ATLANTA—On a recent Monday evening, 12 of the most powerful figures in this city’s music industry gathered over Buffalo wings and Sprite in a cramped recording studio, making decisions that could propel a handful of aspiring musicians to prominence in some of the most important venues in town: strip clubs.
Atlanta’s strip clubs are a proving ground for rap and hip-hop songs aiming for mainstream recognition. The DJs who provide the soundtrack at such clubs have formed an alliance that picks potential hits and—for a fee—promotes them via regular, coordinated play at a dozen clubs throughout the city.
Each member of Coalition DJs, as the group calls itself, is responsible for spinning five new songs two to three times a night over an eight-week period, working them in between better-known hits. Artists, who pay several thousand dollars per song for the service, get a customized printout of data verifying where and when their song was played.
The result is similar to what happens when radio programmers across the country add a record to their limited rotations: The sheer repetition turns many of the songs into instant hits—in this case, on the streets of Atlanta, hip-hop’s unofficial capital city. That, in turn, can lead to record deals, radio airplay and national exposure.
Many Southern rap stars, from Outkast to Lil Wayne, got their first exposure in Atlanta’s strip clubs, said Yvette Davila, a promotion executive at Def Jam Recordings, a division of Vivendi SA’s VIV.FR -1.60% Universal Music Group.
I’m not sure how much of this I buy — the idea that Lil Wayne (who came up through Cash Money in New Orleans) owes his career to Atlanta strip-club DJs strikes me as … well, wrong. But still, this is pretty interesting!