Political leaders are considering the cancellation of Atlanta’s Music Midtown festival on Monday after event organizers announced the 2022 edition would no longer take place. Industry sources tell Billboard that the festival was forced to cancel due to recent changes to Georgia’s gun laws that prevent the festival from banning guns at publicly owned festival grounds like city-owned Piedmont Park, where Music Midtown is held.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams took to social media to express his concerns about the cancellation, calling the situation “shameful but not surprising.” Abrams cited the loss of Music Midtown’s $50 million economic impact as a major concern and took aim at his political opponent and Georgia Governor Brian Kemp.
“Brian Kemp’s dangerous and extreme gun agenda is putting Georgians’ lives at risk, and the cancellation of Music Midtown is proof that his reckless policies are also putting Georgia’s economy at risk,” Abrams said in the statement. “Instead of responding to increased gun violence by strengthening security, he doubled down on weakened gun laws.”
The cancellation of Music Midtown will cost the Georgia economy $50 million.
It’s shameful, but not surprising, that the governor cares more about protecting dangerous people who carry guns in public than saving jobs and keeping business in Georgia. pic.twitter.com/8cAECHE7IF
— Stacey Abrams (@staceyabrams) 1 August 2022
In April, that Gov. Camp signed legislation it made it legal for Georgia gun owners to carry a concealed handgun in public without a license from the state. The Live Nation-owned festival did not specify whether the bill signed by Kemp or other recent gun relaxation legislation in the state was the reason for Music Midtown’s cancellation. The festival released a statement in August. 1 read, “due to circumstances beyond our control, Music Midtown will no longer take place this year.”
As Billboard previously reported, pro-gun rights groups had been emailing and posting comments on the festival’s social media page for months, hinting at potential legal challenges from gun groups following a 2019 ruling that expanded a 2014 law in Georgia that critics had dubbed “guns everywhere”- the law . That law expanded gun-bearing rights on publicly owned land, like the city-owned Piedmont Park, though there was no legal consensus on whether the law applied to private events on city property, like Midtown Music.
Atlanta City Council President Doug Shipman has also expressed his concerns about the festival cancellation and what it could mean for upcoming Atlanta events like Sweetwater 420 and Shaky Knees. Shipman told Rolling stones“I don’t know if it’s an unintended or intended consequence of the policy [that it could affect access to other local arts and culture events taking place on public property]. But I hope that as we move into the next state legislature in January, the state legislature looks at this and really thinks hard about, is this the kind of impact we want to have? Or can we make a policy that has exemptions for big festivals and ticketed events?”
Shipman focused his concerns primarily on the economic impact of the festival — which a 2014 report from The Research Center at the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce cited by Atlanta Business Chronicle estimated Music Midtown’s total economic impact to be nearly $50 million and an economic impact specific to the Atlanta area of $20 million annually. “We know people travel here from other places and they don’t just come for the festival,” he said. “They come a day early, they stay a day late, they stay in hotels and do other things that create economic activity. So definitely it’s tens of millions of dollars.”
Shipman continued, “If festival owners don’t feel like they can safely do business in Atlanta, Shipman fears they’ll take their events to neighboring states. “We’re always competing with other cities, not just for music, but more broadly for economic development. “