For Miami, Two Music Festivals Are Better Than One

This Saturday night on the sands of Miami Beach, just steps from the waves of the Atlantic Ocean breaking on the shoreline, the sweet sounds of nature will be pounded into silence by 130 beats per minute of monster House Music. Called “The One Night Stand at the Masquerade Motel,” 12,000 people will be dancing and grooving in what will be the largest concert crowd on the beach since Pavarotti sang here in 1995. The performers this time around? The Swedish House Mafia, one of the biggest acts in the electronic dance music genre today.

“Get there early. It’s going to be chaos,” says Steve Angello, one of the 3 producer/artist/DJs who hail from Stockholm. “We have 2 city blocks, it’s looking insane, the production is amazing. Fireworks, special effects, it’s the biggest show we’ve ever produced ourselves.”

Welcome to Miami Music Week and the Ultra Music Festival, which draws more than 100,000 DJ-obsessed tourists to Miami Beach for what is one of the world’s highest-grossing music events. Big acts taking the stage this year include The Chemical Brothers, David Guetta, Tiesto, deadmau5, Duran Duran and Armin van Buuren.

But for the first time ever, this festival is taking place separately from the Winter Music Conference, another major dance music event that happened two weeks ago. Initially, it was a bitter split with an unknown outcome, but the result for fans -- mostly in their 20s and 30s -- and locals, is two full weeks of huge dance and pool parties during the month of March. And for the South Florida tourism industry and Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau, more music means more exposure and more money.

“Economic impact has practically doubled,” says Visitors Bureau Senior Vice President Rolando Aedo. With electronic dance music thriving more vibrantly than ever, tourism leaders are tapping right into the beats. “Music is becoming a stronger pillar of how we market Miami,” says Aedo. “I think overall, it’s a good thing. As a destination marketer, it gives more options, frankly, more music, more days to enjoy March, so we see it as a net benefit for the tourism industry.”

For entrepreneurs, South Beach is definitely the place to be to take advantage of this week. For three days, Belvedere Vodka is hosting The Belve Lounge, “a VIP retreat and media hub at the private bungalows of W South Beach Hotel & Residences.” There, top artists, celebrities and media will rest, relax, enjoy live, intimate performances by Dirty Vegas, Bob Sinclair, Miss Nine and, of course, drink special concoctions dreamt up by the Vodka giant.

Pioneer DJ in association with the Shelborne Hotel is also putting on a 5 day event, with more than 60 DJs rocking the crowd from Wednesday through Sunday, including Danny Tenaglia, Bad Boy Bill and Josh Wink.

And Beatport, the world’s largest seller of music to DJs ($100 Million in royalties paid to independent labels since 2004, according to the company) is throwing a free, 5 day beach party at the Gansavoort hotel’s private beach out back. Among the players: Dubfire, Tommy Lee and DJ Aero. Even for those who don’t make it inside, the massive stage, lighting, video wall and sound system will be seen and heard along the boardwalk at 24th Street.

“The #1 reason is we want to make sure there’s a platform for the world’s best DJs to meet and play for their biggest fans,” says Beatport CEO Mathew Adell, a self-described red headed, Jewish guy with sunglasses and tattoos. “There’s no real way to feel what’s so great about electronic dance music than by enjoying it with a crowd of fans who already do.”

This type of music has always been more popular in Europe than in the US (you may recall the annual Love Parades in Berlin in the 90s,) and during this week in Miami Beach, the influx of Europeans amongst the sun-soaking tourists is abundantly obvious. In fact, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, after prodding by a Dutch DJ/filmmaker, added two direct flights from Amsterdam to Miami this week, even though it hadn’t planned to begin that service until Sunday, the last day of the Music Week. On the company’s website, a KLM vice president said in a statement, “it became clear to KLM very quickly that the idea of a direct flight to Miami is a popular one among the Dutch dance scene.”

Clearly, this weekend, the epicenter of electronic dance music is not overseas, but smack in the middle of Miami Beach.

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