The woman is visibly intoxicated — on what, it's unknown. But the video highlights the nagging problem of drug use at EDM events.

In 2003, then-Mayor Manny Diaz tried to pull the plug on Ultra two weeks before the event, describing it as drug-infested, but he gave in when promoters agreed to boost the police presence from 38 to 70 undercover officers and 50 to 100 uniformed ones. They also banned backpacks and doubled fencing to prevent people from tossing drugs over the fence to friends.

"All Ultra can do is focus on our event and how we control it and our security, our enforcement policies, and our safety policies and make it the safest event possible," says Faibisch. "In 15 years in Miami and doing events around the world, we've never once had an incident."

Ultra debuted in 1999 on Miami Beach with a modest setup.
Courtesy of Ultra Music Festival
Ultra debuted in 1999 on Miami Beach with a modest setup.
An early shot of DJ/producer Tiësto.
Courtesy of Ultra Music Festival
An early shot of DJ/producer Tiësto.

That depends on how you define incident. In 2004, when 35,000 people attended the one-day Ultra, police made 117 drug-related arrests. In 2012, when 165,000 attended the festival's three-day run, 71 people were arrested, 45 for narcotics-related crimes.

This year, Miami City Commissioner Marc Sarnoff will be watching closely. At a January 10 commission meeting, when Ultra was seeking permission to add the second weekend, Sarnoff said: "We all know drug usage is high at Ultra. And it might be OK for a young man to get high, or whatever you want to call it, on Friday, Saturday, Sunday. But you are going to have some people try to do Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday..."

But it's hard to argue with the $79 million Ultra brings to the city.

Ultra's financial pull is put into perspective by Timothy Schmand, executive director of Bayfront Park, which operates without government funding. "There are other larger revenue streams that are more significant, like the LiveNation agreement for the amphitheater," Schmand says. But Live­Nation's year-round events combined bring in only 24 percent of the park's revenue. Last year, Ultra's brought in 12 percent in just three days.

Despite Sarnoff's concerns, the Miami City Commission relented and approved Ultra's expansion this year, on the condition that organizers pay $500,000 to a special City of Miami police fund, on top of an already $600,000 pledge to hire extra off-duty police and fire services. Faibisch estimates there will be 150 to 200 officers patrolling the festival.

Faibisch, it seems, has come out on top: He's won over the city, outlasted Omes at Ultra, and has even become independent of the Winter Music Conference itself.

Though the WMC and Ultra had coordinated for years, holding their events during the same week, in 2011, things changed. That year, WMC and Ultra would for the first time be held on separate weekends, with a full week in between the two EDM events. News releases were fired by both parties blaming each other for the situation that forced dance-music fans to choose between the pragmatic conference and the spring-break atmosphere surrounding the festival (later rebranded as "Miami Music Week" by Ultra).

"For whatever reasons, [the WMC organizers] couldn't get their venue secure on the weekend we were supposed to do the show," explains Faibisch. "The only date that they could get their venue, which was the [Miami Beach Convention Center] that year, was a couple of weeks earlier. And we couldn't go that weekend because of [Miami's] Calle Ocho [festival]. [The city] claims to have a million people on the streets that weekend, and they didn't have the resources, so we couldn't go. The weekend we had was already set, and we had booked artists. We didn't do anything except continue on the path we were going."

When Ultra announced its 2011 dates in November 2010, WMC quickly issued a news release saying it was "blindsided by Ultra's last minute announcement." The conference claimed there had been "a signed October 15, 2009 contract between the two entities which stated 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.'''

So the two events took different directions: WMC retained its reputation as an industry business event, while Ultra became associated with fly-by-night partiers.

Carmel Ophir, owner of downtown nightclub the Vagabond, remembers the WMC's early days. "It was industry-driven," he says. "It was a full-on industry exchange of ideas and sounds. People were here whether they were in the industry or trying to get into it." But over the years, tourists began coming, largely for Ultra's debauchery.

"Eventually, people would call it 'WMC' but not go to the conference," Ophir explains. "Around 2007, I was being interviewed on-camera at Pawn Shop and the reporter asked me to talk about the conference, so I did. But he stopped me and asked me to talk more about Ultra. That's when I realized things were changing."

These are sentiments echoed by WMC cofounder Bill Kelly.

"I want to draw a line in the sand," Kelly says over the phone. "Truth of the matter is, WMC is an all-inclusive, citywide event that takes place in every possible venue imaginable. Ultra is a festival that takes place in a park. And there is a clear distinction between something that addresses and talks about the future of the industry and a free-for-all party."

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29 comments
Tim Pritchard
Tim Pritchard

There's definitely some pros at Ultra Festival. Not really my music scene but a party is a party & Ultra is a huge f'ing party. Party on Wayne.

sticks_7
sticks_7

Ultra Music Festival Hope to see You in 2014 watched 2013 Sets were amazing especially liked hardwell, armin van buren, Skrillex and david guetta.

