File Image: Picture: Drew Ressler/Ultra Music Festival.
File Image: Picture: Drew Ressler/Ultra Music Festival.

WATCH: The business of music festivals in SA

By Gabriella Steyn Time of article published Feb 9, 2018

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CAPE TOWN -  The music festival scene in South Africa caters for a variety of people whether you listen to hip-hop, trance, heavy metal, indie, Jazz or electro house. 

These events create opportunites for job creation, artists to break-out , sponsorships and influence on the tourism market. 

You would be surprised to know that Afropunk which happened in Johannesburg 2017, employed 1,100 people, and 200 small businesses benefited from market access through selling food and clothing at the festival.

We take a deeper look behind the scene's of 2 of the largest festivals in South Africa, Ultra and the EQUINOX Experience. 

These festivals are very different not only in genre but Ultra has an international reach, while EQUINOX is produced locally. 

The first equinox event was held in 2010 and focuses on being an intimate gathering as it was an Invite-Only event. 

"The event is based on the principle of "The best party is one with your closest friends”  & "The fruit doesn't fall far from the tree", says Equinox.

Ultra South Africa premiered in Cape Town & Johannesburg in 2014, and has since become one of the longest standing world editions of Ultra. 

Ultra has a worldwide footprint, having its event in 24 countries such as SA, Mexico, Miami, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Europe, Ibiza, Hvar, Austrailia and more. 

In 1999, The first ever Ultra event was held on Miami beach by Russel Faibisch and Alex Omes the brains behind Ultra. 


In the event's inaugural year, the owners saw a financial loss of between $10,000 ( R121,019.50) to $20,000 ( R242,039.00) reported by Miami New Times. 

Addditionally, the report also showed that in 2017, a economic-impact report commissioned by the festival estimates that it allowed a $79 million (R956,054,050.00 ) cash injection into the Miami local economy. 

In SA, Ultra is getting ready to welcome around 30 000 attendees in JHB and 18 000 in Cape Town.  

When booking the right artists for an event, each has their own method. 

 EQUINOX says that  line-up is carefully curated by the event owner himself, assisted by his team of avid musos who between them have a very good understanding of the trending music industry and whats "hot or not.”

" We have an online Artist submissions platform on our website which allows up and coming artists to get in touch and be heard, ultimately being considered for line-ups. We work closely with OPEN & FM Bookings who together provide us with the direct and personal contact with potential artist requests, said Equinox. 

" We host 2 annual music competitions: The EQUINOX new guy competition - Where aspiring DJ’s have te opportunity to showdown their opponents and secure themselves a slot to peform on our stage at our annual festival and we host a international music production competition supported by world renowned - IBOGA Records', said Exuinox. 

"Both of these competitions have brought massive local and international attention to all involved", said EQUINOX . 

Ultra says that their main focus is on what their fans are looking for.

"We do our best to secure artists that our fans want, taking into account the responses we get through surveys, registration process, questions on social media & general feedback. Between that, and fresh talent we feel will add to the incredible Ultra South Africa experience", says Ultra. 

To keep a business running, money has to come from somewhere.

Ultra's headline sponsor is Samsung. Aditionally, they also have sponsorships with  Red Bull, Budweisier, SKYY Vodka, Standard Bank, 947, MTV and IQOS.

Ticket prices for Ultra range between R600 - R1500. It depends whther you're buying a general access or VIP tickets.

 VIP entrants pay more as they recieve an exclusive and elevated dance floor; seating area, private bar and private toilet facilities. 

 EQUINOX  has a sole owner Ryan Martin and he has support from his team to keep the festival alive. 

 EQUINOX ticket prices range from R450 - R630.  

Every business has their own challenges, Ultra experienced that they find everything challenging. 

"Everything is challenging, from book thing the artists, to handling all logistics and production elements, accommodating sponsors, dealing with an International brand, managing the budgets, contracting over 1000 people per city.  The list goes on", says Ultra. 

 EQUINOX believes their greatest challange is making people understand what their brand is about.

 "Finding a way to write posts or articles to the public that conveys and delivers the message as it was intended, eliminating room for interpretation. This is by far our greatest challenge", says EQUINOX . 


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