The music scene in Miami is cutthroat. Clubs and festivals that were once institutions closed overnight in the midst of a Saturday night party. One mistake, no matter how silly, can cost you your livelihood. If we hold this idea as a universal standard, it would only make sense that Miami’s III Points Music Festival should have failed a long time ago. It has been plagued by hurricanes, broken A/C and even an African-born mosquito virus. It faced a lack of attendees and canceled acts like the long-awaited LCD Soundsystem because of it. Yet, its co-founder, David Sinopoli, never threw in the towel or compared his unfortunate ventures to an Edgar Allen Poe poem. He and his team improvised, improved and showed dogged persistence to make the art, music and technology-focused music festival into something unparalleled in the middle of Miami’s night and music scene.
David learned from the mistakes of the past and took a bold initiative of moving III Points from its typical October date to February 15-17, 2019. The move made sense. It lets our troposphere rain out the fall season and bring nice cool temperatures come February. He and his team are determined to make the festival bloom with local talent, top production, and a friendly and forthcoming atmosphere for everyone.
We were able to interview the co-founder of III Points and the co-owner of Club Space and its sister venues, The Ground and Floyd, to discuss the upcoming festival as well as his own life as a DJ. David Sinopoli speaks in a sagacious tone that encourages conversation. He is not lost in his own head and is more than happy to receive feedback from everyone. He listens and doesn’t simply think of what to say next. His paradigms are innovative and charitable. At the end of the day, David just wants Miami to become a better city than it was yesterday.
Other than the date change, how will this year’s III Points be different from the last five years? What should we expect?
We are adding another stage this year. It’s a stage that we used once before called Isotropic. It was during the hurricane year and we never got to actualize it the way we wanted. But it’ll be like a transparent, closed-in, greenhouse for 1,500 people to dance to house music. It’ll be open until 5 am every night. It’ll definitely have some great local talent and amazing back-to-backs as well as great headlining acts. We are also going to have more neo-soul and hip-hop on this lineup than in the past. We aren’t going to change what we do on indie, electronic, and IDM, but we wanted to expand what we really thought was quality alternative hip-hop. You should expect a little more people, better weather, 70 degrees during the day, 60s at night. There will be better production. Every year we get better at production and how organized we are. I think you will have a big opportunity to discover more this year. There will be more art, more music, more food options, better merchandise, and we are just going to fucking upgrade this model. Just taking out the worry of fucking weather is going to allow us to focus more on fine-tuning the baby.
What kind of emotions do you go through when the festival gates open? Is it any different compared to previous years?
It’s definitely way different this year. I mean just the season of doing everything has completely shifted around this time. For the last five years, the September/October months were full of panic because of the storm systems that were coming through the Atlantic Ocean; just the amount of work to do this thing was really stressful. We believe that the weather is going to be an advantage to us come February with the way the humidity is around that time and the ability for people to dress up and not feel so hot. I think that the whole weather aspect was something we had to get over. So that takes some of the uncontrollable aspect and stress of this festival away. But you know, there are new things. We had quite the challenge of getting talent to commit to playing February because of the major festivals programmed to play in 2019. There are announcement clauses and stuff like that that we didn’t understand completely. It made it really hard because a lot of acts that play with us can’t play Coachella now or other major festivals because of how we changed the date. It’s difficult to get acts to commit if they think they jeopardize a major festival. Living in October wasn’t great because of the weather, but in terms of being competitive on the calendar, we weren’t really a competitor.
Ultra is releasing tickets the same day you guys are releasing your line-up and tickets. Do you think you guys will be able to live harmoniously?
I have a lot of respect and love for Ultra. It brings so much commerce to our city. I’m a Miami person and my goal for this festival is to improve the music scene for the acts not playing Ultra and for the community that lives here around the year and makes their living in the art and music world. Ultra really does a lot of business come March and has been doing it for over 20 years. They are undeniably legendary. I don’t think they are going to be competitive with us. We are doing a way different thing and I think what we are doing is not going to be competitive with what they are doing. With us in February and Ultra in March, I think everyone is going to walk away and say that it was great for the city.
Miami is well known for its underground scene but it still has a huge mainstream/EDM crowd. How would you persuade a LIV diehard to go to III Points and what would you want them to take away from it?
I don’t think the goal for me is to bring anyone into anything. If they want to see Calvin Harris then that’s fucking great. There are so many avenues for that. If people want to listen to different types of music that we are offering, then they are going to come to us and they are going to find it out and seek it out. I think our festival lineup is for the seekers. It’s for the people who care a lot about these acts and don’t get to see them very consistently because of how the make-up is in Miami. The issue I see is that there is no issue. I think our potential ticket buyers will be attracted to our show because it is not that. It’s almost like we have so much of it that we have to keep providing spaces for people to see and incorporate this alternative music. The bigger that draw becomes in the Miami marketplace with EDM, pop music, or commercial hip-hop, I think the more offerings we have to proportionally offer to our city. And people grow up. I’ve seen a lot of the people who go to our Blank CNVS shows at Space and end up on the Terrace to see a techno or tech-house show within a couple of months. And I see a lot of cross-over crowds go to both. So, I think there is an age comparison with music and how people have evolved especially into electronic music. And I think with us being in February, we have the opportunity to attract people from other scenes. I think people in New York and Chicago will look at our lineup and say, “Holy shit. That’s in Miami during Presidents’ Day weekend and its cold up here, I need to get down there.” I tend to not really care when it comes to us fitting a cap here in Miami of what people want to go to, but instead to really start growing outside of Miami and have people come down here.
