Ultra Music and Ultra Music Festival (UMF) will announce today that they are joining forces in what is being called a "global alliance," Billboard.biz has learned. The two companies will form one of the most powerful independent entities in electronic dance music (EDM), linking Ultra Music artists like Deadmau5, Steve Aoki and Calvin Harris with UMF, the world's biggest EDM event brand (with six festivals worldwide) - in a time when many players, small to large, are selling to corporations.
"I think we've both come to a realization that a stronger link between different music areas make the combined Ultra brand even stronger," Ultra Music President Patrick Moxey told Billboard.biz exclusively. "We have various new CDs and DVDs which will be coming out to support the expansion of the live music experience that [UMF co-founder and CEO] Russell [Faibisch] is setting up around the world. We have many new technology ideas we are discussing, but certainly we want to innovate to bridge the gap between the live experience and the recorded music experience around electronic dance music."
On their own, the two Ultras are bastions of EDM independence: Ultra Music, Moxey's record label, publishing house, management company and media platform in one, with an artist roster that ranges from underground (Bloody Beetroots) to mainstream (Pitbull and Calvin Harris); and UMF, the original Miami EDM super-festival, which has grown to six events internationally (including this month's inaugural UMF Korea, the country's biggest EDM event ever with over 60,000 attendees; and UMF Chile, which was just announced this week). But together, they form a uniquely potent platform, one able to take an artist from unknown, to chart and festival fodder in a single deal; and able to hold its own against increasingly hefty, corporate-backed competition.
While traveling through China, Faibisch sent Billboard.biz an email with his thoughts on the partnership: "With Ultra Music being the world's #1 independent edm label, and Ultra Music Festival being the world's premiere edm festival, together with our existing businesses and the expansion that each of us is undertaking, we believe the Ultra brand offers something that absolutely no other edm brand can," he wrote. "A wide array of premium products, services and content including festivals/live events, record label services, film/video productions, live streams, original online TV programming and more."
If it's a proactive move, the timing couldn't be better, as corporate entities like Live Nation and Robert F.X. Sillerman have been snapping up everything from U.K. festival brand Cream, to Donnie Estinopal's scrappy middle-America promotion company Disco Donnie Presents, with new acquisitions seemingly announced weekly. "We are in a time when corporations are aggressively buying their way into our scene "brand by brand," Faibisch said. "And we choose not to sell out, but instead are coming together to strengthen one another."
The alliance adds to Ultra Music's recent deal with Wynn Resorts, the hotel group that's been instrumental in making EDM the soundtrack to Las Vegas. That partnership will include compilation releases branded for Wynn's four nightlife venues, as well as video content and distribution on Ultra's popular YouTube channel.
For UMF's part it also has its own YouTube channel (UMF TV) as well as a SiriusXM radio show (UMF Radio) and its own film company which recently released the film "Can U Fell It' (UMF Films).
News of the union might come as a surprise to those who thought that the Ultras were always all one (never true); and to others who thought them at odds (they have worked together in the past): There was a court case over use of the name in the early 2000s - Moxey founded Ultra Music (then Ultra Records) in 1996, while Faibisch and partner Alex Omes founded UMF in 1999 - but neither party has ever been willing to speak to it, and given today's announcement, it seems moot.
"We are very excited about this new stage of collaboration between Ultra Music and Ultra Music Festival," said Moxey. "Everything remains the same with our two separate companies but we both believe this alliance benefits the growth of the Ultra brand."
"It is a win-win situation for everyone." added Faibisch.