MEIEA Journal Vol 1 No 1  Copyright © 2000 Music & Entertainment Industry Educators Association All rights reserved

Taylor, Frederick Jerome (2000). Atlanta: The Olympic Music City of Dreams, MEIEA Journal Vol 1 No 1,  62-75.

Atlanta: The Olympic Music City of Dreams


Frederick Jerome Taylor

Georgia State University

The Atlanta Committee for the Olympic games (ACOG) was successful in presenting Atlanta as the city of choice for the 1996 Olympics due to its availability of hotels, restaurants, municipal services, olympic venues, major colleges and universities, technology and entertainment centers. Atlanta’s entertainment industry has skyrocketed in the area of hotel and restaurant management, conventions, television advertisement, motion picture, video and music production. The production of films, television shows and videos represents a limited portion of the entertainment industry that accounted for $4.3 billion in revenue in 1993 (Murray, 1995) The 1998 production budget for films produced in Georgia was 98.65 million dollars (Georgia Department of Trade and Tourism, 1998). A report by Research Atlanta Incorporated (1992), indicated that while New York, Los Angeles, Nashville and Chicago are the nation’s leading entertainment centers, Atlanta is part of a secondary entertainment center that includes Detroit, Minneapolis, Dallas, New Orleans and San Francisco. The report indicated that more than 350 feature films and television series have been filmed in the State of Georgia including Smokey and the Bandit, Oscar award-win-ning Driving Miss Daisy, The Dukes of Hazzard, I’ll Fly Away, In The Heat of the Night, and Fluke. Recent film and television series filmed in Atlanta are Fled by Kevin Hooks, Miss Evers Boys (HBO), Alex Haley’s mini-series Momma Flora’s Family (CBS), Forces of Nature (Dreamworks), Selma, Lord, Selma (ABC), The General’s Daughter (Paramount), and Savannah’s own Midnight In The Garden of Evil produced by Clint Eastwood. Remember the Titans with Denzel Washington was recently filmed in the Atlanta metropolitan area. Atlanta is one of the best hubs outside of the New York and Los Angeles for making films because of its film processing facilities, transportation links, talented local crews, music production facilities, antebellum structures and assistance from the State film and video office. International media conglomerate Turner/Time Warner and Crawford Communications, a post-production and film processing facility are major entertainment business entities based in Atlanta (Kloer, 1992). In addition to the entertainment industry and electronic internet companies (mindspring,, Infoeek/Disney’s and distribution center), Atlanta’s music industry has a fascinating history and is presently part of this growing economy.

Country Music

Atlanta was the first center for Country music as indicated in the PBS documentary “Cabbagetown” that provides the history of an area where Fiddlin’ John Carson in 1923 recorded “Littlin’ Log Cabin in the Lane” on WSB radio (Taylor, 1993). This was the first commercially produced country music recording. Pickin’ on Peachtree: A History of Country Music In Atlanta, Georgia, indicates that Atlanta played a major role in launching the country music industry in the early 1920’s and remained one of the nation’s leading country music centers for four decades. From 1920-40 it was a major recording center with representatives from New York record companies traveling south to scout for singers and musicians. The local acts who recorded in Atlanta were Fiddlin’’ John Carson, Gid Tanner & the Skillet Lickers, Riley Puckett, Clayton McMichen, Scottsdale String Band, and Roba Stanley, America’s first recorded female at OKeh Records in Atlanta in 1924. Charles Wolfe in “Tennessee Strings and Kentucky Country” indicated that “If people think country music moved out of the hills directly to Nashville, they are sadly mistaken. Atlanta was country music’s real birthplace and has remained a vital and energetic center” (Daniels, 1990). The Georgia Music Hall of Fame, located in Macon, GA honored the following Georgia country artists: Fiddlin’’ Johnny Carson,George Riley Puckett, Tommy Roe, Billy Joe Royal, Chet Atkins, Ray Stevens, Joe South, Brenda Lee, Bill Anderson, Jerry Reed and Chet Atkins. Mark Wills, Travis Tritt and Trisha Yearwood and bands such as the Allman Brothers, Atlanta Rhythm Section, B-52’s and R.E.M. are carrying on the Georgia legacy.

