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Ultra Music Festival Ticket Failure

Written By imam santoso on Thursday, October 18, 2012 | 8:40 PM

Just in case everyone didn’t already know, the ugly truth these days is that it’s NOT really all about the music. More than ever we’re noticing a pervasive trend in electronic music culture where money, power and status mutate and corrupt the events we once cherished. As a diehard UMF attendee since 2009, I’m sorry to say that UMF Miami almost seems like it’s going the way of Electric Daisy Carnival in Vegas this past June.

The focus is so obviously on quantity over quality, and despite constant expansion in production standards and stellar lineups over nearly fifteen years running, the impeccable and coveted reputation UMF once held in the eyes of the fans and industry competitors was put into serious question after the ticket stunt they pulled this week.

Basically, communications to subscribers were purposely misleading. They sent an email to their list on September 11th with the subject line: “Ultra Music Festival 2013 Early Bird Tickets Coming Very Soon”, telling people to “sign up now to the Ultra online community and be the first to know when they go on sale.” The click through on that email brought you to the site – so, assuming you had already gotten that email in the first place, wouldn’t you think you were already “signed up” and in communication? That’s what I thought anyway, so maybe I didn’t get the hint…it seems as though you had to just be lucky enough to get on that super exclusive early bird ticket notification list somehow, whether if by resubscribing or what is still unclear.

The next email I got as a “subscriber” was a month later on October 11th telling me that tickets would go on sale Wednesday, October 17th. The subject line read: “Ultra Music Festival 2013 Early Bird Ticket Information.” And then within the email it said, “Make sure to check your email frequently because only our subscribers will be receiving exclusive early bird ticket information. Stay connected…” I guess I didn’t read between the lines enough. Maybe they were spelling it out in not so many words: we’re creating a new, exclusive early bird ticket list, so sign up and you might be lucky enough to check your email at the right moment, and then if you do, you might even be lucky enough to get through the purchase process and buy a ticket for $150.

Well, even if you were on the mysterious special list that received the email on Tuesday, October 16th announcing that early bird tickets would go on sale in a few minutes, you experienced the recurring nightmare where their server crashed horribly at launch time for a whole hour. When the site finally became operable again, the early bird price was gone in a mere 10minutes. Just like last year.

So what’s the big deal? Some people who were lucky got the low price at $150, while others were burdened (I know…boohoo brats!) with the price of the advanced tier at $229 (plus $55 in “service” fees of course). Well, the big deal is that this constant price inflation in festivals, (especially annual massives like Ultra that gain more popularity and word-of-mouth momentum every year), is the foundation of the bigger problem that’s going on in the electronic music scene. Corporate takeover. Ticket sellouts have become a given. So why not sell more tickets? Why not make the lowest price tier nearly impossible for people to purchase, because it’s not like we won’t buy them at the higher price if we’re forced to.

To put it in perspective, the first year that UMF Miami sold out was in 2010 with over 100,000 in attendance. In 2011 there was a third day added and the numbers rose to 150,000, and then in 2012, 165,000. In 2010, early bird tickets were $99. In 2011, advanced tickets were $179. But don’t worry, the VIP tickets aren’t set on a timer – you can get your 6-day combo pass for just $1,449.90, and don’t forget the $289.04 service fee!

Of course Adam Russakoff (UMF Executive Producer, Director of Business Affairs and talent buyer) is playing up what a boon the event is for Miami’s local economy, much the same way EDC portrayed itself, as a noble benefactor giving $75K in donation checks to Vegas charities. Russakoff spins the enlargement of the festival from 1 to 2 weekends to sound like UMF is giving everyone MORE, but plays down the bottom line, which is just that this is a trickle down system, and when UMF maxes out on profits, so will everyone:

“Being the first ever EDM leaning festival to go two weekends just supports our position as being the preeminent forward thinking brand in electronica. Although we are already known as having the best and most relevant talent at our events, two weekends allows us to present even more and create two separate and distinct highly unique experiences for our attendees, let alone the impact this will have on the economy in terms of jobs and other ancillary industries like hotels and transportation.”

I guess all I’m trying to say is…UM…WTF. Why does raving have to be so damn expensive? And well, the answer is simple: because it’s the SHIT. We all know this. And I’m sure I’ll enjoy Ultra just as much this year as I have for the past four years, but at the same time, it would be nice NOT to get wanked around by the powers that be who are clearly banking on our passion for music.

Not to mention that this neverending requirement for festivals to outdo themselves year after year, sell out faster and faster, gain thousands and thousands more attendees with each edition, is a bit daunting. It’s ominous in fact, because it points to that ever-present thought in the back of our minds that this kind of growth can only lead to one thing: CULTURAL SELLOUT. It’s the whole mentality of “Let’s Buy Happiness” (to use one of Boys Noize’s track titles) driven by mindless, superfluous extravagance.

Ultra’s saving grace, however, will always be that it works in conjunction with Winter Music Conference, which maintains it’s integrity through 28 years running as one of the premier gatherings promoting the evolution of electronic music as a global artform. Attracting artists and industry delegates from 70 different countries, there’s over 500 events, parties, seminars and workshops over the course of the week. WMC’s focus is not purely on consumption in other words; it’s about growth, spreading awareness and musical knowledge, and appreciation for those who paved the way in the industry as well as emerging artists and ideas. Ultra is really just a small part of the overarching Miami Music Week. Rant over.

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