Break-Beat Breakup

The world’s biggest week of electronic music undergoes a two-week division

Each year, nightlife gurus and electronic music lovers from Las Vegas and beyond eagerly count down the days until Winter Music Conference and Ultra Music Festival, which have been held concurrently in Miami, since Ultra’s 1999 debut. However, in November, everybody was shocked to learn that WMC would occur March 8-12 but UMF would carry on with its originally scheduled event March 25-27.

At 26 years old, WMC is a five-day conference and exposition featuring intimate parties led by iconic DJs. In 2009 the three-day outdoor Ultra festival made the symbiotic relationship—which allows WMC badge-holders to attend UMF for free—official with a five-year contract to keep their event during WMC.

However, a release issued by UMF on Nov. 18 that “due to WMC’s claim to us that they could not secure a convention host hotel on the last week of March to meet their facility requirements as a conference, they chose to go on the second week.”

UMF did not follow WMC in the change because this year’s Calle Ocho Festival, which draws one million to downtown Miami during the second week of March, created space and financial issues.

Response from the music community has been swift and passionate.

Space Nightclub owner Louis Puig ranted via his blog just days after the announcement, “Ultra [Music Festival] is trying to monopolize WMC by engaging exclusive contracts with all major DJs. WMC used to be about free parties with DJs and industry folks.” WMC owner Bill Kelly explained to MTV News that the loss of UMF in 2011 would “hurt a little bit” but views it as a door to new endeavors.

By all appearances, attendees are sticking it out with UMF because of Ultra’s contract with big names such as Tiësto, Deadmau5, headliners Armin van Buuren and even the band Duran Duran.

“The good parties are during Ultra week,” says Vegas’ DJ Scotty Boy, who has attended both events since ’04. “It’ll be like the old days, where it’s a big name in a small room and invite-only.” No matter what the week, the beach city will soon be bustling with EDM fans from downtown to Collins Avenue, and hotels and clubs will no doubt cash in on both events. All tickets to UMF sold out by Feb. 18. At press time, $395 tickets to WMC are still available.