With record-breaking attendance of 270,000, the 14th annual Essence Music Festival presented by Coca-Cola celebrated another momentous year in New Orleans July 4-6. In addition, at the close of this year’s festival, Grammy award-winning superstar Beyonce was formally announced as the first headliner for next year’s Essence Music Festival, marking her third time at the festival. This special 15th anniversary celebration will take place in New Orleans July 3-5, 2009.

Featuring the biggest names in entertainment and the nation’s most influential speakers, artists, authors and leaders, the Essence Music Festival is the nation’s largest annual gathering of African-American music and culture. It is comprised of an unprecedented three days of cultural celebrations and empowerment seminars and three nights of performances by some of today’s greatest African-American artists.

The 2008 Essence Music Festival featured headline performances by Kanye West, Mary J. Blige, Chris Brown, Chris Rock, Rihanna, Maze featuring Frankie Beverly, Keyshia Cole, Jill Scott, J. Holiday, LL Cool J, Musiq, Morris Day and the Time and by Patti Labelle as well as Empowerment Seminar appearances by Tyler Perry, Dr. Bill Cosby, Rev. Al Sharpton, Mayor C. Ray Nagin, Hill Harper, Bishop T.D. Jakes, Dr. Juanita Bynum, Tom Joyner and more. For the first time, the Essence Music Festival partnered with iClips.net, enabling live streaming on essence.com directly from the Louisiana Superdome.

“We are so pleased with the turn-out for this year’s Essence Music Festival — loyal attendees who joined us to experience the Festival’s unique combination of music, arts and empowerment,” said Michelle Ebanks, president, Essence Communications, Inc. “And, of course, we are thrilled to have Beyonce back next year for our 15th anniversary, which will absolutely ensure an extra special celebration!”

The Essence Music Festival started in 1995 as a one-time event to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of Essence magazine. Over the years, the festival has featured Alicia Keys, Aretha Franklin, Beyonce, Chaka Khan, Chris Brown, Destiny’s Child, Earth, Wind & Fire, Gladys Knight, LL Cool J, Jamie Foxx, John Legend, Kanye West, The Isley Brothers, Lionel Richie, Luther Vandross, Mary J. Blige, The O’Jays, Prince, Stevie Wonder, Toni Braxton, Patti LaBelle and Yolanda Adams, among numerous others.

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Last Updated on July 8, 2008