Ten years ago, if given the opportunity to go to Ultra Music Festival, I would have taken it. A decade ago was back when Sonny Moore was just leaving From First To Last and starting a new project, Skrillex, and “being into dance music” was, in general, a little strange. But times have changed, the festival has changed, and I’ve changed. I am actually planning a trip around going to Miami during Ultra, but I’m skipping the festival. Instead I’m opting for Miami Music Week, the peripheral celebrations around Miami that happen the week leading up to Ultra Music Festival. Here’s why the parties are better.
It's way too expensive
As is true for all of the big festivals these days, you have to hustle to get a GA ticket, which starts at about $300 and hikes up to $350 before selling out completely. Currently, the only passes left are $1,200 for three-day VIP tickets, which is about how much I spent on a hotel for four nights.
I can see all the DJs I want to for much cheaper during Miami Music Week
Miami Music Week and Winter Music Conference kick-off in the days leading up to Ultra Music Festival. During that time all of the DJs playing at Ultra, and even ones not on the line-up, roll into town to play clubs, warehouses, hotel pool parties and yacht parties as Ultra’s attendees trickle into town. Aside from the partying and shows, this is a major networking and collaboration event for the dance music industry, because literally everyone is in town. I can see Pete Tong for free at my hotel, Sharam and the Yoshitoshi Recordings artists perform on Friday night for around $25, and then Above and Beyond for around $50 (this is online, early bird and before the show).
You usually only see a third of of the DJs you want to see
I can pay less and see the DJs I actually want to see for a small price. When you go to an event like Ultra, you’re lucky to see a handful of the DJs you’re interested in seeing; when attending an event where that particular DJ is the headliner, you’re guaranteed to see them. And with headliners not even coming on until 5 a.m. and 7 a.m. at nightclubs, between that and pool parties during the day, it’s not hard to check all of the “must-sees” off your list.
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I'm basically over commercialized bullshit in music (and in general)
Picture yourself moving through a crowd of thousands of people — kind of difficult, right? OK, now give all of those people hard drugs. Terrifying. Chilling on a yacht with only a few hundred people around sunset, grooving to Nick Warren sounds way better than all of the crazy long lines and crowds of people on ecstasy at Ultra. Being thirsty sucks, but having to wait 45 minutes for water while you watch of questionable situations unfold is terrible. I get that Ultra is a big visual experience, with state-of-the-art visual arts and lasers, but that’s not what I’m there for.
I can hear all the sets online after the show
Ultra is loud, which is cool. But between all of the craziness you miss a lot of the quality in the performances. I can stream all of the performances on Soundcloud and Mixcloud and really hear and appreciate the music I'm there for.