Miami’s EDM Revolution

How did electronic dance music become the city’s soundtrack?

Miami’s status as an essential nightlife destination goes back to the mid-1980s, when a pair of local DJs founded the Winter Music Conference, an industry confab where record-label folks could conduct business while escaping the cold weather up north.

Sprawling and nonstop, WMC tested the endurance of even the most seasoned- partygoers—the veteran New York DJ Danny Tenaglia routinely delivered 16-hour marathon sets.

Having moved on from the ’80s Miami bass craze and the druggy ’90s style known as “Florida breaks,” the city’s “sound” today is mostly a cosmopolitan hodgepodge. But then that’s increasingly true of EDM—of music—everywhere, as regional cultures erode under the influence of the Internet and budget air travel shrinks distances on the festival circuit.

These days the biggest annual event on Miami’s electronic-music calendar is Ultra Music Festival. It began in South Beach in 1999 on the same weekend as WMC. After years of collaboration with WMC, UMF eventually supplanted it, luring away the majority of its crowd.

But while the average age of its furry-boots-wearing- and body-painted attendees doesn’t seem to have budged much in the past 15 years, UMF itself has definitely grown up. A study estimated that UMF 2013 injected more than $220 million into Miami-Dade County’s economy that year, when it extended the traditionally three-day event to six.

Future iterations may not have quite the same impact, however: UMF has backed down from its audacious 2013 attempt to program two consecutive long weekends of music instead of one—a gambit that attracted more than 300,000 ravers but angered city commissioners like Marc Sarnoff, who griped, “Seventy to eighty percent of these kids are on some sort of mind-altering drug.”

Ultra Music Festival, March 27, 28, 29; for ticket information visit ultramusicfestival.com