The Wonderful World Of Ultra Music Festival

Ultra Music Festival, one of the world's premier electronic dance music festivals

By: Breann Lange of Festworld Magazine

From a very early age, Americans are taught that the United States is a melting pot of the world’s cultures, perfectly blended into one new culture.  We immediately think of places in the U.S. that captivate our hearts with diverse music, united acceptance, and a shared love for the people who make up our nation. Among these destinations lie incredible places like Los Angeles, Austin, Seattle, and New York. Over the last 20 years, Miami, Florida has rapidly built its reputation around hosting one of the largest global festivals that draw crowds even more diverse than anywhere else…it is ULTRA MUSIC FESTIVAL!

Ultra Music Festival in Miami; Photo Credit: Ultra Music

‘Ultra’ Detailed History

Russell Faibisch and Alex Omes founded Ultra Music Festival back in 1999 as an 11-hour rave on Miami’s South Beach. This annual outdoor EDM festival occurs every March and got its name after the 1997 Depeche Mode album, Ultra. The event converged with the Winter Music Conference and featured about 50 artists, with around 7,000 attendees. Since then, Ultra gained incredible traction among many young music fans and the attendance increased to an unexpected 50,000 attendees. Due to the rapid growth, the team had to change its location to include additional property along the oceanfront. This in turn allowed the festival to increase the quality of their light shows, lasers and visuals.

In 2001, the festival’s continued popularity had grown to have over 200 performers (with an audience to match), which then encouraged another location change from the beach to a Bayfront location in Downtown Miami. With record-breaking attendances each year, the seventh annual Ultra Music Festival in 2005, moved again to another venue called the Bicentennial Park and also extended into a two-day event. Six years later, Ultra Music Festival sold out for the very first time and with over 100,000 attendees, the event became a three-day extravaganza! Due to the construction of the Miami Art Museum at Bicentennial Park, the event returned to the Bayfront Park in 2012. Challenges arose in the following years between organizers and the downtown residents of Miami, where many complained of the loud vibrations, high traffic, disturbances and intense lights.

‘Ultra’ Returns to Bayfront Park

After many meetings and votes, public officials agreed that the global exposure and positive economic effect to the South Florida area outweighed the temporary local distress. However, to appease the citing concerns of the locals, festival organizers moved the event to Virginia Key in 2019. Then the festival organizers quickly realized after a slight transportation hiccup, that the new location was simply not good enough to maintain the high caliber of what Ultra Music Festival represents. So here we are…quickly approaching 2020 and celebrating 21 years of UMF where hundreds of thousands of dedicated Ultra fans (“Ultranauts”) await next year’s lineup release, in anticipation for the return to the coveted Bayfront Park in Miami’s downtown landscape.

Ultra Music Festival Attendance Timeline Year-by-Year

‘Ultra’ Cool People

I’ve always appreciated the cultural melting pot that is South Florida – the mix of people, languages and cultures are intoxicating and fascinating under Miami’s all-encompassing umbrella. However, Ultra Music Festival brings a different type of worldwide pride where all cultures unite in an international mosaic. While other festivals like EDC Las Vegas and Tomorrowland have touted their global audience, there is no festival in history that has proven such a global presence, year after year like Ultra Music Festival. Whichever direction you turn, a kaleidoscopic view of various national colors painted on hats, t-shirts, fans and headbands. Many symbolically representing national super heroes as they proudly drape their nation’s flag over their backs like capes.

Within earshot, you may hear a spread of foreign languages from every direction – a French couple flirting on the sidelines, another group joking around in Portuguese, while two Japanese friends yell for each other across the way.  It truly is one of the few places in the United States that maintains the separation of cultures, yet invites every “Ultranaut” in attendance to dance in unity in the glittering landscape of Miami and alongside the palm tree-stricken bay.  When you combine the fact that the event is hosted in a destination city, sporting a worldwide recognizable brand, and possess an incredible track record for showcasing the fiercest artists and DJs, it was only a matter of time that this magical recipe would be duplicated. 