Music Publishing

As president of Lowery Music Company Incorporated, Bill Lowery is celebrating his forty-seventh year as the premiere music publisher in Atlanta, GA. Lowery Music Company received its BMI license on October 1, 1952 and scored in 1956 with Gene Vincent’s million dollar record “Be-Bop-A-Lula.” BMI has awarded the Lowery Group with numerous citations for one million broadcast performances of “Down in The Boondocks,” “Walk On By,” “Common Man,” two million performances for “Stormy,” “So Into You,” “Key Largo,” and “Young Love,” three million performances for “Spooky,” and “Games People Play,” four million performances for “I Never Promised You A Rose Garden,” and an amazing five million performances for “Traces.” BMI’s most performed song of the year was “Rose Garden” in 1971 and two Grammy’s for Song of the Year and Best Contemporary song went to “Games People Play” in 1969 (B. Lowery, Personal Communication, January 6, 2000). When the Georgia Music Hall of Fame was created in 1978 to honor those who contributed most to the state’s musical heritage, Bill Lowery and Ray Charles received the first Georgy awards. Other music publishing companies based in Atlanta are Rising Star, Hitco (LeFace) and publishing companies attached to independent record labels.

Rhythm and Blues

Atlanta has also been a center for African American music starting in the early 1920s when the boll weevil had all but ruined cotton farming in the South, and thousands of Black families were forced off the land into small towns and then cities. With them came country blues and ragtime, played on homemade instruments and acoustic guitar. These forms were the precursors of Rhythm and Blues, Rock N’ Roll and Jazz. Black country blues musicians gravitated toward Decatur Street the main thoroughfare of the African American community. On this busy boulevard, lined with stores and barbershops, bars and houses of ill-repute, country blues musicians such as Peg Leg Howell, Eddie Anthony, Fred McMullen, Hicks Brothers and Blind Willie McTell entertained the African American community. McTell was the only artist of that era to record for RCA Victor, Brunswick, Columbia, Okeh and Bluebird using different aliases. He brought to his recording sessions brilliant 12-string guitar work, vocals and lyrics that fit neatly into the three-minute 78 rpm “race record” format. McTell and other blues musicians laid the foundation for Rhythm and Blues (Fulmer, 1992).

After World War II Rhythm and Blues dominated the landscape on Sweet Auburn Street (the commerce and entertainment center of the Black community) home of the Royal Peacock club, Bailey’s 81 theatre and Wallahaja hotel. Later other hot nightclubs emerged such as the Birdcage and Paschals. Jazz, Rhythm and Blues, classical and Gospel music flourished during the 1950s and 60s in Atlanta’s Black community. Georgia born Rhythm and Blues artists Ray Charles, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Cameo, James Brown, Little Richard Penniman. The Tams, Chuck Willis, Otis Redding, Dave Prater and Sam Moor; Classical artists Roland Hayes; Mattiwilda Dobbs; Jessye Norman; blues artists Gertrude “Ma” Rainey, Blind Willie McTell; Jazz artists Lena Horne, Joe Williams, Piano Red Perryman, Fletcher Henderson, Duke Pearson; Gospel artists Thomas Dorsey and Franklin D. Roosevelt’s favorite organist Graham Jackson set the musical standard for others to follow. In the late ‘70s, early ‘80s Larry Blackmon and Bunny Ransome managed and produced successful funk groups such as Cameo and Cashflow. Stevie Wonder’s former wife Sarita Wright was also on the roster. The group Cameo had a big hit “Word Up” that topped the Billboard record charts. These Georgia born artists from various genres entertained the African American community and helped to established Atlanta as a regional music center. However, it was not until 1989 that Atlanta moved from a regional entertainment music center to an international one.

