Harlem native Jason Carter came of age in Atlanta and though the A is known for its social scene, nine years ago, Carter didn’t quite agree. Frustrated with events that didn’t give him enough of the music he wanted to hear, he assembled a party series called Sol Fusion, that seamlessly blended the best of hip-hop, R&B, rock, soul and alternative music. In theory, and even on paper, it seems like a hapless feat, but after nine successful years, it was evident that he was on to a good thing. Carter decided to extend the idea of Sol Fusion into a full-fledged festival under the banner of ONE Musicfest. He’s bringing together national acts—old and new—to continue to unify the music-loving masses regardless of race or tastes.
The best part about it all is that he happened into this line of work. The fact that Carter is doing something he loves and is genuinely passionate about could be the secret of his success.
Soul Train: Tell me how you got to where you are right now.
Jason Carter: I’m originally from Harlem, NY then moved to Atlanta in high school. Spent my high school years here and then went to Florida A&M, studied in business administration/economics. I did the SBI (Florida A&M School of Business & Technology) thing for three years and economics for two. Came back to Atlanta, worked for the family business and then worked for a company called Lexis/Nexis. I was a legal consultant for a couple of years. I started doing events in Atlanta only because I wasn’t finding a lot of events that I wanted to attend.
Soul Train: Really?
Jason Carter: I said, ‘let me just create it, then.’ I mean, I was doing parties and events in college but I wasn’t doing it as a business. I just did it because I liked to have a good time. So, when I couldn’t find certain types of elements I was looking for on the Atlanta nightlife scene, I decided to fill the void myself. I think it was a good balance, because I wasn’t doing it for money, I still had a 9 to 5, I was just doing it because there were so many people hunting for it just like me.
Soul Train: What would you credit as being the campaign that put you on the map?
Jason Carter: The biggest campaign? I’d definitely say Sol Fusion. We’ve been doing Sol Fusion for about nine years now. That was more like a fusion of all types of people and music, and that’s what I was not seeing in Atlanta. Whenever you try to do an event like Sol Fusion or fusing different energies and music, everybody wants to try to categorize you as a soul or granola–holistic. There’s an element of that but in the same breath we’ll drop a classic NWA or Too Short track. But we still wanted to hear the Aerosmith and the Nirvana, you still want to hear the Frankie Knuckles, you still want to hear old school hip-hop. But I couldn’t find DJs or clubs that dared to play elements of everything. Its everything that you have in your iPod but nobody plays all that type of music in the club. So that’s what Sol Fusion was and is and that just kept growing and growing. It led me to a career in brand management, to club ownership, and promotions.
Soul Train: So what would you say is the most crucial quality for a successful marketer to have?
Jason Carter: I would say be clear on your vision and be clear on your audience. Everybody thinks they have the best mousetrap or the best ideas. I would say bounce it off a few people and be clear that you do have an audience out there that would either buy your product or come to your event. I would definitely say just be clear on your audience and study your market.
Soul Train: Did you have an issue originally trying to market Sol Fusion? You made a really good analogy about how its everything you have in your iPod but its nothing you’re going hear out and about. It makes total sense–I mean I’ve got everything from the Clipse to Run DMC to Evanescence to Paramour. I know I enjoy all of that.
Jason Carter: You are our demographic, exactly. It was difficult. It was a very personal touch, so initially when I started promoting it I didn’t take the shotgun approach and blanket the city with hella flyers and posters. I singled out the people I wanted to see at my events. So those clubs that had a mix of different people, or those clubs that played rock, then I’d go to another club that did hip hop, and another club that did house, and another club that did soul and I would go to all these different events and just talk to the people and kind of single out my audience. It wasn’t the quantity I was going after; I was going after the mindset and the quality of the person. And then that kind of got organic and the movement just kept growing and growing from there so I was very selective in who I was going after. They have been loyal all these years and I appreciate that.
Soul Train: You’ve been doing this for nine years, so you obviously have something that works. How do people find out about it?
