In late March I attended the Ultra Music Festival in Miami as I usually do, for three days of electronic music-fueled insanity. Overall, there were several clear patterns. Of course, the most commercial dance music a la Avicii has just become pop music. “Dubstep” in its American iteration is over-saturated, largely all sounds the same, but is still riding high on a wave of now-mainstream popularity. Most of the biggest artists had been moved to major stages at the festival.
More interestingly, though, were the appearances by rising artists who cross genres. Those included U.K. singer Katy B, a major commercial force in her homeland who has yet to really break out here. The U.S. is already used to pop/electronic music singers, but Katy B seems to more organically come out of the underground funky/dub scene. She’s a rare artist who can, at least for now, enjoy hipster cred and potential commercial viability. Another somewhat similar case was SBTRKT — he’s still a cult act in the States, but he could easily transition to production for big artists, especially with the rising popularity of “new R&B”-type artists like the Weeknd.
I also got to thinking about technology in relation to the festival. Ultra released an app which allowed you to see a schedule, map, and create your own itinerary — this was welcome, except with so many people loading cell phone stuff, it was pretty buggy.
What I would like to see more artists try, though, is using apps to involve fans in their own performances. Plastikman/Richie Hawtin has done this — fans could download an app before his performance that would essentially vote to trigger certain sounds or lights. I also have yet to see a live “band” proper experiment with that but it’s an amazing idea with a lot of potential. People still want to feel a connection to performers they like.