If we needed evidence that electronic dance music is a force in pop culture, last weekend’s Ultra Music Festival held downtown here provided it. Some 150,000 tickets were sold to the three-day event–about equal to the total for last year’s Coachella Music & Arts Festival in the desert town of Indio, Calif., and about twice the number for June’s Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, Tenn.
Whereas Coachella 2011, next month, will feature Arcade Fire, Kanye West, Kings of Leon and the Strokes as its rock and pop headliners, and Bonnaroo will offer Eminem, Robert Plant & Band of Joy and a reunited Buffalo Springfield (as well as Arcade Fire and the Strokes), the biggest name at Ultra Music–at least to a mainstream audience–was Duran Duran, which was here to promote its new album. But traditional measurements for rock-and-pop success are irrelevant in the electronic-dance culture. Witness Tiësto, the stage name of the Dutch disc jockey, producer and composer Tijs Michiel Verwest, the headliner on Friday, Ultra’s opening night. Though he’s never had a crossover radio hit and his solo albums sell modestly, Tiësto is a major international star, as confirmed by one familiar evaluation: His annual income apparently exceeds $20 million.