Atlanta’s Music Scene Has a Beat for Everyone

Fast Facts

  • The Tabernacle, Terminal West and The EARL were included in Pollstar magazine’s list of “Top Club Venues” in 2015.
  • Four local spots were also named “Top Theatre Venues” for 2015 including Fox Theatre, Cobb Energy Performing Arts Center, Variety Playhouse and Atlanta Symphony Hall.
  • Atlanta is home to three of Pollstar’s 2015 “Top Amphitheatre Venues” with Lakewood Amphitheater, Wolf Creek Amphitheater and Chastain Park Amphitheatre included.
  • Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, established in 1945, has earned 27 Grammy® Awards.
  • More than 30 music festivals are held in metro Atlanta annually; AC3 Festival, Atlanta Jazz Festival, Music Midtown, Shaky Knees and SweetWater 420 Fest are among the largest.
  • The musical heritage of Atlanta includes many legends who made their careers in Georgia’s capital including Blind Willie McTell, Otis Redding, Gladys Knight, Little Richard, Cee Lo Green, OutKast, Indigo Girls, Alan Jackson and Trisha Yearwood.

Hip-Hop, R&B and Soul

The New York Times dubbed Atlanta as “hip-hop’s center of gravity,” and for good reason. Long before the city’s first home-grown rapper, Mo-Jo, hit the radio in the 1980s, young musicians were rhyming and performing at Shyran’s Showcase in East Atlanta. During the 1990s, hip-hop rose in national popularity while two celebrated duos emerged out of Atlanta: Kris Kross and OutKast. OutKast’s overwhelming success in the mid-1990s placed Atlanta firmly on the hip-hop map, alongside New York City and Los Angeles. Today, hip-hop and R&B continue to thrive in Atlanta with popular artists such as T.I., Ludacris and Future hailing from the city.

Hip-hop and soul enthusiasts should begin their Atlanta visit with a stop at Apache Café. Once known as a springboard for artists such as Erykah Badu and India.Arie, Apache Café remains a hub for listeners to discover emerging artists. For late-night dancing, MJQ Concourse, Compound and El Bar are known for their high-energy DJs and fun hip-hop beats. Ambitious hip-hop fans can channel their inner artist at Music University, a series of educational seminars held at the legendary Patchwerk Studios. This local hip-hop recording studio has cut gold and platinum records since 1994 for artists such as OutKast, Beyoncé and Alicia Keys.

Country, Blues and Jazz
Atlanta’s musical heritage in the genres of country, blues and jazz runs deep. Georgia’s capital served as the launching pad for artists like Fiddlin’ John Carson, Blind Willie McTell and Fletcher Henderson as early as the 1920s. Throughout the subsequent decades, Atlanta became a breeding ground for up-and-coming talent across genres, producing nationally-acclaimed artists such as blues and soul legend Otis Redding, country sensations Alan Jackson and Trisha Yearwood, and jazz artists like Lizz Wright and Michelle Malone. Today, Atlanta is home to eclectic communities of musicians and plays host to more than 20 country, blues and jazz events each year.  

There’s no shortage of places to hear toe-tapping music in Atlanta. In Old Fourth Ward, Venkman’s features live performances from a variety of genres. For blues, Blind Willie’s and Northside Tavern are can’t-miss Atlanta mainstays. Atlanta’s jazz musicians and enthusiasts frequent Sweet Georgia’s Juke Joint in Downtown. For the most devout jazz fans, May is the best time to visit Atlanta as the city’s signature green space, Piedmont Park, transforms into a massive outdoor venue for Atlanta Jazz Festival, the largest free jazz festival in the country.  

Folk Rock to Indie Rock to Hard Rock

Rock ‘n’ roll and folk music both rose in popularity in the Southeast and across the nation from the ‘60s through the ‘90s. In Atlanta, the ‘80s generated highly-influential folk and rock artists including the Grammy Award-winning duo Indigo Girls, Shawn Mullins and The Black Crowes. Subsequent big name rock ‘n’ roll exports out of Atlanta include Black Lips, Deerhunter and Mastodon. Today, Atlanta continues to incubate some of the nation’s most creative indie rock, hard rock and folk talent including Royal Thunder, The N.E.C. and Little Tybee.

Music enthusiasts across genres will enjoy a trip to singer-songwriter haven Eddie’s Attic in Decatur. For more than 20 years, Eddie’s Attic has served as the place where musicians find a following. Best bets for hearing up-and-coming rock acts include The EARL in East Atlanta, Star Bar in Little Five Points and Smith’s Olde Bar in Midtown. Atlanta’s energetic mid-sized venues draw up-and-coming touring acts; such venues include nightclub-theatre hybrid Variety Playhouse in Little Five Points and Terminal West in the Westside. For a more intimate listening room experience, Red Light Café provides inventive folk-rock, bluegrass and Americana.

Electronic Dance Music (EDM)

Electronic dance music achieved some popularity in Atlanta during the 1990s, but the genre was largely overshadowed by hip-hop. Today, however, EDM is finding a home in hip-hop’s capital city, thanks in large part to the city’s global, melting-pot population and creative hip-hop community. One notable early EDM influencer is Atlanta-based rapper Lil’ Jon who mixed crunk with EDM in the mid-2000s, most notably with single, “Give It All U Got” – the song that foreshowed contemporary crunk-EDM hit, “Turn Down for What.” Atlanta hip-hop artists have collaborated with European-based EDM DJs and producers, making the city an incubator for fresh EDM hits. The increase in the genre’s popularity has given way to two EDM festivals, Imagine Music Festival and Shaky Beats.

EDM heads have a variety of options for dancing the night away in Atlanta. The Sound Table is characterized by leading-edge EDM DJs. QUAD @ Spring4th Complex and Rush Lounge are both clubs dedicated entirely to EDM, dubstep and electronic-hip-hop fusion genres.