On any given day BT may be hosting a panel on production tips and techniques, while in the next room a representatives from SPIN Magazine and BBC will be discussing the relationship dance music has with mainstream press. The general knowledge attained from these panels is helpful both to the unsuspecting bedroom DJ and commercial tastemakers respectfully.
The past 20 years have definitely seen the world of Electronic Dance Music change for the better and WMC has reacted appropriately by growing year after year while embracing every facet of the industry.
Now in its 20th anniversary WMC’s reputation precedes it, as virtually every fan of the electronic genre is fully aware of the events and activities surrounding the conference. The idea that WMC is simply a branding for the worlds biggest dance party, while flattering, can be a bit discouraging to many as the focus of the entire week has been pinned mainly to events such as this years highly anticipated Ultra Music Festival.
Do these parties and events really give benefit to WMC and it’s attendees? I would easily say yes. I decided to see what opportunities for industry actually exist at the biggest party in the US. I quickly learned that benefits for artists and professionals begin many months prior to the actual event itself while this year March 26th will be the culmination of months of hard work for many.
Organizers of Ultra begin talks with agents, managers and artists almost a full year in advance to allow plenty of room for everyone involved to make arrangements by planning releases, route tours, and gain a maximum amount of media exposure leading up to and post event time. According to Lainie Copicotto whom is the Media and Marketing Director of Ultra:
“We have definitely increased our communication with entire management teams. Where in the past it was as simple as calling an agent and just booking the talent now its a whole production. Our Publicity and marketing department is constantly in contact with coordinating the Artist/DJ, management, publicists and labels to cross promote the event. Oh and of course we have up'd our hospitality, Ultra Beach and Backstage is the place to be if you are industry or VIP. Our Ultra Beach area designed to look like a mixture of Nikki Beach and the Delano backyard has it's own sound system, bottle service and beachfront view of Biscayne Bay. This year celeb DJs such as Peretz (aka Perry Ferrell), Palash (Armani Exchange Music) and Kaskade (OP Clothing / Om Records) will be holding it down for the VIP. “Despite a direct benefit to individuals, there are benefit the industry gains through sponsorship opportunities that are acquired by events like ULTRA. Corporate sponsorships are not only financially helpful rather they bring legitimacy to the industry and include major dance acts on tours and in the media along with mainstream pop and rock acts.
Another benefit ULTRA brings the industry is that it gives industry figures a look at the health of electronic music. Over the past few years as we’ve seen artists like Tiesto, Paul Oakenfold and Paul van Dyk enter the mainstream music arena audience attendance and reaction can help industry leaders gauge market size and demographic. We also get a look into new trends. Capicotto says:
“Artists such as Paul van Dyk, Tiesto and Paul Oakenfold and definite staples of Ultra they are incredible performers and we are just amazed on how their draw has grown from 7 years ago. We are very proud to have been a part of that growth. There is definitely a trend, we have been getting more and more celebrity attendance without even attempting to contact anyone, which is great. Last year P. Diddy, Naomi Campbell, Tommy Lee and Perry were all in attendance. Also where in years past we had that solid 18-25 demo, it has expanded so much that we have honestly a 16-35 demo now. Parents come with their kids from all over the country WE LOVE IT!”The broadened demo has had an effect on the music itself. Many new groups such as the Killers, The Streets, The White Stripes and many others have incorporated electronic elements and enjoyed huge success from remixing activities. As the music changes, organizers adapt by changing criteria concerning bookings. Concerning what exactly organizers are looking for Capicotto said:
“Individual sound, performance and entertainment. Sound similar? Individual sound and that unique way they play their music, some people can be in the same genre but one DJ may play chunky funky breaks mixed in whereas another will toss in White Stripes Mash ups. Performance, obviously are they a great performer, are their interacting with our audience, do they have personality. And entertainment, come on standing behind a turntable doesn't mean you can't move.....our best performers jump around, dance, scream at the crowd and in some instances have crowd surfed.”As 2005 opens new avenues for opportunities there will be a few new things. This year organizers are opening the doors to interest groups and new artists. If you’ve been under a rock here’s a news flash: THE LINEUP IS HUGE! When asked about changes with the festival Capicotto comments:
“MOBY, for the first time ever in UMF history he'll be performing live with his band. We are very excited. And our new Eco Village, an area and arena dedicated all to non for profit organizations. We put out an invitation to all these organizations and said come and get your message out. Maybe it's our belief in promoter Karma but you have to give back.”It’s clear that the WMC’s endorsement of ULTRA as it’s official closing event was a good idea because not only is it a heck of a party, rather it’s an experience. If the upcoming festival is anything like it’s previous counterparts, over 65,000 attendees will be talking about this one for years to come.
It’s easy to see that there are many great things that come from successful events such as ULTRA. The coming years will see other events such as California’s Coachella and Tennessee’s Bonnaroo that continue to progress electronic music and hip hop from an underground level into the mainstream. Throughout this process many new doors will open for new artists and cross-genre acts as well so that they can afford to make the music that we all know and love.