Meet to the Beat: Get in tune with these toe-tapping towns

The hip Texas town of Austin is famous for its vibrant music scene that includes numerous music genres and festivals.
The hip Texas town of Austin is famous for its vibrant music scene that includes numerous music genres and festivals.

Music brings people together, keeping the beat of a gathering humming. The South is filled with rich musical heritage—from blues and rock to jazz, country, and Latin—enough sound to start any gathering on the right note. Here is a chorus of spots infused with the rhythm of live performances, musical venues, local culture, and teambuilding opportunities that will strike a chord with attendees and have them singing your praises.

Athens, Georgia

The northeast Georgia town of Athens has a history of launching music heavy-hitters, including R.E.M., Widespread Panic, and The B-52s. Known for its indie music scene, The Classic City encompasses a wide variety of genres.

The city’s award-winning Classic Center convention center and performing arts theater will have a new addition in 2024: The Classic Center Arena. The arena will have 5,500 permanent seats and a capacity of 8,500 people and feature the ability to transform from concert events and sports tournaments to banquets and general sessions. Built into
the fabric of downtown Athens, the arena will echo the energy of the college town with its noted music history, nightclubs, restaurants, and breweries, along with walkable access
to hotels.

Other live music venues include the 40 Watt Club and Georgia Theatre, while the Athens Music Walk of Fame offers a guided tour of Athens’ musical history. Additionally, Tweed Recording and Wuxtry Records offer tours and memorabilia of singers and bands who have recorded hits in the heart of Athens.

Austin, Texas

From Texas country, blues, Latin, indie rock, and reggae to electronic dance music, Austin’s music scene has it all. The Texas capital, known as the “Live Music Capital of the World,” is the stomping grounds of several notable musicians and bands, including Willie Nelson, Gary Clark Jr., Shakey Graves, Alejandro Escovedo, Asleep at the Wheel, Grupo Fantasma, and Spoon.

The six-block-long Austin Convention Center offers 247,052 square feet of column-free exhibit space, 54 meeting rooms, and seven ballrooms.

From intimate listening venues to packed dance floors, dive bars, and the bright lights of the big stage, Austin has a musical experience for every taste. Notable venues include Stubb’s Bar-B-Q, Antone’s, Elephant Room, The Continental Club, Mohawk, Saxon Pub, Cheer Up Charlies, Moody Amphitheater at Waterloo Park, and Austin City Limits Live at The Moody Theater, which offers tours of the home of the Austin City Limits television show.

For those looking to schedule their meeting around an annual event, save the date for South by Southwest Music Festival in March, Austin Reggae Festival in April, Hot Luck Live Food & Music Festival in May, Blues on the Green in July, Eastside Kings Festival in September, and Levitation and Austin City Limits Music Festival both in October.

Branson, Mo. 

Since the early 1900s, Branson has been drawing visitors to its Ozark Mountain setting. Today, the family-friendly alternative to Las Vegas is called the “Live Entertainment Capital of the World.” Branson’s attractions include more than 100 live music, comedy, and dinner shows. The entertainment district offers a color-coded route system that leads to shows and theaters, lodging, and other attractions.

The Showboat Branson Belle on Table Rock Lake takes passengers on a dinner cruise featuring live musical entertainment. Silver Dollar City, an 1880s-themed amusement park, features multiple festivals throughout the year, all of which boast a host of live music.

The Branson Convention Center has more than 220,000 square feet of space, including a 47,172-square-foot exhibition hall, 22,703-square-foot ballroom, and flexible meeting rooms ranging from 1,200 to 5,500 square feet.

Popular shows include Dolly Parton’s Stampede, SIX, The Duttons, The Haygoods, and Hughes Music Show. Tribute shows such as Motown Downtown and Legends in Concert offer impersonators performing musical hits from a variety of eras and singers, including Elvis and Bono. Award-winning productions from Pierce Arrow blend music and comedy. Additionally, Presleys’ Country Jubilee features a mix of country, gospel, bluegrass, and humor from one of the first families of
the Branson stage.

