Atlanta dance music promoters are more irrelevant than the crowds they draw

For more than two decades, Atlanta has had a somewhat healthy offering of electronic and dance music for nightlife patrons. Club closings and shifts in sound have caused interests to spike, so there's not always a convenience of going out on a random Thursday night to hear your favorite music. But in more recent years, the dance music community has exploded, and a new type of crowd has emerged. With expansiveness comes imitation and cheapened motivations though, but all of this can
be ignored in the name of going out and having a good time. While a strict focus on the shortcomings of your average event may seem like a critical wasteland, there is a point in which you have to realize that the wrong people are in charge. Does Hate City breed promoters who are significantly less relevant than the crowds they attract?

If a city the size of Atlanta with a history as extensive as Backstreet and the Limelight seems to struggle with quality control, should we look internally for ways to improve, or should we just accept the fate of our current progression? For anyone who's lived through the last 15 years of electronic music here in the southern capital -- or even the last 10 years -- it's quite apparent that things are not the same as they once were. On several different levels, current trends lean in a more favorable direction for things to come. There's something new and exciting for just about everyone, and that's certainly nothing to complain about. Local DJs have managed to book themselves in international destinations, but promoters have failed to progress with the curve. Putting favored interests aside, why does there seem to be more of an acceptance to screw over both the DJs and the crowds, all in one fell swoop?

The answer is quite simple: promoters act upon what's perceived as acceptable to Atlanta. Before dubstep and trap music become a hot commodity for clubs and magazines to exploit, it was more of a punchline to a joke than anything substantial. Three years ago, local news/zine and culture purveyor Creative Loafing sent an MJQ regular to the slums of the West End to experience the finer offerings of today's designer drugs and dubstep for the first time. Although the music was nothing new to Atlanta by any stretch of the imagination, the self-described Mayor of Ponce was eager to let readers know that he had stumbled upon a unique wave of techno in the city. Throughout the night, he gathered information by interviewing inebriated teenagers and eavesdropping on others. But that really wasn't enough, though, because it left readers wondering if this was the only thing the city had to offer. Was this Atlanta's dubstep scene in a nutshell? Were these renegade promoters at the forefront of something Atlanta wasn't quite ready for? Did J Winter find molly at the dubstep rave, or did he bring his own party favors?

As the world keeps spinning, Atlanta stands still. But the city remains important in that it helped dominate modern dance charts with rap-influenced electronic music. Long after hip-house and grime, Atlanta's own take on the musical twist is a bit more polarizing. Trap music, aptly named for its influence from drug-dealing rap music of the 90s and 00s, has created an army of elitists that stretches from the city to the suburbs and beyond. This might have something to do with the overabundance of parties that feature the same local headliners and newbie controller commanders, although there are almost as many new promoters as DJs in this day and age. Just like a budding DJ career is often founded with laptops and YouTube rips, today's promoter relies on Facebook promotion and Google AdSense to get his or her message across. Yesterday's promoter may have littered your car with enough flyers to last a lifetime, but today's rave gurus are sending you invites and blasting your inbox with more messages about their parties than ever thought imaginable. When you finally open an event invitation, you realize that you have no idea who any of the DJs are, and they cover price is $15. This sort of disconnection is expected at flashy nightclubs like Opera and Tongue & Groove, where elegance is sold to you through a bottle service experience behind a velvet rope, but it seems to be happening all over the city.

With such high cover prices, that means that all DJs in Atlanta are making more money, right? Surprisingly, talent and experience seem to be unrelated factors when it comes to payday. Of course, there are always newbies ready to bust out their Virtual DJ in front of a crowd for free, so there's a way for local promoters to fill timeslots with no overhead. It seems like a no brainer if you're a budget-conscious promoter, but it's just one of many cogs in the shit wheel. Veterans are forced to take lesser-paid gigs than they did in the early 00s, creating a significant shift in financial gains. That money's going somewhere, and it seems to be lining the pockets of socialites with a Facebook page. Of course, nightclubs -- in Atlanta's case, restaurants and bars -- have to make their money as well, and the city's become superb at thievery and deception behind closed doors.

Atlanta promoters are cowards. By removing the risk element from the equation, they rely on safe bets instead of taking a gamble on a party's success. After all, your average EDM party in Atlanta is built around the recreation of a Red Bull commercial, so it shouldn't come as a surprise when the same formulas are recycled in a given year to create a general buzzword overkill. It might have something to do with experience, within the Atlanta nightlife community and outside. Instead of actually challenging crowds with something new and exciting, promoters here tend to rest
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comfortably between popular choices and affordable DJs nobody's heard of. Atlanta is very much a breeder of internal egotism, and nothing is more apparent when reading an event description. Without even realizing it, Atlanta promoters single out their crowds, shame their ignorance on musicians and tell them there's no better place in the city than their parties. This sort of backhanded welcome is embraced by more than just a few promoters; it seems to be an adopted form of advertisement. I don't know about you, but when I'm told I've been sleeping under a rock because I don't know who Johnny Digital is from Nowhere, USA, I have a lesser interest in finding out.

More often than not, you'll find the promoters who actually treat Atlanta right and continually bring good music to the city are musicians and DJs themselves. These few brave soldiers take on much more than just promoting a night, though; they're battling resistant clubs, convincing themselves that time is a negligible factor in terms of income and working harder than anyone else in the nightlife industry. It probably goes without saying that experience lends itself more useful to throwing a party than anything else, but sometimes Atlanta needs a reminder. A weathered promoter in Atlanta has most certainly dealt with more double bookings, premature party endings, liquor license revocations and last minute cancellations than they care to discuss in the public light, but that's all part of the business. When the club, bar, restaurant or general event space drops the ball and everyone expects the promoter to pick up the pieces, that's one more reason to quit. That's one more reason to step aside and let some new jack step in, take everyone's money and continue with the aforementioned formula of creating a disparate scene between DJs and promoters.

Will future Atlanta promoters tend to behave in the same sort of amateur way as their forefathers? If there was to ever be a cleansing of money-hungry no nothings in the city, that time seems to be now.
Silence is the bastard child of slavery, so don't be fearful in your criticisms of Atlanta promoters. There's quite possibly nothing more disappointing than a crowd with a lowered sense of expectations. The modern club goer is more interested in the theme, promoter and image of the DJ than the actual music, so maybe that's why today's Atlanta promoter is more irrelevant than the crowd he or she attracts.

"You know more of a road by having traveled it than by all the conjectures and descriptions in the world." --William Hazlitt

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This article gave a voice to what a large number of people have felt for quite some time!