! Stop blaming the festival for letting the kids go! Blame is on you parents! IF you don't want to kid to go, then don't let them. Most of all, make sure they are hanging with the right crowd. Not a bunch of dump asses that wont look out for them!

xxxraiderxxx
xxxraiderxxx

@TDoubleD  Oh, and I'm sure the only music you listen to is the highest quality flatulence directly from God's asshole, yes?

jdomar
jdomar

Drugs aren't the issue here.

jdomar
jdomar

Yeah, they've more or less run that out of town. Do your homework...

jdomar
jdomar

Exactly. How about attending just once before spouting.

ermesad94
ermesad94

lol You described New York as well, stop hating. I'll pick Miami any day over Cold Cheapy Ass New York

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