Organizers of the Ultra Music Festival are ready to cancel this year’s event, but are requesting that City of Miami officials approve their permit request to stage the event next year before making a formal announcement, according to a letter obtained by Billboard. This will mark the second year in a row Ultra has been canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. Next year, organizers hope to host the event March 25-27 at Bayfront Amphitheater.
Dated Jan. 21, 2021, the letter from Ultra attorney Sandy York to Miami city manager Arthur Noriega says that conditions created by the spread of COVID-19 that led city officials to cancel the festival in 2020 are still a threat to festival goers in 2021.
“We anticipate that the City will again invoke the Force Majeure clause” in the license agreement to stage Ultra at Bayfront Park, York wrote. Because the license requires the festival to take place over a single weekend in March, “we respectfully request the rescheduled dates to be March 25, 26, and 27, 2022.”
York’s letter requests that the approval be made in writing and that Ultra’s payment obligations to the city “be deemed modified to correspond with the rescheduled dates.”
The letter resolves questions about whether Ultra, scheduled for March 26-28, would return this year after cancelling in 2020. A lineup for a 2021 festival was never announced and multiple artist managers and agents have told Billboard that booking offers for the show have not been made. “I have neither received or heard of anyone else receiving any offers,” says one agent. Additionally, a source close to the festival tells Billboard there is “no chance” of a March show.
Ultra isn’t saying much either, declining a request by Billboard to clarify under what circumstances the the annual 50,000-person-per-day festival — which features the biggest names in dance music — could happen in 2021.
“Given the current status of the pandemic in relation to mass gatherings and the public health considerations of our local community, we are working cooperatively with our city partners and plan to release an official festival update soon,” a representative from Ultra tells Billboard.
Last year Ultra was one of the first major events to cancel due to the coronavirus amid a moment of mass confusion for the touring business, and it served as a bellwether for the thousands of festivals and concerts that were later shut down due to the pandemic.
Framing the 2020 cancellation as a “postponement,” Ultra Music Festival notified 2020 ticket holders in March that their tickets would roll over to the 2021 event and that they they would not be issuing ticket refunds. This move resulted in a class action lawsuit on behalf of ticket holders looking for a refund. This case went into arbitration in November 2020.
An email sent to ticket holders following the 2020 cancellation advised that tickets would be rolled over to either the 2021 or 2022 event and gave ticket holders 30 days to decide which event they wanted to attend. It’s likely that Ultra organizers will now try to roll over all tickets to 2022, although the lack of a lineup or commitment from the city to issue a permit for 2022 could make that a challenge.
The event, which hosts myriad international shows via license deals with local vendors, did host Ultra Taiwan in November of 2020 with a lineup featuring Alesso, Slander and Kayzo.