Kelly's event may be more high-minded, but there's no denying that, in terms of pure numbers, WMC attendance has become interdependent with Ultra.

In 2011, WMC pushed forward with its earlier dates, and attendees saw a more muted conference than in years past. Ultra, on the other hand, saw record attendance levels for its first three-day event.

Faibisch notes that "when [WMC] announced their [2012] dates, they were back in line with ours."

Russell Faibisch, cofounder of Ultra Music Festival.
George Martinez
Russell Faibisch, cofounder of Ultra Music Festival.
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.


15 Years of Ultra Music Festival (Photos)

Ultra Music Festival 2013 Friday, March 15, to Sunday, March 17, and Friday, March 22, to Sunday, March 24, at Bayfront Park, 301 Biscayne Blvd., Miami. Visit

Ophir notes that Ultra can make it difficult for nightclubs to book acts because it makes artists sign aggressive exclusivity contracts — legal agreements stipulating that acts cannot play at competing venues during the festival nor 60 days prior and after. In effect, the acts at Ultra cannot play at most South Florida venues from January to May, thus creating demand when they show up at Ultra.

But Ophir can't deny that, ultimately, Ultra's power is "definitely a positive thing." His nightclub will be booked solid during the week of Ultra.

Downtown at Miami's Bayfront Park, people lie on the grass, and a trapeze school's equipment is the only thing that stands out from the greenery. But in late February, the whole park, save for a children's area, closes to the public for more than a month to make way for multiple stages and the 15th incarnation of Ultra. Faibisch climbs a hill and points out where the massive Bayfront stage will go and how Biscayne Bay in the background will frame it. "Here's where it's going to be," he says proudly, imagining the majesty of it.

"When you go to the festival and you see the production and the amount of stages and quality on those stages and the lineup we put out and the money it costs to book those people, in addition to whatever we have to pay the city... that's why you don't see any other electronic music festival in the world that has this kind of lineup. No one does it. We do it."

Driving over the Julia Tuttle Causeway, the city skyline hovering over the water, he sighs.

"Ah, I love Miami," he says, and presses the gas on his Porsche Boxster.

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