Controversy has swirled around the electronic dance music community for the past two days over the Winter Music Conference and Ultra Music Festival’s misaligned 2011 schedules. While initial uncertainties left EDM enthusiasts crying foul over the seemingly early WMC dates, the initial lack of information has now given birth to crucial endorsements from prominent players. Late Wednesday afternoon Luis Puig, owner of Space Nightclub in Miami, came out swinging in defense of the 26-year-old Winter Music Conference’s integrity and slammed Ultra Music Festival, accusing it of greedy practices.
“WMC used to be about free parties with DJs and industry folks sharing and enjoying new music. Now, it is about greed and money,” says Puig in a 780-word manifesto sent on Wednesday to his nightclub’s promotional e-mail list. “I love Ultra [Music Festival] and what they bring to the game,” he goes on to say, “but I do not agree with their greedy strategy to manipulate and monopolize Music Conference. This is just not good for anyone.” While Puig blatantly admits that he does indeed capitalize off of the business brought in by UMF (whose gates are just a short walk from his downtown Miami club), he is quick to point out that “without WMC, there would be no Ultra Music Festival.”
Meanwhile, while Puig’s manifesto was being absorbed by the masses, the official Winter Music Conference team posted an update to its website titled “Just the Facts,” aimed at dispelling the various rumors scurrying about the Web over the past 36 hours.
“We were blindsided by Ultra’s last minute announcement,” said WMC organizers of UMF’s supposed noncompliance. The WMC post alleged that UMF management breached their contract with WMC, claiming “a signed October 15, 2009, contract between the two entities [stating] that the 2011 Ultra Music Festival would be presented during the five-day period in February, March or April 2011 designated and promoted by WMC as the ’WMC week.’ ” While the specific legalities officially associated with this possible breach are unclear, it is rumored that UMF was unable to secure permitting in Miami’s Bicentennial Park for the weekend of March 11-13 due to the annual Calle Ocho Carnival, which is expected to draw a crowd of more than 1 million to downtown Miami on March 13. A lack of municipal resources are being tagged with the blame.
“This is the last year Ultra will be able to use [Bicentenial] Park as the City has begun construction on a large museum,” Puig claims. “[T]here is no other large park for festivals anywhere near the Beach.” If this is indeed the case, 2012’s events could be pushed even further apart.
Puig — who also heads up the WMC’s famed Surfcomber Pool Parties — spoke to MTV News Wednesday night and argued that neither artists nor party promoters will even have the ability to properly sustain a pool-party-laced, faux-WMC week centered around the UMF dates. “The city will not give out weekly permits for pool or beach parties outside of WMC [week], which means that there will not be Pool Parties the week of Ultra,” he said. “What is Miami without a pool or a beach?” [EDITOR’S NOTE: Since the publishing of this article, the City of Miami Beach told MTV News that Puig’s comment on the permitting issues is not accurate. “Special event permit approvals are not based on whether the event occurs during Winter Music Conference,” said Max Skylar, director of Tourism and Cultural Development.]
Later in the evening, WMC owner and co-founder Bill Kelly spoke exclusively to MTV News and further corroborated the points in Puig’s manifesto, exclaiming, “Louis nailed it on the head!” Kelly, however, does admit that the departure of UMF from WMC week will absolutely affect his longstanding operation negatively. “We’re going to be hurt a little bit,” he says, noting that more than 25 percent of those who buy the official WMC registration pass — which currently costs $275 — do so to take advantage of the complimentary UMF ticket (now selling at $179 for the three-day pass). However, Kelly goes on to speculate that the separation of the two entities might actually open up new doors for both parties, including one scenario that might even entail the creation of WMC’s own exclusive “festival style” performance centerpiece.
“The possibility of doing a smaller, more intimate festival on the beach is a real possibility now,” says Kelly. “Because of Ultra Music Festival’s size, they have been banned from [having their event] on [Miami] Beach.” Some would agree that Puig, who recently pulled off the Miami permutation of the Swedish House Mafia’s “Masquerade Motel” to a crowd of nearly 10,000, is perfectly suited to take on that challenge. When asked, Puig neither confirmed nor denied the possibility.
In addition to Puig’s WMC endorsement, many others seem to be at least silently preparing to publicly do the same, including promotional groups such as BMF/Aurelia, who last year played host to the popular Belvedere VIP Lounge at the W Hotel, which also has announced its pairing with the official WMC dates, likely returning its base of operations to the W.
“Winter Music Conference is a weeklong cultural celebration and they have our full support,” says Aurelia Group president Lainie Copicotto. “From VIP Music Lounges to huge nightclubs to small ’in-stores’ and poolside performances, WMC is not about one event or one DJ. WMC is the bigger picture.”
With these key WMC endorsements, those historically involved have now been prompted to take sides in the matter. Ultra Records, which carries no affiliation to UMF, and the online-EMD-music store Beatport have both told MTV News that they will issue statements and event plans for Miami in the coming days. MTV News is also tentatively scheduled to speak with the official UMF concert promoters later this afternoon.
What’s your opinion on the WMC vs. UMF debate? Tell us in the comments.