Ultra Japan at Tokyo Odaiba Ultra Park in Tokyo; Photo Credit: Ultra Music

Ultra Worldwide

Though it began in the U.S., in 2008, Ultra declared its branchUltra Worldwide, which started in Brazil and quickly expanded into Argentina, Chile, South Africa, Japan, Indonesia, Spain, Croatia and plenty of other locations globally. Ultra has undoubtedly remained the most successful independent electronic music festival brand while also being the most international festival brand in the world. Combining the same exceptional ingredients from the Miami-flagship location, with the most diverse electronic talents and most technologically advanced stage production, it has helped propel the Ultra brand into at least twenty-eight countries across six continents worldwide! Ultra is showing no signs of slowing down, and their global domination continues marching on for the foreseeable future. Not only is Ultra a mosaic of multicultural diversity but as it continues expanding, it is also creating a mosaic display across the map as it plants its UMF flag in each country.

Locations of Ultra Worldwide music festivals; Source: Ultra Music

‘Ultra’ Unique

Just when you thought Ultra Music Festival couldn’t get any better, the award-winning producers threw a curve ball in 2012 with a simple, ingenious concept called the Road to Ultra.  These single-stage events presented the same innovative stage production and blue-ribbon visuals as UMF and Ultra Worldwide. However, they were designed for more intimate settings, indoor and outdoor. A trail of Ultra’s world-class artists like Tiësto, Martin Garrix, Above & Beyond, Afrojack and Hardwell have been featured in places like Thailand, Taiwan, Australia, Bolivia, Chile, Philippines, Peru, Hong Kong, India, Paraguay and Korea (to name a few). The fact that these talented headliners were appearing at smaller venues all across the globe, made electronic dance music even more accessible, created a stronger fan base for these artists, and truly helped bridge the gap between festival-goers and music lovers.

Ultra South Africa at Cape Town Ostrich Ranch in Cape Town; Photo Credit: Ultra Music

‘Ultra’ Amazing Mission

Even the most incredible or developed of entities realize that the need to continuously evolve is a critical part in maintaining success. Although Ultra Music Festival has been wildly successful over the last 20+ years, they too found the need to evolve their mission and set an example of what it means to be a citizen of the world. Today, they share with us their mission, commitment and initiatives to reduce their environmental impact and inspire attendees to protect the planet. Ever since loud musical tremors in Virginia Key Beach were said to have disturbed the marine life in the area, Ultra is on a mission to protect the ecosystem and continue being one of the best festival venues in the country. Their Sustainability Plan includes guidelines for pollution prevention, nature preservation, community engagement, responsible resources strategies, waste reduction and traffic mitigation. 

They even introduced an environmental volunteer program called “Clean Vibes” in which volunteers can assist with their recycling and composting programs as well as their “Leave No Trace” initiative. Various kinds of plastic such as confetti, balloons and disposable drinkware, were banned. It is incredibly gratifying to see a festival take accountability for the imprint they leave on our earth (whether it be good or bad) but also pass a mirror to each and every one of us to help see our own individual impact on our environment as well. Ultra does an incredible job of distinguishing what they are doing to make a difference, while also listing exact action items for what we can do too.

 ‘Ultra’ Important Tips

Most people think that PLUR culture is defined only by beautiful social encounters. In reality, Ultra’s dedication to the planet and its people is another affirmation of Peace, Love, Unity and Respect. Here are some tips to remember for your next festival:

  • Never EVER litter 
  • Encourage anyone you see littering to do their part in leaving no trace 
  • ALWAYS respect the natural elements of the venue 
  • Dispose of waste properly 
  • Keep your group’s area clean 
  • Respect all protective barriers and fencing 
Ultra Europe at Mladen Park in Split, Croatia; Photo Credit: Ultra Music

Ultra 2020

Whether you attend Ultra Music Festival in 2020 or you’re hitting the streets/canyons/desert of another festival soon, Ultra has provided all of us dedicated music fans the roadmap to keeping our festival obsessions sustainable by respecting our earth.  Although there is yet to be disclosure of the 2020 lineup, Ultra 2019’s featured sets had Afrojack, Adam Beyer, Carl Cox, The Chainsmokers, Alesso and Armin van Burren. The tickets for registered buyers have sold out but the Tier 3 and Tier 4 tickets will release soon.  Don’t press the snooze button this fall to buy your tickets…Ultra is the perfect kickoff to your Festival Season!

Now that you know that Ultra Music Festival is more than it’s recurring, stacked lineup and insane party atmosphere, you can share with your “Fest Fam” how UMF is the pioneer in killer production and stellar music, while promoting global harmony. If you can’t make it to the flagship festival in Miami, there are plenty of other Ultra events throughout the year. Pick a country, grab your nation’s flag, wear it proudly, and start on your very own quest for Ultra domination.

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