Cape Town Lately’s Gareth Duncan believes Ultra South Africa organisers are losing value by hosting the major annual event at Cape Town Stadium.
Ultra Music Festival is recognised as one of the world’s biggest outdoor parties. And rightfully so.
With the flagship event rooted in Miami after being established in 1999, the brand currently travels to major cities in 22 countries, including Spain, Argentina, South Korea, Japan, Croatia, Thailand, Puerto Rico, Peru, Brazil, Mexico and South Africa. On 24 February 2018, it will launch in Melbourne, Australia, which will become the 23rd global leg on the map.
This has proven to be an amazing concept as it brings most of the best DJs to EDM lovers around the world, giving millions the chance to be entertained by legends, such as Armin van Buuren, Tiesto, Paul van Dyk, Carl Cox and Dash Berlin, and other headliners, such as Skrillex, Steve Aoki, Martin Garrix, Hardwell, DJ Snake and Black Coffee.
So, you can imagine my disappointment when I was forced to miss my first Ultra South Africa in Cape Town last weekend due to business commitments.
Well… in hindsight, not really.
Having kept a close eye on the event’s developments on social media and having experienced Ultra SA’s Cape Town leg at Cape Town Stadium in 2016 and 2017, it’s quite evident that the party has regressed in recent years.
And I believe hosting it at Cape Town Stadium is the main issue.
Here are my reasons:
DISAPPOINTING CROWDS AT CAPE TOWN STADIUM
I don’t believe Cape Town embraces the stadium as a venue. And that’s been proven in the numbers.
In 2014, Ultra SA saw more than 15 000 people attend the event in Cape Town at the Ostrich Farm. More than 20 000 attended the event at the same venue the following year.
Then there were plans to move the party to Observatory, but clearance issues prompted a move to the Cape Town Stadium in 2016.
While no crowd numbers have been reported since the move, it’s quite clear that attendance has dropped since 2016.
Many major EDM parties around the world use the stadium set-up to host big crowds, but why force this on Cape Town when we boast world-class outdoor venues. For example, Rocking the Daisies, which is hosted in Darling, gets record crowds every year during their weekend party. Ultra Europe is hosted in Croatia, and they get to party on yachts, islands and beaches.
I think many Cape Town Ultranauts would embrace a return to an outdoor venue.
A DJ LET-DOWN
Ultra brings some of the world’s best DJs to Cape Town, which many party-goers appreciate.
But imagine what a disappointment it must be for DJs to see a half-filled Cape Town stadium when arriving on stage. It’s even worse for the opening acts (even the international ones), who hardly have respectable numbers in attendance.
This creates a bad impression for the EDM scene in the Mother City, which is has so much more love than displayed at Cape Town Stadium.
Hosting a big event in Cape Town on a Friday causes many logistical issues, especially when it comes to parking and traffic.
Access to parking in and around the stadium is slow and strenuous. And if you don’t choose paid parking, you run the risk of having your car broken into.
Being based in the city, the organisers won’t be able to look after your vehicle.
So entering and leaving the venue becomes a bit of a headache.
RISK OF BECOMING A JOBURG-ONLY EVENT
Joburg attracted a massive crowd last Saturday, which was notably greater than the number of party-goers in Cape Town. Their venue at Naserac looked full and showcased an amazing atmosphere.
I also know friends who opted to fly up to Johannesburg for a better Ultra experience. And they weren’t disappointed.
From a business perspective, if Cape Town continues to disappoint in attendance, I won’t be surprised if Ultra will only be hosted in Johannesburg on a full-time basis.
This would be a big blow for the Cape Town event scene and EDM lovers in the Mother City.
However, I do believe organisers will attract bigger crowds with a better venue choice. Miami started off attracting 15 000 people in 1996. Today, they host over 160 000 people every year. The Cape Town leg can enjoy similar growth if organisers pay attention to what locals will enjoy and embrace. Cape Town Stadium is not the answer.
A big shout-out to Ultra South Africa team for organising massive line-ups at every event since the launch in 2014. It’s no easy feat throwing an event of that magnitude. And it is definitely a near impossible task to please everyone.
However, a venue change from the Cape Town Stadium would definitely boost the event’s potential to be bigger and better in future.