MusicLover
MusicLover

ULTRA has evolved into the Epitome of Cultural & Human Decadence but if it generates money then why not right? Everyone's for sale and so Miami will become another Vegas. Way to push the culture forward!


mickeybailbonds
mickeybailbonds

I've been there with Russell through Amoeba, Magical Maydaze and Ultra.  Will ALWAYS have much love for Ultra and Russell.  I wish I had stayed in Miami and continued through the process with Russ, but after 08 and The Cure, there wasn't much else to conquer.  EDM has become WAYYY too commercialized.  Russell gave me a hand at getting into the bailbond business and has had an extremely positive impact in my life.  I love him dearly (and Charlie, too, but not so much Adam).  Keep doing your thing, boys, and stop listening to the assholes like "the ultra truth"; you guys make Miami proud!!!

theultratruth
theultratruth

THIS FAMILY HAS ACCEPTED MONEY FROM SOME OF THE MOST HIGH PROFILED CRIMINALS IN THE WORLD. SAY WHAT YOU ARE PROUDLY AND STOP TRYING TO BE A VICTIM! YOU ARE NO MARK ZUCKERBERG! YOUR A MAJOR DIRTY PLAYER IN THE GAME! LOOK I'M MAKING YOU FAMOUS!

theultratruth
theultratruth

"WE THE PUBLIC, FEEL THAT WE ARE BEING PLAYED" 

"GIVE MUSIC BACK TO THE PEOPLE" YES TO EDM !! NO TO ULTRA !!

Jimbo99
Jimbo99

Might wanna publish the short list of who got paid kickbacks along the way too. Notice how the dead grass in the park and crowd issues downtown disappeared for weekend #2 when they paid off the city for another $ 500K ? Guess someone's kid needed braces or that college fund needed seed money ? Who knows, maybe it was a house upgrade just the same ?

Frank Castle
Frank Castle

i wanna see the story behind WMC...that should be good

jjcolagrande
jjcolagrande topcommenter

Nice clip, well-written, plenty of scope and context.. 

As usual, Mr. Ophir sounds like a snob. 

Two weeks of Ultra is a horrible idea for downtown corridor...



smeejay
smeejay

You should be a teacher.

Jimbo99
Jimbo99

@theultratruth @Jimbo99 That's the key to most anything, make that money on the front end and the back end of it all too. It's the bait/lure of an extravagant event. I think those that got arrested on drug charges, well if they aren't smart enough to figure it out, there's having a good time and then just making an azz out of yourself.

theultratruth
theultratruth

@Jimbo99 @theultratruth maybe this has more to do with just being arrested at ultra. maybe it has to do with morality, and codes we live by as human beings.     ::::::::focus on the light going off in your head, and not the one flashing in front of your face:::::   

Jimbo99
Jimbo99

@theultratruth @Jimbo99 Again, we're talking about Ultra & being arrested and needing to be bailed out of jail. Why would one get arrested at Ultra ? Probably because that person is making an azz out of themselves. Urinating in public ? Looking for a hooker ? Public intoxication ? On some controlled substance(s) ? Fighting ? Those that can't conduct themselves in a socially responsible manner are for the most part the troublemakers that wind up needing bail bond services. If one doesn't want to take that risk, stay away from the event ?

As for someone that attempted to kill another ? One would have to wonder what the alleged victim did to merit that kind of response. People generally have no reason to try to kill anyone. Not unless you did something to drive them to do that ? Did you rip them off or screw them over in a big enough business dealing, whether it was legal or illegal ? Or was it because someone slept with another's wife ? In any scenario, there is cause & effect. Just me, but sometimes exercising a little judgement & common sense, you have to know when it's time to go to sleep every night ? The acid test for anything should be whether whatever happened was good for all involved.

theultratruth
theultratruth

@Jimbo99 @theultratruth you don't have to do drugs or be drunk to end up in jail. I didn't read half of what you wrote but I know what it's about. now that the issue is more to light......we don't need bail bonds man....actually its just another unnecessary process in the system. why can't we pay within the confides of jail itself? Also, let's say for example someone try's to kill you, but lets say its not booked as attempted murder, then that person can bond out and kill your ass. I don't expect you to have any morals, I just hope you do. But then again your probably hypnotized by Ultra and all the fireworks. Your all sheep. Unless your a wolf too.

Jimbo99
Jimbo99

@theultratruth @Jimbo99 That's the point, nobody I know has ever been in jail and going there isn't an option in my lifetime or theirs, we're law biding citizens not losers. My life is drug free, and that includes alcohol. Anyone that needs an illegal substance to feel/experience life deserves to be in jail in my opinion, because that's what the rules are. I don't want to be around anyone doing or selling drugs, because inevitably they'll wind up in jail. Drugs are a game that being the loser on or selling them is what makes you the police department's customer. Raise the standards for yourself and those in your life and bail bond scumbags are the last people in this community you'll ever meet in your lifetime. Those that went to Ultra on drugs put themselves in a position to have bail bond people become a part of their life. I'm not looking to finance their lifestyle. If I stand in line at a store to make a purchase, that's longer than I want them around me just the same as the drug addicts and abusers.

 
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