Sunday, 12 January 2014

The Man behind UMF

Russell Faibisch! The man behind the largest and biggest Electronic Dance music Festival in the world with an attendance exceeding 330,000 goers! A relaxed man to me who looks like he has had it all! Below is just a small history behind him and what has been a phenomenal event in the Twenty First Century! ULTRA MUSIC FESTIVAL!

Russell Faibisch,before his first event, left the Outback Steakhouse on 21st Street in Miami Beach on March 12, 1999, the night before he was to launch his huge beachside electronic music festival.
"We had a big family dinner. Everyone was feeling really good," Faibisch recalls now. "Later, as I drove away, something bizarre happened." He got pulled over by a cop. "I ended up getting arrested for something with my tag — something ridiculous. I had never been in trouble before and had never gone to jail."
Faibisch sat locked up as the hours ticked away. The show could not go on without him."Everyone was waiting for me because I had the cashier's checks," he remembers. "The sound company would not turn the sound on until they had the money up-front."
After about eight hours of uncertainty, Faibisch was released (the charges would later be dropped), made his way to Collins Park, and handed over the remaining payments. Gates opened at 11 a.m. as planned.
Ten thousand fans swarmed the event as electronic dance music (EDM) acts including Josh Wink, Baby Anne, and Paul van Dyk cycled through the event's main stage and 100-plus-decibel beats boomed over the city. As people danced, got half-naked and sweaty, and ran from the concert to jump into the ocean and back, Faibisch and his business partner, then-28-year-old Alejandro Alex Omes, spent the day running around and troubleshooting.

"To watch it unfold before our eyes was something really special," Faibisch remembers.
On a recent day this February, Faibisch, now 35 but still with cherub cheeks and boyish features, wore classic Miami business casual — blue jeans and a button-up — and retraced his steps at Collins Park.
"I remember walking on the sand here in 1998 and looking at this beach and dreaming," he says, "dreaming of what we could do, of what was possible."He had succeeded in breaking out of the nightclub scene and pulled off a $200,000 event. He was 21 years old only.

Ultra debuted in 1999 on Miami Beach with a modest setup.
Courtesy of Ultra Music Festival
 Today, Faibisch's Ultra Music Festival and its related projects make up a monster business. There are satellite Ultra festivals in Brazil, Ibiza, South Korea, Croatia, Argentina, and Chile. There are Ultra radio broadcasts, film premieres, and a partnership with legendary New York City label Ultra Records.
And no one can deny that Ultra has become a powerful force in Miami. An economic-impact report commissioned by the festival estimates that it pumped $79 million into the local economy last year, when it had grown to be a six-day party for two weekends with a record 400,000 attendees are expected.
Along its 15-year journey, Ultra has had to battle city commissioners, a debauched image, and the Winter Music Conference (WMC) that paved the way for it. And last August, cofounder Omes filed a lawsuit against Faibisch, alleging that he was illegally kicked out of the company during a "secret shareholders' meeting." But as the saying goes, you can't make it to the top without making a few enemies.
Born and raised in the western suburbs of Miami-Dade, Russell Faibisch inherited a knack for business from his father, who shares his name with his son. The elder Faibisch, a Brooklyn native and bail bondsman since 1968, founded Surety Corporation of America, a company that provides underwriting services to more than 650 bail bond agents nationwide. As a teenager, the younger Faibisch worked in the family business.
"People ask me if doing Ultra is hard," Faibisch says now. "But after working with criminals, Ultra seems like a piece of cake."
An early shot of DJ/producer Tiësto. 
Ultra debuted in 1999 on Miami Beach with a modest setup.

Courtesy of Ultra Music Festival
 While attending Hialeah-Miami Lakes Senior High School, he developed a love for electronic music.
"It was Depeche Mode in [1993] for the 'Devotion Tour' at the Miami Arena that everything clicked for me," Faibisch says, "and I realized that this was what I want my life to be. Somehow, someway, but I hadn't figured exactly how yet." Later, he would name his festival after Depeche Mode's 1997 studio album, Ultra.
Also in 1993, Faibisch attended Divine Playground, one of the city's first major rave events, held in March 1993 at Bayfront Park.  Faibisch describes the event as "ahead of its time."
"I was young, but that experience for me was like, 'This is it; this is what I want to do.'"
The then-15-year-old started attending raves around the city, becoming a full-fledged promoter by the time he turned 20. He attended business classes at Florida International University but eventually dropped out when Ultra started to consume all of his time.
Thee line up!!
"Amoeba was my first-ever event, in 1998 at Power Studios," he says. "We had over 2,500 people show up."
But the idea of a beachside dance-music festival would come from another working relationship he developed in the mid-'90s. Alex Omes, a Miami Beach Senior High grad who was then about 25 years old, was publisher of a dance-music magazine called D'VOX, which devoted its pages to pushing the city's burgeoning EDM culture. Before launching the magazine, Omes had cut his teeth in the '90s Miami club scene as a bouncer at Cameo, where he developed the connections that would eventually allow him to be seen as an influence.

"I was doing an event and had to place some ads," Faibisch remembers. "That's when I met Alex Omes, who had the vision. We started Ultra together."

Omes and Faibisch connected on their mutual love for club beats, becoming close friends as well as business partners. The duo, looking to capitalize on Miami's growth as a dance-music hub, came up with the idea of holding a beachside party during Miami's WMC.
The conference was an industry event that had been launched in 1985 as a way for EDM artists, DJs, producers, and promoters to come together for panel discussions and seminars. During the week of the conference, there were also sanctioned dance parties and concerts at nightclubs throughout Miami. EDM fans began flocking to Miami every March. With thousands of people coming to town for the conference, the opportunity to launch a signature dance-music event was ripe.
Omes brought his industry connections, and Faibisch brought the business savvy.

