Ultra Music Festival to Turn Miami Into a Three-Day Rave

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The lineup for Miami’s incredibly popular Ultra Music Festival has been announced, and tickets to the electronic dance music event of the year are close to being sold out.

The festival is still primarily focused on EDM, but 2014′s bill is more diverse than in the past. DJ headliners include Afrojack, Avicii, David Guetta, and Tiesto. Live headliners include political rapper M.I.A., indie rock darlings MGMT, and Aussie synthpop group Cut/Copy. Since its start in 1999, the festival has tried to incorporate both live bands and the world’s most popular EDM disc jockeys.

A three-day pass to the festival now costs $399.95, and 92 percent of the available tickets have been sold as of last week. According to data cited by Forbes, on the secondary market, tickets to the festival go for an average of $697. Last year the festival reached an attendance record of 330,000 over the three days, and if the remaining tickets are sold, then the 2014 festival will match that record. EDM may seem to still be a fringe movement to some, but the genre is worth big money, something evidenced by the incredibly high fees its most popular DJs command to play at clubs around the world.

Ultra, which is in its sixteenth year, will take place from March 28 to 30. Last year’s fifteenth-anniversary event extended the festival into two consecutive long weekends, but the city of Miami has asked the festival organizers to keep the event to just one weekend. Loud music, rowdy and intoxicated partygoers, and unbearable traffic all make the festival unloved by many Miami residents. But like any music festival or other large event that draws lots of people to a particular location, Ultra makes the city a lot of money. This year, it could bring in $200,000 in revenue for the three days of annoyance, according to Forbes.

There is a darker side to the festival that makes it more than just annoying for the local infrastructure. Heavy drug use often accompanies electronic music events, and last year’s festival saw its first death by overdose. About two dozen people were hospitalized over the course of the festival’s two weekends last year — though it’s uncertain how many of those hospitalizations were related to narcotics — and there were forty-five narcotics-related arrests, according to The Miami New Times. Miami Commissioner Marc Sarnoff has criticized the rampant drug use at the festival, choosing to cancel the event’s second weekend in part because “about 70 to 80 percent of these kids are on some sort of mind-altering drug,” the Times reports.

In order to deal with these issues, the city is stepping up the police presence at the event. More than 250 officers will patrol the event and the festival’s organizers are footing the bill for that extra work, according to a report from the city’s local CBS news station.

As with any big event, locals must take the good with the bad. Despite the noise and drugs and crowds, the festival makes Miami home to a burgeoning arts and music movement, and rakes in the dough for local businesses.

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