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Nicky Romero on why Ultra still inspires him after 20 years

Written by
Ryan Pfeffer

On March 13, 1999, the very first Ultra Music Festival welcomed a respectable 7,000 attendees to the sands of Miami Beach. Now, two decades later, the Miami-born electronic music festival is a global phenomenon in more than 20 countries. Its worldwide attendance exceeds 1 million people. And it remains one of Miami's biggest events of the year.

Next month Ultra gears up for a massive 20th anniversary in the city where it all began. The festival serves as the epicenter of a jam-packed Miami Music Week, the five-day stretch of pool parties and star-studded DJ sets that invade the city in March. We caught up with one of 2018’s headliners, Nicky Romero—whose global hits such as “I Could Be the One” have landed him on the main stage three times since his first Ultra set in 2011—to talk sound and strategy for this year’s huge rave.

What do you look forward to during Miami Music Week?
All the new music. Everybody prepares new songs, mash-ups, remixes—everywhere you go, you know you’re going to hear something new. I’ll probably play maybe five new songs myself at Ultra.

Ultra turns 20 this year. Why does it remain such an important part of dance music culture?
I think it really has to do with the fact that they keep pushing the limits. The stages look crazy, there’s so much effort put into the Livestream and they have a great variety of genres and acts. It’s just an epic feeling. It’s hard to describe, but when you perform at Ultra, you just see that everything is done right.

Any advice for someone coming to Ultra for the first time?
Check out all the stages. Hop over to each one and see everything. Be part of the culture. It’s about the whole experience, not just seeing your one favorite artist. It’s really about opening up to everything you can. Try to come away with a brand-new playlist of artists you discovered at Ultra. For me, that’s the ultimate goal: seeing if I can get inspired by other people’s sound.

Ultra Music Festival is at Bayfront Park Mar 23–25. Get your tickets here.  

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