"There were a lot of growing pains," Faibisch says.

Faibisch was able to secure investors, including a $10,000 bank loan for seed money.
"Everybody had to take a leap of faith in investing in what we were trying to accomplish. Rabbit in the Moon was the anchor — they played very rarely and usually only at Zen Festival. Once we got them, it was easier to get other artists onboard."
An early shot of DJ/producer Tiësto.
The Black Eyed Peas debuted their single "Boom Boom Pow" at the 2009 festival.
Chris Grosser / Ultra Music Festival
The Black Eyed Peas debuted their single "Boom Boom Pow" at the 2009 festival.
 However, thanks to subcultures in London, Detroit, Chicago, and New York, new genres of dance music emerged over the next two decades: house, electro, techno, and trance. The late '90s saw DJs and producers like Moby, Fatboy Slim, Paul Oakenfold, the Chemical Brothers, and the Prodigy gaining moderate success on the Billboard charts, though the genre still couldn't compete with hip-hop or pop.
But drugs, ecstasy in particular, seemed to go hand in hand with dance music, and when Ultra launched in 1999, EDM seemed to be at a crossroads. Pushed by national news reports of deaths caused by overdoses, cops raided parties and lawmakers passed anti-rave ordinances around the country. Dance scenes fizzled.
"It was euphoric in one sense and chaotic in another," says WMC cofounder Bill Kelly of the inaugural Ultra. "At some point, they were carrying people out of there on stretchers, right past a city commissioner they had invited. They brought him to see [the event] because they wanted to show it off."
Despite these early setbacks, Ultra seemed to learn that to survive, it needed to prove itself a fun but safe environment for EDM fans.
"Our number-one priority is safety and security," Faibisch insists. "A lot of promoters say that, but not many follow through. The police and city need to see that you're not only talking but backing it up with action and not trying to cut corners or save costs. If they see that, that goes a long way."
Successful as the first Ultra was, it lost money — $10,000 to $20,000, Faibisch estimates.
"Today, $10,000 to $20,000 doesn't seem like a lot, but back then, it seemed like we lost millions," he says.
But he forged ahead. "I'm very, very passionate about it," Faibisch says. "It's my heart and soul. It's what I eat, live, and breathe. Probably one of the most rewarding things now is looking back at the old days and seeing how just about everybody there was asking the same questions, saying, 'Stop, this doesn't make sense!'"

Anthony Djuren / Ultra Music Festival
In 2010, Deadmau5 put on an ambitious stage show.

In 2010, Deadmau5 put on an ambitious stage show.In 2000, Faibisch and Omes threw a second, successful Ultra, and by 2001, its third year, Ultra had outgrown its South Beach home at Collins Park. At the insistence of the city, Faibisch moved the party to Bayfront Park in downtown Miami. Attendance swelled from the initial 10,000 attendees to 23,000.
As it grew, Ultra worked in tandem with the Winter Music Conference in championing electronic music. It coordinated dates, and WMC badge holders were allowed free access to Ultra.
The festival lasted five years at Bayfront, until 2005, when the park's trust urged Faibisch to consider moving it to the much larger Bicentennial Park, located north of American Airlines Arena.
The festival helped acts like Tiësto, Avicii, and Deadmau5 launch their careers in the United States. By 2006, with EDM virtually nonexistent on U.S. radio, playing Ultra, one the few major American electronic music festivals, seemed necessary to gain exposure. Established artists began seeing Ultra as a key place to premiere new tracks. Newcomers saw it as a way to get noticed.
"I've probably done 11 out of the 15 years of Ultra," superstar DJ Tiësto confesses. "It's probably one of the most important festivals in the world. To be a headliner there, on the main stage, with the big production, has been very good for my career."

Will you miss this?
The festival has had a slew of iconic moments. Who can forget Madonna popping up during Avicii's set last year to ask "How many people in this crowd have seen Molly?" — and Deadmau5's subsequent railing against her for trying to seem cool with the veiled drug reference to ecstasy? The Black Eyed Peas performed "Boom Boom Pow" for the first time ever at Ultra 2009 — which perhaps hinted toward EDM's eventual pop crossover. Faibisch's personal highlight was the Cure playing in 2007.

According to court documents, Omes and Faibisch "operated the company on a day-to-day basis as a small shop and rarely observed any corporate formalities" until 2005, when they created a "memorandum of understanding" establishing Faibisch, his younger brother Charles, and Omes as shareholders. The memo specified that "management and operational decision making authority remain with Alex Omes and Russell Faibisch as presently exist in Ultra."
Done phase 1 line up 2014!
Over the years, the company has grown to include "a very small core team — less than 20," Faibisch says. "Everybody has their role... These are people who have been with us eight to ten years minimum."
The biggest stage in the World ATM
Today, Omes is out, and a new partner, Adam Russakoff, is on board. Faibisch says that they put in long days due to the complexity of working with people all over the world and that Ultra 2013 will cost $25 million to $30 million to produce. This still fascinates me! From doing a $200,000 gig to doing an event bigger 100 times than the debut one! Oh My God! What a success story that is still writing it's own chapters! This year we await the 16th Edition of this phenomenal event at Miami on March!

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