In 2020, the rave community has experienced a lot of losses. From the lack of artist tours to the cancellation of all major North American festivals. Sadly, the disappointment did not leave when 2020 did. As 2021 has begun, we have seen even more festivals postponed or canceled. However, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. LiveNation predicts that festivals will return by this summer, but now the question is raised, which ones?
While this pandemic has been awful, it has shown us a lot about the world of dance music. We’ve learned more about our favorite DJs’ lives, how dance music can continue to bring us together, and how we can continue to grow our community even with these hurdles. With that, we’ve also seen what companies have thrived and while others have fallen.
Ultra Music Festival is one of the festivals that has gotten a lot of heat during the pandemic. When Ultra canceled their 2020 event, they offered the option for discounted 2020 merch and ticket exchanges for Ultra Music Festival for 2021 or 2022. However, they stated that there would be no option for refunds, outraging many of the ticket holders. When customers reached out, they were met with a lack of communication and non-definitive answers. Despite the class-action lawsuit issued by two Florida residents, the terms and conditions of the purchase held true, and the disappointment continued with the cancellation of Ultra Music Festival 2021.
While the situation is less than ideal, it does not come without reason. Ultra directly states in its purchasing agreement that refunds are subject to the discretion of the company, in any situation. We don’t know the effects that refunding ticket holders would have on the Ultra brand. With bills to pay, contracts to sort out, and a future to think of, Ultra may not have survived if they offered the refund that customers hoped for. However, by working so hard to keep monetary measures alive, they may have just lost the trust and support of the EDM community.
Insomniac Events, on the other hand, took another approach. They offered a full refund to any ticket holders, even before the events were canceled. When the dates of the festivals became subject to change, Insomniac supplied refund or exchange options within a time window, along with constant updates throughout the process. A core value that Insomniac lives by is that the festival-goers are the “Headliners“. The idea that the people that go to Insomniac events are the reason that they are successful and should be treated as their most valuable asset was amplified through how they handled the situation.
It is obvious that Ultra Music Festival has dominated the Florida music scene, but the new reality is that could be changing. In early November, Insomniac released their initiative to expand into the East Coast festival scene with Insomniac East. They have announced that they will be rolling out more events and revamping old ones when festivals return. Their first project will be to revitalize EDC Orlando for its 10-year anniversary on November 12th, 2021. While Insomniac has not been especially vocal about their expansion, the strength that their West Coast brand carries leaves the rave community with high hopes.
The announcement of Abduction 2021: The Florida Invasion, is the most recent and perhaps the most monumental announcement Insomniac has made in regards to their East Coast expansion. Insomniac currently has an ownership stake in Clube Space Miami and a partnership with Florida-based dubstep and bass festival, Forbidden Kingdom Music Festival. On top of that, Insomniac has expanded its East Coast presence by continuing to host EDC Orlando and Okeechobee Music & Arts Festival. Furthermore, Insomniac acquired music promoter Club Glow (who hosts Moonrise Festival and InfieldFest) as well as east coast venues Echostage and Soundcheck at the end of last year. They’re certainly setting themselves up to take over the Florida and East Coast markets.
There’s no way of telling exactly what will happen once festivals come back until it happens. While Ultra has lost the trust of a large portion of the community, they could still rebound and become bigger and better than ever. On the other hand, Insomniac could carry on with the brand reputation they have curated and become the new face of the Florida dance music scene. There’s a lack of festival representation on the East Coast and we would love to see more and more festivals arise after this long drought.
Only time will tell, but until then, we will just hope for the best.
Featured photo by EDC Orlando