It’s no secret that digitization, technological advances and the novel accessibility of entertainment and media have led to major shifts in the music industry. Sales of recorded music have decreased dramatically in the last several years, and the price of concert tickets continues to rise as huge media conglomerates monopolize venues across the country.
Despite these struggles, the United States has seen a large increase in the number and size of music festivals in recent years. As Thomas Grose wrote in an article for TIME magazine, “music festivals are a rare bright spot in the struggling music industry.” No longer do music fans have to travel hundreds or even thousands of miles to see their favorite artists. Instead, festivals of various genres and styles are popping up pretty much everywhere.
Atlanta is home to a thriving music culture, especially for urban, R&B and hip-hop artists. Musicians such as Cee Lo Green, T.I., the members of OutKast and Gladys Knight were born and raised right here in Atlanta. But until recently, our music festival options were limited. Now, there are dozens to choose from, each with a unique venue, lineup and price point.
This shift is occurring across the United States, mainly thanks to two factors. First, as huge entertainment juggernauts like Live Nation expand their market domination, it’s easier than ever to produce large, extravagant concert events. Furthermore, music festivals have become a strong form of escapism for Americans, especially during the recent economic recession. Take a look at some of the biggest and baddest upcoming music festivals below, and make your decision just a little bit easier.
Where: Kingston Downs, Ga.
When: April 25–27
Genre: Hip-Hop, Indie/Alternative, House and Electronic
Headliners: OutKast, Pretty Lights and Foster the People
Other Notable Acts: J. Cole, Major Lazer, Matt & Kim, Janelle Monae, Sleigh Bells, Chance the Rapper, Wolfgang Gartner
Price: Advanced 3-Day Gen. Admission – $180
During the past decade, CounterPoint has become a staple of the Atlanta music experience. It was among the first large-scale techno music festivals in the United States and has since blossomed into a cultural event encompassing several other genres of music. Last fall, however, TomorrowWorld, the U.S. version of Europe’s biggest, wildest techno music festival, arrived on the same grounds that CounterPoint had used for years. CounterPoint was thus forced to move to the spring and lost some of its “freshness” with the new competition. That said, CounterPoint’s lineup this year features artists well outside the realm of techno or house music, which will certainly attract a new audience.
Where: Atlantic Station
When: May 9–11
Genre: Rock, Indie/Alternative and Country
Headliners: The National, Modest Mouse, Alabama Shakes
Other Notable Acts: Spoon, The Gaslight Anthem, Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros, Local Natives, The Replacements, Cage the Elephant
Price: Advanced 3 Day Gen. Admission – $150
It’s always a good sign when a festival lineup comes out and the undercard entices you just as much if not more than the headliners. Although the lineup for Shaky Knees pales in comparison to some larger upcoming festivals like Governor’s Ball in New York, its smaller scale and cult-like acts will appeal to Atlanta’s younger indie music crowd. Trending artists like Iron & Wine, Local Natives and Portugal. The Man will be on many festival tickets this year, but this may be your only chance to catch rare festival-style performances from the likes of The National, an American rock band with a dark, haunting sound, or to witness the highly anticipated reunion of The Replacements, who played their last performance in 1991. The change of venue to Atlantic Station is crucial due to its more central location, music-hungry inhabitants and proximity to a larger number of artisans, local food trucks and vendors.
Where: Multiple venues in Savannah
When: March 20–April 5
Genre: Classical, Jazz, Rock, Country and more
Headliners: The Avett Brothers, The Lone Bellow, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Tomatito and The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra
Other Notable Acts: Estrella Morente, Punch Brothers, Jason Isbell, Christian Sands, Vince Gill
Price: Varies; shows are sold individually or in small packages
Savannah Music Festival is the largest musical arts event in Georgia and one of the most distinctive cross-genre festivals in the world. Its prices are certainly higher than those at other upcoming festivals, but it’s worth it: the artists are world-renowned, and tickets for events are sold separately, making it easier for you to see artists you are particularly interested in.
Where: Multiple venues across the Historic District in Downtown Savannah
When: March 6–8
Genre: Up-and-comers spanning genres like rock, indie, country, hip-hop and gospel
Headliners: J. Roddy Walston and the Business, Future Islands, Small Black
Other Notable Acts: Speedy Ortiz, Miniature Tigers and Magic Man
Price: Advanced 3-Day GA $75 (or if under 21, $50)
This music festival utilizes Savannah’s proximity to I-95 and I-10 by allowing traveling musicians to easily “stopover” (get it?) at this small festival on their way down to the prestigious SXSW Music Conference. These artists’ names may not draw too strong of a reaction, but it’s worth noting that many artists that performed at the Stopover years ago have gone onto fame and success. Artists such as St. Lucia, Grimes and The War on Drugs performed here before they broke out of the pack. Oh, and it doesn’t hurt that you can hop from venue to venue, beer in hand – as long as you stay within the historic district.
Music festivals are a great way for college students, or anyone a little short of cash, to enjoy hundreds of music acts all at once in a vibrant atmosphere for a relatively affordable price. So what are you waiting for? Whether you are excited by the hottest new indie acts, OutKast’s surprise reunion or the traditional New Orleans’ style of Preservation Hall Jazz Band, there’s a music festival in Atlanta for you. Get your tickets now to avoid inevitable price bumps later.
– By Jason Charles