Does Atlanta really need another music festival? The organizers of Atlantis Music Conference think so.
For the last seven years, the conference has been perceived as an industry event, parading primarily unsigned bands before established industry professionals like label reps and radio program directors. It has included educational panels, networking parties, and of course, the band showcases featuring local, regional and national acts. You could call the conference eight-minute dating for the music industry: Rarely does anyone get married, but you meet a lot of people. Most participating unsigned bands will remain unsigned, but they get exposure to music biz insiders and potential fans.
This year, to lure more of those potential fans, Atlantis Music Conference added "+ Festival" to its moniker and introduced $30 wristbands. Wristbands allow access to as many of the musician showcases as one can stuff into three consecutive nights of club-hopping. But wristbands are not obligatory: Fans can still pay normal admission to their favorite venues if they just want to see the bands playing there that night. For the most part, Atlantis venues stick to the genres of music the clubs already play, so anyone heading to Apache Cafe can still expect hip-hop and soul. Some of the other 18 participating venues include Smith's Olde Bar, Star Bar, the Loft, and a few of Underground Atlanta's clubs. Organizers hope that conjuring the one-price festival atmosphere will dispel the public impression that Atlantis is for "industry insiders only."
Aside from encouraging a festival feel, Atlantis organizers are trying to keep up with changing trends. Though it started as just a rock music conference, organizers added hip-hop, soul and R&B in 2000. This year, Atlantis adds Latin music to the mix. "We started to see a huge Latin music community developing; clubs coming out of the woodwork," says Atlantis manager Kathy Gates. "So we've teamed up with Vivelo and LARAS [Latin Association of Recording Arts and Sciences] to create a new Latin component. Sergio George, an award-winning composer and producer who is very well known in the Latin market, is the featured guest."
Though Atlantis is reaching out to fans, it's still adding educational panels for artists. One of the new features is the urban and rock demo critiques with industry pros. A band can sign up to sit down for 15 minutes with a record label rep, a radio rep, and a marketing/publicity rep who give feedback on the music and the band's promo packet. The packet, after all, is often a group's first impression on radio stations and other potential press. And between us, crappy packets often end up in the trash.
"Instead of setting it up like 'American Idol' where it's for audience entertainment, it's one-on-one here," says Gates about the private critiquing sessions. "No one's going to tell you what you want to hear, they're just going to tell you the truth. You just don't get that very often in life, especially in this business."
That attitude makes a more seasoned Atlantis far less about pumping the dream for a big record deal, and more about bands and artists building their fan base and having a long, satisfying musical career.
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