In designating 2016 as “The Year of Georgia Music,” Georgia Tourism focuses its spotlight on the state as a destination for live music and music heritage. With more than 75 annual music festivals, popular venues from intimate listening rooms to outdoor amphitheaters, and numerous attractions and landmarks sharing the stories of homegrown musical pioneers and chart-toppers, the Peach State is ripe with musical experiences ready to engage visitors.
Music tourism research is in its nascent stages but initial studies indicate substantial growth opportunities. “Wish You Were Here,” a report on the impact of music tourism on the UK’s economy, found that the niche travel segment grew 34% between 2011 and 2014 and in 2014 alone, generated $4.4 million (U.S. dollars) in direct and indirect spending and sustained 38,238 full-time jobs.
The study showed that music festivals are significant drivers of music tourism in the UK and in America, their popularity as leisure activities also continues to rise. Nielsen Music reported that in 2014, 32 million people—almost evenly split between men and women—went to at least one music festival. Of those, 14.7 million were millennials who value festivals not only as personal experience, but also as shareable ones. During Coachella 2016, the music festival in Indio, Calif., more than 3.8 million tweets were sent out the first weekend.
In 2015, travel and tourism in Georgia generated $58.9 billion in business sales, an increase of 2.7% over the previous year, which outpaced the average growth rate nationwide (2.1%). The “Year of Georgia Music” campaign seeks to boost the number of visitors traveling to and within Georgia for music-themed experiences.
The campaign was jumpstarted last December with the national launch of Oxford American magazine’s annual Southern Music issue dedicated entirely to Georgia. With insightful features and essays on artists including Outkast, the Allman Brothers Band, Fletcher Henderson, Sharon Jones, Col. Bruce Hampton, Killer Mike and many others, the astounding influence and diversity of Georgia’s musical landscape shines bright in the 176-page publication and accompanying CD.
The 2016 Georgia Travel Guide features Leesburg native and country music superstar Luke Bryan on the cover. Asked about favorite venues he’s played in his home state, Bryan notes several, including Aaron’s Amphitheatre in Atlanta and the Georgia Theatre in Athens, which is also the setting for a striking ensemble photo of 30 working musicians from around the state featured in the guide. The participating artists also recommend some of their favorite festivals and venues across the state.
Georgia’s official tourism website, ExploreGeorgia.org, added a music section featuring music-themed itineraries, playlists, upcoming festivals and an entertaining “Today in Georgia Music” calendar highlighting daily milestones, birthdays and anniversaries. In addition, the website’s popular “Georgia Explorers” program expanded its roster of experts with “Music Explorer” Glen Savardy, who blogs weekly on great sites and sounds statewide for ExploreGeorgia.org.
Social media is a vital component of the campaign with artists, venues and festivals encouraged to use #GeorgiaMusic throughout the year. In addition, Georgia Tourism conducted the #GeorgiaMusic Backstage Pass contest via Instagram to find the “world’s biggest Georgia music fan” and sent the lucky winner on an eight-day VIP music vacation across the state.
Even interstate travelers are being enlisted to help spread the word. Tourism worked with Gretsch, the internationally recognized guitar and drum manufacturer headquartered in Pooler, and Ken Stanton Music to place Gretsch parlor guitars in several of our Visitor Information Centers located on interstates in and out of Georgia. Travelers are encouraged to pick a tune and post or tweet photos of themselves making music in Georgia.
In April following the annual Travel Media Marketplace event in Columbia County, eight travel writers from across the U.S. and Canada spent four days on a jam-packed, music-themed bus tour of Georgia that included the James Brown Family Historical Tour in Augusta, the Athens Music History Walking Tour, Rock Candy’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Stroll in Macon and more. Local media are also participating with GPB’s “On Second Thought” dedicating ongoing episodes to Georgia music and Georgia News Network’s John Clark traveling statewide to produce segments on music in various communities.
On July 29 at the Historic Carnegie Library in Dublin, Georgia Tourism kicks off its inaugural ExploreGeorgia.org Songwriter Series with one show per month through December in cities including Atlanta, Albany, Columbus, Dahlonega and Macon. Around the state, convention and visitors bureaus and other tourism partners are proudly promoting their music heritage, festivals and attractions to celebrate the Year of Georgia music and keep our cultural treasures on the minds of tourists and fans.
Order a free copy of the 2016 Georgia Travel Guide at ExploreGeorgia.org.