Clarksdale, Miss.

Clarksdale calls itself “Birthplace of the Blues” and lays claim to the legendary crossroads where in the 1930s Robert Johnson is said to have sold his soul to the devil to become a blues guitar virtuoso. The northwest Mississippi town’s deep musical history includes being the birthplace of Sam Cooke and attracting musicians such as Mississippi natives Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker.

Clarksdale is renowned for its blues attractions, including the Delta Blues Museum along the Mississippi Blues Trail, said to be the world’s first museum devoted to the music genre and the oldest music museum in the state. Clarksdale offers live blues music 365 nights a year at various venues, clubs, and juke joints. Popular spots include Ground Zero Blues Club—the juke joint co-owned by actor Morgan Freeman—and the Bluesberry Café music venue and restaurant.

Clarksdale holds dozens of music festivals throughout the year, including the annual Deep Blues Festival and the Juke Joint Festival. For a historic perspective on Clarksdale’s musical history, check out authentic tour options like Delta Bohemian Tours led by Clarksdale native Chilly Billy Howell and The Real Delta Tours customizable outings.

The Mississippi Delta town of Clarksdale, Miss., is known as 'Birthplace of the Blues' and lays claim to the legendary crossroads where Highway 49 meets Highway 61, which is known as The Blues Highway.
The Mississippi Delta town of Clarksdale, Miss., is known as ‘Birthplace of the Blues’ and lays claim to the legendary crossroads where Highway 49 meets Highway 61, which is known as The Blues Highway.

Irving, Texas

Located in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, Irving, Texas, is known for its thriving music scene, with acts from indie to opera. The Irving Convention Center at Las Colinas is an eye-catching structure of stacked and rotated levels with plenty of natural light. The modular modern architecture features LEED Silver certification and nearly 100,000 square feet of meeting and exhibit space, including a 50,000-square-foot column-free exhibit hall, 20,000-square-foot grand ballroom, and 20 breakout rooms.

Adjacent to the convention center is the Toyota Music Factory entertainment complex featuring live music, restaurants, and bars. The complex includes The Pavilion, an 8,000-seat amphitheater with more than 87,700 square feet of flexible event space. The site can be reconfigured into a 4,000-person indoor theater or a more intimate setting for 2,500. The venue regularly draws artists from all over the world. Also within the complex is the open-air, 50,000-square-foot Texas Lottery Plaza, which features live music acts most weekends.

Whistlestop Plaza is the site of Irving’s live concert series April through June, which showcases musicians from across Texas. Other live music venues include The Ranch at Las Colinas, Two Mules Cantina at Texican Court, the OUTLAW Taproom at the Four Seasons Resort and Club, and Southern Junction Texas with plenty of room for country dancing.

Memphis, Tenn.

Known as both “Home of the Blues” and “Birthplace of Rock ‘n’ Roll,” Memphis is rooted in music royalty, including Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, B.B. King, Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Al Green. But recently, the city has been receiving attention from the music industry for new artists who are emerging across all genres and defining a new Memphis sound. Among the notable musicians from Memphis are Justin Timberlake and Three 6 Mafia.

The recently renovated Renasant Convention Center features 300,000 square feet of space, including a 118,000-square-foot column-free exhibit hall, 28,000-square-foot ballroom, and 46 meeting rooms totaling more than 90,000 square feet. The center is connected to the 600-room Sheraton Memphis Downtown Hotel and adjoins the 2,072-seat Cannon Center for the Performing Arts, home of the Memphis Symphony Orchestra and the site of opera, pop, and jazz concerts.

Visitors have no trouble finding live music, from B.B. King’s Blues Club and other venues along Beale Street to Minglewood Hall. Tour Sun Studio, visit the STAX Museum of American Soul Music and the Blues Hall of Fame Museum, and, of course, no trip to Memphis is complete without a stop at Elvis Presley’s Graceland.

Miami, Fla.

Miami’s cosmopolitan atmosphere resounds with an eclectic mix of music—especially Latin music. In fact, Miami serves as the headquarters for Sony Music Latin.