Jason Carter: Social media is definitely a big aspect of it. [We have] our website, and we still do the grass roots thing. I think it’s also a lot of word of mouth, people talking about it. We take care of our people, we don’t price gouge individuals and we always try to produce quality events. So in turn I think a lot of our patrons respect that and get the word out there and support the event. I truly believe in my heart of hearts that you can’t promote too much unless you’re promoting to the wrong people. I think if you engage your audience with things they want to see and hear, the word of mouth spreads fast about quality events.
Soul Train: How is Sol Fusion different from ONE Musicfest?
Jason Carter: Sol Fusion produces the ONE Musicfest. ONE Music is all about live music; Sol Fusion is more about a party. From the outside looking in, Atlanta looks like a melting pot of sorts but it’s very segregated in a lot of ways. Just like you and I stated the different types of music we have in our iPods; white folks, Asians, Latinos, whatever–they’re the same way. Hella hip-hop, rock, house, old school, they have everything in their iPod but we don’t party together. The mindset was like, how do I get different influences in Atlanta to promote one event so that there is bleed over from Asian, Latin, black, white? And how do you do that with the artists that you have performing. We try to find artists that we all vibe to and listen to, so that was the mindset of ONE Musicfest. How do you tear down the barriers of Atlanta?
Soul Train: The ONE Musicfest got a blessing from the mayor of Atlanta. What was that like?
Jason Carter: That was a huge honor. I really appreciate the city of Atlanta standing behind ONE Musicfest and what we stand for. They actually gave us the Phoenix Award, which is the highest music award the city can give for efforts in trying to unify the city in music.
Soul Train: Congratulations!
Jason Carter: Yeah, I appreciate it. That was a huge honor so Kasim Reed, big ups. Major supporter of Kasim.
Soul Train: What should someone look for at the festival in addition to a cornucopia of music?
Jason Carter: I like that! Well, we have four artists that we’ve already released and we have three more artists that we are going to release soon. [There’s] Anthony Davis, Foreign Exchange, Tortured Soul, and the Pharcyde.
Soul Train: The Pharcyde! Where’d you find them?
Jason Carter: I was sitting there for a second like, ‘who is that hip-hop group that we all know the words to all their songs, or a majority of their songs? Who is that sing a long group that white people love, and black people love, that you haven’t seen in a minute?’ So we all sat around and two of us said Pharcyde at the same time. We haven’t seen Pharcyde in eight years in Atlanta.
Soul Train: So last question… Of course you know this is the 40th anniversary of Soul Train this year, what is your favorite Soul Train memory?
Jason Carter: My favorite Soul Train memory? Ooh, that’s going to be tough. There are a few. I think I remember seeing Run DMC on Soul Train, and that was major. Every young boy growing up had a crush on Sheila E. I remember seeing Sheila E. on Soul Train. That did it for me. And I don’t think anything is greater than just the Soul Train line. Just the dancing, the energy, be it offbeat or on beat. Folks were just going in! The fashion and styles of the late 70s and early 80s. I mean I don’t remember that too much, but I do remember Run DMC and Sheila E.
Soul Train: Hilarious! Is there anything else you would like to share with the Soul Train audience?
Jason Carter: Go to onemusicfest.com and get your tickets! They’re $37. VIP is $80 and that includes a t-shirt, seafood sampling, wine sampling, and two complimentary cocktails and access to the VIP lounge all day long. It’s going to be crazy. Nothing really exists in this space in Atlanta where 4,000 people are going to be outside in Piedmont Park in Midtown Atlanta; where everybody is listening to soul, house, hip-hop, and R&B. It does not exist in the city of Atlanta. So when ONE Musicfest wins, it will be a big win for the city in doing future events like this.
Soul Train: That’s what’s up.
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Quia Querisma is a freelance writer, Dallas Glambassador, and enthusiast of dresses, shoes, premium denim and socializing of all varieties. She also runs a styling destination at www.rockthisstyle.com.