Urban Music

The recognition of Atlanta as an international music center is primarily the result of forty-two year old Antonio “LA” Reid who began his music career as a drummer in Cincinnati with musician Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds. Forming a R&B/funk group in 1983, they recorded their first of three albums for Los Angeles based Solar Records. Four hit singles emanated from the first three albums. Reid and Edmonds produced the second and third albums and began writing and producing the Whispers, Pebbles, Bobby Brown, Paula Abdul, Aretha Franklin, and Boyz II Men. Reid and Edmonds were approached by Arista Record President, Clive Davis to start LaFace which would be based in Atlanta. In 1989 a joint-venture agreement between LaFace Records headed by “L.A. Reid and Kenneth “Babyface” with Arista a subsidiary label with BMG, was signed. It was worth $20 million in venture capital outlay. In 1991, LaFace released its first product (Damian Dane), but it was the Boomerang soundtrack which included Boyz II Men’s “End of the Road” and “Give U My Heart,” a duet with BabyFace and Toni Braxton that put the label on the map (Backstage, 1998). In April of 1995 Atlanta-based LaFace Records renewed its agreement with its distributor Arista/BMG records at an estimated value of $100 million dollars over the next five years. “We basically have the largest joint venture in record company history, “LaFace Chief Financial Officer Dorsey James said. “Every other deal of this size has been a buyout. No one has made the commitment, nor shown the support of an independent record label that Arista/BMG has” (Murray, S.1995). The LaFace label has since produced Toni Braxton and two releases from rap trio TLC that together have sold more than 5 million copies. The label released eleven projects in 1995 primarily from local Atlanta talent, TLC, Outkast, Toni Braxton, Az Yet and Goodie MOb. Usher, only 19 years old has sold over 4 million copies of his sophomore release, “My Way.” Former General Manager Scott Folks indicated that R & B will continue to be it’s primary focus but the label will move into rap and more traditional adult contemporary music. The labels 1997 hits included the popular Soul Food soundtrack, Tony Rich Project (Birdseye) and the solo debut from former Living Colour vocalist Corey Glover. Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds is the recipient of the 1997 “Producer of the Year” Grammy award in which he wrote all of the new songs on the Waiting to Exhale soundtrack, as well as co-produced the “Song of the Year” “Change The World” with Eric Clapton.

There is even a rumor that the label is experimenting with the idea of promoting a Jazz and Gospel label to add to their success in the rhythm and blues and rap arena.

According to Atlanta Music Publisher Bill Lowery the surge in popularity of Black Urban Music in the Olympic city has focused attention on Alternative, Country, Jazz, Gospel and Classical music. “Atlanta is possibly becoming the most important place in America for Black music production, “said Joel A. Katz, who runs one of the nation’s top entertainment law firms in Atlanta (Backstage, 1998). He also said that the Atlanta business community has been slow to recognize the emerging music industry and slow to help stimulate its growth. “The industry needs financial infrastructures such as banks, insurance companies, lawyers, accountants, managers and agents. One of the first banks to heed the call was the Trust Company Bank of Georgia (Winter’s Chapel Branch) and its First Vice President. At a recent Atlanta Entertainment Association meeting First Union Bank of Georgia revealed the opening of a new department devoted to financial concerns of the entertainment industry (Saporta, 1992). Georgia is a “right to work state” and therefore does not have unionized music agents and managers as in California and New York. Financial infrastructures are improving to sustain the growth of the music industry in the Atlanta metropolitan area.

Independent Record Labels

The Olympic city’s international music industry has spawned many independent record labels (Backstage, 1999). Founded in Macon in 1969, reformed in Nashville in 1991, and relocated to Atlanta in 1997, Phil Walden’s Capricorn Records can be called one of Georgia’s first independent labels. Capricorn’s success started in the 1970s with the Allman Brothers, Marshall Tucker, Wet Willie, Elvin Bishop and Delbert McClinton. The current roster includes 311, Widespread Panic, Screamin’ Cheetah, Wheelies and Cake. The latest to join Walden’s company is Athens singer/song-writer Vic Chesnutt. Michael Rothschild established Landslide Records in Atlanta in 1981 by releasing “Outside Looking Out.” Rothschild presented debut CDs by Widespread Panic, Derek Trucks Band, the Cigar Store Indians, Lost Continentals, Tinsley Ellis/Heartfixers, Steam Donkeys and New Orleans producer/songwriter/trumpeter Dave Bartholomew. The Ichiban Music Family formed by John E. Abbey and Nina K. Easton in their basement in 1985, now includes nine labels; a network that distributes nearly 35 labels, a music publishing division, recording studio, and an in-house international division. Abbey, who founded Blues and Soul magazine in London in 1966, and Easton, a Finnish native who had worked with CBS records in Scandinavia came to Atlanta together in the mid-80s. Atlanta recording artists William Bell, Clarence Carter and Curtis Mayfield were instrumental in convincing the pair to start a record label. Clarence Carter’s “Stroking” gave the label its first gold record. The roots of the label are rhythm and blues; however, Ichiban has been successful branching out to include alternative/pop (Deadeye Dick), Jazz (Kevin Toney), and rap (MC Breed and Willie D). Located in Kennesaw, a suburb of Atlanta, Ichiban’s current roster of seventy five includes Francine Reed, Sandra Hall, Chris Hicks, Millie Jackson, Lost Souls and The Syndicate. One of the labels distributed by Ichiban is William Bell’s Wilbe Records. William Bell, a former Stax artists, is dedicated to enhancing the careers of Eddie Floyd, Joey Gilmore, the Flyy Gyrlz, Chuck Willis and Total Package. Amy Ray of the Grammy award-winning Indigo Girls formed Daemon Records in 1990. Their roster includes Three Finger Cowboy, Danielle Howle and the Tantrums, Terri Binion and the New Mongrels. The label is supportive of the arts, alternative and underground music. Jermaine Dupre, CEO of So So Def, produced his first record at only 12 years old. He has since produced Kriss Kross, Xscape and Da Brat for So So Def. Outside of So So Def Dupri has produced Usher, Mariah Carey, Aretha Franklin, TLC, LSG, Aliyah and Mase. In July 1998, Dupri released his first solo album, Life in 1472, which was certified platinum by the RIAA in September, only three months after its debut. He followed it in October with the release of his 12 Soulful Nights of Christmas. Dallas Austin, CEO and President of Rowdy Records, production talents are as impressive as Dupri’s with names like Madonna, Monica, Boyz II Men, and Michael Jackson. Billboard magazine named Austin Top Pop Producer in 1991 and Producer of the Year in 1994. Austin formed Rowdy Records as a joint venture with Arista in 1992 with the debut release of Monica’s “Miss Thang.” The Rowdy roster includes Caron Wheeler (formerly of Soul II Soul), For Real, Derrick “Boo Boo” Cole and Fishbone. In 1995, Atlanta producer Brendan O’Brien started Fifty Seven Records, a division of Sony, and Shotput Records, a division of Fifty Seven. O’Brien’s production credits include Pearl Jam, Neil Young and Matthew Sweet. Fifty Seven released Seattle musician Pete Droge’s “Spacey & Shakin.” Shotput released CDs by Glenn Phillips, The Sight-seers, and #1 Family Mover, as well as a reissue of Hampton Grease Band’s Music to Eat. Other independent labels deserving recognition are Casino Music, Long Play Records, White Clay Records, Deep South Records, Shoestring Records, Ghostmeat Records, Rising Star Records, Maverick and Planet Earth.

