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Will the BET Awards Leave Los Angeles for Atlanta or Las Vegas?

The BET Awards drew some 4.3 million viewers across eight Viacom networks to its June 24 broadcast, landing the No. 1 cable awards show spot for the fourth consecutive year. Held at the Microsoft Theatre in downtown Los Angeles, the show featured performances by Migos, Nicki Minaj, Jay Rock, Janelle Monae and Meek Mill with Miguel. During the broadcast, the BET Awards dominated Twitter with 9 out of the top 10 trending topics. Social media engagement peaked during Meek Mill’s performance with Miguel.

The 18th edition of the BET Awards followed the annual weekend-long BET Experience, which brought together artists, sports stars, industry professionals and fans to events all over the city. But with the network’s contract with AEG, which owns and operates the Microsoft as well as Staples Center, up this year, as reported by Fortune, what does that mean for future BET Awards?

“BET and AEG executives are reviewing the 2018 BET Experience weekend and will begin discussing a contract extension for the 2019 event in the near future,” says a rep for the network in a statement to Variety.

Still, while it looks unlikely that BET would make a move for 2019, talk of a new host city, possibly Atlanta or Las Vegas, has the industry buzzing. Atlanta in particular seems an apt fit considering the success of the locally-based Quality Control, which is home to Migos, Rich the Kid and Lil Yachty. Vegas, meanwhile, is playing host to residencies by French Montana, Travis Scott, Gucci Mane and DJ Khaled and has featured high-profile gigs by Kendrick Lamar and Future.

“We have five hip-hop residencies between our two venues,” says Deb Fass, director of entertainment marketing at the Tao Group, whose Las Vegas properties include the Tao nightclub, beach and restaurant, Lavo, and the Marquee brand of nightclubs and dayclubs. “I think award shows do great in Vegas. It’s the center of hospitality in the country, so you have tons of dining and nightlife and hotels. It makes sense.”

Moreover, adds Fass, “These artists are all there weekly. They have homes in Vegas. Hip-hop is really ingrained in the city now. It’s become part of the culture in Vegas, where it wasn’t for quite some time.”

That’s not the case with Atlanta, which isn’t just the base for Quality Control and hitmakers like Mike Will Made It, but has traditionally seen a robust R&B and hip-hop scene, from TLC and Usher to Outkast and Goodie Mob. “There are few cities that have a richer history than Atlanta when we are talking about music,” says Jonny Shipes of Cinematic Music Group, whose clients include rappers Wale and Joey Bada$$. “So many pillars of the culture have come out of there, from Dungeon Family to the Migos. Hosting the BET awards in ATL would be perfect celebration of excellence, legacy and of course, fun.”

The Grammys switched host cities from Los Angeles to New York for its 2018 edition, and the MTV Video Music Awards have tried various venues over the years, to varying degrees of success. But the BET Awards have for the last 17 years been held in Los Angeles. Only once, for its debut in 2001, was it held elsewhere: at the Paris Hotel in Las Vegas. Says Fass: “I think it’s exciting for these awards [shows] to change cities and not get stale.”

Vegas certainly has experience with awards shows, hosting the Billboard Music Awards annually as well as the Academy of Country Music honors. Atlanta is newer to the awards show scene, though it’s worth noting that BMI, the performance rights organization representing songwriters and artists, moved its BMI R&B/Hip-Hop Awards to Atlanta starting in 2017. It returns to the city on Aug. 30. 

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