Music Midtown is a large music festival held in Atlanta annually from 1994 to 2005, and after a six-year hiatus, returned in 2011. During its original run, the festival ran on one weekend each year. The event drew in excess of 300,000 attendees per year during its peak years. Music Midtown started as a two-day event with three stages. It later grew to three-day event. During the years that Music Midtown had a three-day run, the event had six main stages. Each of these stages were typically sponsored by a local Atlanta radio station which were used to present dozens of bands playing a wide variety of musical genres. Due to a decline in attendance and rising expenses after the 2005 Music Midtown, promoters placed the festival on hiatus in 2006. The hiatus ran through 2010. The festival returned as a one-day event in 2011, and expanded to its current two-day format in 2012.
The festival was conceived by Atlanta-based music promoters Alex Cooley and Peter Conlon who sought to create an event similar to the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. The intent was to present a wide variety of music that both men had come to enjoy during their careers in the music industry.
In 1994, the festival launched on a parcel of undeveloped land at Peachtree St. and Tenth St. in the heart of Midtown's business district. After a few years at this site, the festival was forced to move to make way for the construction of the new Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. The new festival site chosen was in downtown just north of Centennial Olympic Park and consisted mainly of closed-off streets and surface parking lots which made for a hot and somewhat unpleasant experience for daytime concert-goers. This site is now home to the Georgia Aquarium and the World of Coca-Cola museum. This led to a brief stay of two years after which the festival moved to the 42 acre (170,000 m²) location adjacent to the Atlanta Civic Center and now closed SciTrek. After finding this new home, the festival grew dramatically and attracted around 300,000 attendees during its peak years.
Changes, 2005 and decline
Although independent promoters when the festival was created, Cooley and Conlon sold their company, Concert/Southern Promotions, to Clear Channel Communications' subsidiary SFX Entertainment in 1998. In November 2004, Alex Cooley was released by Clear Channel Entertainment in part due to his unsuccessful assimilation into the corporate culture. His age and health problems (diabetes) prevented him from working full-time which also played a role.
Traditionally on the first weekend in May, the 2005 festival was moved to June 10–12. This was supposedly done for better weather, although this ended up being counterproductive, as it put the festival into even more heat and humidity and at a greater risk for thunderstorms with dangerous lightning. Most of the 2005 festival was rained on by remnants of Tropical Storm Arlene, repeating many of the May rains it was rescheduled to avoid. Special outdoor tiles were put down in front of the stages to protect the grass and keep it from turning to mud.
The 2005 festival also doubled the talent budget and raised 3-day ticket prices from $45 to $75. Conlon cited media reports of potential traffic problems from Music Midtown and the concurrent Vibe MusicFest at the Georgia Dome as "killing" advance ticket sales in the weeks before the event. Others believe that the higher ticket prices may have exceeded the affordability of younger concert-goers. The slated 2005 dates were also concurrent with the increasingly popular Bonnaroo music and arts festival in neighboring Tennessee, which may have had an impact on both attendance and artist booking.
Hiatus and resurrection
On January 5, 2006, Conlon announced that there would be no Music Midtown in 2006 due to the growing expenses of the festival in its current form and location. Although Conlon left open the possibility of a return at a different location in the future, this ultimately left Music Midtown in limbo and on hiatus through 2010.
On July 6, 2011, Mayor Kasim Reed and Conlon announced that the festival would return for 2011 as a one-day event on September 24, 2011 at Piedmont Park. Ticket prices for the event were $55, with two stages and The Black Keys and Coldplay headlining. Additional acts included Cage the Elephant, Manchester Orchestra, Young the Giant, The Joy Formidable and others.
On September 21, 2011, Conlon said due to the success of advance ticket sales for 2011, he was already planning for a 2012 version of the festival. "Next year will definitely be two days, a little more diverse," he said. "I felt that getting something [produced] this year was important. It's gotten people focused again. But I'll start thinking about next year the week after this one. It takes a year to plan these things right." Following the event, local media estimated attendance at 40,000.
Saturday, 21 September 2013: Red Hot Chili Peppers, Queens of the Stone Age, Imagine Dragons, Weezer, Kendrick Lamar, Arctic Monkeys, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Tegan and Sara, The Black Lips, Reignwolf, The Neighbourhood, ZZ Ward, Mona, Capital Cities
Saturday, 20 September 2014: Eminem, Zac Brown Band, Bastille (band), Lana Del Rey, Gregg Allman, Fitz and The Tantrums, B.o.B, NEEDTOBREATHE, twenty one pilots, Vic Mensa, Third Eye Blind, The Strypes, AER, Magic Man, Sleeper Agent (band)
Saturday, 19 September 2015: Sam Smith, Van Halen, Vance Joy, Lenny Kravitz, Panic! at The Disco, Run The Jewels, Catfish and the Bottlemen, Icona Pop, Billy Idol, Hall & Oates, Rozzi Crane, Elle King, The Airborne Toxic Event, Alessia Cara, Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness, New Politics, X Ambassadors, Colony House
- Ruggieri, Melissa (2011-09-25). "Coldplay honors R.E.M. at Music Midtown". Access Atlanta/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Cox Enterprises). Retrieved 2012-03-08.
- Ruggieri, Melissa. "Music Midtown returns for two nights with Pearl Jam, Foo Fighters". Cox Media Group. Retrieved 19 September 2014.
- Ruggieri, Melissa. "The Music Scene: Music Midtown announces lineup". Access Atlanta. Cox Media Group. Retrieved 18 June 2013.
- Ruggieri, Melissa. "Music Midtown 2014 schedule announced". Access Atlanta. Cox Media Group. Retrieved 19 September 2014.
- Marino, Nick (January 6, 2006), "Music Midtown canceled for '06; promoters cite expense", Atlanta Journal-Constitution, archived from the original on January 10, 2006