The ongoing debate between the Winter Music Conference and the Ultra Music Festival is beginning to morph into a strange amalgamation of a boxing match and a presidential election. Each side has spoken its initial case, and now both are in the midst of a battle to secure artists, events and the masses of fans that come along with them.
While choosing not to respond to the breach-of-contract claims alleged by Winter Music Conference officials, the Ultra Music Festival did begin to address some of the other looming questions regarding the awkwardly disjointed Miami dates. In a press release posted on the UMF website Thursday, UMF officials claim that the factors leading to the festival dates falling outside of WMC week were completely out of their control, implying that WMC organizers — who've scheduled their festival to begin March 8, a full two weeks earlier than expected — are the ones to blame.
In a press release posted Wednesday evening, WMC organizers admitted they chose their conference dates based strictly on venue availability, which will for the first time land them at the Miami Beach Convention Center. According to the Miami Beach Convention Center website, the facilities were not available during the last week in March due to another large-scale event. Bill Kelly, owner and co-founder of WMC, told MTV News that the Convention Center was someplace they had always hoped to be, due not only to its prime South Beach location, but also its ability to accommodate the conference's expanding size.
But Ultra sees this claim as nothing more than an excuse used by WMC, which has intentionally detached itself from UMF. Ultra organizers insist that they "aligned [themselves] with every contact and resource [they had in] Miami Beach to try and secure a host hotel [for WMC]." Kelly claims that WMC officials did their best to find an accommodating location during the last week in March but came up empty-handed.
Additionally — and as first reported by MTV News on Thursday — UMF officials validated speculation that its inability to move its three-day event to within the official WMC time frame was a direct result of the massive Calle Ocho street fair, which takes place on March 13. UMF confirmed that its hope to align dates with WMC week "was rendered impossible by the City of Miami police department as they [would] not have the resources to host Ultra Music Festival and Calle Ocho in Miami on the same weekend."
WMC reminds us that the dates and locations of its conference have varied considerably over its 26-year run, falling between February and late March with locations between Fort Lauderdale and Miami. Conversely, Ultra officials insist that in recent years, the electronic dance music industry as a whole has come to recognize and embrace the last week of March as the true WMC week, and that many of the artists' tour schedules have already assumed the late March dates.
"Large-scale events and festivals traditionally do not move their dates around year to year," says the Ultra statement, adding that "a move like this [should] have to be done well over a year in advance to allow time for proper planning."
So what does this mean for the hundreds of thousands of bewildered fans who feel left out in the rain? Some new information suggests there is the potential for two epic music- and party-saturated weeks in the Miami sun.
Thursday afternoon, the Miami New Times contested an MTV News report in which Club Space owner Louis Puig claimed the City of Miami Beach would not issue pool and beach party permits outside of the official WMC dates. Upon further investigation, Miami Beach official Max Sklar told MTV News that the city "considers a number of different factors before approving or denying an application." He went on to explain that the "special-event permit approvals are not based on whether the event occurs during [WMC]." That said, the dozens of pool and beach parties that traditionally take over the Collins Avenue hotels now have some serious decisions to make and potential allegiances to declare.
Online EDM retailer Beatport has thrown one of the premier must-see WMC pool and beach parties each year since its launch and is just one of the many entities faced with this difficult and potentially costly decision.
"We throw our free Miami parties and events to connect the DJs we love with as many hard-core fans as possible," says Beatport CEO Matt Adell. "The fracturing of some of the other events across the entire month of March certainly complicates our planning, as I am sure it does for thousands of others. We are working on a revised plan for Miami in March and will share it with the community as soon as it is fully baked."
Who will side with whom in the WMC/UMF debate? Let us know in the comments below! And be sure to check in at MTVNews.com for the latest on the unfolding situation.