The 15th annual Essence Music Festival set a new attendance record this year during its holiday weekend event, July 3-5, with more than 428,000 attendees at the Superdome in New Orleans, LA, surpassing last year’s 270,000 fans. Opening night marked the festival’s first sell-out in its history.
The three-day event features the largest annual gathering of African-American music and culture that in addition to music includes empowerment seminars.
This year’s seminar hosts included Steve Harvey, Bill Cosby, Roland Martin, Soledad O’Brien, Tom Joyner, Juanita Bynum, Mayor C. Ray Nagin, Ben Jealous and Donna Brazile, among many others.
Beyoncé, Maxwell, Anita Baker, Lionel Richie, John Legend, Ne-Yo and more than 30 acts, along with a special tribute to Maze featuring Frankie Beverly and a Commodores reunion with original members Thomas McClary and Ronald LaPread, highlighted the musical side. Staged in the days following of Michael Jackson’s untimely death, video tributes and the King of Pop’s music rang throughout the Superdome.
The festival began in 1995 as a one-time event to celebrate Essence magazine’s 25th anniversary.