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Time Inc. sells Essence festival

Multinational mass media giant Time Inc. has sold its successful Essence music festival to Essence Ventures, an independent investment vehicle led by toiletries entrepreneur Richelieu Dennis, for an undisclosed sum.

The sale forms part of Essence Ventures’ acquisition of  Essence Communications, a multimedia brand centred on the long-running Essence magazine. Essence president Michelle Ebanks continues in her role, and also joins the board of Essence Communications, while the all-black, all-female Essence executive team gain an equity stake in the business.

Time Inc., which publishes Time, People, Fortune and Sports Illustrated magazines, among others, bought 49% of Essence Communications in 2000, acquiring the remaining shares in 2005.

“We are excited to be able to return this culturally relevant and historically significant platform to ownership by the people and the consumers whom it serves”

“The strategic vision and leadership that Michelle has provided to Essence over the years have been exemplary, and we are thrilled to work with her and her talented team to provide the necessary resources and support to continue to grow the engagement and influence of the Essence brand and transform this business,” says Liberian-born Dennis, who established the Shea Moisture brand of toiletries in Harlem, New York, in 1991.

“As importantly, we are excited to be able to return this culturally relevant and historically significant platform to ownership by the people and the consumers whom it serves and offer new opportunities for the women leading the business to also be partners in the business.”

Essence Festival 2017, headlined by Diana Ross, Chance the Rapper, John Legend and Mary J. Blige, was attended by 470,000 people and generated a record-breaking 4bn social-media impressions. The festival has also spawned a spin-off event in Durban, South Africa.

 


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SMG results ”validation of how far New Orleans has come”

Three SMG venues in New Orleans sold more than US$40 million in concert tickets in the 12 months ending 30 June 2017, contributing to a record-breaking year for the company’s local operation.

Highlights at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome (76,468-cap.) included lucrative shows by Beyoncé and Guns N’ Roses and social-media sensation Essence Festival, while the Smoothie King Center (17,791-cap.) hosted more concerts than ever before – 25 – including sold-out shows by Drake, Maroon 5, Billy Joel, Radiohead, The Weeknd and Red Hot Chili Peppers. Rounding out the $40m-earning trio was outdoor festival site Champions Square (9,000-cap.), whose recent shows include Incubus, Solange and alt-J.

“This past year is further validation of how far New Orleans has come back from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, and the vitality of our market,” comments Superdome general manager Alan Freeman.

“SMG’s live entertainment division did a fantastic job last year directing touring business to New Orleans”

“Our show numbers and grosses have shown sustained growth for several years. I want to thank all our promoters, with special thanks to Live Nation, Beaver Productions and AEG.”

SMG executive vice-president Doug Thornton adds: “Alan and our corporate staff in the SMG live entertainment division did a fantastic job last year directing touring business to New Orleans. The unprecedented results represent yet another milestone for these three great facilities and we are pleased that our corporate resources were able to help deliver significant results.

SMG is the world’s largest manager of venues and conferences centres, with 68 arenas in the US alone, and has subsidiaries in Europe, Canada and Latin America. Its parent company, American Capital, was acquired by private-equity firm Ares Capital for $3.43bn last June.

 


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New Orleans’ Essence draws ‘record’ 4bn impressions

Essence Festival – an annual celebration of African-American music at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome (76,468-cap.) in New Orleans – welcomed more than 470,000 attendees to its 24th edition last week, increasing attendance by 25,000 and garnering what organisers call a “record-breaking” four billion impressions on social media.

Complementing a night-time concert series (headliners were Diana Ross, John Legend, Chance the Rapper and Mary J. Blige), the festival once again featured “entertainment, empowerment and cultural experiences” targeted at black Americans, with actress Halle Berry, film director Ava DuVernay, civil-rights campaigner Al Sharpton and spiritual leader Iyanla Vanzant among the more than 100 speakers.

In addition to increasing attendance by ~6%, organisers say posts tagged with the #EssenceFest hashtag drew 4bn+ impressions on social media, with the festival also trending daily on Twitter.

This, say promoters, is a new record – although it should be noted iHeartRadio claimed its 2015 festival generated more than 6.5bn impressions. (New record or not, 4bn social engagements with an arguably fairly niche festival is undeniably impressive.)

Essence Festival is produced by Essence Festivals LLC, a division of Essence Communications (the publisher of the eponymous magazine), and New Orleans-based Solomon Group. Sponsors in 2017 included AT&T, Ford, McDonald’s, Walmart and naming partner Coca-Cola.

 


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