The roar of the Ultra Music Festival in Bayfront Park had barely subsided last Sunday night as another kind of dance party was revving up on South Beach. In an enclosed balcony deep inside Story, the areas of-the-moment extravagant nightlife monument, willowy young women crowded around a glowing table covered with thousands of dollars worth of champagne and liquor, vying to get closer to Tiesto, a towering man who is one of the worlds most famous DJs. Waitresses in polka-dot bodysuits shimmied through the packed throng holding aloft sparkler-bedecked bottles, one a vintage tequila priced at $1,000 festive supplicants at a shrine of consumption.
The dancefloor below throbbed with partiers who had paid up to $250 to hear white hot DJ Calvin Harris. A few feet away was a still more exclusive sanctum, reserved for wealthy patrons willing to pay thousands for a single bottle of champagne.
One guy in one night might spend $350,000, says Haley Dias, a former male model who became a party promoter based on his ability to summon flocks of professionally beautiful women to parties like this one. He shrugs at the extravagance. Whoever has money has money.
The spirit and image of dance music are embodied in the tribal gatherings that have dominated downtown Miami and Miami Beach for the past week. Thousands of partiers flocked here for the massive Ultra Music Festival which expanded from one to two weekends this year and was predicted to draw 400,000 people and scores of dance parties at clubs and hotels.
But the sound of booming beats increasingly means big bucks. And some of the biggest players in the entertainment industry are joining the party. The biggest is billionaire media mogul Robert F.X. Sillerman, whose SFX Entertainment transformed the regional rock concert business into a national corporate-style enterprise in the 90s. Now Sillerman has turned his sights on electronic dance music, snapping up some of the genres biggest event organizers and companies in recent months. They include ID&T, a $130 million Dutch company that is the worlds biggest dance music promoter; Beatport, the genres top online retailer; and Miami Marketing Group, or MMG, which owns Story and the even glitzier Liv at the Fontainebleau Hotel.
Thursday afternoon, the lean, black-clad Sillerman, 64, threaded his way through a poolside gathering at the chic Delano hotel in Miami Beach as eager hipster entrepreneurs decades younger rushed to shake his hand. Among them were Duncan Stutterheim, owner of ID&T, whose announcement on Wednesday that they would bring a version of Tomorrowland, Europes biggest dance music festival, to a horse farm in Georgia this September generated sales of 100,000 tickets within six hours. Another Sillerman purchase, North Carolina-based Disco Donnie Presents, fields dance music DJs and events in heartland cities like St. Louis and Indianapolis.
Its a seismic cultural shift, says Sillerman, who predicts electronic dance music, or EDM, will transform popular culture as profoundly as rock n roll did in the 50s. Were now seeing the impact of music created digitally for digital natives and these kids out there will be the parents of the future. Itll be even broader.
Chris Stephenson, whose music credentials include being CEO of the legendary British club Ministry of Sound and chief marketing officer for record label Interscope, has been tapped by Sillerman to oversee marketing for this new EDM venture. Stephenson says his boss sensed the time was ripe to consolidate the competing dance music fiefdoms into one empire.