Clarke County currently has a total population of just under 130,000 residents. Of that group, we know that UGA’s undergraduate and graduate students represent approximately 30% and, otherwise, Clarke County is often cited as one of the most impoverished areas in Georgia. It seems rather surprising, then, not only that Athens music scene has flourished, but equally that it has flourished into such an eclectic group of artists and supporters.
Those familiar with Athens music scene know just how varied the potpourri of talent is. Simply looking at an event calendar for this week alone, there are concerts advertised as rock, indie-folk, postmodern, and EDM, along with virtually any other esoteric genre terms you can come up with. This is one of the primary draws of Athens culture and something that is deeply appreciated by locals and students alike. However, Athens’ true unsung heroes are the supporters of this milieu. The only way to viably sustain an environment packed to the brim with artists ranging from chamber jazz to Swedish chillstep is to have a core group of music fans that satisfy the following conditions:
- Open-minded and appreciative of a wide-array of music
- Willing to allocate chunks of an, oftentimes, extremely limited budget toward concerts, buying records, etc.
The latter condition, especially, makes the situation in Athens truly unique. As previously mentioned, many residents of Clarke County occupy the lower end of the income bracket. As for students, I’m sure many of my fellow Dawgs can attest to the fact that their daily budgets don’t differ too drastically from those locals who are in said lower-income demographic. This fact is a lovely illustration of this town’s priorities. It is clear that the support and cultivation of culture, specifically via music, is of the utmost importance to Athenians.
In short, Athens has achieved a sort of equilibrium between supporters and artists that allows incredible acts from all over the globe to come to this tiny county and perform niche music to venues filled with adoring fans—a feat that not many cities can claim. Granted, there are many cities who can offer an audience for niche music, but not many can do so in intimate venues with a core group of listeners that is willing to support anybody with talent and a gig, regardless of the genre. This community has successfully overcome the expectations and limitations implied by economics and created a self-sufficient musical utopia—the perfect location for someone like me to start narcissistically blogging about culture. Stay tuned.