The move from a regional to a international recording center is primarily due to LaFace Records and its mega star roster. Atlanta’s music history is rich in Gospel, Rhythm and Blues, Country, Classical, Jazz, Alternative, Southern Rock. New and established artists, songwriters, producers, engineers, and other creative people like Elton John relocate to Atlanta daily. Music producers who have recently moved to Atlanta are Dallas Austin, Dean Gant, Jermaine Dupri and Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds (recently moved back to L.A.). The studios in Atlanta cut projects for major labels and Grammy award winning artists. The five major record labels (BMG, SONY, UMG, CEMA and WEA) have distribution, promotion and marketing offices in Atlanta. Independent record/video distributors such as Red Distribution, Music Network, Rock Bottom, Southern Music and Music Video Distribution Warehouse and ship product all over the world. Additionally, since the BMG/Arista/LaFace 100 million dollar record distribution pact, other major labels are looking to do more Artist and Repertoire development in Atlanta. The 1999 list of Atlanta Grammy nominees is evidence of Georgia’s impact on the national and international entertainment industry.

Economic Impact

A research report, “The Economic Impact of the Music Industry in Georgia,” (Taylor, 1990) indicated that the economic impact of the music industry in the State of Georgia was $522,288,931. The sources used were previous studies on the impact of the music business in Georgia undertaken in 1979 and 1985 by Geoffrey Parker, 1987 Business Census on Georgia published by the U.S. department of Commerce, the 1988 Business Directory of Georgia and Statistical abstracts of Georgia. These sources were considered the most creditable basis for the study as it was doubtful that Survey Research would yield statistically significant responses, given the sensitive nature of the kind of information to be requested from respondents and the diversity of the respondents. Information was gathered from the following music industry sectors: Recording studios, artists and entertainment managers, booking agencies, music unions, entertainment groups, prerecorded audio tapes and disks manufacturers, concert promoters and venues, music product industry, music retail outlets, rackjobbers, one stops, sound reinforcement, subsidiaries of major record labels, printed music, publishers, songwriters, jingle and background music, professional musicians and other related music entertainment areas. The study was able to document the growing Atlanta Music industry beginning as early as 1979-1990. The Research Atlanta Incorporated (1992) study commissioned by the City of Atlanta entitled “An Analysis of Atlanta’s Entertainment Industry” targeting live entertainment and live performances, electronic media, production of movies and videos, production of commercials, training and education films and video and recording and production of records, tapes and CDs indicated the following:

