Just days before nearly 60,000 fans are expected to descend upon Centennial Park, ONE Musicfest founder Jason Carter is the picture of calm.
Never mind that the festival has moved to its largest venue ever and that the logistics of this year’s festival have taken nearly a year to manage.
Carter said that he supposes that after 10 years, he and his team have gotten into a rhythm of producing the ONE Musicfest, now celebrating its 10th anniversary in Atlanta.
“I’m excited. I mean, it’s 10 years,” Carter said. “To have a festival like this—to have a business like this—and then to even celebrate 10 years is a milestone, especially, in this climate and in regards to just the festival business. So I’m very excited.
“We’ve moved the festival to Centennial Park, which is a staple in downtown Atlanta. When you’re 72 hours away from a 40,000-50,000-person, multi-day festival in the middle of the city, there’s a lot of heavy lifting that you gotta do here between now and then. So, you’ve caught us in the thick of it.”
Set for this Saturday and Sunday at Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta, the two-day festival will host a lineup that includes music legends such as Gucci Mane, Wu-Tang Clan, and Rick Ross in addition to 21st century superstars including Rae Sremmurd, Teyana Taylor, and Summer Walker and once-in-lifetime sets from KP The Great & His Superfriends featuring Pharrell Williams, Usher and surprise guests.
It all will go down this year in Centennial Olympic Park, across town from last year’s venue, Central Park. Carter said the venue change was a testament to the growth of the festival, which saw 50,000 fans enjoy acts like Nas, TI, Monica, Miguel and HER.
“We loved Central Park—Central Park was great last year, but I think we were right at our capacity,” Carter said. “If a thousand more people had attended, it would have felt a little uncomfortable. So we decided, ‘let’s go somewhere where we can grow.’
“With the expansion of Centennial Park, you can comfortably fit around 25,000 people in there per day. And that’s what we want to want to be, that’s what we want to grow to,” he added.
Carter said that once he and his team visited Centennial Olympic Park and met with its management company, Georgia World Congress Center, they were confident in moving the festival from midtown to downtown.
“The Georgia World Congress Center, which runs and manages Centennial Park, have been great partners and have really kind of courted us a little bit in regards to considering their park for the festival,” he said. “After we did the walkthrough with our production partner and team, uh, at Royal Entertainment, we thought it would be the perfect fit for our brand.”
In 10 short years, ONE Musicfest has crested into the Southeast’s largest annual urban progressive music festival, featuring a diverse range of music, including classic and next-generation hip-hop, soulful R&B, alternative, and rock.
Started in 2010, ONE Musicfest is now recognized as one of the most highly-anticipated celebrations of the Arts in the Southeast; this year, festival organizers are expecting an attendance of more than 50,000 music lovers from throughout the country.
“What started as a 2,000 person block party has evolved into a 50,000 person cultural celebration,” Carter said. “I started the festival with the intent of creating a space where all corners of urban music and subcultures felt welcomed. From Afrobeats to Trap Music, from alternative to reggae—a generational oasis of progressive minds and talent.
Now, 10 years later, ONE Musicfest lives up to its name as a musical and cultural force for unification.
“ONE Musicfest will have a $16 million dollar economic impact on the city of Atlanta,” Carter said. “Fifty percent of our audience is NOT from the greater Atlanta area. Last year, we had people travel from as far as Australia to attend. This year we already have tickets sales from over 22 various states.”
With a lineup of more than 30 scheduled performances, festival-goers can also look forward to a number of vendors, activations and food trucks. And Carter promised there were even more surprises in store.
“One of the things that we’ve always had since day one was a mixture of talent and a diverse, mindset in regard to programming. I mean from our merchants to the food, the talent on-stage, the DJs and visual artists.
One such surprise is the inaugural OMF Honors, an award ceremony that will recognize iconic Atlanta-based super-producers Jermaine Dupri and Dallas Austin for their vast contributions to urban culture during a special on-stage ceremony Sunday night.
As architects of the sounds that catapulted artists such as TLC, Mariah Carey and Usher to become household names, Dupri and Austin are not only musical visionaries but were early pioneers in putting Atlanta on the map as a creative epicenter, Carter said.
“As we celebrate 10 years of bringing the culture together on one stage, it was a no-brainer to honor two monumental figures who have been musical disruptors for decades,” Carter said. “JD and Dallas represent the excellence, originality and authenticity that make urban culture so powerful.”
And even with all the excitement of once-in-a-lifetime performances and can’t-miss moments like the OMF Honors, Carter revealed that what’s looking forward to most is the festival-goers.
“It sounds really kind of cliche, but it’s really the people I look forward to the most when I think about it,” he said. “Every year, you have a moment sit back and you just kind of look at this sea of people and smiles from folks from all different walks and backgrounds and economic status. And then we kind of just sit back and look at everybody moving as one with no issues drama-free.”
That resulting effect of good vibes and harmony is the result of an event that is highly curated, according to Carter.
“If you go to like a trap content, everything’s going to kind of feel and sound the same,” Carter said. “At ONE Musicfest, our whole mold was, ‘How do we create a different, progressive urban experience at every turn so no one visual artist looks the same. We handpicked each artist amongst the hundreds of requests we get over who to feature.”
“You’d be hard-pressed to see Three 6 Mafia, Raphael Saadiq and Lloyd, all sharing the same stage with much less, on the same lineup as Rich Homie Quan and Wu-Tang. Where else would you see that at?” he asked. “But when you put that all in the same space, in a space like ONE Musicfest, it’s just like one big pot of Gumbo. Man, it’s all in there. Then it all just kind of makes sense. It just feels good.”