Jason J. Carter is a prestigious and powerful man, who is the founder of One Musicfest, Southeast’s largest annual urban progressive music festival. The annual celebration features a diverse range of music, including classic and next-generation hip-hop, soulful R&B, alternative, and rock. Founded in 2010, ONE Musicfest is recognized as one of the most highly-anticipated celebrations of the arts in the Southeast, with this year’s festival expecting an attendance of 50,000 music enthusiasts from around the country.
While on the phone with Mr. Carter, I felt an aura of black excellence emitting through every word he spoke. The same opinion that I thought about his aura were similar sentiments he thought about One Musicfest. “One Musicfest encompasses not only black excellence in music but outstanding music overall. In my opinion, it caters to every genre of music fans’ ears. While, finding common ground to unite fans with quality and diverse music,” Carter told me with passion when explaining his creation.
It was amazing to hear the excitement in his voice speaking about reaching 10 years strong with an amazing music festival, which year in and out has top-tier acts and outsells expectations. Carter even calls the 10th anniversary of the festival “humbling and beautiful.” The question that always ponders my mind when thinking about legendary music events is how the event idea first start? What was the process like? The struggles? We always get a back story about the origins of an artist or creative genius career, but an event production is a unique perspective I wish was shown more. Carter helped answered those questions with a powerful statement, “When we first start, I wondered, ‘If we can get this first moving.”
The Journey And A new Venue, New Beginning
To prepare and cultivate such an ambitious event is challenging to do alone, so Carter contacted several of his colleagues and family members to help assist his endeavor. “My collaborators put this one statement in my head, it stuck in my mind to keep me motivated: ‘If we can get past the 5th year, we can make it legendary,'” Carter tells me. After those words, he chuckled and then proceeded with, “I’m glad we doubled that, it’s amazing! The 10th annual festival will take place September 7-8, 2019 at Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta and thank our wonderful sponsors, patrons, and supporters. Without them, we wouldn’t be in this position.”
We reflected on past legendary and diverse acts that have graced the stage of ONE Musicfest such as Miguel, Outkast, Kendrick Lamar, Gary Clark Jr, Lauryn Hill, SZA, Nas, Kelis, Anderson .Paak, Erykah Badu, DVSN, Damian Marley, A$AP Rocky, T.I, Santigold, Jill Scott, Teedra Moses, The Roots, and more. We both had to agree on how incredible it is to prepare yearly concerts with this caliber of talents performing.
I picked Carter’s brain a bit about the preparation process for planning these phenomenal events and unifying music lovers to come together for a diverse amount of artistry. He remarked on the extensive quantity of dialogue that occurred in the earlier years from talent booking, venues, building on the past year, and finding ways to be innovative. Overall, he did state that “sometimes, all of the chatter about numbers and acts can be overwhelming, so some days I had to relax and make sure my mental health was okay.” To also assist with his apprehensions, Carter used every contact in his phonebook from coworkers, family, friends, and associates to help cultivate the events in some way. He asked every person in his phone, “What does a perfect, progressive, and urban music festival feel like?” That helped to arrive at a common medium of how he wanted to curate ONE Musicfest.
Carter’s formula for ONE Musicfest is very simple! Make it better than the previous year, a feat that demands dedicated planning. “It’s year round, after this upcoming one, the next day the team is back to the drawing board to make next year bigger and better! We carved out a formula; next year starts now!” he states. The passion in his voice stood out to me; he attributed a part of his passion to his college education at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU), which amazingly was the same school I went too! We both laughed and reminisced a bit on our old college lives. What we both learned from FAMU was the ability to be open to new things, such as a new venue switch for ONE Music Fest this year.
Centennial Olympic Park is the location for the event this year, which astonished me because the park is extensive. However, with the crowds that ONE Musicfest draws, I expect the park to be filled. “We always seem to blow out venues with selling out tickets. Every year, we need a new venue! It’s wonderful and stressful,” Carter proceed with laughter and joy. To him, the only park that suited the event this year was centennial, which unites the growth of the event. He wanted a big park, that can fit fans of Hip Hop, Soul, R&B, Rock, and alternative music. We had to discuss how in the first place he came to the realization that their needs to be a music festival which encompasses multiple genres.
J. Carter strives to serve all genres with ONE Musicfest
“I started it with different acts because I was selfish. I just wanted a festival that caters to me, one of every act.” He paused and then added, “It, fortunately, was also many other music lovers greed, so it worked in my favor.” We both burst out laughing; I must say I enjoyed his sense of humor throughout this interview. It was refreshing to see a person of his position and caliber who is so down to Earth. Speaking of high caliber, as a journalist for an R&B platform, we had to discuss some of his favorite past R&B acts. From Lauryn Hill, SZA, The Internet, Jill Scott, Jhene Aiko, Amel Larrieux, Alicia smith, Miguel, H.E.R, DVSN, and more; he considered himself lucky to witness so much R&B greatness.
However, he also commented on the difficulties setting up R&B acts as opposed to hip hop acts.
“Rap acts are a little easier, R&B you get crazy requests such as different instruments and audio. Rap is more of a DJ,” He laughed and proceed with “However, with R&B acts, you usually don’t have to deal with the entourages rap acts tend to bring.” Even with all stress setting up the two acts, he enjoys being able to curate a festival that accommodates both sounds.
One issue he tackles well is avoiding major division among the audience in terms of genre. In general, he doesn’t see music as division but unification. “I don’t think there is a division, normally our daily playlists are diverse, having multiple genres. Drake and Kanye proved you can fuse sounds. Our brand caters to biopic thinkers when it comes to music, we are open to all excellent music,” Carter spoke to me with great joy!
Synergy and unity is key for J. Carter
Throughout our conversation, I had to admire the place of happiness and passion he expressed about ONE Musicfest. At first, I thought he just naturally knew how to procure stages and set to accommodate all audience members. However, while he has a natural God-given talent for procurement, he also uses stratagems. Carter bases his strategy off the audience, and when he sees each fan base overlap with each other, he checks for synergy. In his wise words, “Finding common ground within different acts and seeing how they fuse makes wonderful acts. You lay down the foundation of acts and go from there.”
Sometimes, the staff can face challenges when it comes to dealing with artist personalities. To counter this, Carter adds, “We are music fans creating a festival for music lovers, so we find the middle ground and put on the best show possible! We work with artists to create a pleasurable, audible experience for the crowd.” Connections with old coworkers and people he knew personally helped Carter along the process as well. As we wrapped up our conversation, I had to inquire about the future plans for the festival. He mentioned looking to expand to three specific cities which he can’t name currently and even overseas. However, he can say that “2020 will be a glorious year for expansion.”
To conclude, Jason “J” Carter is passionate, humble, kind, and wise. He even closed the interview praising me, which speaks volumes to his character. “You are on a great path, I appreciate you my fellow FAMU rattler,” he told me joyfully as our conversation ended. That left me inspired and motivated. Every person should have his hunger and humility for greatness.