  1. The entertainment industry employs 12,192 to 12,282 workers.
  2. Atlanta ranks sixth in employment of music industry professionals.
  3. Second tier entertainment city behind New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.
  4. Overall, Atlanta’s entertainment industry is the fourth largest in the U.S.
  5. The cost of living and cost of doing business in Atlanta is lower.
  6. The quality of life in Atlanta is high relative to New York and Los Angeles.
  7. Financing from lending institutions for entrepreneurialefforts is difficult.
  8. Locals firms utilize entertainment firms outside Atlanta for their filming, post-production, and other services due to a perceived lack of resources.
  1. Lack of a centralized location for entertainment firms (i.e., Music Row (Nashville) and Tin Pan Alley (New York).
  2. Poor perception of crime and rising property taxes.

The report recommends that city officials and business leaders take steps to develop a long term economic development strategy for the industry. The study indicated that three segments should be targeted for development, (1) recorded music, (2) film and (3) events to attract tourists and conventioneers. Special attention should be give to expanding Atlanta’s thriving presence in Black Urban Music spearheaded by LaFace Records.

Taylor is engaged in updating past studies with more accurate statistical measurements that will provide a more detailed analysis of all sectors of the Atlanta music industry. Preliminary reports indicate that Georgia’s overall music economy has become a 5 billion dollar industry with Atlanta/ metropolitan area contributing the lion’s share of the aggregate total. Atlanta’s music community has grown and prospered to become a respected segment of the international music scene with artists from around the world calling Atlanta the Olympic Music City of Dreams.


Murray, S. “Atlanta’s entertainment boom city’s presence in show business growing.” (1995, April 27). Atlanta Journal Constitution, pp 21-23

Daniel, W. (1990). Pickin’’ on Peachtree: A history of country music in Atlanta, Georgia. Urbana & Chicago: University of Illinois Press.

Fulmer, D. (1992, March 22). “Blind Willie McTell.” Atlanta Journal Constitution, pp. 10-12

Love, L. (1998). “Its a better than good time.” BackStage: Georgia Music Hall of Fame, 4(1), pp. 5-6

Love, L. (1998). “LaFace: The rhythm of black lifestyles.” BackStage: Georgia Music Hall of Fame, 3(3), pp. 3-4

Kloer, P. (1994, September 2). “The far reach of Time Warner.” Atlanta Journal Constitution, pp. 21-24

Murray, S. (1995, April 8). “LaFace: Record deal is a record deal distribution pact that could net label about 100 million dollars.” Atlanta Journal Constitution, pp. 17-18

Research Atlanta Inc. (1992). “An analysis of Atlanta’s entertainment industry.” Atlanta: Georgia State University.

Saporta, M. (1992, April 11). “Businesses slow to tune into city’s music industry.” Atlanta Journal Constitution, pp. 14-15

Taylor, F. J. (Producer/Director). 1993. Cabbagetown. Video. Available from Tomorrow Pictures, 1720 Peachtree Street., Suite 119, Atlanta, GA.

Taylor, F. J. (1990) “Economic Impact of the Music Industry in Georgia.” Atlanta: Georgia Senate Music Industry Committee.

Bureau of Film and Video (1998). Georgia Film Production. Department of Industry, Trade and Tourism


Dr. Frederick J. Taylor received his B.S degree in music from Kentucky State University; M.S degree in music, University of Illinois; doctorate degree in music, Temple University, and graduate work in Business Administration (MBA), West Chester University. Taylor was a teacher in the public schools of Chicago and suburban schools of Philadelphia. He has held the following university level administrative positions: Chair of the Department of Music at Cheyney State University of Pennsylvania; Chair of the Music Industry Program and Assistant Director of the School of Music at Georgia State University in Atlanta, Georgia.

In the music industry area he worked as a session musician at various record labels in Chicago and Philadelphia during the 1960s and, 70s, in addition to preparing lead-sheets and musical arrangements. He was a partner in Universal Music Publishing company based in Philadelphia and performs occasionally as a Jazz pianist. Taylor is a nationally recognized scholar in the design of two and four year university music business academic programs. He has designed and implemented numerous music business programs at various colleges and universities in the U.S. and abroad. Scholarly publications in the area include Assessing Music Industry Programs, Evaluative Standards in Music Industry Programs, Economic Impact of the Music Industry in Metropolitan Atlanta and the State of Georgia and the most recent article “Atlanta: The Olympic Music City of Dreams.” Taylor is also the co-author of a textbook on Marketing in the Music Industry published by Simon and Schuster and working on a second text Entrepreneurship and Financial Management in the Music Business.