Ultra Music Fest's Faibisch & Russakoff on Expanding Beyond EDM With Azealia, Weeknd, Sleigh Bells

Announced Thursday night, Phase II of Ultra Music Festival’s 2013 lineup showed a conscious expansion beyond the festival’s bread-and-butter of EDM DJs playing the hits.

Along with the expected stylings of Tiësto, deadmau5, and Swedish House Mafia (their last gig ever), there will also be performances by Azealia Banks, Sleigh Bells, and The Weeknd: The types of buzz-heavy acts that could make a neon-hued EDM festival into a must-see on the general music lover’s calendar.

“That’s the whole point of the diversity; that’s what we want for sure,” says Adam Russakoff, Ultra’s Executive Producer, Director of Business Affairs & Talent Buyer. “What we’re doing really is bringing people in for the EDM they know and love, but exposing them to new sounds and music. There’s nothing more satisfying for a promoter than when someone comes for one thing and walks away impressed with another.”

This year, Ultra is in an especially good position to go beyond catering, to curating. 2013 is UMF’s first year as a two-weekend affair (a la Coachella), and under a new strategic alliance with Ultra Music (exec Patrick Moxey’s label/music company, which linked up with Sony this week). The link-up quieted rumors that the festival could be acquired by any number of suitors (including SFX Entertainment and Live Nation), allowing it to focus on its Miami bookings and international expansion (there are UMFs planned in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Croatia, Ibiza, and Korea).

Ultra Music and Sony Announce Partnership, Patrick Moxey Named President of Electronic Music

New audiences aside, even the discerning dance music fan has a lot to love in the lineup: The festival return of fan favorite Paul van Dyk via Armin van Buuren’s “A State of Trance” stage; and electronic legends Faithless. “Surface” and “MixMag” stages, featuring “underground” house and techno artists like Maya Jane Coles, Damian Lazarus, and Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs. The return of Carl Cox’s “Carl Cox & Friends” stage, featuring a wildly diverse lineup including techno legend Richie Hawtin and big beat trickster Fatboy Slim. “Trapped” is an entire stage dedicated to trap, the reemerging rap style being melted down with dance. Dog Blood, the collaboration between Skrillex and Boyz Noise, brings Skrillex back to UMF, the festival that helped launch him, with a whole new look.

We talked to Russakoff and his partner Russell Faibisch (Founder, Executive Producer, CEO & President), about a few of the bill’s key acts.

Snoop Dogg: “Such an amazing festival act; we’re really excited to have him. He leads to that key diversity thing. Mainstream artists are trying to get into electronic, or at least to the fan base.” -- Russakoff

The Weeknd: “That was quite the booking. It took a long time; a lot of work in there. We’re trying to keep the music-credible fans happy, the bloggers, news media; trying to crossover a bit. He does a great job for that; he’s really buzzy. He’s coming to Ultra in the middle of a U.K. tour; we really appreciate him letting us and the fans experience how amazing he and his band are.” -- Russakoff
“Trapped” stage: “We get a lot of requests for it from our fans. A lot of other genres are very rigid -- like, rock is rock -- but the most amazing thing about electronic music is if it has synths and beats, you can call it electronic. The slightest variation is a new genre and a new stage.” -- Russakoff

Disclosure (live): “Great music, great stuff, different direction. They bring more credibility to the EDM movement, and it’s exciting there’s a live element to it. That’s something unique.” -Russakoff

Azealia Banks: “She has some great tracks. She’s exciting and hasn’t played many shows. That’s one of the main reasons we wanted to bring her in.” -- Russakoff

DJ Fresh (live): “We tried to get it last year. We had him many years ago. The new production is just amazing.” -- Russakoff

Faithless: “For our 15-year anniversary, it was important for us to have some anchors in legendary live electronic acts. They stopped playing for awhile, but they’re coming back out to play for our anniversary. The significance of what it means... we’re both excited about it.” -- Faibisch