The Hard Rock Stadium features concerts from some of music’s biggest names, while the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County hosts the Broadway in Miami series. The New World Center in nearby Miami Beach has several event spaces and is the home of conductor Michael Tilson Thomas’ New World Symphony, an orchestral academy that trains the next generation of musicians. Visitors can experience live classical music on a state-of-the-art 7,000-square-foot projection wall on the building’s exterior.

The south Florida area boasts three convention centers—the Miami Convention Center, Miami Airport Convention Center, and Miami Beach Convention Center—totaling nearly one million square feet in meeting and exhibition space, as well as 74 specialized meeting venues and more than 50,000 hotel rooms.

The Miami area’s nightlife is legendary, from salsa dancing in Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood and at Mango’s Tropical Café South Beach to DJ sets at LIV at the iconic Fontainebleau Miami Beach hotel.

In February, check out the Coconut Grove Arts Festival featuring live music, local art, and food. In March, Ultra Music Festival will celebrate more than two decades as a major electronic music festival.

Nashville's ultimate live music experience is the Grand Ole Opry country music concert and radio show. The nearly century-old weekly performance has been broadcasting out of its present Opry House in Tennessee since 1974.
Nashville’s ultimate live music experience is the Grand Ole Opry country music concert and radio show. The nearly century-old weekly performance has been broadcasting out of its present Opry House in Tennessee since 1974.

Nashville, Tenn.

The music scene in Nashville is as diverse as the songwriters and musicians who make up the community. While Music City is best known for country music, Nashville offers a host of music genres, including pop, rock, bluegrass, Americana, jazz, classical, gospel, blues, and soul. This city of storytellers and dreamers prides itself on its uniquely authentic creative spirit.

Nashville’s live music venues include the world-famous Grand Ole Opry House, which has showcased some of country and bluegrass music’s most renowned artists, and The Bluebird Cafe, which has been the launching pad for many singer-songwriters. Additional live music venues include Ryman Auditorium (home to the Grand Ole Opry for more than 30 years), Bridgestone Arena, The Station Inn, and The Basement East. Visit the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum to learn about the musicians woven into Nashville’s fabric, or take a tour of Music Row’s Historic RCA Studio B where the Nashville Sound developed. The National Museum of African American Music recently entered the Nashville spotlight and includes event space.

In the heart of downtown within walking distance of popular attractions, the 2.1-million-square-foot Music City Center offers 350,000 square feet of exhibit hall space, 61 meeting rooms, and a 57,500-square-foot grand ballroom.

For some creative teambuilding, try Nashville-based Kidbilly Music. The firm customizes activities around music, offering group drumming sessions, music-video making, corporate social responsibility teambuilding, and programs led by Grammy-winning songwriters who help groups write and record their own anthem.

New Orleans, La.

The birthplace of jazz and bounce music and the home of innovations in brass, R&B, and soul, New Orleans’ musical and cultural history are integral to the city. The French Quarter is always a draw, with zydeco music spilling out into the streets.

Take in the iconic Preservation Hall, Kermit’s Tremé Mother-in-Law Lounge, Rock’n’Bowl The Maple Leaf Bar, and Vaughan’s Lounge. Try the numerous music clubs, cafes, and restaurants of Frenchmen Street, the main artery of the Marigny, a French Quarter-adjacent neighborhood.

The New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center is one of the most popular meeting venues in the country, with award-winning environmental initiatives, 1.1 million square feet of exhibit space, meeting rooms, the La Nouvelle Orleans Ballroom, and the state-of-the-art New Orleans Theater.

New Orleans has a year-round spirit of laissez les bons temps rouler (“let the good times roll”) beyond Mardi Gras season. Music festivals take center stage throughout the year, including the French Quarter Festival showcasing local musicians in April, the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival with local favorites and international superstars in late April and early May, Essence Festival every July, and Satchmo Summerfest celebrating
the life of New Orleans’ own Louis Armstrong in August.

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