III Points is going into its sixth edition. Do you think the festival has already left a legacy in Miami?
I really don’t know, man. It’s hard for me to get that gauge because I’m in it so deep. I can’t really understand how wide the perspective is. I feel like it’s a little muddy because of my relation to it. But I think it’s the anecdote that you brought up about seeing John Talabot play that is something that makes us happy. I tend to hope that we are doing a really good job carrying hip-hop, neo-soul, rock, indie, techno, and house music to alternative minds. And I hope people from that demographic find overlap in those other genres and find a good tempo and composition make-up and widen their stance to a perspective of a non-genre type of sound. I think that is also the hardest thing to do with this festival: appeal to many different genres and do it quality for each genre. But I think my team and the diversity of what we grab and listen to makes it happen naturally on the programming end. I hope it can relate to a Flying Lotus fan who wonders into an LCD Soundsystem or Honey Dijon show and say, “Oh, shit. This is fucking awesome for completely different reasons.” I guess we hope that is what happens on the discovery side of it. But again, I’m really, really close to it. It’s hard.
We keep seeing big construction win and take over Miami. Heart recently closed because of it. O Cinema is now closing. Do you worry that development will win over music festivals like III Points or your clubs?
We have all had to deal with the Downtown Neighborhood Association (DNA). But what I’ve felt with dealing with the DNA is that they are not assholes. They are not the villains that everyone wants to make them out to be. They are the people living in their high-rises that didn’t really anticipate music being played super loud. I think some of it is an exaggeration and I think some of it has some truth to it. We’ve met with them and we’ve found ways to remedy our sound plot problem in Space and they’ve been people of their word. If we make a change and show to them that we are making progress and want to be better neighbors, then they are usually really open to us. How long that is going to last? I don’t know. But for now, as long as you go around your shit legally, be thoughtful, listen to the other side, and believe that you can amend this outside of the court, it can work itself out. I think it’s when people try to fight things and go to war with someone publicly that things will become more about the war and less about the solution. And you know, we obviously don’t want to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in sound remediation in our club when we would like to put that money somewhere else, but you realize this is something that’s going to be a problem if you don’t put serious effort towards it, so we sat down with the DNA and put serious effort towards it. We made serious changes and they appreciated it and spoke to the city commissioner positively about what we were doing. We are seeing immediate progress even if it has taken a while.
You guys had live auditions to fill in some slots for the lineup. What do you look for it comes to local or new talent?
Michelle Granodo and other people from my team were the ones who picked out the initial 27 acts over three nights at Floyd. There were about 600 or 700 initial applications. We knew some of the acts already and wanted to see how they were progressing. Others sounded awesome and we wanted to see how they would do live. Then as a team, we picked them out at Floyd. It was clear that there were acts who just blew us the fuck away. It was immediate that we had to get them on the bill. And there were some acts where we said, “This is really cool. We should track a little further. Maybe they won’t play the festival this year, but we will do another follow-up and keep it open.” I think, for us, a music festival that really wants to incorporate the local scene, we can’t get stuck in our ways and program the same shit every year when it comes to the local scene. We have to refresh. I think this local audition let us get a bunch of local acts onto the bill that otherwise we would not have known.
You’re playing EDC Orlando in November. How did that come about and is this your first time playing a non-III Points-related festival?
I’ve played a couple of festivals in South America. The DJ part of my life is really rooted in the fact that I just love playing music. I try not to take it seriously because, with my position as a booker and an owner of a festival and clubs, I don’t really consider it fair to be throwing my shit around to people. But I do love playing music and there are certain acts I would love to play with. Sometimes people hear me play in Miami and try to invite me to play in other cities. The people who run EDC are pretty aware of what we do here in Miami. I think someone who works over there suggested me to play in Orlando, Vegas, and some other cities. I’m going to do it and see what happens. I never played a festival like that before and those guys really put on an amazing show, they’re extremely organized, and I respect them. When it comes to DJing, I’m just happy to play music.
Do you believe in luck?
I believe I guess, in how one defines luck. I believe in good fortune and good karma. I believe that if you do the right thing and do good work with the right intention, and you’re pushing and are focused on something, then good things will happen. There’s going to be shit that comes up. It was tragic when LCD Soundsystem reunited and had to cancel. That was, if you consider luck, shit luck. But, you know, to me, it was barriers of trials that we had to do to evolve. It was a right of passage. It’s hard to understand if I believe fully in luck. But I do believe good fortune and good work provides us with bigger and wider opportunities. But I really don’t know, man. I usually like to hedge my bets and hope it stays in our favor because we’ve been pretty fortunate so far.
With the utterly stacked line-up in hand. We just have to simply anticipate knowing this may be the best III Points yet. You can purchase tickets for III Points 2019 via iiipoints.com